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Kinzie, Juliette Augusta Magill (1806–1870) - Local History

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Juliette Augusta Magill Kinzie was born in Middletown, Connecticut, on September 11, 1806. She was descended from one of Connecticut’s oldest families, dating back to 1636 and the founding of Windsor. Her mother was Frances (Wolcott) Magill, daughter of Alexander Wolcott, a leader of the Republican party in Connecticut and grandson of Roger Wolcott, colonial governor, judge, and major general in the Louisberg Expedition of 1745. Her father was Arthur William Magill, her mother’s second husband, of whom little is known. He left the family in 1820.

Kinzie was tutored at home by her mother and uncle except for a short stint at a New Haven boarding school. She attended the Troy (New York) Female Seminary of Emma Willard, but was forced to leave before the end of the first year because of family financial problems. On August 9, 1830, she married John Harris Kinzie, an Indian agent at Fort Winnebago, Wisconsin. Her experiences in Wisconsin resulted in a book published in 1856, Wau-Bun: The “Early Day” in the North-West . It was reprinted seven times in the nineteenth century and four in the twentieth century. Besides a description of her travels, it included an account of the Black Hawk War and sympathetically told stories of Indian legends and Indian captivities, including that of her mother-in-law, the elder Mrs. John Kinzie. This work chronicled early Chicago history, including the massacre of the garrison at Fort Dearborn during the War of 1812 (first published separately and anonymously in 1844 as Narrative of the Massacre at Chicago ). It became a primary source for future histories and perpetuated the legend that her father-in-law was the “Father of Chicago.”

The Kinzies moved to Chicago in 1834, and Juliette entertained many official and distinguished visitors. She was active in founding St. Luke’s Hospital and working with St. James Church. She had seven children, one of whom died in the Civil War and two of whom were captured by the Confederates. One daughter, Eleanor Little, was the mother of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of America. On September 15, 1878, while vacationing at Amagansett, New York, Juliette Kinzie died after taking morphine tablets accidentally delivered instead of quinine. The old Indian Agency House where she lived in Portage, Wisconsin, was restored and refurnished in 1932, a centennial project of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in the State of Wisconsin.

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