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Kit Carson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-107570).

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Carson, Kit (24 December 1809–23 May 1868), mountain man, army officer, and Indian agent, was born Christopher Houston Carson in Madison County, Kentucky, the son of Lindsey Carson, a farmer and revolutionary war veteran, and Rebecca Robinson. In 1811 Lindsey Carson moved his family to Howard County, Missouri, to find “elbow room.” He died in 1818, hit by a falling limb while clearing timber from his land. Christopher enjoyed no schooling and never learned to read or write, other than signing his name to documents. In 1825 his mother and stepfather apprenticed him to David Workman, a Franklin, Missouri, saddler whom Kit described as a kind and good man. Nevertheless, he ran away because he found saddlemaking tedious and distasteful work and yearned to travel. Following in the footsteps of a brother and a half-brother who were in the Santa Fe trade, Carson joined a caravan as a “cavvy boy” (an assistant to the wrangler in charge of the horse and mule herd). Though not unsympathetic, Workman was obliged by law to advertise for his runaway. But he misleadingly suggested to readers of the ...

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Cocke, William (1748–22 August 1828), legislator, soldier, and Indian agent, was born in Amelia County, Virginia, the son of Abraham Cocke, a member of the tobacco gentry. As a young man, Cocke studied law and soon became prominent in public affairs. After moving in the early 1770s with his wife, Sarah Maclin (whom he married in 1773 or earlier), and the first of their nine children to a settlement in the Holston Valley near the present Virginia-Tennessee boundary, he served in the Virginia House of Delegates and was an officer in the Virginia militia. Sometime later, he married Keziah (or Kissiah) Sims; they had no children. While in the Holston Valley, he participated in the formation of Sullivan and Washington counties and held several minor positions. In 1776 he raised a company of troops, was commissioned captain, and established “Cocke’s Fort” in the nearby wilderness. He took part in several military encounters with the British and Indians and in 1780 led his troops—along with ...

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Meigs, Return Jonathan (17 December 1740–28 January 1823), revolutionary war officer and federal Indian agent, was born in Middletown, Connecticut, the son of Return Meigs, a hatter and member of the Connecticut General Assembly, and Elizabeth Hamlin. Nothing is known of his early life and education. Meigs married Joanna Winborn in 1764. They had four children, one of whom was ...

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Mouet de Langlade, Charles-Michel ( May 1729–1801), trader, military officer, and Indian agent, was baptized on 9 May 1729 at Michilimackinac (now Mackinaw City, Michigan), the son of Augustin Mouet de Langlade, a French trader, and Domitilde, the sister of Nissowaquet, a prominent Ottawa chief. Though the only son of this marriage, Charles had numerous and important relations among the Ottawa by virtue of his mother’s previous marriage to a trader named Villenueve. He was educated in part by Jesuit priests at Michilimackinac. At the age of ten he accompanied his uncle Nissowaquet on a successful war party down the Mississippi against the Chickasaw. Here he gained great prestige among the Ottawa, who had been defeated twice previously by the Chickasaw. By 1750 he enrolled in the French colonial regulars as a cadet....

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Thompson, Wiley (23 September 1781–28 December 1835), congressman, military officer, and Indian agent, was born in Amelia County, Virginia, the son of Isham Thompson, a soldier in the revolutionary war, and Elizabeth Williams. As a child, Thompson moved with his family to Elberton, in Wilkes County, later Elbert County, Georgia, where he attended the county school. In 1808 Thompson was appointed by the Georgia legislature to be commissioner of the Elbert County Academy....

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Tipton, John (14 August 1786–05 April 1839), soldier, American Indian agent, and senator, was born in Sevier County, Tennessee, the son of Joshua Tipton and Janet Shields, farmers. Tipton’s father was killed by American Indians in 1793. In 1807 Tipton’s mother, with four children, migrated to Harrison County, Indiana Territory. Tipton bought land and operated a ferry at the mouth of the Salt River. Although without formal education, he became an effective writer and a forceful speaker. In 1807 he married his cousin Martha Shields. They had three children before divorcing in 1817. In 1811 Tipton joined a militia company and marched to Tippecanoe, where his battlefield heroism won him a captain’s commission. He served in the War of 1812, continuing in the Indiana militia, and his leadership abilities led to his rise to major general in 1822....