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Joseph W. Fordney [left to right] Gilbert M. Hitchcock, Henry Cabot Lodge, Joseph W. Fordney , Frank W. Mondell, and George B. Christian, c. 1921. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-97866).

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Fordney, Joseph Warren (05 November 1853–08 January 1932), lumberman and congressman, was born on a farm near Hartford City, in Blackford County, Indiana, the son of John Fordney, a farmer and mill owner, and Achsah Cotton. The youngest of ten children, Joseph Warren Fordney spent his childhood caring for his chronically ill mother and felling trees for his father’s sawmill. At age thirteen he hired out as a farmhand, receiving ninety dollars a year and three months of schooling in return for his labor. Although Fordney had an affinity for mathematics, his formal education ended after a single summer. In 1867 he left the farm to serve as the water boy on a railroad construction crew....

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Sawyer, Philetus (22 September 1816–29 March 1900), lumber merchant and U.S. senator, was born in Whiting, Vermont, the son of Ephraim Sawyer, a farmer and blacksmith, and Mary Parks. When Philetus was an infant, his family migrated across Lake Champlain to Crown Point, New York. The fifth of ten children in a struggling family, Sawyer acquired such cursory schooling that political opponents later gibed him unmercifully for his awkward writing and speaking. As a teenager, he worked in a Crown Point sawmill, which he then rented and operated on his own before he turned twenty-one. In 1841 Sawyer married Melvina Hadley, a neighbor. Three of the couple’s five children survived to adulthood....

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Washburn, William Drew (14 January 1831–29 July 1912), U.S. congressman and businessman, was born in Androscoggin County, Maine, the son of Israel Washburn and Martha Benjamin, farmers. He worked on the family farm and attended public schools in Gorham, Paris, and Farmington before entering Bowdoin College at age nineteen. After graduation in 1854, he read law with his brother ...