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Cotter, Joseph Seamon, Sr. (02 February 1861–14 March 1949), teacher, author, and civic leader, was born in Bardstown, Kentucky, the son of Michael (also spelled Micheil) Cotter, a boarding house owner, and Martha Vaughn. Although his father was known as an avid reader, Cotter was raised largely by his mother, a freeborn woman of mixed English, Cherokee, and African blood. It was from her naturally dramatic manner—she orally composed poems and plays as she worked at chores—that he acquired his love of language and stories. Having taught herself, she also taught Cotter to read and enrolled him in school, but at age eight economic necessity forced him to drop out and begin working at various jobs: in a brickyard, then a distillery, and finally as a ragpicker and a teamster. Until age twenty-two, manual labor consumed much of Cotter’s life....

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Desmond, Humphrey Joseph (14 September 1858–16 February 1932), editor and civic leader, was born near Cedarburg, Wisconsin, the son of Thomas Desmond, an educator and businessman, and Johanna Bowe. Desmond was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, achieving his degree in three years (1877–1880). At the university, Desmond was a coeditor of the student newspaper with ...

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McFarland, J. Horace (24 September 1859–02 October 1948), printer, civic reformer, and rosarian, was born John Horace McFarland in McAlisterville, Pennsylvania, the son of George Fisher McFarland, a schoolteacher, and Adeline Dellicher Griesemer. Following the Civil War, the family moved to Harrisburg, where Horace’s father bought and operated the Riverside Nurseries, a large property along the Susquehanna River. When he was sixteen, McFarland started setting type for the ...

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Vladeck, Baruch Charney (13 January 1886–30 October 1938), journalist and civic leader, was born Baruch Nachman Charney in Dukora (variously Dookorah and Dookar), a small village in Belorussia, the son of Wolf Charney, a leather tanner and merchant, and Broche Hurwitz. Raised by his mother after his father’s death in 1889, he received a traditional Jewish education. Taught the Torah first by a local ...

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Wilson, J. Finley (28 August 1881–18 February 1952), journalist and civic leader, was born James Finley Wilson in Dickson, Tennessee, the son of James L. Wilson, a preacher, and Nancy Wiley. He attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, although he did not graduate; afterward, he traveled the United States, living in Missouri, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and Alaska, and worked in various jobs including miner, porter, waiter, and cowboy....