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Aiken, D. Wyatt (17 March 1828–06 April 1887), agricultural editor and congressman, was born David Wyatt Aiken in Winnsboro, South Carolina, the son of David Aiken, a merchant and planter, and Nancy Kerr. Descended from an Irish family that had prospered in the United States, Aiken received an excellent education at Mount Zion Institute in his hometown and, as was common for the sons of planters, attended South Carolina College. He graduated in 1849 and taught mathematics for two years at Mount Zion. After traveling to Europe in 1851, he returned home to marry Mattie Gaillard in 1852. Before her death in 1855, they had two children. Aiken married Virginia Carolina Smith in 1857; they had eleven children. The following year he purchased a plantation from the estate of Virginia’s father in Cokesbury, Abbeville District. As the proprietor of “Coronaca” plantation, he became involved in the agricultural reform movement and in states’ rights politics. He fervently believed that “agriculture climbs high in the scale of science: it develops thought, matures judgment, and requires for the execution, untiring energy, perseverance, and industry.” He was instrumental in the formation of the Abbeville Agricultural Society and was a member of its executive committee. In 1858 he attended the Southern Commercial Convention in Montgomery, Alabama, a meeting that quickly became a forum for disunionist politics....

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Aiken, William (28 January 1806–06 September 1887), planter and congressman, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of William Aiken, Sr., an Irish immigrant, and Henrietta Wyatt. At the time of his death, the elder Aiken was president of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company and a wealthy merchant. Aiken attended the South Carolina College, from which he graduated in 1825. He then traveled to Europe. Upon returning to Charleston, he married Harriet Lowndes in 1831. They had one child....

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Garnett, James Mercer (08 June 1770–23 April 1843), congressman, agricultural reformer, and educator, was born at “Mount Pleasant” plantation, near present-day Loretto in Essex County, Virginia, the son of planters Muscoe Garnett and Grace Fenton Mercer. He was privately educated, and in 1793 married his first cousin, Mary Eleanor Dick Mercer. The couple had four daughters and four sons....

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Hampton, Wade (1754?–04 February 1835), planter, military commander, and congressman, was born (according to different sources) in either Halifax County, Virginia, or Rowan County, North Carolina, the son of Anthony Hampton, a farmer, land jobber, and trader, and Elizabeth Preston. He is often known as Wade Hampton I to distinguish him from two noted descendants of the same name. Hampton’s history prior to the American Revolution is largely mysterious. He must, however, have received some sort of formal education. Early in 1774 the Hampton family followed the example set by other backcountry residents and moved to South Carolina. Wade Hampton joined several of his brothers in a mercantile enterprise before the American War of Independence intervened....

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Harris, William Alexander (29 October 1841–20 December 1909), stockman, U.S. senator, and U.S. congressman, was born in Loudoun County, Virginia, the son of William Alexander Harris, a lawyer, congressman, diplomat, and journalist, and Frances Murray. He attended school in Luray, Page County, Virginia, and then enrolled at Columbian College (now George Washington University) in Washington, D.C., from which he graduated in 1859. He spent the next few months in Nicaragua preparing a preliminary survey for a projected interocean canal before entering Virginia Military Institute, graduating early, in 1861, so he and his classmates could join the Confederate army....

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Hatch, William Henry (11 September 1833–23 December 1896), congressman and agricultural reformer, was born near Georgetown in Scott County, Kentucky, the son of Reverend William Hatch, a Campbellite minister, and Mary Adams. Educated in the public schools of Lexington, Hatch studied law for a year in Richmond, Kentucky, before securing admission to the bar in September 1854. He began his legal practice in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, but shortly thereafter he joined the stream of migration from Kentucky to Missouri and settled in Hannibal, where he practiced law and became active in politics as a Democrat. In 1855 he married Jennie L. Smith; they had one child before Jennie died in 1858. In 1861 he married Thetis Clay Hawkins; they had one child....

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William Lemke Announcing his candidacy for president, 1936. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-95941).

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Lemke, William Frederick (13 August 1878–30 May 1950), agrarian leader, congressman, and presidential candidate, was born in Albany, Minnesota, and raised in Towner County, North Dakota, the son of Fred Lemke and Julia Anna Klier, pioneer farmers who were successful enough to accumulate some 2,700 acres of land. The young Lemke worked long hours on the family farm, attending a common school for only three months in the summers. The family did, however, reserve enough money to send William to the University of North Dakota, where he was a superior student. Graduating in 1902, he stayed at the state university for the first year of law school but moved to Georgetown University, then to Yale, where he finished work on his law degree and won the praise of the dean....

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Van Rensselaer, Stephen (01 November 1764–26 January 1839), patroon, congressman, and founder of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, was born in New York City, the son of Stephen Van Rensselaer and Catherine Livingston. Born into one of New York’s wealthiest families, he was the eighth and last patroon of a vast estate in Rensselaer and Albany counties. With rights that were a legacy of the Dutch patroon system, he was to receive rents and tithes perpetually from his tenants. He received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1782. The next year he married Margaret Schuyler, daughter of General ...

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Whitehill, Robert (24 July 1735–05 April 1813), farmer and member of the House of Representatives, was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the son of James Whitehill, a blacksmith and farmer, and Rachel Cresswell. His father had migrated from Ireland in 1723. Robert Whitehill acquired 440 acres and erected the first stone house in Lowther Manor, Cumberland County. In 1758 he married Eleanor Reed; they had five sons and four daughters....