DR. JOSEPH F. HENROTIN

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 581-582

DR. JOSEPH FORTUNAT HENROTIN was among the early physicians of Chicago, and endeared himself to a large number of citizens, especially on the North Side, by his brave and unselfish labors during the cholera epidemic of 1849 to 1855.  At that time there was a large German settlement between State Street and the lake shore, north of Chicago Avenue, known as New Buffalo, the gratitude of whose denizens toward the “good French Doctor,” as they called him, was unbounded.  Without stopping to inquire about the certainty of his fees, when many others had left the city in alarm, Dr. Henrotin went among the poor and rich alike, carrying good cheer and healing balm to the stricken ones.  His success in exterminating the scourge gave him at once a very large practice, and he acquired what is a large fortune to be gained in medical practice in a few years.   It was only his lack of a thorough knowledge of our language that prevented his taking the prominence in the professional and literary world that he deserved.  He was a ripe scholar, and his diction in French was considered an ornament to the language.  His reports to his native Government while serving as Consul are still preserved as models of elegance, clearness and practical value.

Joseph Fortunat Henrotin was born in Tellin, Belgium, March 17, 1811.  His grandfather was a farmer at that place.  His father, Dr. Clement Henrotin, was a graduate of the Medical University of Paris, France, to which place he walked in youth, because of the limited means of transportation in that day and region, to gain an education in medicine.  While there he befriended and encouraged young Dubois (who afterward became the French Court Physician) to take up the study of the healing art. Dr. Clement Henrotin practiced medicine sixty-five years at Tellin, where he died, full of honors, at the age of ninety-six years. His wife was Miss Rossion.

Joseph F. Henrotin pursued his elementary studies in his native town, and entered the University of Liege, Belgium, from which he graduated at the age of twenty-two.  He then spent three years in further study in the Belgian hospitals, being a pupil and friend of Dr. Seutin, the inventor of the starch bandage, who secured his appointment, at the age of twenty-five, as surgeon in the national army, with the privilege of further pursuing his investigations and studies in the hospitals.  He continued to hold this position for nearly twelve years, at the end of which time he resolved to come to America.

He arrived in Chicago in the autumn of 1848, and, as above related, soon acquired a large and remunerative practice.  This was general throughout the city, but most of his work was done on the North and Northwest Sides.  Having placed himself in independent circumstances by eight years of arduous and incessant labor, he returned to his native land, in 1856.  A year later he was appointed by the Belgian Government to be Consul to the Northwestern States of this country, and returned to Chicago, leaving several of his children abroad to be educated.  In 1858 he was commissioned by Belgium to make a special inspection of the states of Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota and report on their adaptability as homes for Belgian emigrants.  In the fulfillment of this charge he traveled throughout the states named, rendering a prompt and exhaustive report to his Government.  For this service he received the thanks of the Belgian Parliament, on account of its practical value and literary merit, and copies of the report were widely distributed over Germany and other neighboring countries, as well as throughout Belgium.  He continued to serve as Consul until his death, which occurred March 17, 1876, on the sixty-fifth anniversary of his birth.  He was succeeded in office by his eldest living son, a sketch of whom will be found elsewhere in this work.   Dr. Henrotin was a heavy sufferer by the great fire of 1871, but partially recovered from his loss before his death.

In the fall of 1840, Dr. Henrotin married Adele Kinsoen, a native of Tournai, Flanders, born in 1821, and daughter of Henri Kinsoen, who had a contract to furnish the Dutch army with supplies.  A brother of Henri Kinsoen was a noted portrait painter, who numbered the members of the French Court among his patrons.  Both were natives of Bruges, Belgium, as was Mrs. Henrotin’s mother, Josephine Brice.

Besides his widow, Dr. Henrotin left eight children.  The eldest son, Henry, was killed at the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, during the Civil War, while serving in Taylor’s Battery.  All the living, save the sixth, who is engaged in business in Havre, France, are residents of Chicago.   Following are their names: Charles; Margaret, Mrs. James H. B. Daly; Dr. Fernand; Adolph; Mary; Victor; Fortuni, wife of George Le Jeune; and Louise, now Mrs. Maurice Pincoffs.  Mrs. Henrotin survived her husband many years, dying, widely mourned, November 29, 1893.  She was an able helpmate to her husband, whom she nobly aided in his labors among the cholera sufferers, and was held in high regard by all who enjoyed her acquaintance.

                                -- Submitted on 10/31/99 by Sherri Hessick ( slhessick@crosswinds.net )