CAPTIVITY OF J. KINZIE, SEN -- AN AMUSING MISTAKE.
IT had been a stipulation of Gen. Hull at the surrender of Detroit that the inhabitants of that place should be permitted to remain undisturbed in their homes. Accordingly the family of Mr. Kinzie took up their quarters with their friends in the old mansion, which many will still recollect as standing on the northeast corner of Jefferson avenue and Wayne street.
The feelings of indignation and sympathy were constantly aroused in the hearts of the citizens during the winter that ensued. They were almost daily called upon to witness the cruelties practised upon the American prisoners brought in by their Indian captors. Those who could scarcely drag their wounded, bleeding feet over the frozen ground, were compelled to dance for the amusement of the savages, and these exhibitions sometimes took place before the Government House, the residence of Col. McKee. Some of the British officers looked on from their windows at these heartrending performances; for the honor of humanity we will hope such instances were rare.
Every thing that could be made available among the effects of the citizens were offered, to ransom their countrymen from the hands of these inhuman beings. The prisoners brought in from the River Raisin -- those unfortunate men who were permitted after their surrender to Gen. Proctor, to be tortured and murdered by inches by his savage allies, excited the sympathies and called for the action of the whole community. Private houses were turned into hospitals, and every one was forward to get possession of as many as possible of the survivors. To effect this, even the articles of their apparel were bartered by the ladies of Detroit, as they watched from their doors or windows the miserable victims carried about for sale.
In the dwelling or Mr. Kinzie one large room was devoted to the reception of the sufferers. Few of them survived. Among those spoken of as objects of the deepest interest were two young gentlemen of Kentucky, brothers, both severely wounded, and their wounds aggravated to a mortal degree by subsequent ill-usage and hardships. Their solicitude for each other, and their exhibition in various ways of the most tender fraternal affection, created an impression never to be forgotten.
The last bargain made was by black Jim, and one of the children, who had permission to redeem a negro servant of the gallant Col. Allen, with an old white horse, the only available article that remained among their possessions.
A brother of Col. Allen afterwards came to Detroit and the negro preferred returning to servitude rather than remaining a stranger in a strange land.
Mr. Kinzie, as has been related, joined his family at Detroit in the month of January. A short time after suspicions arose in the mind of Gen. Proctor that he was in correspondence with Gen. Harrison, who was now at Fort Meigs, and who was believed to be meditating an advance upon Detroit. Lieut. Watson of the British army waited upon Mr. Kinzie one day with an invitation to the quarters of Gen. Proctor on the opposite side of the river, saying he wished to speak with him on business. Quite unsuspicious, he complied with the invitation, when to his surprise he was ordered into confinement, and strictly guarded in the house of his former partner, Mr. Patterson of Sandwich. Finding that he did not return to his home, Mrs. Kinzie informed some of the Indian chiefs, his particular friends, who immediately repaired to the head-quarters of the Commanding Officer, demanded their "friend's" release, and brought him back to his home. After waiting a time until a favorable opportunity presented itself; the General sent a detachment of dragoons to arrest him. They had succeeded in carrying him away, and crossing the river with him. Just at this moment a party of friendly Indians made their appearance.
"Where is the Shaw-nee-aw-kee?" was the first question.
"There," replied his wife, pointing across the river, "in the hands of the red-coats, who are taking him away again."
The Indians ran to the river, seized some canoes that they found there, and crossing over to Sandwich, compelled Gen. Proctor a second time to forego his intentions.
A third time this officer was more successful, and succeeded in arresting Mr. Kinzie and conveying him heavily ironed to Fort Malden, in Canada, at the mouth of the Detroit River. Here he was at first treated with great severity, but after a time the rigor of his confinement was somewhat relaxed, and he was permitted to walk on the bank of the river for air and exercise.
On the 10th of September, as he was taking his promenade under the close supervision of a guard of soldiers, the whole party were startled by the sound of guns upon Lake Erie, at no great distance below. What could it mean? It must be Commodore Barclay firing into some of the Yankees. The firing continued. The time allotted the prisoner for his daily walk expired, but neither he nor his guard observed the lapse of time, so anxiously were they listening to what they now felt sure was an engagement between ships of war. At length Mr. Kinzie was reminded that the hour for his return to confinement had arrived. He petitioned for another half-hour.
"Let me stay," said he, "till we can learn how the battle has gone."
Very soon a sloop appeared under press of sail, rounding the point, and presently two gun-boats in chase of her.
"She is running -- she bears the British colors," cried he -- "yes, yes, they are lowering -- she is striking her flag! Now," turning to the soldiers, "I will go back to prison contented -- I know how the battle has gone."
The sloop was the Little Belt, the last of the squadron captured by the gallant Perry on that memorable occasion which he announced in the immortal words;
"We have met the enemy, and they are ours!"
Matters were growing critical, and it was necessary to transfer all prisoners to a place of greater security than the frontier was now likely to be. It was resolved therefore to send Mr. Kinzie to the mother country. Nothing has ever appeared, which would explain this course of Gen. Proctor, in regard to this gentleman. He had been taken from the bosom of his family, where he was living quietly under the parole which he had received, and protected by the stipulations of the surrender. He was kept for months in confinement. Now he was placed on horseback under a strong guard, who announced that they had orders to shoot him through the head, if he offered to speak to a person upon the road. He was tied upon the saddle in a way to prevent his escape, and thus they sat out for Quebec. A little incident occurred, which will help to illustrate the course invariably pursued towards our citizens at this period, by the British army on the North-western frontier.
The saddle on which Mr. Kinzie rode had not been properly fastened, and owing to the rough motion of the animal on which it was, it turned, so as to bring the rider into a most awkward and painful position. His limbs being fastened, he could not disengage himself, and in this manner he was compelled by those who had charge of him to ride until he was nearly exhausted, before they had the humanity to release him.
Arrived at Quebec, he was put on board a small vessel to be sent to England. The vessel when a few days out at sea was chased by an American frigate and driven into Halifax. A second time she set sail, when she sprung a leak and was compelled to put back.
The attempt to send him across the ocean was now abandoned, and he was returned to Quebec. Another step, equally inexplicable with his arrest, was now taken. This was his release and that of Mr. Macomb, of Detroit, who was also in confinement in Quebec, and the permission given them to return to their friends and families, although the war was not yet ended. It may possibly be imagined that in the treatment these gentlemen received, the British Commander-in-chief sheltered himself under the plea of their being "native born British subjects," and perhaps when it was ascertained that Mr. Kinzie was indeed a citizen of the United States, it was thought safest to release him.
In the meantime, General Harrison at the head of his troops had reached Detroit. He landed on the 29th September. All the citizens went forth to meet him -- Mrs. Kinzie, leading her children by the hand, was of the number. The General accompanied her to her home, and took up his abode there. On his arrival he was introduced to Kee-po-tah, who happened to be on a visit to the family at that time. The General had seen the chief the preceding year, at the Council at Vincennes, and the meeting was one of great cordiality and interest.
In 1816, Mr. Kinzie and his family again returned to Chicago. The fort was rebuilt on a somewhat larger scale than the former one. It was not until the return of the troops that the bones of the unfortunate Americans who had been massacred four years before, were collected and buried.
An Indian Agency, under the charge of Charles Jewett, Esq., of Kentucky was established. He was succeeded in 1820 by Dr. Alexander Wolcott, of Connecticut, who occupied that position until his death in 1830.
The troops were removed from the garrison in 1823, but restored in 1828, after the Winnebago war. This was a disturbance between the Winnebagoes and white settlers on and near the Mississippi. After some murders had been committed, the young chief, Red Bird, was taken and imprisoned at Prairie du Chien to await his trial, where he died of chagrin and the irksomeness of confinement. It was feared that the Pottowattamies would make common cause with the Winnebagoes, and commence a general system of havoc and bloodshed on the frontier. They were deterred from such a step, probably, by the exertions of Billy Caldwell, Robinson, and Shau-bee-nay, who made an expedition among the Rock River bands, to argue and persuade them into remaining tranquil.
The few citizens of Chicago in these days, lived for the most part a very quiet unvaried life. The great abundance of game, and the immense fertility of the lands they cultivated, furnished them with a superabundance of all the luxuries of garden, corn-field, and dairy. The question was once asked by a friend in the "east countrie:"
"How do you dispose of all the good things you raise? You have no market?" "No." "And you cannot consume it all yourselves?" "No." "What then do you do with it?"
"Why, we manage, when a vessel arrives to persuade the Captain to accept a few kegs of butter, and stores of corn and vegetables, as a present, and that helps us to get rid of some of it."
The mails arrived, as may be supposed, at very rare intervals. They were brought occasionally from Fort Clark (Peoria), but more frequently from Fort Wayne, or across the peninsula of Michigan which was still a wilderness peopled with savages. The hardy adventurer who acted as express was, not unfrequently, obliged to imitate the birds of heaven and "lodge among the branches," in order to ensure the safety of himself and his charge.
Visitors were very rare, unless it was a friend who came to sojourn some time, and share a life in the wilderness. A traveller, however, occasionally found his way to the spot, in passing to or from "parts unknown," and such a one was sure of a hospitable and hearty welcome.
A gentleman journeying from the southern settlements once arrived late in the evening at Wolf Point, where was then the small establishment of George Hunt and a Mr. Wallace. He stopped and inquired if he could have accommodation for the night for himself and his horse. The answer was, that they were ill provided to entertain a stranger -- the house was small, and they were keeping "bachelor's hall."
"Is there no place," inquired the traveller, "where I can obtain a lodging?"
"Oh! yes -- you will find a very comfortable house, Mr. Kinzie's, about half a mile below, near the mouth of the river."
The stranger turned his horse's head and took the road indicated. Arrived at the spot, his first inquiry was:
"Is this the residence of Mr. Kinzie?"
"I should be glad to get accommodation for myself and horse."
"Certainly, sir -- walk in."
The horse was taken to the stable, while the gentleman was ushered into a parlor where were two ladies. The usual preliminary questions and answers were gone through, for in a new country people soon become acquainted, and the gentlemen ere long found himself seated at a comfortable hot supper -- we will venture to say a fine supper -- since the table in this domestic establishment has always been somewhat famous.
Apparently, the gentlemen enjoyed it, for he made himself quite at home. He even called for a boot-jack after tea, and drew off his boots. The ladies were a little surprised, but they had lived a good while out of the world, and they did not know what changes in etiquette might have taken place during their retirement.
Before taking his leave for the night, the traveller signified what it would please him to have for breakfast, which was duly prepared. The next day proved stormy. The gentleman was satisfied with his quarters, and having taken care to ascertain that there was no neglect, or deficiency of accommodation so far as his horse was concerned, he got through the day very comfortably.
Now and then, when he was tired of reading, he would converse with the family, and seemed, upon the whole, by no means disposed to hold himself aloof but to indulge in a little becoming sociability, seeing they were all there away in the woods.
The second day the weather brightened. The traveller signified his intention to depart. He ordered his horse to the door -- then he called for his bill.
"My house is not a tavern, sir," was the astounding reply.
"Not a tavern! Good heavens! have I been making myself at home in this manner in a private family?"
The gentleman was profuse in his apologies, which, however, were quite unnecessary, for the family had perceived from the first, the mistake he had fallen into, and they had amused themselves during his whole visit in anticipating the consternation of their guest when he should be undeceived.
It was in the year 1816 (the same year of the rebuilding of the fort, after its destruction by the Indians), that the tract of land on which Chicago stands, together with the surrounding country, was ceded to the United States, by the Pottowattamies. They remained the peaceful occupants of it, however, for twenty years longer. It was not until 1836 that they were removed by Government to lands appropriated for their use on the Upper Missouri.
In the year 1830 the town of Chicago was laid out into lots by commissioners appointed by the State. At this time the prices of these lots ranged from ten to sixty dollars.
Mr. Kinzie, who from the geographical position of this place, and the vast fertility of the surrounding country, had always foretold its eventual prosperity and importance, was not permitted to witness the realization of his predictions. He closed his useful and energetic life on the 6th of January, 1828, having just completed his sixty-fifth year.
Mrs. John H. Kenzie, Wau-Bun, the "Early Day" in the Northwest. Chicago : D. B. Cooke & Co., 1857. p. 248-259.
From the Memorial Library Department of Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-Madison.