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Ross, Alexander (02 November 1782–23 October 1856), fur trader, explorer, and historian, was born in the Highlands parish of Dyke, county of Nairnshire, Scotland. Neither Ross’s own writings nor those of his biographers relate any details about his parents other than the fact they were farmers; even their names are unmentioned. Little is known about Ross’s early years. He grew up in the Presbyterian faith and had acquired sufficient education to become a rural schoolteacher by the time he was twenty. In 1804 a family quarrel caused Ross to leave his parents’ home; he emigrated to North America later that year....

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Williams, William Sherley (03 January 1787– March 1849), fur trapper, trader, and guide, known as “Old Bill,” was born on Horse Creek in Rutherford County, North Carolina, the son of Joseph Williams and Sarah Musick, farmers. In 1794 Joseph Williams took his family west through Cumberland Gap, down the Ohio, to Whiteside Station, fifteen miles south of St. Louis. The following summer (1795), the family crossed the Mississippi into Spanish Louisiana and settled a Spanish land grant near Owen’s Station (sixteen miles to the north of St. Louis). There, Williams acquired a frontier education augmented by his mother’s tutoring and some formal learning. During his teenage years, Williams gained acceptance with the Big Hill band of the Osage. He learned their language, gained influence, married into the tribe (wife’s name unknown), and lived among them for nearly a quarter of a century....