Chicago Tribune, July 20, 1923
BY JOHN KELLEY
If you should be one of the hundred thousand persons who today will cross the Michigan avenue bridge, let your gams rest for a moment upon a display window portraying, in miniature, the first house erected in Chicago. On a bronze tablet next to the window is inscribed its history.
For other reasons, however, than those recorded on the tablet was this house, which stood on the present site of the Kirk soap works, of great historic interest. Under its roof was cradled the first white child born in Chicago—a girl. She became the first Chicago bride, and her marriage took place in the house, a replica of which is to be seen in the show window north of the river, on the east side of Michigan avenue.
The Kinzie Mansion.
This house was for many years the home of John Kinzie. In early days it was called the Kinzie mansion. It was abandoned in 1834 and as the tablet records, “soon fell into ruin.”
The contracting parties were Dr. Alexander Wolcott and Miss Ellen Marion Kinzie, and the date, July 20, 1823—100 years ago today.
Dr. Wolcott was a native od Connecticut. He was Chicago’s first resident physician. At the time of his marriage he was Indian agent here.
The marriage ceremony was performed by John Hamlin, a justice of the peace. This was eight years before the formation of Cook county, and at that period this unorganized region was attached to Fulton county.
In front of the Kirk soap works, on the north side of the river at Michigan avenue, the site of the first house built in Chicago, where 100 years ago today Dr. Alexander Wolcott and Miss Ellen Marion Kinzie were wed, a marriage was solemnized yesterday between Frank Vidmar, 6462 South Central avenue, and Miss Marie Lowe, 1235 West Marquette road. Left to right: Judge Asa G. Adams, who tied the wedding knot, the bridegroom and his bride. Officer Henry C. Binder, Attorney Willis Melville, and witnesses.1
There was a plaque (left in wedding photo and enlarged on the right) commemorating the location of the Kinzie home, but is lost. A smaller plaque was created in 1937.
Under Rule of Wolf.
“In 1823,” says William Bross in his “History of Chicago,” the Sangamon river and Fulton county were the northern boundaries of civilization, and in that region, there were only a few inhabitants. The whole northern portion of the state was still under the dominion of the wolf and the savage.”
“Jedge” Hamlin, as he was commonly called, rode horseback from the wilds of Fulton county to the Fort Dearborn settlement, by which name Chicago was then known.
Everybody in town, or, properly speaking, everybody in the settlement, received an invitation to the wedding. If anybody failed to be present it is not recorded in the “antiquities” of Chicago. Fort Dearborn had been evacuated a few weeks before the nuptial event, otherwise the festivities would have been attended by the officers and men of the garrison.
List of Guests.
The list of guests comprised the following:
Mr. and Mrs. John Kinzie, parents of the bride
John, Harris and Robert Kinzie, brothers of the bride
Maria Indiana Kinzie, sister of the bride
James Kinzie, half brother of the bride
Mr. and Mrs. Jean Baptiste Beaubien, and son Madore Beaubien
M. Du Pin, a French trader and wife, the latter was the widow of Charles Lee, who was scalped by the Indians at Fort Dearborn in April, 1812
David McKee, the “village blacksmith,” who was a recent arrival
Joseph Porthier, striker for McKee
Victoire, Genevieve and Jean Baptiste Mirandeau, servants in the Kinzie household
Antoine Ouilmette and wife, the former was in Mr. Kinzie’s employ
Besides the mentioned there were two Indian chiefs in attendance at the wedding—Billy Caldwell (Saugannash) and Alexander Robinson (Che-che-pinqua). Both were sons of British officers, who had taken Indian wives, and both played a prominent part in early Chicago’s history.
The Kinzie House
Chicago National Bank Mural by Lawrence C. Earle
Wedding Big Function.
The marriage of Dr. Wolcott and Miss Kinzie was the most important social function that had taken place in the settlement since the establishment of Fort Dearborn in 1803. John Kinzie, called the “Father of Chicago,” came here in the spring of 1804. His daughter, Ellen Marion, was born in December, 1805. Consequently she was not quite 18 years old at the time of her marriage.
Dr. Wolcott was born at Windsor, Conn., 1790. He was graduated from Yale in 1809 and subsequently studied medicine. In 1812 he was commissioned surgeon’s mate in the United States army.
Dr. Wolcoitt accompanied Gen. Lewis Cass, territorial governor of Michigan, and Henry R. Schoolcraft, noted traveler, in their voyage during the summer of 1820, which brought him to Chicago. He remained a resident until his death.
Girl Goes East to School.
The Kinzie family resided at Detroit until their return to Fort Dearborn in 1816. Ellen Marion, when about 10 years old, was sent to Middleton, Conn., to school. While there she became acquainted with the Wolcott family.
So when Dr. Wolcott came to Fort Dearborn the first person to greet him was Ellen Marion Kinzie, then about 15 years of age. She is described as “a very comely lass” and no doubt it was her attractiveness that caused the young physician to tarry and become a permanent resident of the Firt Dearborn settlement.
The Kinzie family resided at Detroit to which they fled after the massacre.
Those who attended the wedding described it as “the most scrumptious event of their lives.” At that day all kinds of wild game abounded in the vicinity of Fort Dearborn. After the dinner the bride’s father took his fiddle from a peg on the wall and played for the dance such airs as “Monie Musk,” Old Zip Coon,” “Pop Goes the Weasel,” and “Hell on the Wabash.”
Dr. Woolcott’s death in the fall of 1830 was soon followed by that of his only child, a daughter. The widow remained a resident of Chicago until the following spring, when she went to Green Bay to live with her sister, the wife of Gen. Hunter, commandant at Fort Howard. In 1836 she married George C. Bates of Detroit. She died in 1860.
James S. Kirk & Company’s Factory
352 to 370 North Water Street
Rand McNally’s Bird’s Eye View of Chicago 1893
Memorial plaque at 401 N. Michigan Avenue (Equitable Building Plaza) on the south side center pylon near the Chicago River railing.
1 In 1929, Kirk’s North Water Street plant was demolished, and the remnants of the company were sold to Proctor & Gamble of Cincinnati. The bronze plaque is considered to be lost.