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Lincoln Park, the famous beauty spot of Chicago, is in no sense a cemetery. Yet here in one of the most famous pleasure parks of America lies the body of a Door County pioneer.

 

This old pioneer, now honored with such a grand resting place, was David Kennison, who for some years was a member of the little community on Rock Island.

 

David Kennison, once a resident of Door County, is practically unknown, even by name, to all present residents of the county. Yet his life was so full of remarkable adventures and was followed by such a pompous burial that even the pages of fiction fail to show a comparison.

 

He was born in 1736 in one of the frontier settlements of New Hampshire. Of his youth and early manhood we know nothing with certainty. Very likely he carried a musket in the French and Indian war and had his share of fighting against the Indians that surrounded the home of his youth.

 

At the outbreak of the Revolutionary war we find Dennison right in the midst of things. He was a member of the Boston Tea Party, a participant in Lexington and Bunker Hill and many another battle of the Revolution, he had reached the respectable age of seventy-one when, in March, 1808, he enlisted in the army for the regular term of five years. Probably this was a re-enlistment, for Kinzie’s account books show that he was at Chicago as early as May, 1804.

 

The garrison muster-roll for May, 1812, shows that he was present for duty at that time. The supposition that he was a participant in the massacre three months later rests upon inference, for his name is nowhere expressly mentioned in connection with that event. Presumably he was one of the small number of survivors who returned from captivity concerning whom no definite record is left.

 

In his old age Kennison told of further service in the War of 1812, but it is evident that his memory had become confused upon the subject.

 

"After the war Kennison settled in New York, and in the ensuing years of peace met with physical injuries far more numerous and serious than in all of his years of warfare. A falling tree fractured his skull and broke his collar bone and two ribs; the discharge of a cannon at a military review broke both of his legs; and the kick of a horse on his forehead left a scar which disfigured him for life. Notwithstanding these accidents, Kennison succeeded in becoming a husband four times and the father of twenty-two children, and in living to the mature age of one hundred and fifteen."

 

Late in life he became separated from all his children except a younger son with whom in the latter '40s he went to Rock Island, Door County. Here at the age of about one hundred and ten he started into a new life learning to knit twine and clean fish. On the island were two other veterans of the War of 1812, David Corbin and Jack Arnold, with whom he used to swap stories of his experiences in the field. Several descendants of early settlers on Rock Island have told the author of having heard their parents speak of the remarkable old man.

 

About 1850 his son left Rock Island and the old man was again thrown on his own resources. He went to Chicago where his last years were spent endeavoring to subsist on a pension of $8 per month which he received for his Revolutionary services. This not being sufficient he was finally constrained to enter a public museum. In his card to the public announcing this step he explained that the smallness of his pension obliged him to take it to provide himself with the necessary comforts of life.

 

For the last twenty months of his life the veteran was bedridden, but his sight and hearing, which for a time had been deficient, became perfect again, and he retained his ordinary faculties to the end. His death occurred February 24, 1852.

 

"It was fitting that such a character should receive an imposing funeral. On the day before his death, in response to a request presented in his behalf that he be saved from the potters field, the city council had voted that a lot and a suitable monurnent be provided for him in the City Cemetery. The funeral was held from the Clark Street Methodist Church, and several clergymen assisted in the services. At their conclusion a procession moved in two divisions from the church to the cemetery, to the accompaniment of cannon booming at one-minute intervals.

 

In the procession were the mayor and the councilmen, a detachment of the United States army, the various military companies and bands of the city, companies of firemen, and others. Upon this spectacle and that of the interment, which was marked by the usual military honors, a large proportion of the population of the city gazed. The cemetery occupied a portion of the ground now included in Lincoln Park. When the use of this for burial purposes was abandoned a number of years later, nearly all of the bodies interred in it were removed. Kennison's was one of the few left undisturbed.

 

For many years the site of his grave had practically been forgotten, when, in 1905, with appropriate ceremonies it was marked by a massive granite monument, erected by a number of patriotic societies. Thus it has come to pass that Kennison's burial place possesses a prominence of which the humble soldier in life can hardly have dared dream. Veteran of our two wars against Great Britain, participant in the Boston Tea Party and the Fort Dearborn Massacre, he enjoys the unique distinction of a grave in Chicago's most famous park, overlooking the blue waters of Lake Michigan.”

 

1 The quotations in the above article are from M. M. Quaife's "Chicago and the Old

Northwest,' pp. 255-257. Doctor Quaife has drawn his account from the following sources:

The Chicago Democrat, November 6 and 8, 1848, and February 25, 26,27, 1892; the Chicago

Daily News, December 19, 1903; the Fort Dearborn garrison payroll for the quarter ending

December 31, 1811, and the muster-roll for the period ending May 31, 1812, both among the

Herald papers in the Draper Collection; the garrison muster-roll for December, 1810, printed

in Wentmorth, Early Chicago, 88.

 

 

 

 

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