How did Chicago get its street names?
Chicago badass of the week: John Kinzie
It’s no secret that most of Chicago’s streets are named after historical figures, hell, almost all the streets in the Loop are named after U.S. presidents. But outside the Loop, street names make tribute to the lesser-known historical badasses of their time. Take Kinzie for example, an East-West street just south of the loop that we’ve all driven on, walked down, or jaywalked across without ever knowing that it is named after John H. Kinzie, one of the most badass dudes to ever walk the streets of Chicago.
Let’s take a look at his early history, which is much more badass than mine, or anyone I know.
John H. Kinzie was brought to Chicago by his fur-trading-friend-of-the-Indians father in 1804 when Fort Dearborn was just being completed. His mother is believed to be the first Caucasion born in Chicago. When Kinzie was 9 years old he witnessed the Fort Dearborn Massacre, which is pretty badass considering that I spent a majority of age 9 watching Spongebob.
He and his family were saved because of their friendship with an Indian chief who took them out on a boat and guarded them as they watched the bloodbath unfold at Fort Dearborn. The Kinzies sought refuge in Detroit for two years before returning to Chicago to master his father’s business of fur trading. He was also a silversmith, which is unarguably, a pretty badass occupation to have back in the day.
In his travels and exchanges he learned several Indian languages including Winnebago, Ottawa, Chippewas, and Sioux. That’s badass. He was so skilled at dealing with the area’s Indians, he was appointed private secretary to General Cass and accompanied a delegation of Winnebagoes to Washington to visit president John Quincy Adams. When he was 22 years old he was involved in a rescue of two sisters kidnapped by the Shawnee tribe, one of them, Margret McKinzie later became his wife. What a badass, I swear this guy could be in one of those “The most interesting man in the world commercials.”
Through the years he upped his ranks and overall badassery by being named the registrar of public lands by President Harrison in 1841. And in 1849, President Taylor made him receiver of public moneys. He Joined the Union Army in 1861 where he was made paymaster (whatever that means). Through his years he lived with his family on the corner of Cass St. (Chicago ave.) and Michigan Avenue, and goddamn, can you imagine how much that property would be worth now?
In 1865 John Kinzie died on a train car while on leave from the Union Army. He was reaching into his pocket for a coin to give to a blind beggar when his heart gave out. What a badass.
Update: Kinzie was only 65 when he died, which is sad, but it might be a pretty decent longevity for the time period. Either way, I still feel bad for that blind guy. Like, can you imagine what that shit must have been like for the poor blind beggar? Like, John Kinzie: American Hero just collapses and dies in his lap and he’s sitting there thinking, “what the hell just happened?” and meanwhile the whole train is in a frenzy yelling, “Oh my God, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!!!”