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Garnett, James Mercer (08 June 1770–23 April 1843), congressman, agricultural reformer, and educator, was born at “Mount Pleasant” plantation, near present-day Loretto in Essex County, Virginia, the son of planters Muscoe Garnett and Grace Fenton Mercer. He was privately educated, and in 1793 married his first cousin, Mary Eleanor Dick Mercer. The couple had four daughters and four sons....

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Thayer, Eli (11 June 1819–15 April 1899), educator and congressman, was born in Mendon, Massachusetts, the son of Cushman Thayer, a farmer and storekeeper, and Miranda Pond. Thayer studied at Worcester Manual Labor High School (later Worcester Academy) and entered Brown University in 1840. He graduated in 1845, and that year he married Caroline M. Capron. They had seven children. Settling in Worcester, Massachusetts, Thayer taught in the town’s school and served as its principal from 1847 to 1849. He purchased land in Worcester on which he supervised the construction (1848–1852) of a castle-style building that housed the Oread Collegiate Institute, a pioneering school for young women. The building also served for nearly fifty years as the Thayer family home. As Thayer established himself as a New England educational reformer, he also entered politics as a champion of the Free Soil party. In 1852 he won election to the Massachusetts General Court....