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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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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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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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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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Calamity Jane (01 May 1852–01 August 1903), legendary western woman, was born Martha Cannary in Princeton, Missouri, the daughter of Robert Cannary (also spelled Canary). Her mother’s identity is unknown. In 1865, enticed by news from the Montana gold fields, her father moved the family to Virginia City, Montana. After her mother died in 1866, the family settled in Salt Lake City. Following her father’s death in 1867, an adolescent but determined Calamity Jane traveled to Fort Bridger, Wyoming. From there she embarked upon the transient existence that would characterize her life in the West, especially in the Black Hills mining camps of South Dakota and Wyoming....

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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, ...

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Cody, William Frederick (26 February 1846–10 January 1917), frontiersman and entertainer, better known as “Buffalo Bill,” was born in Scott County, Iowa, the son of Isaac Cody and Mary Ann Bonsell Laycock. Cody’s father managed several farms and operated a state business in Iowa. In 1854 the family moved to the Salt Creek Valley in Kansas, where Cody’s father received a government contract to provide hay to Fort Leavenworth. After his father died in 1857, Cody went to work as an ox-team driver for fifty cents a day. Shortly thereafter, the firm of Majors and Russell hired him as an express boy. Cody attended school periodically, although his formal education ended in 1859 when he joined a party heading to Denver to search for gold. He prospected for two months without any luck. He arrived back in Kansas in March 1860 after a trapping expedition. He rode for a time for the Pony Express during its short lifetime (Apr. 1860–Nov. 1861). After the start of the Civil War he joined a group of antislavery guerrillas based in Kansas. Later the Ninth Kansas Volunteers hired him as a scout and guide. On 16 February 1864 Cody enlisted into Company F of the Seventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry. He saw quite a bit of action in Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, and Kansas during his one year and seven months of duty. He was mustered out of the army as a private on 29 September 1865....

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Crockett, Davy (17 August 1786–06 March 1836), frontiersman, Tennessee and U.S. congressman, and folk hero, was born David Crockett in Greene County, East Tennessee, the son of John Crockett, a magistrate, unsuccessful land speculator, and tavern owner, and Rebecca Hawkins. John Crockett hired his son out to Jacob Siler in 1798 to help on a cattle drive to Rockbridge County, Virginia, and Siler tried forcibly to detain young Crockett after the completion of the job. The boy ran away at night, however, and arrived home in late 1798 or early 1799. Preferring to play hooky rather than attend school, he ran away from home to escape his father’s wrath. His “strategic withdrawal,” as he called it, lasted about thirty months while he worked at odd jobs and as a laborer and a wagon driver. When he returned home in 1802, he had grown so much that his family at first did not recognize him. He soon found that all was forgiven and reciprocated their generosity by working for a year to settle the debts that his father had incurred....

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de Soto, Hernando (1500?–21 May 1542), Spanish conquistador and explorer, was the son of Francisco Mendez de Soto, an important landowner in Jerez de los Caballeros, Badajoz Province, Spain, and Doña Leonor Arias Tinoco, a noblewoman from a family prominent in the city of Badajoz. De Soto usually gave his birthplace as Jerez de los Caballeros and considered it the seat of his family line....

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Duniway, Abigail Jane Scott (22 October 1834–11 October 1915), Oregon pioneer and suffragist, was born in Tazewell County, Illinois, the daughter of John Tucker Scott and Ann Roelofson, farmers. Duniway attended school sporadically, restricted by her responsibilities on her parents’ farm. In March 1852, in spite of his wife’s hesitations, John Scott decided to move his family to Oregon. With thirty others, in a caravan of five wagons, the family set off on the 2,400-mile trek. Ann Scott died of cholera in June; her three-year-old son Willie passed away two months later. By October the party had reached Lafayette, near Salem, Oregon, where they settled. Abigail taught school in the neighboring village of Eola and worked on her father’s farm. In August 1853 she married Benjamin Charles Duniway, a farmer who had moved to Oregon three years earlier; they had six children. The early years of her marriage were especially hard on Abigail, who bore two children in quick succession and also was obliged to take on many of the physically taxing, traditionally male tasks on the farm. The family moved to a farm near Lafayette in 1857. Duniway’s first novel, ...