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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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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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O’Fallon, Benjamin (20 September 1793–17 December 1842), Indian agent, was born in Kentucky, the son of James O’Fallon, a physician, and Frances Eleanor Clark. He was sent, in his teens, to St. Louis to live with his maternal uncle, William Clark. Clark noted in a letter written to O’Fallon’s brother John in 1809 that O’Fallon “has jenious but wants application.” After dabbling in business, O’Fallon set off in 1816 for the St. Peters River to trade with the Sioux. His success convinced his uncle of his diplomatic skill, for in the following year Clark officially appointed him U.S. Indian agent (with the rank of major) to the Sioux. O’Fallon made his headquarters at Prairie du Chien, now in Wisconsin, where he quickly established a reputation among the St. Louis traders for the “rigor and firmness” with which he exercised his authority....

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe (28 March 1793–10 December 1864), author, ethnologist, and Indian agent, was born on a farmstead on Black Creek, near Albany, New York, the son of Lawrence Schoolcraft, a farmer and glass manufacturer, and Margaret Anne Barbara Rowe. He attended school and received tutoring in Latin in Hamilton, New York, where his father served as justice of the peace. After the family moved to Vernon, New York, in 1808, he held responsible positions in the construction and management of glass factories in New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont, often in business with his father. Although for a time he had the stimulating intellectual influence of an older mentor, a professor at Middlebury College, Vermont, Schoolcraft never attended classes. He acquired a library of scientific books and performed experiments in chemistry and mineralogy. Despite his recognized competence, he achieved only temporary success in glass manufacturing....