Wolcott, Alexander, Jr.

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Alexander Wolcott, Jr. Soundex Code W423

Dr. Alexander Wolcott, Jr. was born in East Windsor, Connecticut, to Alexander Wolcott and Frances Wolcott, nee: Frances Burbank.

His father, Alexander Wolcott (1758–1828), was a United States Customs Inspector and a nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States. A leader of the Democratic-Republican Party in Connecticut, he holds the dubious distinction of being defeated by the widest margin of any Supreme Court nominee in American history: 9–24.

He was nominated by President James Madison (1751-1836) to fill the late William Cushing's (1732-1810) seat in February 1811. President Madison's appointment of Alexander Wolcott to the U.S. Supreme Court was a tribute to Wolcott's political loyalty, not his legal acumen. He was unpopular because, while a United States customs inspector, he had robustly enforced the Embargo and Non-Intercourse Acts. He was also faulted as lacking legal and judicial experience.

Alexander Wolcott, Jr. graduated from Yale in 1809 and subsequently studied medicine. In 1812, he was commissioned Surgeon’s Mate in the Army. He practiced medicine for the next year at Vincennes, Indiana.

Dr. Alexander Wolcott, Jr., Indian Agent

President James Monroe (1758-1831) appointed Dr. Alexander Wolcott, Jr. as Indian agent at the Chicago Agency (confirmed by the Senate on April 18, 1818), succeeding the then Agent Charles Jouett.

The Chicago Agency was established in 1805 and was responsible for all of the Native Americans of Illinois and the southern part of what is now Wisconsin. During the years of its operation, the assignment of various tribes shifted quite often, as did the place the agencies reported. From 1821 to 1832, there was a sub-agency at Peoria which reported to the Chicago Agency for its first year of operation. The tribes assigned to that sub-agency were reassigned to the Chicago Agency when it was abolished in 1832.

The Chicago Agency was also sometimes called the Illinois Agency. The Chicago Agency was discontinued at the end of 1834 and the Native Americans under its supervision were removed to areas west of the Mississippi River, but the Chicago agent continued to perform the duties as Superintendent of Emigration, so correspondence was still filed under the Chicago heading until as late as 1847.

Although Charles Jouett was appointed Indian agent at the Chicago Agency on July 27, 1802, he continued to live in Detroit until 1805. Jouett served until 1811. From 1811 - 1815 there was no Indian Agent at Chicago. John Bowyer was appointed on July 14, 1815, but, it seems that he didn’t last very long because Charles Jouett was reappointed on March 15, 1816. As noted above, Dr. Alexander Wolcott, Jr. replaced him.

Having been presidentially appointed as the Chicago Area Agent of Indian Affairs (Alexander's commission, as such, ran 1820-1830), He had to find a way to get there. He chose to accompany the 1820 Cass Expedition exploratory party of Brigadier General Lewis Cass (1782-1866), the governor of Michigan Territory and renowned explorer, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (1793–1864), served as the expedition’s geologist.

The Cass Expedition was chartered to map the area of Minnesota and to search for the source of the Mississippi River. It was approved by the then U.S. Secretary of War, John C. Calhoun (1782-1850). While the mapping effort was, for the most part, successful, they incorrectly identified the source of the Mississippi. (This error was finally rectified when Schoolcraft conducted his own expedition in 1832.) While returning to Detroit, they were also charged with the mapping of the coast of Lake Michigan, which is why Wolcott was there in the first place.

Dr. Wolcott’s canoe finally arrived in Chicago at sunset on the evening of August 28, 1820, and the rest of the party in a second canoe followed at 5:00 the next morning.

When the Cass Expedition left Chicago, Wolcott, stayed on to conduct his affairs as the federally appointed Indian Agent. In addition to his being the Indian Agent and Chicago’s first resident physician, Dr. Alexander Wolcott, Jr., is listed in the Encyclopedia of Chicago as having also worked as a fur trader. Alexander also farmed the land given to him along with his house, which was part of the deal to be an Indian Agent.

Writing on November 6, 1820, to his brother-in-law, Arthur W. Magill in Connecticut, Indian Agent Wolcott listed his possessions and improvements made to “Uncle Sam’s” farm on which he had harvested more than 60 bushels of corn to an acre, and expressed the hardships of his life. Things like being unprosperous, eating bad food, facing dangers, outwitting corrupt competitors, etc.

Interestingly, during August 1821, Alexander and Governor Cass played leading parts at the 1821 Chicago Treaty with the Native Americans. On August 29, 1821 (and proclaimed on March 25, 1822), the treaty the Native American Tribes ceded to the United States all lands in Michigan Territory south of the Grand River, with the exception of several small reservations. Also, ceded by the Native Americans was a tract of land, easement between Detroit and Chicago (through Indiana and Illinois), around the southern coast of Lake Michigan, while specific Native Americans were also granted property rights to defined parcels. There was a second treaty in 1833.

Supposedly because of the 1827 Winnebago War, Dr. Wolcott relocated to Peoria. He became Justice of the Peace for Peoria County on December 26, 1827. He served as Peoria’s court appointed administrator of the estates of John Kinzie in 1828.

Wolcott was held in high esteem by Native Americans and whites alike. Schoolcraft said of him: “... as a gentleman [he was] commanding respect by his manners, judgment and intelligence.” He is listed on the Peoria County Census of August 1830, and died on October 26, 1830.

Alexander Gets Married

Dr. Wolcott’s wife was Ellen Marion Wolcott, nee: Ellen Marion Kinzie (1805-1860), who was the 16-year old daughter of John Kinzie (1763-1828), one of Chicago’s founding fathers and frequently referred to as the “father of Chicago.”

John Kinzie was born in Quebec, Canada. On March 10, 1798, he married Eleanor Lytle Kinzie, nee: Eleanor Lytle McKillip (1771-1834), widow of Captain Daniel McKillip, late of the British Army.

Born on December 20, 1805, Ellen was alleged to be the first white child born in Chicago. (This has been challenged in different sources and the issue has yet to be resolved.) When she was 10, Ellen was shipped off to Middletown, Connecticut, for “proper” schooling.

The story goes that when Ellen was about 15, and back from school, she was purportedly the first person to greet Dr. Wolcott upon his arrival in Chicago. She was described as a “very comely lass.”

Their wedding was held in the Kinzie Mansion on July 20, 1823, and was the first wedding ever held in Chicago. Presiding over the ceremony was Peoria County Justice of the Peace John Hamlin. (This was eight years before the incorporation of Cook County on January 15, 1831.)

John Hamlin’s biography tells the tale: “Upon one occasion while en route from Peoria to Wisconsin Mr. Hamlin was importuned, being a Justice of the Peace, to marry a couple at Fort Dearborn; now Chicago. He said that he did not know the marriage ceremony, but the prospective bridegroom. Dr. Alexander Wolcott, Jr., being prepared for such an emergency, offered to teach him. This was done, and upon his return trip Mr. Hamlin performed the rites which made Dr. Alexander Wolcott, Jr. and Miss Ellen Marion Kinzie man and wife, this being the first marriage ceremony ever performed in what is now Chicago.”

Everybody in the Settlement was invited to the affair, and I do mean EVERYBODY!

Local citizens included:

Mr. and Mrs. John Kinzie, parents of the bride.

John H., Harris, and Robert Allen Kinzie, brothers of the bride.

Maria Indiana Kinzie (1807-1887). , sister of the bride.

James Kinzie, half-brother of the bride.

Mr. and Mrs. Jean Baptiste Beaubien and son Madore Beaubien.

Mr. & Mrs. M. Du Pin, a French trader, his wife was the widow of Charles Lee, who was scalped by Native Americans at Battle of Fort Dearborn on August 15, 1812.

David McKee, the village blacksmith, a recent arrival to Chicago.

Joseph Porthler, striker for McKee.

Victore, Genevieve, and Jean Baptiste Mirandeau, servants in the Kinzie household.

Antoine Ouilmette and wife, Archange Chevalier Ouilmette, nee: Archange Marie Chevalier. Antoine once worked for John Kinzie. The Village of Wilmette is named for him.

Native Americans in attendance:

Billy Caldwell, Jr. (Sauganash). The son of a Potawatomi mother (Misheswans) and William Caldwell, a Scots-Irish immigrant to North America and a Loyalist British officer during the American Revolutionary War.

Alexander Robinson (Che-che-pin-qua). Chief of the Pottawatomies, Chippewa, and Ottawa Nations of Native Americans. (The name (Che-che-pin-qua) means “blinking eyes” and was bestowed upon him because of a facial mannerism of tic.) He was the son of an Ottawa woman and a Scotish trader.

Alexander’s Death

Bordered by N. State Street, W. Kinzie Street, N. Dearborn Street, and the Chicago River, Marina City is located on the site of the original Block 1 of the Chicago Township; so designated before Chicago became a city on March 4, 1837. Shortly before he died, Dr. Alexander Wolcott, Jr. purchased Block 1 from the Board Canal Commissioners on September 27, 1830. He paid $685 in cash.

Dr. Wolcott died on October 26, 1830 in Peoria. His remains were first buried near Fort Dearborn and later transferred to the City Cemetery (now Lincoln Park). When this was closed in the 1860s, he was moved to the Kinzie family plot at Graceland Cemetery.

On December 17, 1830, the Peoria probate court appointed his brother-in-law, Lieutenant David Hunter (see below) administrator of the Wolcott estate. This is an area of conflict because some sources say that his will was the first to be probated in Cook County.

Ellen at Fort Howard

After Dr. Wolcott’s death, his widow, Ellen, remained in Chicago until the following spring when she and their daughter, Mary Ann, moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin. This was because Ellen’s sister, Maria Indiana Hunter (1807- 1887), nee: Maria Indiana Kinzie, lived there with her husband Lieutenant (later General) David Hunter (1802-1886) who was assigned to Fort Howard.

Lieutenant David Hunter, U.S. Army, was stationed at Fort Dearborn from 1828 to 1831. This is where Maria met him. They were married on September 18, 1829. The couple had no children.

David Hunter was born either in Princeton, New Jersey, or Troy, New York, on July 17, 1802. He was one of the first graduates from West Point. Hunter served on the staff of then General (later 12th President) Zachary Taylor (1784-1850) throughout the Mexican-American War (1846–1848). He was severely wounded in the first major land battle of the Civil War, The First Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861). For this, then Colonel David Hunter was promoted to Brigadier General for his gallantry. General David Hunter Captured Fort Pulaski, Georgia, in 1863. He was retired as Major General.

Farewell Ellen

Detroit Free Press columnist George C. Bates, 1812-86, was an avid member of the Whig Party. He served as a delegate to the Whig National Convention from Michigan, 1839 (member, Committee on Permanent Organization; member, Balloting Committee; member, Committee to Notify Nominees; speaker). Bates was the U.S. Attorney for Michigan, 1841-1845 and 1850-1852. He was also a candidate for U.S. Representative from Michigan’s First District in 1848. George married Ellen Marion Wolcott, the widow of Dr. Alexander Wolcott at Fort Howard. Ellen died on August 1, 1860.