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Ethan Allen at Ticonderoga. Reproduction of a painting by E. Percy Moran (1862–1935). Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-96539).

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Allen, Ethan (10 January 1738–12 February 1789), frontier revolutionary leader and author of the first deistic work by an American, was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Allen and Mary Baker, farmers. Allen served briefly in the French and Indian War and in 1762 began operating a productive iron forge in Salisbury, Connecticut. That same year he married Mary Brownson, with whom he would have five children. But Allen’s deism and aggressive personal conduct ruined his early prospects: he was warned out of Salisbury in 1765 and Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1767....

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Anza, Juan Bautista de (07 July 1736–19 December 1788), military commander, explorer, and governor, was born in the presidio of Fronteras, Sonora, Mexico, the son of Juan Bautista de Anza, commandant of the post since 1719, and María Rafaela Becerra Nieto; his grandfather was commandant of Janos presidio, Chihuahua. Anza’s father was killed in combat in 1739, but Anza continued in the family tradition, and on 1 December 1752 entered the militia at Fronteras. On 1 July 1755 he was promoted to lieutenant at Fronteras, and, after participating in Indian campaigns in Sonora, he rose in 1760 to the rank of captain and commander of the presidio at Tubac (in present-day Arizona). On 24 June 1761 he married Ana María Pérez Serrano of Arizpe, Sonora, but no children were born of the union....

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Argall, Sir Samuel (1580–24 January 1626), English explorer and colonial leader in early Virginia, was baptized at East Sutton, Kent, England, on 4 December 1580, the son of Richard Argall, a gentry landowner, and Mary Scott, daughter of a wealthy knight. As the eighth son and twelfth child of a prominent family, Argall neither had the luxury of living as a landed gentleman, nor the necessity of forging a career without influential kin connections in Kent and London....

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Attucks, Crispus (1723–05 March 1770), probably a sailor, was the first to be killed in the Boston Massacre of 5 March 1770. Generally regarded to have been of mixed ancestry (African, Indian, and white), Attucks seems to have hailed from a Natick Indian settlement, Mashpee (incorporated as a district in 1763, near Framingham, Massachusetts)....

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Barnwell, John (1671– June 1724), frontier settler and Indian fighter, was the son of Alderman Matthew Barnwell of Dublin, Ireland, and Margaret Carberry. The elder Barnwell was killed in the siege of Derry in 1690 as a captain in James II’s Irish army, which attempted to restore the last Stuart king after the revolution of 1688. The family seat, Archerstown in County Meath, was forfeited as a result of this support of James II against William and Mary....

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Joseph Brant. Engraving by J. R. Smith after a painting by George Romney, c. 1776. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-4913).

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Brant, Joseph (1743–24 November 1807), Mohawk chief and captain in the British Indian Department, also known as Thayendanegea, was born while his family was in the Ohio country, the son of Peter Tehowaghwengaraghkwin and Margaret. His father died shortly after Brant’s birth, and he may have had several stepfathers, one of them the influential Brant Canagaraduncka, from whom Joseph Brant took his name. His mother’s family appears to have been prominent in the Mohawk town of Canajoharie. Brant is reputed to have gone to war as part of the Mohawk contingent allied to the British in the French and Indian War. His sister ...

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Brant, Molly (1736–16 April 1796), Mohawk, Loyalist, and Anglican, also known as Mary Brant or Konwatsi tsiaienni, was born either at the Mohawk “castle” of Canajoharie in upper New York or in the Ohio Valley, the daughter of Peter and Margaret, both Mohawks of the Six Nations Confederacy of Iroquois. She was the sister of ...

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Coronado, Francisco Vázquez de (1510–22 September 1554), explorer and governor, was born in Salamanca, Spain, the son of the nobleman Juan Vázquez de Coronado and doña Isabel de Lujan. Coronado was the youngest of six brothers and two sisters, and, under the laws of primogeniture, the entire ...

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Dickson, Robert (1765–20 June 1823), fur trader and British Indian Department officer, was born in Dumfries, Scotland, the son of John Dickson, a merchant. His mother’s name is unknown. Robert Dickson emigrated to the United States in 1785–1786, soon after the American Revolution and was first employed at Oswego (N.Y.), where “he began his apprenticeship, which induced him to adopt the fur trade as a life-long occupation” (Cruikshank [1931], p. 88). Within a few months, Dickson was removed to the Niagara area, where his duties included selling and shipping goods to the fur-trade posts and managing accounts. As he was closely connected with some of the most respected and influential Loyalist families along the Niagara, Dickson enjoyed preferential treatment in both the choice and flexibility of his work. As a result of this good fortune, Dickson took the opportunity to leave the drab routine of his work at Niagara and in July 1786 was pleased to be transferred to the “Island of Michilimackinac” (MacKinac Island, Mich.) in order “to learn the art and mystery of commerce” (Cartwright papers, 10 July 1786)....

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Ellis, Henry (24 August 1721–21 January 1806), explorer, scientist, and governor, was born in Monaghan, Ireland, the son of Francis Ellis, a wealthy landowner, and Joan Maxwell. Young Henry received a good education, but where is not known. He sought his fortune at sea and by his twenty-fifth birthday was an experienced mariner. In 1746 he was offered command of a vessel engaged in a search for a northwest passage. Ellis declined but agreed to act as scientific observer and agent for the sponsors, one of whom was his father....

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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 ...

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Folger, Peter (1617–1690), translator and government official, was born in Norwich, England, the son of John Folger and Meriba Gibbs. Around 1635 Peter Folger immigrated to Massachusetts with his widower father. During the voyage to America on board the vessel Abigail, he met and fell in love with Mary Morrill, an indentured maidservant. Living at first in Dedham and Watertown, Folger worked as an artisan for nine years (he was variously skilled as a weaver, miller, surveyor, and shoemaker) to raise the sum of twenty pounds necessary to buy Morrill’s freedom from ...

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Girty, Simon (1741–18 February 1818), British Loyalist and frontier warrior, was born near Harrisburg in colonial Pennsylvania, the son of farmers. One of at least four children born to Simon Girty and Mary Newton, young Simon was raised in modest circumstances. He received no formal education and remained illiterate. When only ten years of age, his father was killed by an Indian. Girty later maintained that his stepfather met a similar fate. In the course of the French and Indian War, Simon was captured by the Seneca and held captive for thirty-six months. During his captivity, Girty became familiar with the language of his captors....

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Bienville. Engraving by John Chester Buttre. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-100821).

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Le Moyne, Jean-Baptiste (baptized 23 Feb. 1680–07 March 1767), French soldier, explorer, and governor of colonial Louisiana, was born in Montréal, New France, the son of Charles Le Moyne, sieur de Longueuil et de Châteauguay, a provincial nobleman, and Catherine Thierry Primot. Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne inherited the title ...

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Le Moyne, Pierre (baptized 20 July 1661–09 July 1706), French soldier, explorer, and governor of colonial Louisiana, was born at Ville-Marie de Montréal, New France, the son of Charles Le Moyne, sieur de Longueuil et de Châteauguay, a provincial nobleman, and Catherine Thierry Primot. The early life of Pierre Le Moyne, known as the sieur d’Iberville, is veiled in obscurity. It is known that he was groomed for naval duty by his influential father through service aboard his father’s ship. In 1683 he was entrusted with Governor Le Febvre de La Barre’s dispatches for the French Crown. It was also in that year that Jeanne-Geneviève Picoté de Belestre’s guardians brought a paternity suit against Iberville, claiming that the young Canadian officer was responsible for her pregnancy. The Conseil Souverain, Canada’s court of last resort, concurred with the plaintiffs and ordered Iberville to support the child until its fifteenth birthday....

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Lyman, Phineas (1715–10 September 1774), provincial general and colonizer, was born in Durham, Connecticut, the son of Noah Lyman, a weaver, and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). Lyman’s exact birthdate is unknown; he was baptized 6 Mar. 1715. After abandoning weaving, his father’s craft, Lyman studied to enter Yale, graduated in 1738, and stayed on as a tutor and part-time law student until 1742. In that year he married Eleanor Dwight; they had five sons and two daughters. Lyman moved to Suffield, Connecticut, where he practiced law, held a militia commission, and became prominent in provincial politics. In 1747 he was appointed to initiate the ultimately successful process to obtain recognition that Suffield was in Connecticut, rather than Massachusetts, a province with an equally, and perhaps more, plausible claim to the town. Lyman served briefly as a deputy, one of two elected by the freemen of Suffield to the General Court of Connecticut. In 1752 he was chosen for its upper house. As one of the most active of the twelve assistants elected annually, until 1758 he negotiated with other colonies and the London government about Connecticut’s wartime roles. Military duties began to divert him in 1755. War with France interrupted another of Lyman’s interests, his close involvement in the schemes for westward settlement of the Susquehannah Company....

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Menéndez de Avilés, Pedro (15 February 1519–17 September 1574), captain general of the armada of the Indies and adelantado of Florida, was born in northern Spain, in the Asturian seaport of Avilés, the son of Juan Alfonso Sánchez and María Alonso de Arango. A descendant of minor hidalgos, he was connected by blood and marriage to several noble families, but as one of the youngest of twenty children, he could count on little else. Raised by relatives after his father died and his mother remarried, Pedro married a distant cousin, María de Solís, with whom he would have four children; invested his patrimony in a small, rapid sailing vessel; and became an unlicensed privateer....