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Adams, Grizzly (22 October 1812–25 October 1860), mountain man and wild animal tamer, was born John Adams in Medway, Massachusetts, the son of Eleazar Adams and Sybil Capen. Adams apparently served an apprenticeship as a cobbler, but when he was twenty-one he began hunting and trapping animals, for showmen, in the woods of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. He delighted in his work, which was cut short when he tried to control an unruly Bengal tiger. In doing this favor for an exhibitor, Adams was badly mangled. When he recovered his health, he went back to making boots and shoes....

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Alarcón, Hernando de (fl. 1540–1541), Spanish explorer, , is believed to have been born in Trujillo, Spain. The names of his parents and the circumstances and year of his birth are all unknown. The only documented period of his life is 1540–1541, when he acted in response to the commands of Antonio de Mendoza, the viceroy of New Spain (Mexico). In the spring of 1540 Mendoza directed Alarcón to sail north from Acapulco, Mexico, to support the land explorations of ...

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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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Ambler, James Markham Marshall (30 December 1848–30 October 1881), naval surgeon and explorer, was born in Markham, Virginia, the son of Richard Cary Ambler, a physician, and Susan Marshall. At age sixteen Ambler became a volunteer in the Twelfth Virginia Cavalry. He studied a premedicine curriculum at Washington College in 1865–1867 and then entered the University of Maryland. After acquiring a medical degree in 1870, he practiced in Baltimore until his appointment as an assistant surgeon in the U.S. Navy. During 1874–1875, he was stationed in the North Atlantic. In 1877 he joined the staff of the Naval Hospital at Norfolk, Virginia....

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Austin, Stephen Fuller (03 November 1793–27 December 1836), founder of Anglo-Texas, was born in Wythe County, Virginia, the son of Moses Austin, an entrepreneur in lead mining, and Maria Brown. At age five Austin moved with his family to Potosi, Missouri, a town founded by his father. Moses Austin sent his son to various schools in Connecticut (1804–1808) and to Transylvania University (1809–1810) in Lexington, Kentucky. Stephen joined his father’s business ventures in the spring of 1810, managing the lead-mining operation as well as working in the family store....

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Barboncito (before 1825–16 March 1871), Navajo headman, was born in lower Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, to a Navajo woman of the Ma'iidesgizhnii (Coyote Pass or Jemez clan) and an unknown father. His war name was Hashke Yich'i'adehyilwod, “He Ran Down toward the Enemies in Anger.” He was also known by a number of sobriquets during his lifetime, one of which, Hastiin Daghaa'í, “Mr. Mustache,” gave rise to his Spanish-English name. Little is known of his early life except that he had at least three brothers. He had two wives; how many children is not recorded....

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Billy Bowlegs (1812?–1864?), Seminole chief, who led the third and final Seminole war against the whites of Florida, also known as the Billy Bowlegs war of 1855–1858, was born on the Alachua savannah in Florida. He was a direct descendant of Secoffee, originally a Creek chief who migrated to Florida from the Creek homelands in Alabama and Georgia and later founded the Seminole nation. The names of Billy Bowlegs’s father, mother, and other family members are unknown....

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Bingham, Hiram (19 November 1875–06 June 1956), explorer, was born Hiram Bingham III in Honolulu, Hawaii, the son of Hiram Bingham (1831–1908) and Clarissa Minerva Brewster, missionaries. Bingham’s family assumed he would constitute the third generation of missionary service to the natives of the south Pacific and constantly pressured him to live the godly life. His few efforts as a missionary literally made him sick, and he seems to have had little interest in the salvation of the natives. Bingham (he appears to have dropped the III about the time his father died) instead sublimated the family’s missionary zeal into a broad variety of interests....

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Nancy Oestreich Lurie

Black Hawk (1767–03 October 1838), Sauk war leader, was born at the village of Saukenuk, the present site of Rock Island, Illinois. He grew up hating the American invaders of his homeland, and during the War of 1812 he fought among Tecumseh’s warriors on the British side. However, Black Hawk’s fame rests primarily on the war bearing his name that was carried out during the spring and summer of 1832 in northwestern Illinois and southwestern Wisconsin. It ended in a bloody encounter near the confluence of the Bad Axe and Mississippi rivers north of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. The war had its genesis in a treaty signed by a delegation of Sauk and Fox Indians in 1804 at St. Louis. The signers thought the treaty was to establish peace after some settlers had been killed, but it really called for the tribes to cede a vast tract extending from southern Wisconsin through western Illinois and a strip along the Mississippi River in Missouri. The treaty allowed the Indians to occupy the land until it was opened for sale to whites, so the Indians did not realize they had signed away territory until settlers began buying up the land in the 1820s....

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Black Hoof (fl. 1795–1831), head civil chief of the Ohio Shawnees and member of the Mekoche division of that tribe, , had the Indian name Catecahassa or Cutthewekasaw. He died at an advanced age—estimates range up to an improbable 115 years—and references to his origins are contradictory. Indian agent John Johnston, who knew him well, said the chief remembered bathing in the sea off Florida as a boy, but he is represented to have told another acquaintance that he was born on the Monongahela River. Black Hoof told more than one person that he was present at Braddock’s defeat in 1755, although no Shawnees are known to have participated in that action. He was probably at the battle of Point Pleasant (1774), as he said, and one witness recalled that Black Hoof helped ...

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Boone, Daniel (02 November 1734–26 September 1820), pioneer and early settler of Kentucky, was born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, on what was then the western perimeter of English colonial settlement in America, the son of Sarah Morgan and Squire Boone, a weaver, land speculator, and farmer. Daniel Boone’s formal education is a much-disputed matter. He always insisted to his children that he never went to school a day in his life. A tale survives, however, that has young Daniel spiking his schoolteacher’s hidden bottle of whiskey with a potent tartar emetic. His older brother Samuel’s wife, Sarah Day, is said to have taught him the rudiments of the three R’s, but a glance at his letters confirms that he never mastered grammar and spelling. In 1750 Squire Boone moved his large family to the wild frontier country along the Yadkin River in North Carolina, and five years later Daniel, an accomplished backwoodsman, enlisted as a volunteer in the American militia to aid General ...

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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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Bright Eyes (1854–26 May 1903), Indian rights advocate and author, also known as Inshtatheamba or Susette La Flesche, was born on the Omaha Reservation near Bellevue, Nebraska, just south of present-day Omaha, the daughter of Joseph La Flesche, also known as Inshtamaza or Iron Eye, a chief of the Omaha, and his wife Mary Gale, a mixed-blood Omaha and Iowa whose Indian name was The One Woman. Susette’s paternal grandparents were a Frenchman, also named Joseph, who was a trader and trapper for the Hudson’s Bay Company in Canada, and either an Omaha or Ponca woman named Watunna. Because her husband often was away trading or trapping, Watunna left him and married a member of the Omaha tribe. For a while the younger Joseph La Flesche was raised by two aunts who spent part of their time among the Sioux. Later, when his father returned, the younger La Flesche joined him when he once again left on his trading expeditions....

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Bull, Ole (05 February 1810–17 August 1880), concert violinist, composer, and patriot, was born Ole Bornemann Bull in Bergen, Norway, the son of Johan Storm Bull, an apothecary, and Anna Dorothea Geelmuyden. Musically precocious by age three, he was encouraged by his mother and his uncle, a good amateur cellist, who bought the child his first violin and persuaded the parents to engage an instructor, the closest brush Bull would have with formal violin study. Two years were spent with Johan H. Paulson, followed in 1822 by a six-year stint with Mathias Lundholm. Beyond this early foundation, Bull remained almost entirely self-taught, although he sometimes sought informal help from artists like Torgeir Augundson, the legendary Norwegian folk fiddler....

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Byrd, Richard Evelyn (25 October 1888–11 March 1957), naval aviator and explorer, was born in Winchester, Virginia, the son of Richard Evelyn Byrd, an attorney, and Eleanor Bolling Flood. The family had long been prominent in Virginia; Byrd’s brother Harry Flood Byrd served as governor and several terms as a U.S. senator. After traveling alone around the world at the age of twelve, Byrd attended the Shenandoah Valley Military Academy, Virginia Military Institute (1904–1907), the University of Virginia (1907–1908), and the U.S. Naval Academy, receiving his ensign’s commission in 1912....

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Carpenter, Frank George (08 May 1855–18 June 1924), journalist and author of travel books, was born in Mansfield, Ohio, the son of George F. Carpenter, an attorney, and Jeannette Reid. Frank attended public school in Mansfield and then went on to the University of Wooster, earning a Phi Beta Kappa key and graduating in 1877. He did further study at Ohio State University. In 1878 or 1879 he was hired as the Columbus (Ohio) correspondent for the ...

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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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Champlain, Samuel de (c. 1567-1570–25 December 1635), explorer and colonizer, probably, was born at Brouage, Saintonge (Charente-Maritime), France, the son of Anthoine de Champlain, allegedly a naval captain, and Dame Margueritte Le Roy. Champlain may have been baptized a Huguenot, but if so he was early converted to the Church of Rome. Little is known of his early years except that he acquired the skills of a draftsman and cartographer. In 1632 he declared that he had served in Brittany for several years (until 1598) with the army of Henri IV against the Catholic League in the French Wars of Religion. Yet, when the Spanish army occupying Britanny returned to Spain at the end of those wars, Champlain went with them, for in 1601 he was in Cadiz. In 1603 he accompanied François Gravé Du Pont on a fur-trading venture up the St. Lawrence River to Tadoussac at the mouth of the Saguenay. It had become the customary summer rendezvous for European traders and the Montagnais Indians, who provided furs in exchange for metal goods, cloth, and trinkets....

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Clark, William (01 August 1770–01 September 1838), explorer, Indian agent, and governor of Missouri Territory, was born in Caroline County, Virginia, the son of John Clark III, a planter, and Ann Rogers. Although he was informally educated, Clark acquired the refinement and intellectual development usually reserved for those who had been exposed to formal study. His family noted of him that at a young age he demonstrated leadership skills as well as an intellectual curiosity about the natural phenomena of his native Virginia....

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Cloud, Henry Roe (28 December 1884–09 February 1950), Native American educator and leader, was born on the Winnebago reservation in Nebraska, the son of Chayskagah (White Buffalo) and Aboogenewingah (Hummingbird), who lived by trapping and gathering. He was called Wohnaxilayhungah, or Chief of the Place of Fear (the battleground). He was named Henry Cloud by a reservation school administrator and as a boy was the tribe’s first convert to Christianity. After his parents died in 1898 and further Indian school education, he went to the Mount Hermon School, a workstudy school in Massachusetts, and thence to Yale, becoming that university’s first Native American graduate, in 1910. As a college sophomore he worked successfully for the release of Apache prisoners who were incarcerated at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, because their leader, ...