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William Clark. Reproduction of a watercolor based on a painting by Charles Willson Peale. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-10609).

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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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Gist, Christopher (1705–25 July 1759), explorer, surveyor, and Indian agent, was born in Baltimore Country, Maryland, the son of Richard Gist, a judge, and Zepporah Murray. His grandfather was Christopher Guest, but the surname was changed to Gist around 1700. Gist was highly educated for his time and place. During his youth in Maryland he acquired literacy and other skills that enabled him to develop a vocation as a cartographer and explorer in the service of the Ohio Company. In 1750, while he lived in North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley (where he knew ...

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Neighbors, Robert Simpson (03 November 1815–14 September 1859), explorer and Indian agent, was born in Charlotte County, Virginia, the son of William Neighbours, a college professor, and Elizabeth Elam. Both parents died of pneumonia when Robert was four months old. Robert, the last of seven children, spent his youth with court-appointed guardian Samuel Hamner. Before Neighbors left Virginia, he received at least one year and nine months of formal schooling paid for by Hamner. Christened Samuel Robertson Neighbours, the nineteen-year-old youth reworked his name when he traveled to Louisiana. While working as a clerk Neighbors heard about the fall of the Alamo. He volunteered and arrived in Texas in the spring of 1836, fighting in the battle of San Jacinto in Captain Hayden Arnold’s company. Back in Louisiana he joined the Masonic Lodge at St. Albans....