THE FIRST FORT DEARBORN 1803-1812
A Jesuit mission, the Mission of the Guardian Angel, was founded somewhere in the vicinity in 1696, but was abandoned around 1700. The Fox Wars effectively closed the area to Europeans in the first part of the 18th century. The first non-native to resettle in the area may have been a trader named Guillory, who might have had a trading-post near Wolf Point on the Chicago River around 1778. Jean Baptiste Point du Sable and Choctaw (an indian from the Great Lakes) built a cabin and trading post near the mouth of the Chicago River in the 1780s. Du Sable is widely regarded as Chicago's first black and non-native settler.
Antoine Ouilmette is the next recorded resident of Chicago; he claimed to have settled at the mouth of the Chicago River in July 1790.
On March 9, 1803, Henry Dearborn, the Secretary of War, wrote to Colonel Jean Hamtramck, the commandant of Detroit, instructing him to have an officer and six men survey the route from Detroit to Chicago, and to make a preliminary investigation of the situation at Chicago. Captain John Whistler was selected as commandant of the new post, and set out with six men to complete the survey. The survey completed, on July 14, 1803, a company of troops set out to make the overland journey from Detroit to Chicago.
|The American Flag reportedly flown at Fort Dearborn. 1803-1812.|
|Illustration of Fort Dearborn - 1804|
|The Chicago River before being straightened in 1855.|
|Model of the first Fort Dearborn (1803-1812) from a drawing made in 1808 by Captain John Whistler. Sculpted by A. L. Van Den Berghen, 1898.|
|John Kinzie's land and cabin purchased from Jean Baptiste Point du Sable in 1804.|
During the War of 1812, General William Hull ordered the evacuation of Fort Dearborn in August 1812. Heald oversaw the evacuation, but on August 15 the evacuees were ambushed along the trail by about 500 Pottawattamie Indians in the Battle of Fort Dearborn.
NOTE: The account by Susan Simmons Winans (1812-1900), the last known survivor of the Chicago Fort Dearborn massacre as told to her by her mother. (Printed in the Sunday, December 27, 1896 Chicago Tribune.)THE SECOND FORT DEARBORN 1816-1836
Following the war, a second Fort Dearborn was built in 1816. This fort consisted of a double wall of wooden palisades, officer and enlisted barracks, a garden, and other buildings.
|Fort Dearborn as Rebuilt in 1816.|
The fort was inclosed by high pickets, with bastions at the alternate angles. Large gates opened to the north and south, and there were small portions here and there for the accommodation of the inmates. Beyond the parade-ground which extended south of the pickets, were the company gardens, well filled with currant-bushes and young fruit-trees. The fort stood at what might naturally be supposed to be the mouth of the river, yet it was not so, for in these days the latter took a turn, sweeping round the promontory on which the fort was built, towards the south, and joined the lake about half a mile below.The fort was closed briefly before the Black Hawk War of 1832 and by 1837, the fort was being used by the Superintendent of Harbor Works. In 1837, the fort and its reserve, including part of the land that became Grant Park, was deeded to Chicago by the Federal Government.
|Fort Dearborn in 1850.|
|Fort Dearborn photograph taken in 1856.|
By the time of the Civil War (1861-1865) Fort Dearborn's remaining blockhouse and few surviving outbuildings were being used by the Harbor Master of Chicago.
|Wood cut from a photo taken in 1855 by Alex. Hesler, from the U. S. Marine Hospital, looking north-west, correctly represents two of the principal buildings of the Fort—the Commandant’s Quarters, A (brick, about 25×50 ft.), and the Officers’ Quarters, B (wood, about 30×60 ft,), occupying the north-west corner of the enclosure. C is the parade-ground (80×200 ft.); D is the Sutler’s; E is the north gate. The figure in the foreground is J. D. Graham, U. S. Engineer, in charge of Govt. Works, and residing in the Fort, and to his right, Mr. and Mrs. John H. Kinzie. The vessel in the river in the right is the brig Maria Hillard. The Rush-St. Ferry was used to cross the river here, and landed on the South-side at a point, indicated in this view, under the west chimney of the Commandant’s quarters; the direction of the ferry from this point to the North-side was nearly north-west; width of the channel, 225 feet.|
|Fort Dearborn Blockhouse and Light House in 1857.|
The site of Fort Dearborn is a Chicago Landmark by the Michigan–Wacker Historic District.
|These are the brass markers indicating the Fort's footprint.|