Great Scots

Scottish Name List


Photo Journal


Visit our Blog



John Kinzie
1763 - 1828

Historian Call Him a ‘Doer and True Founder of Chicago’

Intermarriage and the surge of large numbers of other nationalities into Chicago have cut the visibility of the Scots. However they had a great early experience with Chicago. First, they are the oldest organized group in the area as a result of the organization of the Illinois St. Andrew Society in 1846.■ Second, John Kinzie, son of Scottish parents, is called the “true founder of Chicago,” and the first permanent white settler, according to a number of historians. More important perhaps is the contention of one that Kinzie was “a boomer and a doer.” Kinzie stayed on in Chicago to become one of its richest and most influential citizens. ■ John Kinzie was born in Quebec in 1763, the son of Dr. John MacKenzie, a Scottish physician in the British Army. Young John ran away from home at age 10, so the exact date of his birth is not known. He was apprenticed to a silversmith, and later became a trapper, trader, and merchant. When he arrived in Chicago in 1804 he had changed his name to Kinzie. He made silver buckles, rings and bracelets that he traded to the Indians for furs. He set up a permanent trading post and sold supplies, rented boats and became banker to Fort Dearborn. ■ Kinzie’s daughter was the first white child born in Chicago. Near the site of Kinzie’s Chicago home is a plaque that says “Here was born in 1805 the city’s first white child—Ellen Marion Kinzie.” Kinzie’s son James built the first hotel and restaurant in the city. ■ When the Indians went on rampage and killed nearly all the settlers and soldiers in Fort Dearborn, the Kinzie family was prepared because of their friendship with a half-breed Indian named Caldwell. Kinzie remained a true Chicagoan to the end. He died there January 6, 1828.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546