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Barnwell, John (1671– June 1724), frontier settler and Indian fighter, was the son of Alderman Matthew Barnwell of Dublin, Ireland, and Margaret Carberry. The elder Barnwell was killed in the siege of Derry in 1690 as a captain in James II’s Irish army, which attempted to restore the last Stuart king after the revolution of 1688. The family seat, Archerstown in County Meath, was forfeited as a result of this support of James II against William and Mary....

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Clay, Green (14 August 1757–31 October 1828), pioneer and soldier, was born in Powhatan County, Virginia, the son of Charles Clay and Martha Green, farmers. Green Clay had little formal education but at an early age mastered the techniques of surveying. Born poor, he realized that a fortune could be made by acquiring land and accompanied a surveying party to Kentucky in 1777. He was with ...

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McMinn, Joseph (22 June 1758–17 November 1824), soldier, planter, and governor of Tennessee, was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of Robert McMinn and Sarah Harlan, farmers. He grew up in Pennsylvania, but as a young man he moved with his wife, Hannah Cooper, whom he had married in 1785, and their only child to Hawkins County, North Carolina (later Tennessee), where at least one other member of his family had settled. He established himself as a planter and soon was commissioned a militia captain in the Southwest Territory, which was created in 1790 to prepare Tennessee for statehood. He was a member of the territorial legislature in 1794 and of the constitutional convention that assembled in Knoxville in 1796 to draft a constitution and a petition to Congress for Tennessee’s admission to the Union. McMinn was entrusted by the assembly to deliver the document and petition to national leaders in Philadelphia. Having presented the documents to the secretary of state, he remained in Philadelphia long enough to sit for a portrait by ...

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Meserve, Nathaniel (1705–28 June 1758), shipbuilder and provincial military leader, was born in Newington, New Hampshire, the son of Clement Meserve, a joiner, and Elizabeth Jones. In 1725 he married Jane Libby; they had two children. Meserve soon afterward moved to Portsmouth, where he prospered as a shipbuilder and, in 1740 built one of the town’s more elegant houses adjoining his shipyard....

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Moore, James, Jr. (1675?–1724), provisional governor and militia commander of South Carolina, was born in that colony sometime between 1675 and 1680, the son of James Moore, Sr., also a governor of South Carolina as well as a prominent planter and Indian trader, and Lady Margaret Yeamans. Although he represented Berkeley and Craven Counties in the Commons House of Assembly between 1706 and 1708, little is known about Moore before the Tuscarora War in 1713. On 20 March his force of some forty whites and 800 Cherokee, Creek, and Catawba allies destroyed the Tuscarora castle at Nooherooka. In so doing they took 392 prisoners and 192 scalps, with total casualties amounting to, in Moore’s estimation, nearly 1,000 in contrast to 57 killed (35 Indians, 22 whites) and 82 (58 Indians, 24 whites) wounded among the attackers. This blow crushed the Tuscaroras and obliged them to remove to New York where the nation was incorporated into the Iroquois confederacy....

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Nones, Benjamin (09 March 1757–09 February 1826), Revolutionary War soldier, Jewish community leader in Philadelphia, and early abolitionist, was born Abraham Benjamin Nones in Bordeaux, France, the son of Abraham Benjamin Nones and Rachel Nones. In a letter written to President Thomas Jefferson...

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Pepperrell, Sir William (27 June 1696–06 July 1759), merchant and soldier, was born in Kittery Point, Maine, then part of Massachusetts, the son of William Pepperrell and Margery Bray. His father was a prosperous merchant, and young William grew up in a comfortable family, though he received little formal education and acquired his business knowledge from working in his father’s store. Pepperrell (sometimes spelled Pepperell) joined the militia at age sixteen, and he later became a partner in his father’s business. The firm built ships and traded lumber, fish, ships, and other products to the southern colonies, the West Indies, the Mediterranean region, and England, in turn importing European products that they sold in Boston. Father and son prospered and invested their returns in real estate; by 1729 the younger Pepperrell owned almost the entire townships of Saco and Scarboro, Maine. He was also responsible for the firm’s affairs in Boston, where he made valuable social contacts. In 1723 he married Mary Hirst, the granddaughter of ...

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Standish, Myles (1584?–03 October 1656), Pilgrim military and political leader, was born in England, either on the Isle of Man or Lancashire, and may have been connected to the noted Catholic family Standish of Standish. Virtually nothing, however, is known of his early life or education until as a soldier in the Low Countries he became acquainted with the English Leiden separatist congregation from which many of the Mayflower passengers came. As the Pilgrims prepared to emigrate to America, Captain ...

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Underhill, John (1597–21 September 1672), military leader and magistrate, was born in the Netherlands, the son of John Underhill, an English military adventurer in Dutch service, and Honor Pawley. The younger Underhill received little formal education, but he served as “a Cadet in the guard” of the Prince of Orange. Influenced by English religious refugees, he also became a Puritan. In 1628 he married Helena de Hooch....

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Waldo, Samuel (22 December 1696–23 May 1759), land speculator and military officer, was born in England, the son of Jonathan Waldo, a merchant, and Hannah Mason. In 1700 the family moved to Boston, Massachusetts. He attended Boston’s Latin School and also learned German at home from his mother. Waldo married Lucy Wainwright in 1722; the couple had six children....

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Williams, Israel (30 November 1709–10 January 1788), provincial militia officer and public official, was born in Hatfield, Massachusetts, the son of William Williams, a minister, and Christian Stoddard. His maternal grandfather, the Reverend Solomon Stoddard, was known as the “pope” of the Connecticut Valley for his religious authority and influence. Like him, Williams would achieve military, political, and economic dominance that would earn him a double-edged label: “monarch” of the Connecticut River valley in western Massachusetts. The male members of the Williams family and their political and business associates in western Massachusetts were known as the “River Gods”—a hard-working, aggressive, tightly knit, local elite with political ties to the dominant Hutchinson-Oliver faction in provincial politics. By the 1750s Israel had become the preeminent River God....

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Winslow, John (10 May 1703–17 April 1774), colonial soldier, was born in Marshfield, Massachusetts, the son of Isaac Winslow, a farmer, and Sarah Wensley. John was born into one of the leading families of southeastern New England; both his great-grandfather, Edward Winslow (1595–1655) and his grandfather, ...

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Josiah Winslow. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-96221).

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Winslow, Josiah (1629–18 December 1680), governor of Plymouth Colony and commander in King Philip's War, governor of Plymouth Colony and commander in King Philip’s War, was born in the town of Plymouth, the son of Edward Winslow and Susanna Fuller White. His was a politically and economically prominent Pilgrim family. Winslow’s father was a member of the colony’s Court of Assistants and occasionally governor during Josiah’s earliest years. In the early 1630s the family moved to Marshfield; Edward Winslow was the town’s main founder. Marshfield remained Josiah Winslow’s home throughout his life. In the mid-1640s Winslow was among the first three American-born students to enroll at Harvard. Winslow did not take a degree, that being, according to custom, largely restricted to those pursuing ministerial careers....

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Winthrop, John (14 March 1638–27 November 1707), soldier and governor of Connecticut, known as Fitz or Fitz-John, was born in Ipswich, Massachusetts, the son of John Winthrop, Jr. (1606–1676), governor of Connecticut, and Elizabeth Reade. In 1646 Winthrop and his family moved to New London, Connecticut, where he lived for most of his life. After two years of formal education he turned to farming and then went to England to serve in the English army (1658–1660), reaching the rank of captain. He participated in General George Monck’s march from Scotland to London in 1660, which resulted in the restoration of King Charles II....