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Escalante, Silvestre Vélez de (fl. 1768–1780), Franciscan missionary and explorer, was born in Spain and arrived in New Spain in 1768. Very little is known of his early life and parentage. Known as Vélez to his contemporaries, Escalante became a Franciscan friar at the convent of San Francisco in Mexico City in 1768. From time to time he performed missionary duties in the province of Sonora and at the Laguna Pueblo of New Mexico before becoming head of the Mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Zuni Pueblo in the 1770s....

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Garcés, Francisco Tomás Hermenegildo (12 April 1738–19 July 1781), Franciscan missionary, explorer, and martyr, was born in Morata del Conde (Aragón), Spain, the son of Juan Garcés and Antonia Maestro, occupations unknown. Educated by his uncle Moisés Garcés, the local parish priest, in 1753 he entered the Franciscan order of the province of Aragón and studied theology and philosophy at the monastery of Calatayud, where he was ordained a priest in 1762. The following year at Madrid, Garcés presented himself to the commissary of the college of Santa Cruz of Querétaro, Fray Juan Crisóstomo Gil, and volunteered as a missionary in New Spain. In 1766 Garcés reached the college, where he held the post of confessor....

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Judd, Gerrit Parmele (23 April 1803–12 July 1873), physician, medical missionary, and Hawaiian government official and adviser, was born in Paris, New York, the son of Elnathan Judd, Jr., a physician, and Betsey Hastings. Being the eldest son of a physician, Judd took an early interest in the medical profession and attended medical school in Fairfield, Herkimer County, where he received his M.D. in 1825. In 1826 Judd dedicated his life to the missionary cause as directed by the Boston-based Congregational American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). At this time the board was recruiting missionaries for the third company to join the Sandwich Islands Mission in Hawaii in the fall of 1827....

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Kino, Eusebio Francisco (10 August 1645–15 March 1711), Jesuit missionary, explorer, and cartographer, was born in Segno (Tirol), near Trent in northern Italy, the son of Francisco Chini and Margarita (maiden name unknown). Later in his life, as a missionary in the New World, he was to alter the spelling of the surname, Chini or Chino, so that it would be pronounced as it is in Italian....

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Jason Lee. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-113753).

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Lee, Jason (28 June 1803–12 March 1845), missionary and pioneer, was born near Stanstead, Vermont (now part of Quebec, Canada), the son of Daniel Lee, a farmer and former revolutionary war soldier, and Sarah Whittaker. The Lees had moved from Massachusetts to the vicinity of Stanstead five years before their son’s birth, and there Daniel Lee continued his occupation as a farmer. Little is known about Jason Lee’s early life and education, but it has been established that he was converted to Methodism in his early twenties. In 1829–1830 he lived in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, where he attended Wilbraham Academy for the purpose of receiving training as a Methodist preacher. With the encouragement of the academy’s president, the Reverend ...

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Marquette, Jacques (01 June 1637–18 May 1675), Jesuit Nicolas missionary and explorer, was born at Laon, France, the son of Nicolas Marquette, a municipal councillor, and Rose de la Salle. His family was of the minor nobility with a long history of military and governmental service. He began studies at the Jesuit college in Reims in 1646 and entered the Jesuits (Society of Jesus) at Nancy in 1654. His training as a Jesuit, which included philosophy and mathematics but little theology, was mainly at the University of Pont-à-Mousson. He taught between 1656 and 1664 at the Jesuit colleges at Auxerre, Reims, Charleville, Langres, and Pont-à-Mousson. In 1658 he petitioned the Jesuit general to be sent to the foreign missions. Immediately after his ordination to the priesthood at Toul in March 1666, his religious superiors assigned him to New France (Canada); he arrived at Quebec on 20 September....

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McCoy, Isaac (13 June 1784–21 June 1846), Baptist missionary, surveyor, and U.S. Indian agent, was born near Uniontown, Pennsylvania, the son of William McCoy, a clergyman. His mother’s name is unknown. When he was six years old, his family moved to Kentucky, where he attended public schools. At nineteen he married Christiana Polke, who had strong religious convictions and missionary spirit and became his dedicated partner throughout his life. They had thirteen children....

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Niza, Marcos de (1495–25 March 1558), missionary and explorer, was probably born in Nice, Duchy of Savoy (now in France), of French parentage; little else is known about his parents. Niza arrived in the New World at Santo Domingo in 1531, professing his final vows as a Franciscan friar in the same year. Niza arrived in Peru with Pedro Alvarado in January 1534; although many sources claim he witnessed the execution of the famous Inca leader Atahualpa on 29 August 1533, he probably did not. He arrived at Santiago, Guatemala, on 25 September 1536 and wrote a report of Alvarado’s Peruvian expedition. Bishop Fray Juan de Zumárraga, to whom he wrote about experiences in Peru, spoke highly of him, stating that he was “reliable, of approved virtue and fine religious zeal.”...

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Spalding, Eliza Hart (11 August 1807–07 January 1851), pioneer and missionary, was born in Kennsington (now Berlin), Connecticut, the daughter of Levi Hart and Martha Hart, farmers who shared the same ancestor, Stephen Hart. When she was thirteen, the family moved to a farm near Holland Patent in Oneida County, New York. At home she learned the necessary crafts of spinning, weaving, and candle making. She attended Hamilton Oneida Academy and may have studied at Chipman Female Academy in Clinton, New York. Eliza was a serious and bright student. Slender and of medium height, she had dark brown hair and blue eyes and a “coarse voice.” She was also very religious; baptized in August 1826, she joined the local Presbyterian church. For a while she also taught school. A friend of hers, known as Mrs. Jackson, suggested that she might wish to correspond with Henry Harmon Spalding of Prattsburg, New York, who had conveyed to Mrs. Jackson that he was looking for a woman who would “devote her life to educate the heathen.” They began writing each other in 1830, and in the fall of 1831 they met....

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White, Elijah (03 April 1806–03 April 1879), medical missionary, federal agent, and proponent of westward emigration, was born in Havana, now Montour Falls, New York, the son of the Reverend Alward White and Clara Pierce. His father and uncles were Methodist Episcopal itinerant preachers, and as a youth White was an activist in the local Methodist congregation, being especially interested in temperance. He became a doctor, possibly having studied in Syracuse. He married Sarepta Caroline Rhoode sometime before 1835....