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Dexter, Andrew, Jr. (28 March 1779–02 November 1837), attorney, financier, real estate speculator, and swindler, was the eldest child of Andrew Dexter, a Boston dry goods merchant, and Mary Newton. He was born in Brookfield, Massachusetts, where his parents had fled during the British siege of Boston, and grew up in Providence, Rhode Island. Dexter graduated from Rhode Island College (later Brown University) in 1798. His salutatory address expressed the heady combination of reverence for the leaders of the Revolution, anxiety about the future, and soaring ambition that marked the Revolutionary generation....

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Fisk, James (01 April 1834–07 January 1872), financial speculator, was born in Pownal, Vermont, the son of James Fisk, a country peddler; his mother’s name is unknown. He was four years old when his mother died and his father moved to Brattleboro and married Love B. Ryan. He left school at age twelve to accompany his father on peddling trips, became a waiter two years later when his father built a temperance hotel, and joined the Van Amberg Circus as a roustabout and ticketseller when he was fifteen. Returning home at age eighteen, he reorganized his father’s peddling business and married Lucy Moore in 1854. They had no children....

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Fitch, James (02 August 1649–10 November 1727), Connecticut land speculator and magistrate, was born in Saybrook, Connecticut, the son of the Reverend James Fitch and Abigail Whitfield. In 1659 his father led a group of people to settle the town of Norwich, situated where the Quinebaug and Shetucket rivers combine to form the Thames. Fitch was raised largely on the frontier in close proximity to the Indians, with whom his father had numerous contacts. He gained knowledge of the unsettled lands in eastern Connecticut and learned to manipulate the Native Americans who controlled them. Fitch served in ...

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Harvey, Coin (16 August 1851–11 February 1936), economic reformer, lawyer, and real estate investor, was born William Hope Harvey in Buffalo, West Virginia, the son of Robert Trigg Harvey and Anna Maria Hope, farmers. After two years at a local academy, he entered Marshall College in nearby Huntington but remained there only a few months. He then began to study law on his own while supporting himself by teaching school. After being admitted to the West Virginia bar, he practiced law, first in Barboursville (1870–1874), then with his brother in Huntington for two years, then in Cleveland, Ohio. He married Anna R. Halliday in 1876; they had four children. In 1879 they moved to Chicago and two years later to Gallipolis, Ohio, where Harvey served as attorney for several wholesale firms....

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Henderson, Richard (20 April 1735–30 January 1785), land speculator, judge, and politician, was born in Hanover County, Virginia, the son of Samuel Henderson and Elizabeth Williams. Samuel Henderson, who had served for a time as sheriff of Hanover County, moved his family to North Carolina around 1742 and settled on Nutbush Creek in Granville County; within a few years he became sheriff. Little is known of Richard Henderson’s childhood, but it must have been a happy one. Under the watchful eye of his mother his education was guided toward a law career. He studied under a private tutor before getting his first job as a deputy sheriff under his father. He then read law under John Williams, his mother’s cousin and a gifted attorney who became a lifelong friend. After being admitted to the bar, Henderson joined Williams in law practice. Their association grew closer after 1763, when Henderson married Elizabeth Keeling, Williams’s stepdaughter who was the daughter of an English peer, Lord Keeling. They had six children....

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Maverick, Samuel Augustus (23 July 1803–02 September 1870), politician and landowner, was born in Pendleton, South Carolina, the son of Samuel Maverick, the owner of “Montpelier” plantation, and Elizabeth Anderson. He received his early education locally and then attended Yale College, from which he received his B.A. in 1825. Afterward, he studied law in Winchester, Virginia, then returned to Pendleton, where he was admitted to the bar in 1829 and practiced law....

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Symmes, John Cleves (21 July 1742–26 February 1814), legislator, jurist, and land speculator, was born near Southold, New York, the son of the Reverend Timothy Symmes and Mary Cleves. Having been driven from his Millington, Connecticut, parish because of his participation in the Great Awakening, Reverend Symmes had settled on Long Island near the Cleves family home the same year that John Symmes was born. After the death of his mother and the departure of his father to do missionary work in New Jersey, Symmes was reared by his maternal grandparents. The formal education he received included the study of surveying and law, supplemented by an extensive reading of Greek and Roman literature and history. Unlike his Harvard-educated father, John Cleves did not attend college and had little, if any, interest in university training. In 1760 he married Anna Tuthill, the daughter of an influential Long Island family. The couple would have two daughters, one of whom would marry ...

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Wentworth, Paul (?– December 1793), speculator and secret agent, was born probably on the island of Barbados, the son of William Wentworth, probably a sugar planter, and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). Little is known about Paul’s early life, but he was mentioned in his father’s will of 23 August 1750. He appears to have been well educated with a special proficiency in languages. As a teenager he surfaced in New England with letters of recommendation that he presented to Samuel Wentworth of Boston and ...