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Baker, James (19 December 1818–15 May 1898), trapper, army scout, and early settler of Colorado and Wyoming, was born in Belleville, Illinois, and grew up near Springfield. His parents were of Scots-Irish ancestry from South Carolina. With little formal schooling but adept with a rifle, Jim Baker left home for St. Louis in 1838 and signed an eighteen-month contract with the American Fur Company. On 25 May 1838 the Rocky Mountain–bound party, led by ...

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Biddle, Clement (10 May 1740–14 July 1814), merchant and army officer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Biddle, a shipping merchant, and Sarah Owen. Biddle’s great-grandfather, who came to America in 1681, was one of the proprietors of West New Jersey. Biddle’s father moved from Mount Hope, New Jersey, to Philadelphia in 1730. Except for some interruption from his army service, Clement Biddle was a lifelong merchant whose family eventually achieved great prominence in Philadelphia. He formed a partnership early in life with his father called John & Clement Biddle. On 6 June 1764 Biddle married Mary Richardson, daughter of Francis Richardson of Chester, Pennsylvania. They had one child, Frances, who died in infancy; Biddle became a widower in 1773. On 18 August 1774 he took as his second wife Rebekah Cornell, daughter of Gideon Cornell, who at the time of his death in 1765 was lieutenant governor and chief justice of Rhode Island. Rebekah lived until 18 November 1831, having borne thirteen children, two of whom died in infancy. Nine children married into prominent families, as did their successors, and this Biddle branch became one of Philadelphia’s most powerful and wealthy families. Clement Biddle’s sister, Ann, married General ...

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Bridger, James (17 March 1804–17 July 1881), fur trapper and trader, explorer, and scout, was born in a tavern near Richmond, Virginia, the son of James Bridger, a surveyor and innkeeper, and Chloe Tyler, a barmaid. Bridger and his family moved in about 1812 to a farm near St. Louis, where, on being orphaned five years later, he became a blacksmith’s apprentice. In 1822 he responded to an advertisement calling for a hundred able-bodied young men to join a fur-trapping expedition, lasting from one to three years, up to the headwaters of the Missouri River. The organizers of the expedition were ...

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Carson, Kit (24 December 1809–23 May 1868), mountain man, army officer, and Indian agent, was born Christopher Houston Carson in Madison County, Kentucky, the son of Lindsey Carson, a farmer and revolutionary war veteran, and Rebecca Robinson. In 1811 Lindsey Carson moved his family to Howard County, Missouri, to find “elbow room.” He died in 1818, hit by a falling limb while clearing timber from his land. Christopher enjoyed no schooling and never learned to read or write, other than signing his name to documents. In 1825 his mother and stepfather apprenticed him to David Workman, a Franklin, Missouri, saddler whom Kit described as a kind and good man. Nevertheless, he ran away because he found saddlemaking tedious and distasteful work and yearned to travel. Following in the footsteps of a brother and a half-brother who were in the Santa Fe trade, Carson joined a caravan as a “cavvy boy” (an assistant to the wrangler in charge of the horse and mule herd). Though not unsympathetic, Workman was obliged by law to advertise for his runaway. But he misleadingly suggested to readers of the ...

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Kit Carson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-107570).

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Clarkson, Matthew (17 October 1758–25 April 1825), revolutionary war soldier and businessman, was born in New York City, the son of David Clarkson and Elizabeth French. After attending boarding school in Kingsbridge, New York, he enlisted at age seventeen in a corps of fusiliers under the command of Richard Ritzema and ...

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Fink, Mike (1770–1823), scout, keelboatman, and trapper, was born at Fort Pitt, part of present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His ancestry was probably Scotch-Irish and Pennsylvania German. It is hard to separate fact from fiction concerning Mike Fink. Early in his life he was an expert marksman with his Kentucky rifle. While still a teenager, he was probably a hunter who sold meat to Pittsburgh butchers and was surely a scout who gathered information for the settlements about Indian activities beyond the western frontier. The battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, followed by the Treaty of Greenville a year later, guaranteed the security of the Northwest frontier and established a boundary in the Northwest Territory between Indian lands and areas open to further white settlement. So Fink moved into his second career, that of a keelboatman....

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Fiske, John (11 April 1744–28 September 1797), naval officer and merchant seaman, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of the Reverend Samuel Fiske, a Christian minister, and Anna Gerrish. Besides the educational instruction he received from his father, Fiske attended local schools. At an early age, he determined to make his living as a sailor, and by the time he was twenty-one he commanded a brigantine in trade with Spanish ports. In 1766 he married Lydia Phippen, with whom he had a large family. An outgoing, garrulous man, he was appreciated by those who were employed by him because of his handsome largesse and his congenial spirit as a master....

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Folsom, Nathaniel (18 September 1726–26 May 1790), merchant and soldier, was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, the son of Jonathan Folsom and Anna Ladd Foster, farmers. When Folsom was fourteen his father died. He was apprenticed to a trade but later became a merchant and, with two partners, began his own trading firm. He had no formal or academic education....

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Glover, John (05 November 1732–30 January 1797), merchant and army officer, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of Jonathan Glover, a house carpenter, and Tabitha Bacon. When he was four years old Glover’s father died. Some time thereafter the widowed mother moved with her four sons to nearby Marblehead. Glover became a shoemaker and then entered into the fishing business. He married Hannah Gale in 1754; they had eleven children. With profits from fishing Glover purchased a small coasting vessel and began trading with the West Indies and the Iberian peninsula. By 1774 Glover had accumulated considerable property and had become one of Marblehead’s leading citizens....