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Applegate, Jesse (05 July 1811–22 April 1888), Oregon pioneer and publicist, was born in Kentucky, the son of Daniel Applegate, a veteran of the revolutionary war, and Rachel Lindsay. When he was ten his family moved to Missouri, where his father was the village schoolmaster and deputy surveyor general. In 1827 and 1828 Applegate attended Rock Spring Seminary in Shiloh, Illinois, where he showed talent in mathematics and surveying. Later he continued private study of these subjects while teaching school. He then secured a position clerking for the surveyor general’s office in St. Louis and was promoted quickly to deputy surveyor general; he spent much of his time surveying in the western part of Missouri. In 1832 he married Cynthia Parker and settled on a farm in Osage Valley, where the couple lived for twelve years and had several children....

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Dorothy McLeod MacInerney

Blake, Mary Elizabeth (01 September 1840–26 February 1907), author, was born Mary Elizabeth McGrath in Dungarven, Ireland, the daughter of Patrick McGrath, an artisan in marble, and Mary Murphy. Mary’s family immigrated to Quincy, Massachusetts, when she was ten. Her father’s trade prospered, enabling him to provide his children with good educations. Mary attended Quincy High School from 1855 to 1859, Emerson’s Private School in Boston from 1859 to 1861, and the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Manhattanville from 1861 to 1863. Her major interests in school were music and modern languages. Upon graduating, Mary began teaching and writing poems, which were published in local newspapers. In 1865 she married John G. Blake, a prominent Boston physician; they had eleven children....

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Breen, Patrick (baptized 11 June 1795–21 December 1868), diarist of the Donner Party, was born in Barnahasken Townland, County Carlow, Ireland, the son of Edward “Ned” Breen and Mary Wilson, farmers. Breen spent his youth in Ireland on the family farm, which was left to Breen, his brothers, and mother when his father died in 1816. Breen was reared to be a strict and devoted Catholic, attending chapel from the time he was a baby. His religious convictions helped him tremendously in later life....

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Browne, John Ross (11 February 1821–08 December 1875), writer, world traveler, and government agent, was born in Beggars Bush, near Dublin, Ireland, the son of Thomas Egerton Browne and Elana Buck. His father was a refugee from British rule. As the editor of three publications, Thomas Browne satirized British tithing measures and earned the enmity of the Crown, a fine, and a jail sentence for “seditious libel.”...

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Coggeshall, George (02 November 1784–06 August 1861), sea captain and author, was born in Milford, Connecticut, the son of William Coggeshall, a shipmaster, and Eunice Mallett. A Revolutionary War veteran, William Coggeshall was financially ruined when one of his vessels was seized by a British cruiser for trading at a French island, and another was captured by France for trading with English colonies. As a result, George Coggeshall and his six siblings were left destitute. Thus, he was denied a formal education and was forced to teach himself by reading every book available. A devoted son, Coggeshall determined that he would go to sea as soon as possible, thereby reducing the family’s expenses and affording him a chance to recoup his father’s losses....

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Delano, Amasa (21 February 1763–21 April 1823), New England mariner and author, was born in Duxbury, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Delano and Abigail Drew. His father, a well-to-do shipbuilder, joined the American army when the Revolution broke out and was almost immediately taken prisoner. “Treated with great harshness and severity,” he was released before the war ended and resumed his trade. Meanwhile, over his father’s objections, Delano had entered the army at the age of fourteen and shipped out on the privateer ...

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Denys de la Ronde, Louis (02 August 1675–25 March 1741), French military officer, explorer, and spy, was born in Quebec City, Canada, the son of Pierre Denys de la Ronde, a landowner and merchant (the Crown had given the aristocracy in Canada permission to engage in trade), and Catherine Leneuf de la Potherie. He entered naval service in 1687 as a midshipman in France. During the war of 1689–1697 he served in exiled British king James II’s expedition to Ireland, then off the coast of England, and finally on several voyages to New France and along the coast of New England. Captured at sea in 1695, he was soon released in an exchange of prisoners of war. He served in ...

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Dorris, Michael (30 January 1945–11 April 1997), writer and academician, was born Michael Anthony Dorris in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Jim Leonard Dorris, a soldier, and Mary Burkhardt Dorris. Jim Dorris was killed in the late stages of World War II or shortly after the war, depending on the source consulted. As a result, Dorris was raised by his mother, aunt, and two grandmothers. As a youngster, Dorris read voraciously, borrowing books from adults and spending time in libraries. Following high school, he enrolled at Georgetown University, the first member of his family to attend college. He earned a B.A. degree (cum laude) in 1967 and an M.Phil. from Yale University in 1970. He was a successful academician, holding faculty appointments at the University of Redlands (1970–1971), Franconia College (1971–1972), and Dartmouth College (1972–1989, adjunct 1989–1997). While at Dartmouth, he founded and taught in the Native American Studies Program. Dorris's ancestry has been described as mixed Irish, French, and Native American, with the latter more specifically identified as “Modoc on his father's side.”...

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Olaudah Equiano. From the frontispiece of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, 1794. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-54026).

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Equiano, Olaudah (1745–31 March 1797), sailor, abolitionist, and writer, also known as Gustavus Vassa, was born in eastern Nigeria, the son of an Ibo village chief. When he was eleven, people from another Ibo village captured Equiano and his sister, beginning a six-month period during which he was separated from his sister and sold from one master to another until he reached the coast. There Equiano’s African masters sold him to white slave traders headed for Barbados. From Barbados he traveled to Virginia, where he was bought by Henry Pascal, the captain of a British trading vessel. During the spring 1757 voyage to England, Pascal gave Equiano the name Gustavus Vassa, which he used throughout his life, yet Equiano still included his African name on the title page of his autobiography....

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Flower, Richard (1761–02 September 1829), reformer and Illinois pioneer, was born in England, probably in Hertfordshire, the son of George Flower, a prosperous tradesman. His mother’s name is unknown. Establishing himself in Hertford as a brewer, Flower did well in business for over twenty years. He married a daughter (name unknown) of Edward Fordham of Kelshall; they had five children. He joined in the activities of his brother Benjamin Flower, who had become involved in dissenting politics and pamphleteering, and wrote ...

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Harrison, Marguerite (23 October 1878–16 July 1967), journalist, spy, world traveler, and writer, was born Marguerite Elton Baker in Baltimore, Maryland, to Elizabeth Elton Livezey and Bernard Baker. Her wealthy family made its fortune in transatlantic shipping, and she spent many summers in Europe, where she enhanced her language skills. Her education was a combination of private tutors and attendance at St. Timothy’s School in Catonsville, Maryland, where she experienced some social awkwardness, but she also learned much about the wider world that would influence the rest of her life. After high school, she attended Radcliffe College for one semester and then in 1901 quickly married Thomas Harrison against her parents’ wishes. In contrast to her family’s high standing and social connections, Thomas came from a family of lesser means and status....

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Washington Irving. Pictured at age twenty-seven. Engraving by J. de Mare. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-95735).

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Irving, Washington (03 April 1783–28 November 1859), author, was born in New York City, the son of William Irving, a Scottish merchant, and his English wife, Sarah Sanders, who had emigrated to America in 1763. A middle-class family of very modest means, the Irvings gradually prospered in the economic expansion that followed the American Revolution. In time the father’s business, heavily dependent on imports from England and France, became the family business, in which his five sons were involved in varying degrees at various times. Irving was the youngest child, and his mother and three sisters lavished affection and attention on him in his early years. The father, however, a Presbyterian deacon and elder, dominated the family until his death in 1807, imposing on the household a strict religious discipline, which his youngest son strongly resisted. Although Irving was interested in literature from an early age, authorship in the United States was generally seen as at best an avocation. Thus in 1799 he began an apprenticeship with a lawyer, partly as an escape from the family business. But literary pursuits, a troublesome lung condition, and social distractions delayed his qualifying for the bar for several years....

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Jemison, Mary (1743?–1833), captive, was born on a ship en route to colonial Pennsylvania from Ireland, the daughter of Thomas Jemison and Jane Erwin, a Protestant couple of Scotch-Irish background. The family settled on a farm in Franklin Township, Adams County, in south central Pennsylvania about ten miles northwest of present-day Gettysburg....

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Johnson, Osa (14 March 1894–07 January 1953), author, lecturer, and film producer, was born Osa Helen Leighty in Chanute, Kansas, the daughter of William Sherman Leighty, a railroad engineer, and Ruby Isabel Holman. In 1910 she left high school to marry Martin Johnson, whom she had met eleven years earlier when he visited Chanute as an eighteen-year-old itinerant photographer. In the meantime he had visited Europe alone and traveled with ...

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Kelly, Fanny Wiggins (15 April 1845–15 November 1904), captivity narrativist, was born near Orillia, Ontario, the daughter of James Wiggins, a farmer, and Margaret Barry. Although the father died en route, the family migrated in 1857 to Geneva in the Neosho Valley of Kansas, where they experienced the ravages of drought, grasshoppers, and the border conflict of the Civil War. Late in 1863, Fanny married Josiah Shawahan Kelly, a farmer and discharged Union veteran who had spent several years in California. Attracted to the new mining districts of what was then Idaho and would soon become Montana Territory, they began the long overland journey. Traveling at that time was dangerous for several reasons: the upper plains Indians were increasingly agitated in reaction to white encroachment, the bloody Minnesota Sioux rebellion of 1862 had only recently been put down, and many army troops had been withdrawn to fight against the South....

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Lame Deer, John Fire (1903–15 December 1976), coauthor of a popular account of American Indian life, was born with the Lakota name Tahca Ushte (Lame Deer) and the English name John Fire on the Lakota reservation in southwestern South Dakota, the son of Silas Let-Them-Have-Enough and Sally Red Blanket. He was one of twelve children, but many of his siblings did not reach maturity and others died in early adulthood. He was raised in large part by his maternal grandparents, Good Fox and Plenty White Buffalo, in a small log cabin located on or near the border between the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations. Around the age of eight, he was forced by an agent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to go to a school where the main focus was on discipline and where no teacher was capable of teaching at any level higher than the third grade. After six years in this school, he was sent to a white boarding school, where he became increasingly rebellious. Apparently he stayed only two years....

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Mackenzie, Alexander Slidell (06 April 1803–13 September 1848), naval officer and author, was born Alexander Slidell in New York City, the son of John Slidell, a merchant, and Margery Mackenzie. Alexander went by the family name until midlife, when, in 1838, he successfully petitioned the New York legislature to change his surname to Mackenzie, in order to benefit from a legacy that a childless maternal uncle provided....

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Manly, William Lewis (06 April 1820–05 February 1903), author, was born near St. Albans, Vermont, the son of a farmer whose name is unknown and Phoebe Calkins. Manly sometimes spelled his name Manley, and a Manly family historian said the name should be spelled that way (Johnson and Johnson, p. xv). But Manly is the commonly recognized spelling and the one on the title page of ...