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Ashley, William Henry (1778–26 March 1838), fur trader and politician, was born in Chesterfield County, Virginia. His parents are unknown, and there is no definitive record of his early years. In 1798 Ashley moved west to Kentucky. Four years later he crossed the Mississippi and took up residence in the lead-mining community of St. Genevieve (now in Missouri). From that time until his death, Ashley energetically and successfully pursued profits and power in the fluid frontier society....

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Chouteau, Auguste Pierre (09 May 1786–25 December 1838), fur trader and Indian diplomat, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Jean Pierre Chouteau, a fur trader and one of the founders of St. Louis, and Pelagie Kiersereau. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point from 17 July 1804 until 20 June 1806 and became an ensign in the Second United States Infantry. After serving briefly as aide to General ...

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Claiborne, William (1600–1677), American Indian trader and political leader in Virginia, was baptized at Crayford, County Kent, England, on 10 August 1600, the son of Thomas Claiborne, a former mayor of King’s Lynn, County Norfolk, and Sarah James, the daughter of a London brewer. Making the Chesapeake his home after 1621, Claiborne served as a Virginia councillor (1624–1637, 1643–1661), secretary of state (1626–1634, 1652–1661), treasurer (1642–1660), parliamentary commissioner (1651–1660), deputy governor (1652–1660), and the first major general of militia (1644–1646)....

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Menard, Pierre (07 October 1766–13 June 1844), frontier trader, merchant, and politician, was born at St. Antoine, Quebec, Canada, the son of Jean Baptiste Menard, a French-born merchant, and Marie Françoise Cirée, a Canadian. He had a common school education. Following in the footsteps of his father, who had supported the American side in the American Revolution and served in the American army, Menard, at age twenty-one, moved from Quebec to find opportunities on the American frontier as a trader or merchant. Rather than following those among the French Canadians who, in response to the Treaty of Paris, tried to continue trading under British control and protection in the western Great Lakes and the Mississippi River valley, Menard moved to Vincennes, Indiana, around 1787 and actively sided with the Americans in their relations with the British and Indians. Menard was employed by Colonel François Vigo ( ...

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Rice, Henry Mower (29 November 1816–15 January 1894), Indian trader and commissioner, Minnesota territorial delegate, and U.S. senator, was born in Waitsfield, Vermont, the son of Edmund Rice and Ellen Durkee. After his father died in 1828, Rice lived with the family of Justus Burdick. He completed an academy education and studied law in Rutland, Vermont, before moving to Michigan with the Burdick family in 1835. He worked as a chainman in the surveying of the Sault Ste. Marie Canal and for Kalamazoo merchants until 1839. That year he traveled to St. Louis, Missouri, where he was hired by Kenneth MacKenzie, a prominent commission and forwarding merchant and fur trader, who sent him to Fort Snelling, in present-day Minnesota, to assist the post sutler. The next year he was appointed sutler at the newly created Fort Atkinson near the Winnebago reservation in northeastern Iowa. In 1842 he moved to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, to join Hercules L. Dousman, a longtime partner in the Western Outfit of the American Fur Company, in trade with the Winnebago and Ojibwa of the upper Mississippi region. Five years later he was sent to Mendota near Fort Snelling as an agent of Pierre Chouteau, Jr. and Company (see ...