Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Six Degrees of Girl Scouting

March 12, 2012 was the 100th birthday of the Girl Scouts. In Naperville, girls were part of the DuPage County Council until 2006 when it merged with adjoining councils to become Prairie Winds. In 2008 a major reorganization created Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, the largest council in the United States, serving 94,000 girls.

But here’s another local connection: The Daisy Girl Scout is named after Juliette Gordon Low, nicknamed “Daisy.” While living in England, Daisy became interested in the Boy Scout and Girl Guide movement there and brought the concept back to the States.

Daisy’s mother Nelly raised her family in Savannah, Georgia but she was born in Chicago. In 1912 Nelly wrote a book called “John Kinzie, The ‘Father of Chicago,’ a Sketch,” which was about her grandfather. In fact, Nelly felt so connected to Chicago that after seeing a 1916 Chicago Daily News article about early settlers, she wrote them to point out:  “I notice that my name is conspicuously absent. This is more surprising, as I am the oldest person now living who was born in Chicago...therefore, older than Chicago itself.”

Nelly’s father, John Harris Kinzie, arrived in Chicago as a six-month-old baby in 1804. His younger sister, Ellen, has been called the first child of European descent to be born in the yet-to-be incorporated Chicago.

Daisy’s grandmother and namesake was Juliette Augusta Magill. She married John Harris Kinzie and moved with him to Chicago in 1834. Juliette Kinzie wrote a book called “Wau-Bun, the Early Days in the Northwest” about her own experiences in early Chicago as well as those of her mother– and father-in-law.

Her mother-in-law was kidnapped as a child and raised by Native Americans. As an adult she married John Kinzie (John Harris Kinzie's father) who was a British sympathizer, an Indian agent and a spy, which is most likely how he and his family avoided being killed during the Fort Dearborn Massacre. It may also explain why he murdered one of his Chicago neighbors. Kinzie owned a lot of property in the fledgling settlement, including an inn during the time Joseph Naper and his group arrived on the schooner Telegraph in 1831.

John Kinzie’s step-daughter, Elizabeth, was among the many who took refuge in Fort Dearborn during the Black Hawk War in 1832, the summer after the Telegraph arrived. Naper Settlement families also fled to the fort. Unfortunately, over-crowding and illness made the fort almost as dangerous. Elizabeth died there and the Naper families built their own fort and moved back to their settlement.

That's a lot of local history to think about the next time you bite into a Thin Mint from your local Girl Scout!