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David Crockett. Engraving after a portrait by John Gadsby Chapman. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-93521).

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Crockett, Davy (17 August 1786–06 March 1836), frontiersman, Tennessee and U.S. congressman, and folk hero, was born David Crockett in Greene County, East Tennessee, the son of John Crockett, a magistrate, unsuccessful land speculator, and tavern owner, and Rebecca Hawkins. John Crockett hired his son out to Jacob Siler in 1798 to help on a cattle drive to Rockbridge County, Virginia, and Siler tried forcibly to detain young Crockett after the completion of the job. The boy ran away at night, however, and arrived home in late 1798 or early 1799. Preferring to play hooky rather than attend school, he ran away from home to escape his father’s wrath. His “strategic withdrawal,” as he called it, lasted about thirty months while he worked at odd jobs and as a laborer and a wagon driver. When he returned home in 1802, he had grown so much that his family at first did not recognize him. He soon found that all was forgiven and reciprocated their generosity by working for a year to settle the debts that his father had incurred....

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Molly Pitcher. Lithograph by Nathaniel Currier, c. 1886. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-5030).

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Pitcher, Molly (13 October 1754?–22 January 1832), revolutionary war heroine, was of uncertain origins; her birthplace, early family history, and heroic actions are all clouded in mystery and dispute. Only her actual first name, Mary, is accepted as definite. John B. Landis, in an influential 1911 study built on oral testimony, maintained that Mary was born near Trenton, New Jersey, that she was the daughter of John George Ludwig, a dairyman who came from the German Palatinate, and that she was employed as a domestic servant before her first marriage. However, these claims cannot be verified. There is better support for Landis’s claim, based on family testimony, that Mary married John (or John Casper) Hays, a Carlisle, Pennsylvania, barber, in 1769. C. P. Wing, who in 1878 had access to a family bible as well as to Mary’s granddaughter, who was thirty when Mary died, offered the same information about Mary’s first marriage. In addition, a marriage licence for a Mary Ludwick and Casper Hays was issued in the appropriate county in 1769. Nevertheless, D. W. Thompson and Merri Lou Schaumann, in a vital 1989 study, asserted that court records prove that Mary’s first husband was a William Hays and that she was never married to a John Hays. However, they do not have court records for the period before 1783. On balance, the evidence suggests that Mary did marry a John Hays of Carlisle in 1769. All scholars agree that Mary’s first marriage produced one son, John L. Hays (1780–1856)....