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Adams, James Hopkins (15 March 1812–13 July 1861), planter and politician, was born in Richland District, South Carolina, the son of Henry Walker Adams and Mary Goodwyn, planters. At an early age, both of his parents died and James was placed in the care of his maternal grandfather, an early settler of South Carolina from Virginia. Prosperous, his grandfather, a plantation owner, was able to raise Adams in an atmosphere of wealth and education. Shortly after his graduation from Yale in 1831, Adams married Jane Margaret Scott, with whom he had eleven children....

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Aiken, George David (20 August 1892–19 November 1984), farmer and U.S. senator, was born in Dummerston, Vermont, the son of Edward W. Aiken and Myra Cook, farmers. He attended high school in Brattleboro. In 1914 he married Beatrice M. Howard; they had four children. His first wife died in 1966, and a year later Aiken married one of his Senate aides, Lola Pierotti....

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Aiken, William (28 January 1806–06 September 1887), planter and congressman, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of William Aiken, Sr., an Irish immigrant, and Henrietta Wyatt. At the time of his death, the elder Aiken was president of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company and a wealthy merchant. Aiken attended the South Carolina College, from which he graduated in 1825. He then traveled to Europe. Upon returning to Charleston, he married Harriet Lowndes in 1831. They had one child....

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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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Allerton, Samuel Waters (26 May 1828–22 February 1914), meat packer, was born in Amenia, New York, the son of Samuel Waters Allerton, Sr., a tailor and woolen mill operator, and Hannah Hurd. The youngest of nine children, he attended school for several years but received little formal education beyond that. The family experienced financial difficulties as a result of the 1837 panic and was forced to move several times, once as far west as Dubuque, Iowa, before settling on a farm in upstate New York in 1842. Eight years later Samuel and his older brother Henry rented a farm in Yates County and began raising and trading cattle and hogs. Shortly thereafter they bought a farm in Wayne County....

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Allston, Robert Francis Withers (21 April 1801–07 April 1864), planter and statesman, was born on “Hagley Plantation” in All Saints Parish (Georgetown District), South Carolina, the son of Benjamin Allston, a planter, and Charlotte Anne Allston. Allston entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in December 1817 and graduated tenth in his class on 1 July 1821. Appointed lieutenant in the Third Artillery and assigned to the Coast Survey, he participated in the surveying of the harbors at Plymouth and Provincetown, Massachusetts, and of the entrance to Mobile Bay. He resigned his commission on 1 February 1822 in response to his widowed mother’s plea for help on their plantations and returned to South Carolina, where he remained a rice planter for the rest of his life. As a planter, however, he continued his interest in civil engineering and in 1823 was elected to the first of two terms as surveyor general of South Carolina. In 1832 he married Adele Petigru, sister of Unionist ...

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Alston, Joseph (1779–10 September 1816), planter and statesman, was born in All Saints Parish (Georgetown District), South Carolina, the son of Colonel William Alston, a rice planter, and Mary Ashe. He attended the College of Charleston from 1793 to 1794, then entered Princeton in 1795, his junior year, but he withdrew without graduating. He read law in the office of ...

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Alston, William (1757–26 June 1839), planter and legislator, was born in All Saints Parish (Georgetown District), South Carolina, the son of Joseph Allston and Charlotte Rothmaler, planters. He became the first of the Allston family to spell his surname with a single l...

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Banneker, Benjamin (09 November 1731–19 October 1806), farmer and astronomer, was born near the Patapsco River in Baltimore County in what became the community of Oella, Maryland, the son of Robert, a freed slave, and Mary Banneky, a daughter of a freed slave named Bannka and Molly Welsh, a freed English indentured servant who had been transported to Maryland. Banneker was taught by his white grandmother to read and write from a Bible. He had no formal education other than a brief attendance at a Quaker one-room school during winter months. He was a voracious reader, informing himself in his spare time in literature, history, religion, and mathematics with whatever books he could borrow. From an early age he demonstrated a talent for mathematics and for creating and solving mathematical puzzles. With his three sisters he grew up on his father’s tobacco farm, and for the rest of his life Banneker continued to live in a log house built by his father....

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James Barbour. Engraving of a portrait by Charles Févret de Saint-Mémin, 1801. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-105897).

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Barbour, James (10 June 1775–07 June 1842), planter and politician, was born in Orange County, Virginia, the son of Thomas Barbour, a wealthy planter, and Mary Pendleton Thomas. Because his family suffered financial reverses during the Revolution, Barbour did not receive a college education. After preparatory study in rhetoric and the classics at a local academy, he apprenticed himself to a Richmond lawyer. In 1793, when he was only eighteen years old, he was admitted to the Virginia bar and began practicing law in Orange and neighboring counties. Two years later he married Lucy Johnson, daughter of a prominent local planter. They established a country seat at “Barboursville,” near Montpelier, where they raised five children....

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Barrett, Charles Simon (28 January 1866–04 April 1935), agricultural leader, was born in Pike County, Georgia, the son of Thomas Jefferson Barrett, a prominent farmer and politician, and Minerva Slade. Attending local schools only during winter, he spent his early years working on the family farm, where he developed his lifelong devotion to agriculture. After attending normal schools in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Lebanon, Ohio, and Valparaiso, Indiana, Barrett returned to his childhood home in Georgia. In 1891 he married Alma Rucker, a schoolteacher. The newlyweds settled in Upson County, Georgia, and opened a “literary school” for local children. For the next fourteen years, the Barretts devoted themselves to teaching, farming, and raising six sons....

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Bouligny, Dominique (23 August 1773–05 March 1833), soldier, planter, and U.S. senator, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Francisco Bouligny, the lieutenant governor of Louisiana, a colonel in the Fixed Louisiana Regiment, and the acting governor of Louisiana, and Marie Louise le Sénéchal d’Auberville. He spent his childhood in the comfort that his father’s influence and wealth provided. Surrounded by a large extended family and a full complement of house servants, Bouligny developed a strong attachment to his family, an even stronger admiration for the military that commanded his father’s devotion, and pride in being a citizen of Spain. Louisiana offered few opportunities for the sons of army officers outside of military service. Sons of officers entered the army at an early age, and as a senior officer in the Fixed Louisiana Regiment, Bouligny’s father arranged an appointment for his twelve-year-old son as a cadet in the regimental school in March 1786. His father’s influence assured Bouligny’s rapid promotion to the first officer rank of sublieutenant at the age of fourteen....

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Bowie, Robert ( March 1750–08 January 1818), planter and politician, was born near Nottingham, Prince Georges County, Maryland, the son of William Bowie, a and Margaret Sprigg. He was educated by the Reverend John Eversfield near Nottingham and then by the Reverend Thomas Craddock, the first rector of St. Thomas Parish in Garrison Forest, Baltimore County, Maryland. On the eve of the American Revolution, about 1773, tradition has Bowie eloping with Priscilla Mackall, a daughter of the richest man in Calvert County, James John Mackall. Bowie’s father gave them a farm near “Mattaponi,” the family plantation where Bowie had been born. They had five children who survived to adulthood....

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Breckinridge, John (02 December 1760–14 December 1806), lawyer, planter, and statesman, was born on a farm near Staunton, Virginia, the son of Robert Breckinridge, a farmer and member of the local gentry, and Lettice Preston. While John was still a boy the family moved to the frontier part of Augusta County that became Botetourt County. Determined to acquire an education, John entered William and Mary College in late 1780 or early 1781. His attendance was irregular, but when he left the school in 1784 he had studied for some two years, much of it under the guidance of ...

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Bryan, Hugh (1699–31 December 1753), planter, assemblyman, and evangelical Christian, was born near Beaufort in South Carolina, the son of Joseph Bryan, an Indian trader and farmer, and Janet Cochran. Bryan’s father was an early settler on South Carolina’s southern frontier, and it was there that Hugh Bryan spent most of his life. As a boy he was taken prisoner by Indians during the Yamasee War (1715) and was carried to St. Augustine, where he was eventually released. According to tradition, Bryan “met with a Bible among the ...

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Burt, Struthers (18 October 1882–29 August 1954), poet, prose writer, and rancher, was born Maxwell Struthers Burt in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Horace Brooke Burt, a Philadelphia lawyer then in Baltimore on business, and Hester Ann Jones. From the age of six months, Burt grew up in Philadelphia, attended private schools there, and became the youngest reporter in Philadelphia, working on the ...

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Bush, George Washington (1790?–05 April 1863), pioneer, farmer, and cattleman, was born probably in Pennsylvania or Louisiana. His mother was Scotch-Irish, his father perhaps East Indian; little is known of Bush’s birth and ancestry. He may have been born as early as 1770. However, that would have made him seventy-four by the time he came to Oregon in 1844. Oral tradition among the family gives the date as 1779....

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Byrd, William (1652–04 December 1704), Virginia colonial officer and planter, was born in London, England, the son of John Bird, a goldsmith, and Grace Stegge. Because his father was a member of a powerful labor guild, Byrd (who later changed the spelling of his name, probably because it sounded more “elegant”) grew up aspiring to a comfortable but lower-middle-class position in caste-bound London. However, when he was eighteen he received a letter from his uncle, Thomas Stegge, a plantation owner in Virginia, asking Byrd to join him and become his heir. Accepting the opportunity to secure position and wealth as a landed gentleman in the new world, Byrd sailed to Virginia in the autumn of 1670 and joined his kinsman on his plantation of 1,800 acres near the fall line of the James River. A year later Stegge died, and Byrd inherited his entire estate. In that same year Byrd accompanied a party that crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains and explored the western wilderness. Quickly, the young man proved himself an able husbandman, caring for his tobacco plantations and improving the Indian trade that his uncle had begun. Soon he was recognized throughout the colony as a rising man of property and influence. In fact, he was typical of that group of Virginia leaders that arrived in the colony in the last half of the seventeenth century and established powerful families that would dominate Virginia in the next century. Needing a wife with experience in managing slaves and handling the domestic duties of a plantation, he married Mary Horsmanden, a well-connected widow, in 1673. They had five children before her death in 1699....

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Byrd, William (28 March 1674–26 August 1744), author, planter, and Virginia councilor, was born on his father’s plantation in Charles City County near Richmond, Virginia, the son of William Byrd, a planter and trader, and Mary Horsmanden Filmer. Byrd was sent at age seven to England to live with his maternal uncle, Daniel Horsmanden, and to attend Felsted Grammar School in Essex under the tutelage of its headmaster, Christopher Glasscock. Byrd became well grounded in the classics, and throughout his life he read Hebrew, Greek, or Latin almost daily. In 1690 Byrd’s father sent him to the Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to learn business methods with merchants Jacob Senserff and Johannes Texelius. Not liking this situation, Byrd persuaded his father to apprentice him to the mercantile firm of Perry and Lane in London. In 1692 Byrd entered the Middle Temple to study law and in April 1695 became a licensed attorney in England....