John Kinzie Biography

About Chicago’s Pioneer

In 1803, an intrepid pioneer named John Kinzie came to Chicago and made history. As an original settler, fur trader, silversmith and pioneering businessman, Kinzie made Chicago his own. His boundless energy, enterprising spirit, and legacy of exploration were the inspiration for the Kinzie Hotel, designed to capture the essence of authentic Chicago.

Kinzie’s home, bought from Chicago founder Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, served as one of the city’s first inns. His son James would later open one of Chicago’s first hotels/taverns at Wolf Point. You can find Kinzie’s imprint on the city as you discover Chicago for yourself—from the Michigan Avenue Bridge to the Chicago Riverwalk, Kinzie’s legacy lives on.

John Kinzie History: A Timeline

  • 1763 – Born December 3 in Quebec, son of Dr. John MacKenzie
  • 1773 – Ran away from home; worked as an apprentice to silversmith George Farnham, making silver buckles, rings, and bracelets, trading with Native Americans; became a fur trapper
  • 1777 – Became a trader in Detroit, working for William Burnett; developed trade relationship with the Kekionga tribe
  • 1785 – Helped rescue two American sisters, who had been kidnapped
  • 1795 – Adopted into the Shawnee tribe; married Margaret McKinzie, with whom he sired three children
  • 1800 – Remarried to Eleanor Lytle McKillip, with whom he sired four children, including the first child of European descent born in the Chicago settlement
  • 1804 – Arrived in Chicago and began working as a merchant and a banker, setting up a trading post; bought the former house and land of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable near the mouth of the Chicago River; appointed a justice of the peace by Governor William Henry Harrison
  • 1812 - Kinzie successfully performed the first recorded surgical procedure in Chicago on a woman who was shot at Fort Dearborn
  • 1812 – Killed Jean la Lime in self-defense and was later acquitted
  • 1813 – Accused of treason by the British, escaped a prison ship headed back to England
  • 1816 – Returned to Chicago
  • 1828 – Died of a stroke; buried in the Fort Dearborn Cemetery