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Alden, John (1599?–12 September 1687), farmer and magistrate, was one of the original settlers of Plymouth Colony, arriving in New England on the Mayflower in 1620. No definite information exists about his birth, parentage, childhood, or education. In 1620 he lived at Southampton, England, where the migrating Pilgrims stopped for provisions on their way from the Netherlands to the New World. There he was hired as the ship’s cooper in charge of its supply of beer and drinking water. Upon landfall, Alden joined in signing the now famous Mayflower Compact. After the colonists’ arrival in Plymouth, Governor ...

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Alden, Priscilla Mullins (1602–1684), one of the first settlers of Plymouth Colony, was born the daughter of William Mullins, a shoemaker, and Mary (maiden name unknown). She was probably born in Dorking, Surrey, England, though there is no record of her birth. Her father’s life is not well documented, but he may be the William Mollines who was brought before the Privy Council in April 1616. If so, his Puritan faith might have been the reason that he and his family joined the Separatists on their ...

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Allerton, Isaac (1586– February 1659), merchant in the early years of the Plymouth colony, . Little is known of Allerton’s early life, and nothing is known regarding his education and religious orientation. He was a tailor in London at the time that he moved to Leiden, Holland, in 1608. When the Separatist congregation of John Robinson arrived in 1609 Allerton joined the church. In 1611 he married a fellow member, Mary Norris. In 1614 he became a citizen of the Dutch city....

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Stephen Fuller Austin. Oil on canvas, c. 1840. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Austin, Stephen Fuller (03 November 1793–27 December 1836), founder of Anglo-Texas, was born in Wythe County, Virginia, the son of Moses Austin, an entrepreneur in lead mining, and Maria Brown. At age five Austin moved with his family to Potosi, Missouri, a town founded by his father. Moses Austin sent his son to various schools in Connecticut (1804–1808) and to Transylvania University (1809–1810) in Lexington, Kentucky. Stephen joined his father’s business ventures in the spring of 1810, managing the lead-mining operation as well as working in the family store....

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Ballou, Adin (23 April 1803–05 August 1890), Universalist clergyman, reformer, and founder of Hopedale Community, was born in Cumberland, Rhode Island, the son of Ariel Ballou and Edilda Tower, farmers. A largely self-educated preacher, Ballou’s earliest religious experience was Calvinist in nature, and he later recalled the “very solemnizing effect” of the preaching he heard as a youth. At about age eleven, however, Ballou experienced a religious conversion, and a year later he was baptized into a Christian Connection church that emphasized a more enthusiastic and fundamentalist religiosity. Ballou developed a deep interest in religious matters over the next several years and eventually became a self-proclaimed preacher. At age eighteen, in the autumn of 1821, he was received into the fellowship of the Connecticut Christian Conference, a Christian Connection body. In 1822 he married Abigail Sayles; they had two children before Abigail died in 1829....

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Baranov, Aleksandr Andreevich (1746–16 April 1819), Russian colonizer of North America, was born in Kargopol, Russia. His parents’ names are unknown. In his early years he was engaged in trade in Moscow and St. Petersburg and in 1780 went to Irkutsk where he founded a glass factory and a distillery....

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Blackstone, William (05 March 1595–26 May 1675), Anglican clergyman, horticulturist, and first European settler in what is now Rhode Island, was born in Whickham, Durham, England, the son of John Blackstone, a wealthy landowner and poultryman, and Agnes Hawley. At Emmanuel College, Cambridge, Blackstone (sometimes Blackston or Blaxton) took his B.A. in 1617 and his M.A. in 1621. He at once took orders in the Church of England....

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Boehler, Peter (31 December 1712–27 September 1775), Moravian pioneer in the American colonies, was born in Frankfurt on the Main, Germany, son of John Conrad Boehler, an innkeeper and later comptroller of the corn office, and Antoinette Elizabeth Hanf. Peter was sent to school at age four, commenced the study of Latin when he was eight, and soon thereafter entered the Gymnasium at Frankfurt. His family wanted him to study medicine, so he entered the University of Jena on 20 April 1731. On 16 June 1734 he matriculated at the University of Leipzig but soon returned to Jena, where he was given the title ...

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Brent, Margaret (1601–1670?), landowner and colonial leader, was born in England, the daughter of Richard Brent, lord of Admington and Lark Stoke in the county of Gloucester, England, and Elizabeth Reed.

When Margaret Brent was about thirty-seven years old, she traveled to the New World with her sister Mary, brothers Giles and Fulke, and their servants. They landed at St. Mary’s (later St. Marys) Maryland, in November 1638. Although the two sisters traveled with their brothers, they did not depend on them for their economic survival. They arrived with servants as well as the means to procure large land grants from the proprietor, Lord Baltimore (...

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Edward L. Lach, Jr.

Bronck, Jonas (1600–1643), colonist, was born in Komstad, Småland, Sweden, the son of Jonas Bronck, a farmer. His mother's name is not recorded, and little is known of his early life. What is known is that he learned to read—most likely under the instruction of a local clergyman—and was influenced to forsake his homeland for the sea at a relatively early age, possibly by either the outbreak of the War of Kalmar between Sweden and Denmark in 1611 or the outbreak of local civil unrest due to excessive taxation of cattle herds in 1622....

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Ole Bull. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102595).

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Bull, Ole (05 February 1810–17 August 1880), concert violinist, composer, and patriot, was born Ole Bornemann Bull in Bergen, Norway, the son of Johan Storm Bull, an apothecary, and Anna Dorothea Geelmuyden. Musically precocious by age three, he was encouraged by his mother and his uncle, a good amateur cellist, who bought the child his first violin and persuaded the parents to engage an instructor, the closest brush Bull would have with formal violin study. Two years were spent with Johan H. Paulson, followed in 1822 by a six-year stint with Mathias Lundholm. Beyond this early foundation, Bull remained almost entirely self-taught, although he sometimes sought informal help from artists like Torgeir Augundson, the legendary Norwegian folk fiddler....

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Samuel de Champlain. From an engraving by John G. Shea, 1878. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-11763).

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Champlain, Samuel de (c. 1567-1570–25 December 1635), explorer and colonizer, probably, was born at Brouage, Saintonge (Charente-Maritime), France, the son of Anthoine de Champlain, allegedly a naval captain, and Dame Margueritte Le Roy. Champlain may have been baptized a Huguenot, but if so he was early converted to the Church of Rome. Little is known of his early years except that he acquired the skills of a draftsman and cartographer. In 1632 he declared that he had served in Brittany for several years (until 1598) with the army of Henri IV against the Catholic League in the French Wars of Religion. Yet, when the Spanish army occupying Britanny returned to Spain at the end of those wars, Champlain went with them, for in 1601 he was in Cadiz. In 1603 he accompanied François Gravé Du Pont on a fur-trading venture up the St. Lawrence River to Tadoussac at the mouth of the Saguenay. It had become the customary summer rendezvous for European traders and the Montagnais Indians, who provided furs in exchange for metal goods, cloth, and trinkets....

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Coode, John (1648–between 27 Feb and 28 Mar. 1709), one of the most colorful and persistent rebels in American colonial history, was born in Penryn, Cornwall, the second son of John Coode, a lawyer, and Grace Robins. Coode matriculated at age sixteen at Exeter College, Oxford. He was ordained as a deacon in July 1668 and later claimed ordination as a priest. Coode served briefly in a chapel under the vicar of St. Gluveas in Cornwall before being turned out of the ministry for unspecified reasons. By early 1672, Coode was in Maryland, first settling in St. George’s Hundred where he officiated as a minister on several occasions. Two years later he moved to St. Clement’s Hundred after marrying Susannah Slye, the recent widow of a wealthy merchant, Robert Slye, and the daughter of Catholic Thomas Gerard, a powerful landholder and opponent of the proprietary family. At least fifteen years older than Coode, Susannah was subject to periodic fits of madness exacerbated by the recent deaths of a son, her first husband, and her father. Marriage provided Coode a measure of financial security through his management of the estate Robert Slye had left for his children. Coode devoted considerable attention during the next few years to law suits and other measures to build upon these holdings and to acquire land and wealth of his own....

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Dare, Virginia (18 August 1587–?), the first child of English parents in the New World, was born on Roanoke Island in the colony of Virginia, now North Carolina, the daughter of Ananias Dare and Elenor (also spelled Ellinor, Eleanor, and Elyoner) White, Roanoke colony settlers. The facts of Virginia Dare’s life are scant. Her mother left Plymouth, England, while pregnant with Virginia, on 8 May 1587 as one of the settlers in Sir Walter Raleigh’s third attempt to establish an English colony in the New World. Virginia’s maternal grandfather, the artist ...

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de Vries, David Pietersen (1593–1655?), merchant adventurer and colonizer, was born in La Rochelle, France, the son of Pieter Jakobszoon de Vries, a ship captain, and a Dutch mother (name unknown). His father was from Hoorn, a northern Dutch province, and his mother from Amsterdam. They moved to La Rochelle in 1584 and back to Hoorn when David was four. He attended Latin school, obtained a knowledge of geography and astronomy, and learned French, Dutch, and English as a result of his family’s contact with the international Calvinist community....

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Duston, Hannah (03 December 1657–1736), Massachusetts settler and Indian captive, was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, the daughter of Michael Emerson and Hannah Webster. Her father was an English shoemaker who immigrated to Massachusetts and married the daughter of an original settler of Ipswich. Hannah was one of fifteen children. Nothing is known of her life before her marriage. In December 1677 she married Thomas Duston (also written as Dustin, Dustan, and Durstan), a bricklayer and farmer originally from Dover, New Hampshire. They lived in a cottage two miles from Haverhill and had thirteen children. Thomas became a respected citizen and was appointed a constable for Haverhill....

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Endecott, John (1588–15 March 1665), governor and member of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was born probably in Devon. There is no reliable information on his parents, and little is known of his early years.

Sometime during 1627 Endecott became acquainted with the Dorchester Company’s abortive attempt to plant a colony on Cape Ann near the present site of Gloucester, Massachusetts. As part of a reorganization effort, the Dorchester Company’s assets were transferred to a new group of investors willing to provide additional capital and, in the case of Endecott, actually settle in the New World. On 6 September 1628 Endecott landed in Naumkeag (now Salem), Massachusetts, and assumed command of the remnants of the previous settlement. The settlers who arrived with Endecott on the ...