It was a rapid change from a small frontier outpost of mostly French-Indian residents, a mix of British traders, and upstart American soldiers. In the two decades following the War of 1812 Chicago emerged as a jumping off point for westward expansion and as a center for commerce, transportation, and land speculation. Native Americans were forced west of the Mississippi River and the majority of the French Metis community and core of Chicago’s earliest settlement joined them. This latter group was shunned, abused, and unwanted by newer emigrating United States citizens. A third decade brought the telegraph, railroads, and federal funds to create a harbor as the young city became the most rapidly growing city in history as it boomed in the century that followed.
In this episode of our “Laying the Foundation” series of the Windy City Historians explore this often ignored and long forgotten era and we complete our interview with Dr. Ann Durkin Keating. Tapping into the history of Juliette Kinzie and the city’s early wheelers and dealers Chicago rises up out of the swampy, prairie landscape along the Y-shaped Chicago River on far southwestern shore of Lake Michigan. It becomes the railroad, warehousing, and industrial center of the Midwest forever altering the landscape and shaping human history to approach nearly 300,000 residents by 1870. Join us we unearth an early Chicago that is now unknown and mostly forgotten.
Links to Research and History Documents
- Treaty of St. Louis of 1815 between the United States and the chiefs of First Nations touching the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers
- Indiana Removal Act of 1830 signed into law by President Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830
- Treaty of Chicago 1833
- A brief history of Phillip Verling (1933-2016) from Friends of the Chicago portage
- William Burnett fur trader in St. Joseph, MI who disappears in 1812
- Kinzie Family Tree
- Two of Ann Durkin Keating’s books: Rising up from Indian Country and The World of Juliette Kinzie
- Book Early Chicago: Up Until the Indians Left in 1835 by Ulrich Danckers and Jane Meredith — See also the website of the same name
- William Ogden real estate developer, railroad executive, first mayor of Chicago, and entrepreneur
- Alexander Robinson was the Metis son of a British Officer of Scottish descent and Ottawa mother and later interpreter and tribal leader negotiating for the Council of Three Fires (Ojibwa, Ottawa, and Pottawatomie)
- John Harris Kinzie (1803 – 1865) son of John Kinzie (1763 – 1828) from his second marriage and second president of the Town of Chicago
- The Sands from the Chicago Crime Scenes Project website posted in Dec. 17, 2008