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Kolb, Reuben Francis (16 April 1839–23 March 1918), scientific farmer and leader in the Populist movement, was born in Eufaula, Alabama, the son of Davis Cameron Kolb, a merchant and cotton factor, and Emily Frances Shorter. Both of Kolb’s parents died within two years of his birth, and his maternal grandfather, General Reuben C. Shorter, and his uncle, John Gill Shorter, who served as governor during the Civil War, reared him. The public service of his ancestors impressed Reuben Francis. He attended Howard (Samford) College and the University of North Carolina, where he graduated in 1859. In 1860 he married Mary Caledonia Cargile; they had three children....

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Edmund Ruffin. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-123816).

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Ruffin, Edmund (05 January 1794–17 June 1865), agricultural reformer and southern nationalist, was born in Prince George County, Virginia, the son of James River planter George Ruffin and Jane Lucas. As a consequence of the early demise of his parents and the absence of siblings near his own age, Ruffin grew up in an atmosphere of emotional isolation. He became a voracious reader, digesting, for example, all of Shakespeare’s plays before reaching the age of eleven. He also developed a fierce sense of independence and a determination to control his own destiny. During these formative years Ruffin was profoundly influenced by Thomas Cocke, who became his legal guardian following the death of his father in 1810 and remained his closest friend for the next thirty years. Ruffin enrolled in the College of William and Mary shortly before his father’s death but withdrew after little more than a year of study. During his brief residence in Williamsburg, he formed an amorous attachment to a local belle, Susan Hutchings Travis, whom he married in 1813. After six months’ service as a militia private during the War of 1812, Ruffin returned home to claim his inheritance, a 1,600-acre farm at Coggin’s Point on the south side of the James River, bequeathed to him by his grandfather. There, in company with the bride who would bear him eleven children within a span of eighteen years, Ruffin embarked upon a career as a gentleman-farmer....

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Wharton, William Harris (1802–14 March 1839), lawyer, planter, and activist for Texas independence, was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, the son of William Wharton and Judith Harris. His father, who combined planting with milling and distilling, followed his lawyer brothers to Nashville, Tennessee, in the early 1800s. Both parents died in 1816, and William, his brother John Austin Wharton, and two sisters were raised by their uncle, Jesse Wharton, a prominent lawyer and briefly a U.S. senator. The uncle, a supporter of ...