Chicago Was Once the Most Integrated City -- Just ask its Founder

Chicago Was Once the Most Integrated City -- Just ask its Founder
Du Sable's House -- From Chicago Magazine: The West As It Is.

Who “founded” Chicago?

  • Mayor Daley the First
  • Al Capone
  • Oprah
  • John Du Sable

Don’t spend too much time on the quiz.  I tricked it up a bit.  This quiz does not include the Native Americans.  Notice I used quotes around founded, okay?

Those who picked the last name picked right, though I did anglice his name, just to add some degree of difficulty.

The acknowledged first non-Native American settler of Chicago is Jean Baptiste Point du Sable.  He was recorded as living large here in Chicago around 1790.  You can see his diggs above.   His place was prime real estate, at the mouth of the Chicago River.

Du Sable was of French and African blood.  He came to the swamps around her via Michigan, where he was believed to be a sympathizer for the Americans in their struggle against the British.  If nothing else, Du Sable should be hailed as saving the cuisine of the New World.  Who knows, his part in the US Revolution may have made the world save from the blandness of British chow, and ensured that soul food and haute cuisine survived to supersize us all today.

Du Sable, however, didn’t stay around all that long.  He sold off  in 1800 to John Kinzie, said to be Chicago’s first permanant European settler, and headed to St. Charles, Missouri, where he died in 1818.  He never had any political appointments and was a free trader.  Free in all senses of the word.  Du Sable did quite well.  He was described by those who passed through the Chicago settlement on their way to the portage on their to the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, as being quite wealthy.

Kinzie apparently bought Du Sable out, lock, stock and barn.  A bill of sale was found in Detroit in 1913.  Kinzie bought a house, two barns, an assortment of out buildings, including a place for chickens, a dairy, and, best of all, a smokehouse.  Du Sable also let go all the “fine” furniture in the house and a bunch of paintings.  Not a bad haul.

The history of Chicago went on, with Al Capone, Mayor Daley the First and then Oprah all crossing its stage.  During that time ethnic groups have come and settled and come and gone out of the city to the burbs.  All that time, the politicians and power brokers have managed to play one off the other, as I mentioned in my last post about Chicago being the most segregated city in the US, according to some New York think tank.

Here is a guy, Du Sable, that did it right.  He came, he prospered, and he got the hell out before politicians mucked the place up with their ever increasing drive to control and divide the people.


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