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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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Ashmun, Jehudi (21 April 1794–25 August 1828), colonial agent and missionary in West Africa, was born in Champlain, New York, the son of Samuel Ashmun, a justice of the peace, and Parthenia (maiden name unknown). An intensely devout Christian from the age of sixteen, Ashmun studied theology and classics at Vermont’s Middlebury College and the University of Vermont in Burlington. Following his graduation from the latter in 1816, he was appointed principal and instructor at the Maine Charity School, a Congregationalist college in Hampden, Maine. In 1818 he married Catherine Gray; it is not known if they had any children....

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Ayllón, Lucas Vázquez de (1480?–18 October 1526), Spanish judge and founder of the first Spanish colony in North America, was born at Toledo, Spain, the son of Juan Vázquez de Ayllón, a member of a distinguished Mozarabic family, and Inés de Villalobos. Lucas was educated in the law, earning the ...

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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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Barradall, Edward (1704–19 June 1743), attorney general of Virginia, was born in England, the son of Henry Barradall and Catherine Blumfield, members of the English gentry. He was called to the bar at the Inner Temple. Sometime before 1730 he emigrated to Virginia and transferred his law practice to the General Court in Williamsburg. He was very successful; one of his clients was ...

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Blathwayt, William (1649?–16 August 1717), imperial bureaucrat, was born in London, England, the son of William Blathwayt, a lawyer of the Middle Temple, and Anne Povey, daughter of the auditor of the exchequer Justinian Povey. His father died, broken and bankrupt by the civil wars, when William was less than two years old. He was raised by his uncle Thomas Povey, a connoisseur of Dutch decorative art and colonial administrator under Cromwell and Charles II, who sent him to the Middle Temple, 1665–1668. In 1668 Povey arranged Blathwayt’s clerkship with Sir William Temple, ambassador at The Hague and champion of an alliance of the Protestant maritime states, England and the Netherlands, against Catholic France. Blathwayt not only absorbed the ambassador’s ideals, he also impressed that influential statesman with his energy (it was said that in any office where Blathwayt worked no one else had anything to do). Blathwayt gained recognition for his method of filing and indexing correspondence (his first official letter was from ...

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Bollan, William (1710?–1782), colonial agent and lawyer, was born in England and emigrated from there to America while a teenager. He pursued a legal career by studying as an apprentice under the tutelage of Massachusetts attorney Robert Auchmuty. Little is known of Bollan’s early life and career. However, by 1733 he had begun to gain prominence as an attorney, as evidenced by his acquisition of Harvard College and Boston’s Anglican parish, King’s Chapel, as clients. Bollan was an Anglican, which placed him in a religious minority in Congregational-dominated Boston. By the mid-1730s he had begun to venture into land speculation in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island....

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Bridger, Jonathan (fl. 1696–1722), colonial official, also recorded as John Bridger, was of obscure origin. He worked early in his career as a shipwright for the Royal Navy at the naval dockyard in Portsmouth, England, and later served as a navy ship’s purser on a voyage to the northern American colonies, probably in the early 1690s....

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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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Calvert, Cecilius (08 August 1605–30 November 1675), second Lord Baltimore and founder and first proprietor of Maryland, was born probably in Kent County, England, the son of Sir George Calvert, first Lord Baltimore, and Anne Mynne. Little is known of Cecilius’s childhood. Named Cecil for Sir Robert Cecil, the most powerful man in the government of James I, he was baptized in the Church of England on 2 March 1606. As his father steadily advanced in government service to membership on the Privy Council and a position as one of the principal secretaries of state, the family conformed to the Church of England. Calvert attended Trinity College (Oxford) but did not take a degree. When he made the decision to live openly as a Roman Catholic remains problematic. He may have decided in advance of his father, who resolved his religious commitment in November 1624. Earlier that year Calvert traveled to the Continent, and while his pass contained the usual prohibition against visiting Rome, there is reason to suspect that he did. Certainly by 1625 young Calvert openly worshiped as a Catholic. In so doing, he identified with an outlawed, but never socially ostracized, minority within the English community. He took the name Cecilius when confirmed into the Catholic faith....

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Carter, Robert (1663–04 August 1732), merchant-planter and public official, was born in Lancaster County, Virginia, the son of John Carter, a wealthy merchant-planter and attorney, and Sarah Ludlow. John Carter died in 1669 leaving Robert 1,000 acres and one-third of his personal estate. He also provided that an indentured servant be “bought for him … to teach him his books either in English or Latine according to his capacity.” Later, probably around 1672, he was sent to London by his elder brother John where he spent six years receiving a grammar school education. In London Robert lived with Arthur Bailey, a prosperous merchant, from whom he must have learned about the intricacies of the tobacco trade. Little else is known about his early years, but in 1688 he married Judith Armistead, with whom he had five children. In 1701 he married Elizabeth Landon Willis; this union produced an additional ten children. Five sons and five daughters lived to maturity, and all the sons received an English education. The death of his brother John in 1690, followed shortly by the death of his daughter and half brother, resulted in Carter inheriting the bulk of a large estate that included more than 9,000 acres of land and 115 slaves. Carter, already a man of substance, quickly added to his wealth through planting and mercantile activity, including a significant involvement in the slave trade. He also began to acquire large amounts of land, a process that was aided by the two terms he served as agent (1702–1712, 1719–1732) for the Fairfax family, the proprietors of the Northern Neck. The Northern Neck was that vast area of land between the Rappahannock and the Potomac rivers, stretching to the headwaters of the latter. At Carter’s death it was reported that he left 300,000 acres of land, 1,000 slaves, and £10,000 in cash, and it appears that this estimate was not far off the mark....

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Carteret, Philip (1639– December 1682), first deputy governor of New Jersey, was born on the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands, the son of Helier de Carteret, attorney general of Jersey, and Rachel La Cloche. He was a cousin of Sir George Carteret who, with John, Lord Berkeley, was awarded the proprietary colony of New Jersey by the duke of York in 1664. Philip Carteret was commissioned by them as deputy governor of New Jersey at the age of twenty-five. He arrived in the colony in August 1665 with thirty colonists from Jersey....

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Cary, Thomas (?–1718), deputy governor of northern Carolina, was born probably in Chipping Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England, the son of Walter Cary and Ann Dobson. After the death of his father (date unknown) his mother in 1673 married John Archdale, proprietor and governor of Carolina. Although his stepfather was a noted Quaker, Cary was apparently an Anglican. Cary settled in southern Carolina in Charles Town sometime before 1695 when Archdale, who had assumed the governorship, appointed him to be secretary of the council. Other posts that he held in Carolina were provincial treasurer (1697–1698) and register of the admiralty court (1698). Cary became a successful merchant and shipowner, acquiring considerable wealth by 1702, when he was able to post a £2,000 bond for the new governor of Carolina, Sir ...

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Clarke, George (1676–12 January 1760), lieutenant governor and acting governor of New York, was born in Swainswick, Somersetshire, England, the son of George Clarke, a government official. His mother’s name is unknown. Although acquiring no more than a common school education, he did service with an attorney and then for about two years practiced law in Dublin, Ireland. His career as an attorney ended as a result of his assault on a merchant. Clarke’s uncle, ...

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Clarke, John (08 October 1609–20 April 1676), Baptist preacher and colonial agent, was born in Westhorpe, Suffolk, the son of Thomas Clarke, a man of unknown occupation and middling rank, and Rose Keridge. John Clarke had some college education (possibly at Cambridge) and some medical training (possibly at Leyden). He studied Hebrew. While still in England he married Elizabeth Harges, daughter of John Harges, lord of the manor of Wreslingworth, Bedfordshire. They had no children....

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Cadwallader Colden. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B04876).

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Colden, Cadwallader (07 February 1689–20 September 1776), physician, natural scientist, and lieutenant governor of New York, was born of Scottish parents in Ireland, where his mother (name unknown) was visiting. His father was the Reverend Alexander Colden of Duns, Scotland. Colden graduated in 1705 from the University of Edinburgh. He then studied medicine in London but, lacking the money to establish a medical practice in Great Britain, migrated to Philadelphia in 1710. Welcomed by his mother’s sister Elizabeth Hill, Colden established himself as a merchant and physician. He returned to Scotland briefly in 1715, where in November of that year he married Alice Chrystie of Kelso, Scotland. After their marriage they returned to Philadelphia; the couple had eleven children. During a 1717 visit to New York, Colden was persuaded by Governor ...

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Conant, Roger (1592–19 November 1679), founder of Salem and Beverly, Massachusetts, was born in Budleigh, Devonshire, England, the son of Richard Conant and Agnes Clarke, substantial yeoman farmers. He was baptized at All Saints’ Church, East Budleigh, on 9 April 1592. In his teens, he was sent to London to join his brother Christopher, a grocer, and by 1619 he had become a salter, a specialist in the preservation of meat and fish. In November 1618 he married Sarah Horton at St. Ann’s, Blackfriars, a center of Puritan lectureships. From 1622 to 1637 nine children were born to the couple in England and America, eight of whom survived infancy....

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Cooke, Elisha (16 September 1637–31 October 1715), politician and colonial agent, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Cooke, a wealthy tailor, and Elizabeth Leverett. Elisha graduated from Harvard in 1657 and began practicing as a physician. He added to his inheritance by accumulating considerable wealth in shares in ships, a saw mill in Maine, and various landholdings. In June 1668 he married Elizabeth Leverett, the daughter of Governor ...

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Coxe, Daniel ( August 1673–25 April 1739), landowner and New Jersey politician, was born in London, England, the son of Daniel Coxe and Rebecca Coldham. The elder Daniel Coxe (c. 1640–1730) served as royal physician at the courts of King Charles II and Queen Anne. Dr. Coxe also ranked as the largest shareholder in the West Jersey proprietorship by 1687, and he acted as that colony’s absentee governor from then until he sold his proprietary interest in 1692....