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(pioneer icon)1924

Juliette McGill Kinzie

MRS. JOHN H. KENZIE by Helen M. Purdy, Portage

Her husband was an Indian agent at Fort Winnebago for several years, coming there in 1830.

Mrs. Kenzie was a delicate, eastern woman, yet the hardships of the west had no fears for her. She would go wherever her husband went, wherever duty called.

She made a name for herself at Fort Winnebago as well as later at Chicago where she wrote Wau-Bun, a history of her early western life. When planning to accompany her husband to the far west, she was told many stories of the hardships she would be obliged to endure, yet such stories weighed but little with her.

She was to become a resident of that land which to her had been a land of romance since childhood. When standing by her teacher's knee and spelling the long name Mich-i-li-mack-i-nac, had charms for her. It meant a land of many lakes, boundless prairies, and vast forests. Now she was to see all this. It was to be her home. Many were the thrilling experiences encountered on that eventful journey. They were fortunate in being able to take a steamer at Buffalo and have more of the comforts than in the ordinary way of traveling by schooner. From Green Bay they were obliged to travel by small keel-boats, propelled by Indians by means of long poles. It was a long, tiresome trip, yet Mrs. Kenzie never complained and showed the true pioneer spirit.

Four Legs' Village

Big Foot's Village

Fox River

The last two days were very tiresome, so many windings of the river, but at last the white walls of the fort were seen in the distance, looking down from a rising ground upon the vast expanse of low land and winding river. All were anxious to arrive at their journey's end after the long tiresome trip. In that they were disappointed. The river made so many turns it was two hours before making a landing.

Their welcome was very warm by Major and Mrs. Twiggs, particularly by Mrs. Twiggs, as she was the only woman at the fort and had looked forward with great pleasure to having a companion. They remained a week with Major and Mrs. Twiggs; their goods then arrived and soon were nicely settled at the Agency. Many were the pleasant experiences they had. The Agency became the center of social life of the fort. They had many calls from the principal chiefs, all decked out in their bright blankets and feathers, calling Mrs. Kenzie their "new mother".

Ft. Winnebago 1831

Mrs. Kenzie tells of her trip to Chicago with her husband on horseback. No roads in those days for them to follow. Bridle paths through dense forests; fording streams; riding across treacherous marshes; braving storms and partaking of Indian diet in their lodges when their provisions gave out.

All this and many other experiences of the true pioneer life were hers, which she tells of in after years when surrounded by the comforts of her Chicago home.

Kinzie House, Chicago

Mrs. Kenzie was married in 1827, came west with her husband in 1830, returned to Chicago in 1834 where they took up their permanent residence. It was at Chicago that she wrote Wau-Bun, her early history, not realizing at that time what a prominent part it would have in after years, in the history of the massacre of Fort Dearborn in 1812. Her mother-in-law, from a boat, was an eye witness to part of the massacre.

Mrs. Kenzie died in Chicago in 1870 after a long, eventful life.

I trust she may find a place among the pioneer women as she surely was a wonderful woman.

Wau-Bun House, Portage

Purdy, Helen M. "Mrs. John H. Kenzie." Sketches of Wisconsin pioneer women. Fort Atkinson, Wis.: Hoard & Sons, [1924?]. 95-97.
From the GLS Department of Special Collections reference room: CT 268 D4.