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Alden, John (1599?–12 September 1687), farmer and magistrate, was one of the original settlers of Plymouth Colony, arriving in New England on the Mayflower in 1620. No definite information exists about his birth, parentage, childhood, or education. In 1620 he lived at Southampton, England, where the migrating Pilgrims stopped for provisions on their way from the Netherlands to the New World. There he was hired as the ship’s cooper in charge of its supply of beer and drinking water. Upon landfall, Alden joined in signing the now famous Mayflower Compact. After the colonists’ arrival in Plymouth, Governor ...

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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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California Joe (08 May 1829–29 October 1876), plainsman and army scout, was born Moses Embree Milner in Standford, Kentucky, the son of Sarah Ann and Embree Armstead Milner, planters. Plantation life in the Kentucky wilderness was hardly genteel; the Milner home was a log cabin, as was the schoolhouse where the young Milner was an able student. Along with “book learning,” Milner excelled in tracking and hunting, which meant his family always had fresh meat to eat. Even as a boy he was known for his skill in shooting his father’s long-barreled rifle, a talent his family regarded as wholly in keeping with his father’s past military experiences in ...

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Cooper, Henry Ernest (28 August 1857–15 May 1929), lawyer and politician, was born in New Albany, Indiana, the son of William Giles Cooper and Harriet A. Weller. The details of his childhood are unknown. Cooper received his law degree from Boston University in 1878 and was admitted to the bar that same year. Business interests in a railroad took him to San Diego, California, where he married Mary E. Porter in 1883; they had eight children....

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Cornstalk (?– November 1777), Shawnee leader, had the Indian name Hokoleskwa, meaning “a blade of corn”; his original name was also rendered in the white settlers’ records as Colesqua, Keightughque, and Semachquaan. His early life is obscure. A document of 1764 identifies him with Tawnamebuck, a Shawnee who attended the council at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1748, but is probably in error. In a speech of 1775 Cornstalk seems to describe himself as the son of White Fish, but Matthew Arbuckle, who knew them both, implies otherwise in a letter of December 1776. Records of the Moravian missionaries, who knew Cornstalk well, indicate that he was the son or grandson of the noted headman Paxinosa, and there are circumstances that suggest that this was true. Cornstalk may have spent part of his youth on the Wyoming, near present-day Plymouth, Pennsylvania, where Paxinosa’s band was living from the late 1720s. Although some members of this village appear to have been Pekowi Shawnee, Cornstalk belonged to the Mekoche division, which supplied the tribal civil chief. Paxinosa was friendly to the British, enjoyed a good relationship with the Moravians, and did not aid the French when the Seven Years’ War began. Instead, he moved closer to the neutral Iroquois peoples, in 1756 to the site of present-day Athens, Pennsylvania, and then to what is now Canisteo, New York. For this reason it is difficult to credit statements made long afterward that Cornstalk led a raid upon Carr’s Creek, Virginia, in 1759....

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Crazy Horse (1840–05 September 1877), Oglala Lakota war chief, was born near Bear Butte in present-day South Dakota, the son of Crazy Horse, a noted Oglala warrior and medicine man, and (according to some sources) Rattle Blanket Woman, a Minicoujou Lakota of the prestigious Lone Horn family. By 1861 the boy had inherited the name Crazy Horse from his father. Believing himself informed by visions and protected by war medicines prepared by Horn Chips, a respected Oglala ...

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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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Doublehead (?– August 1807), Cherokee leader, whose Indian name was Tal-tsu-ska, was born probably on the Little Tennessee River. He has been described as the brother of the influential Cherokee chiefs Old Tassel and Tolluntuskee and rose to prominence in the wars that followed the murder of the former by North Carolinians in June 1788. Although he described himself as “but a boy” in 1793, he was of sufficient standing to put his name to the treaty of the Holston in 1791, which he signed against the name “Chuqualatague, Doublehead.”...

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Farnham, Thomas Jefferson (1804–13 September 1848), lawyer and author, was born apparently in Maine, though some sources list Vermont as his birthplace. The names and occupations of his parents are unknown. Farnham’s early years remain a mystery, but for some time prior to 1839 he was a lawyer in Peoria, Illinois. In 1836 Farnham married Eliza Wood Burhans ( ...

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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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Herrman, Augustine (1605?–1686?), merchant, attorney, ambassador, and mapmaker, was born in Prague, Bohemia, thought to be the son of Ephraim Augustin Herrman, a shopkeeper and city councilman, and Beatrix Redel, but possibly the son of Abraham Herrman, a Hussite minister in Mseno who was exiled to Zittau in Saxony because he was not Roman Catholic, and eventually settled in Amsterdam (wife’s name unknown)....

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Hole-in-the-Day (1828?–27 June 1868), Ojibwe (or Chippewa) political leader, Ojibwe (or Chippewa) political leader, was born, probably at the Ojibwe village of Sandy Lake, in present-day Minnesota, the son of Hole-in-the-Day, the Elder, a Sandy Lake political leader, and Josephine(?) (no Ojibwe name known), a daughter of Broken Tooth, another Sandy Lake leader. Hole-in-the-Day was born as the United States was becoming a presence in Minnesota, and the Ojibwe, having enjoyed amicable relations with the British and French, sought to establish friendly ties with the Americans. The tribe’s past connections with Europeans had been based on the fur trade; thoughtful Ojibwe realized that relations with the Americans would involve a very different economic system....

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Ii, John Papa (03 August 1800–02 May 1870), native Hawaiian jurist and historian, was born at Waipio, Ewa, Oahu Island, Kingdom of Hawaii, the son of Malamaekeeke and Wanaoa, descendants of the chiefs of Hawaii Island. Ii’s family were intimates and junior relatives of the ruling royal family, the Kamehameha dynasty. He was named Papa Ii (pronounced ēē) after an uncle who held a particularly high station in the Kamehameha court. He took the name John (Ioane) upon his conversion to Christianity. John Papa Ii was born into the aristocracy of ancient Hawaii and was a child of privilege. The family had been granted the rich lands at Waipio following the conquest of Oahu by King ...

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Judd, Albert Francis (07 January 1838–21 May 1900), attorney, and chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Hawaiian Kingdom and later of the Republic of Hawaii, was born in Honolulu, the son of Gerrit Parmele Judd, a medical missionary, and Laura Fish Judd...

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Keating, William Hypolitus (11 August 1799–17 May 1840), scientist, explorer, and lawyer, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, to Baron John Keating, a colonel in the Irish Brigade of the French army, and Eulalia Deschapelles. Keating’s father settled initially in Delaware after resigning his commission. The family moved to Philadelphia, and Keating entered the University of Pennsylvania in 1813, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1816. His interest in mineralogy and mining took him to Europe for five years, where he studied at the Paris School of Mines and visited mines in various countries. He returned to the United States and summarized his studies in a monograph, ...

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René-Robert Cavalier de La Salle. Engraving by H. B. Hall, 1882. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-5545).

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La Salle, René-Robert Cavalier de (21 November 1643–19 March 1687), explorer, was born in Rouen, France, the son of Jean Cavelier, a haberdasher, and Catherine Geest. The family was part of the prosperous bourgeoisie. The sobriquet “de La Salle” referred to an estate they owned outside Rouen. La Salle’s initial intention, however, seems to have been to escape his position, for after having studied with the Jesuits in Rouen, he renounced any claim to the family fortunes and entered the novitiate for the order in Paris in 1658. He actually took vows in 1660, continued, apparently rather brilliantly, his studies of mathematics, and taught in Jesuit schools until 1666. Having requested missionary assignments several times and been denied because he had been unable to demonstrate spiritual maturity and submission to the discipline of the order, he was released from his vows in 1667 and only a few months later went to New France, penniless but with many influential connections. There his brother, a Sulpician, was doubtless responsible for his obtaining from that order a grant of a seigneury on Montreal Island, but after two years La Salle sold most of it back to them and began his career of exploration by attaching himself to the Dollier and Galinée missionary party bound for the western Great Lakes. Hearing of the Ohio River from Iroquois Indian guides, he left the party, claiming illness, and virtually disappeared for four years....

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Logan, James (1725–1780), Mingo Indian, famous in his own time as an ally of English colonials; succeeding generations remember the tragedy that befell him and the lament he made in response. He was probably born at the village of Shamokin (Sunbury, Pa.), the son of the Oneida chief Shikellamy and a Cayuga woman. Known as Soyechtowa, Tocaniadorogon, or Logan the Mingo, historians have incorrectly called him Tah-gah-jute....

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Maxwell, William (1766 or 1767?–10 September 1809), pioneer printer, newspaper editor, and office holder, was long thought, based on statements made by his descendants, to have been born about 1755 in New York or New Jersey, the son of William Maxwell, an immigrant from Scotland. Current scholarship infers a probable birth date of 1766 or 1767 from a contemporary newspaper obituary and suggests several additional mid-Atlantic states (Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland) as possible places of origin. Little is known of Maxwell’s early life, including his mother’s identity. Although he is reputed to have served as a revolutionary war soldier, his participation has not been confirmed by extant military records....

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McIntosh, William (1778?–30 April 1825), military leader and high-ranking chief in the Creek Nation, was born in Coweta, in present-day Russell County, Alabama, the son of Captain William McIntosh, a recruiter for the British army, and Senoya, a full-blooded Creek. McIntosh was raised as a Creek, enduring the customary rites of passage and advancing to the rank of chief, ...