Every facet of the David Kennison story reveals layers of hidden truths. And in spite of, or maybe because of his legacy that has become tarnished by the good work of geneologists and other historical researchers,
there are passionate defenders on either side of his story.
David Kennison was, and remains, many things to many people. Most current Chicagoans have likely never heard his name before now. And yet, when he died here in 1852, his funeral was the largest affair of its sort in the history of the city. The city officials paid for the funeral and donated two cemetery lots for a proper site, with the intention of erecting a monument in his honor.
When he died, Chicagoans believed David Kennison to be the last surviving member of the Boston Tea Party. In addition to the honor of having such an important historical figure in their midst,
early Chicagoans were also proud to claim Kennison as a Revolutionary soldier.
To add to the fascination of this man, everyone knew he was old. Really old.
The plaque on the boulder in Lincoln Park that commemorates the grave of David Kennison states he died at the age of 115, 3 months and 17 days. What it does not say, that people also knew, was that he had been married four times and had twenty- two children.
The plaque also does not say that David Kennison had fought under General Washington, and that he was a soldier at Fort Dearborn, but avoided the famous massacre because he was a prisoner of the Potawatomi indian tribe at the time, and that he also fought under General Cornwall at the battle of Bunker Hill. All of these stories, and more, have accompanied Kennison's legacy, which was intact for more than one hundred years.
The Chicago city officials never got around to erecting a monument to honor David Kennison, as they had suggested at the time of his funeral. Fifty years later, three Revolutionary War groups collaborated to place a commemorative boulder in Lincoln Park, at the site of his grave. (This simple fact, that his grave was known to have remained within the old cemetery grounds, acknowledges that bodies were left behind.) The location of the grave in the park was suggested by some elderly Chicagoans who claimed to have been at the funeral.
My research has shown that the boulder was placed one city-block north of the actual grave site.
In 1973, a genealogist named Albert G. Overton, published a paper, "David Kennison and the Chicago Sting," debunking David Kennison's age, and his legendery exploits. Historians have accepted Overton's research as a correction of the Kennison history.