David Kennison - can you help sort out the man from the legend?

+7 votes
David Kennison was a "notable" for having either been the last surviving participant of the Boston Tea Party, or for having been the greatest conman the city of Chicago has ever seen. Either way, he was a fascinating man who, like everyone else, deserves to have his story told.

By his own account, David not only participated in the Boston Tea Party, but also served in nearly every major battle of the Revolutionary War, personally knew General Washington, and went on to serve in the War of 1812, being wounded in battle when well into his 70s. Back home, he claimed to have been married four times and to have father 22 children - none of whom have yet been solidly identified When he died in 1852, it was believed he was 115 years old. Considered a local hero, his funeral was the largest ever held in the city of Chicago (at least at that time).

What makes this man such an intriguing case study from a genealogist's perspective, is that his primary sources - those written contemporaneously by the individuals involved - are perhaps the least reliable documents we have. Kennison was a showman who didn't hesitate to exaggerate his story in order to make a living, while the newspapers he told his story to were often less interested in accuracy than they were in making a buck. (Some things never change!)

At the same time, I have seen many statements published since David's death which claim that he was simply a "fraudster" whose tales "defied logic" and "have since been debunked". Yet most of these "debunkers" provide even less evidence to back their allegations than did David himself.   

I have recently updated Kennison's profile to include everything I know about the man, in hopes that together we can finally sort out this remarkable individual's truth from his fantasy. I invite anyone interested in this fun character to visit his profile and contribute whatever you can. All I ask is that we make a diligent effort to identify what is documented "fact" and what is simply what we've "heard".

Most significantly, I would be very interested in seeing any evidence which connects David to any wife or child. With a claim of 22 children, his descendants must certainly be numerous - yet I have yet to come across anyone (including myself) who can actually prove a connection.
WikiTree profile: David Kennison
in Genealogy Help by David Randall G2G6 Mach 4 (43.5k points)

1 Answer

+4 votes
A great profile, David!
by Mark Weinheimer G2G6 Pilot (455k points)

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