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Bowie, Jim (1795– March 1836), popularizer of the bowie knife, speculator, and co-commander of Texan forces at the Alamo, was the son of Rezin Bowie and Elvy Jones; his formal given name was James. Bowie’s birthday and his mother’s name are the subject of dispute. Some sources claim that he was born in 1795, while others believe the correct year was 1796; some claim that his mother’s name was Alvina, perhaps shortened to Elvy, and that the reading of her name as “Jones” from Spanish documents is an erroneous extrapolation from markings that could have been intended as “Jane.” Similarly, some sources state that Bowie was born in Burke County, Georgia, while others opt for Elliot Springs, Tennessee. ...

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Croghan, George (?–31 August 1782), Indian agent and land speculator, was born in Dublin, Ireland. Croghan’s early life is obscure. Scholars do not know who George Croghan’s parents were, or even the name of his European wife. We do know that he had one European daughter, Susannah, and at least one daughter from a union with a Mohawk woman. In 1741 Croghan immigrated to Pennsylvania, where he entered the fur trade. Between 1741 and 1754 Croghan became one of the most successful fur traders in Pennsylvania because he refused to wait for the Indians to bring their furs to his trading post. Instead he emulated French traders and traded with the Indians at their villages. During this time Croghan came to appreciate his Indian trading partners and their society. His letters are filled with defenses of Indian society. He learned their languages (he knew Delaware and at least one of the Six Nations’ languages, probably Mohawk) and their customs....

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Davenport, George (1783–04 July 1845), Indian trader and frontier townsite entrepreneur, was born in Lincolnshire, England. Nothing is presently known of his parentage or childhood, although he apparently enjoyed the equivalent of a good common-school education. At age seventeen he was placed with an uncle, a captain of a merchant vessel. In 1804 Davenport’s ship visited New York, where he broke his leg and had to be left behind to recuperate....

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Donelson, John (c. 1718–1725–11 April 1786), land speculator and explorer, was born in Somerset County, Maryland, the son of John Donelson, a merchant and seaman, and Catherine Davis. Following his father’s death in 1736, Donelson entered the shipbuilding business. He then migrated to Virginia in 1743, settling near the town of Pastoria in what was Accomack County. About that time he married Rachael Stokely, daughter of prominent landowner and member of the House of Burgesses Alexander Stokely. They had eleven children; the tenth, Rachel ( ...

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O’Fallon, James (11 March 1749– December 1793), physician, speculator, and adventurer, was born in Roscommon, western Ireland, the son of William Fallon and Anne Eagan. (O’Fallon added the prefix to his name about 1783.) He studied medicine for two years at the University of Edinburgh (1771–1773), did not graduate, but was licensed by that or another institution as a physician. Thereafter he visited Rome, perhaps in anticipation of entering the priesthood. Subsequently, however, he worked at a hospital in London. In Glasgow in 1774 he was advised by a doctor at the university to go to the colonies, where a revolt was in the making “in favour of Liberty.” As his son John later wrote, “The strong spirit of freedom was already in James, and, (as a genuine Irishman) an hereditary aversion to British oppression” (Draper coll., 34J20)....

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Patton, James (1692– July 1755), frontier leader and land speculator in southwestern Virginia, was born in Ulster, Ireland, the son of Henry Patton and Sarah Lynn. The Patton family had immigrated to Ulster in the early seventeenth century as part of the larger movement of Scottish Presbyterians encouraged by the English Crown in an attempt to enhance its control of Ireland. Henry Patton was a member of the landed gentry of County Donegal, and Sarah Lynn apparently belonged to a prominent family living in Ulster. James Patton married Mary Osborn; the couple had two children....

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Preston, William ( December 1729–1783), frontier leader and land speculator, was born in Ulster, the son of John Preston, a ship carpenter, and Elizabeth Patton. During Preston’s childhood, his family emigrated to western Virginia with his mother’s brother, James Patton, and by 1740 had settled in Augusta County in the Shenandoah Valley. After the death of Preston’s father, Patton helped him to complete his education. Preston studied for a time with a local Presbyterian minister and received instruction in surveying from Patton himself. In 1752 Preston served as his uncle’s private secretary in Virginia’s negotiations with the Iroquois and Delaware Indians at Logstown on the Ohio River....