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Abraham (fl. 1826–1845), "Prophet", also known as “Prophet,” was a runaway slave who became a prominent leader among the Seminoles. Nothing is known about his parents or childhood. Fleeing his master, Abraham escaped south into Florida where he was adopted into the Seminole tribe. He enjoyed considerable status among the Seminoles, accompanying a tribal delegation to Washington, D.C., in 1826 and becoming an influential counselor to Micanopy, a leading Seminole headman. The Seminole, or Florida Indians, once were a part of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation that had been driven out of Georgia by the early English colonists, and the Oconee and Yamasee tribes that had been driven out of the Carolinas following the Yamasee uprising of 1715. They had first settled among the Lower Creeks in the Florida Panhandle and created a haven for runaway slaves. In fact, ...

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Allerton, Isaac (1586– February 1659), merchant in the early years of the Plymouth colony, . Little is known of Allerton’s early life, and nothing is known regarding his education and religious orientation. He was a tailor in London at the time that he moved to Leiden, Holland, in 1608. When the Separatist congregation of John Robinson arrived in 1609 Allerton joined the church. In 1611 he married a fellow member, Mary Norris. In 1614 he became a citizen of the Dutch city....

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Ashley, William Henry (1778–26 March 1838), fur trader and politician, was born in Chesterfield County, Virginia. His parents are unknown, and there is no definitive record of his early years. In 1798 Ashley moved west to Kentucky. Four years later he crossed the Mississippi and took up residence in the lead-mining community of St. Genevieve (now in Missouri). From that time until his death, Ashley energetically and successfully pursued profits and power in the fluid frontier society....

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Baker, James (19 December 1818–15 May 1898), trapper, army scout, and early settler of Colorado and Wyoming, was born in Belleville, Illinois, and grew up near Springfield. His parents were of Scots-Irish ancestry from South Carolina. With little formal schooling but adept with a rifle, Jim Baker left home for St. Louis in 1838 and signed an eighteen-month contract with the American Fur Company. On 25 May 1838 the Rocky Mountain–bound party, led by ...

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Bent, Charles (11 November 1799–19 January 1847), frontiersman, fur trapper, and Santa Fe trader, was born in Charleston, Virginia (now W.V.), the son of Silas Bent, Jr., a surveyor and jurist, and Martha Kerr. The family moved first to Ohio, then in 1806 to St. Louis, Missouri. Charles attended Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, although for how long is unknown. In 1822 he joined the Missouri Fur Company of Joshua Pilcher as a clerk, and in 1825 he became a partner. The American Fur Company of ...

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Bridger, James (17 March 1804–17 July 1881), fur trapper and trader, explorer, and scout, was born in a tavern near Richmond, Virginia, the son of James Bridger, a surveyor and innkeeper, and Chloe Tyler, a barmaid. Bridger and his family moved in about 1812 to a farm near St. Louis, where, on being orphaned five years later, he became a blacksmith’s apprentice. In 1822 he responded to an advertisement calling for a hundred able-bodied young men to join a fur-trapping expedition, lasting from one to three years, up to the headwaters of the Missouri River. The organizers of the expedition were ...

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Burnham, Frederick Russell (11 May 1861–01 September 1947), explorer, scout, and miner, was born in Tivoli, Minnesota, the son of Reverend Otway Burnham, a Congregational minister and missionary, and Rebecca Russell. One family story has it that his mother left him among corn stalks for an entire day while their settlement was under an Indian attack during the 1862 war with the Sioux. Certainly not proven, this story has an interesting ring to it, since Burnham was to spend much of his life hiding or escaping from American Indians or South African peoples during his career as a scout....

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Kit Carson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-107570).

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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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Chouteau, Auguste Pierre (09 May 1786–25 December 1838), fur trader and Indian diplomat, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Jean Pierre Chouteau, a fur trader and one of the founders of St. Louis, and Pelagie Kiersereau. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point from 17 July 1804 until 20 June 1806 and became an ensign in the Second United States Infantry. After serving briefly as aide to General ...

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Chouteau, Jean Pierre (10 October 1758–10 July 1849), fur trader and Indian agent, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Pierre Laclède and Marie Thérèse Chouteau. In accordance with French law, Jean Pierre Chouteau used his mother’s surname. Pierre, as he was most widely known, moved to St. Louis with his mother in 1764. Little is known of his education, formal or informal. Taking advantage of St. Louis’s position as the gateway to American, French, and Spanish commercial activities among the Native Americans in the trans-Mississippi West, Pierre and his half brother ...

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Chouteau, René Auguste (07 September 1749–24 February 1829), pioneer in the western fur trade and explorer, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he was baptized on 9 September, 1749, the son of René Auguste Chouteau and Marie Thérèse Bourgeois. His father was a French immigrant who operated a tavern in New Orleans. The marriage of his parents broke up shortly after his birth, and his father returned to France. His teenage mother proved herself resourceful and eventually went to live with a prominent fur trader, ...

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Claiborne, William (1600–1677), American Indian trader and political leader in Virginia, was baptized at Crayford, County Kent, England, on 10 August 1600, the son of Thomas Claiborne, a former mayor of King’s Lynn, County Norfolk, and Sarah James, the daughter of a London brewer. Making the Chesapeake his home after 1621, Claiborne served as a Virginia councillor (1624–1637, 1643–1661), secretary of state (1626–1634, 1652–1661), treasurer (1642–1660), parliamentary commissioner (1651–1660), deputy governor (1652–1660), and the first major general of militia (1644–1646)....

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Colter, John (1775– November 1813), fur trapper and explorer, was born probably in the vicinity of Staunton, Virginia, the son of John Colter and Ellen Shields, farmers. The Colter family (also spelled Coalter and Coulter) that farmed near the Shenandoah Valley community of Staunton traced its lineage back to Micajah Coalter, a Scots-Irish settler who arrived in Virginia about 1700. Virtually nothing is known about John Colter’s youth or early adult years. The earliest record of him dates to 15 October 1803, when ...

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Davenport, George (1783–04 July 1845), Indian trader and frontier townsite entrepreneur, was born in Lincolnshire, England. Nothing is presently known of his parentage or childhood, although he apparently enjoyed the equivalent of a good common-school education. At age seventeen he was placed with an uncle, a captain of a merchant vessel. In 1804 Davenport’s ship visited New York, where he broke his leg and had to be left behind to recuperate....

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Davis, Alice Brown (10 September 1852–21 June 1935), Seminole leader and merchant, was born in Park Hill, Cherokee Nation (now in Cherokee County, Okla.), the daughter of John F. Brown, a physician, and Lucy Redbeard, a Seminole of the Panther clan (Kachaki). Her parents met while her father was employed as a contract physician for the federal government during the removal of most of the Seminoles from Florida to the Indian Territory in the 1840s. One of seven children, Alice was educated at home and also attended schools in the Cherokee Nation and the Presbyterian mission school near Wewoka....

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de Vries, David Pietersen (1593–1655?), merchant adventurer and colonizer, was born in La Rochelle, France, the son of Pieter Jakobszoon de Vries, a ship captain, and a Dutch mother (name unknown). His father was from Hoorn, a northern Dutch province, and his mother from Amsterdam. They moved to La Rochelle in 1584 and back to Hoorn when David was four. He attended Latin school, obtained a knowledge of geography and astronomy, and learned French, Dutch, and English as a result of his family’s contact with the international Calvinist community....

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Dickson, Robert (1765–20 June 1823), fur trader and British Indian Department officer, was born in Dumfries, Scotland, the son of John Dickson, a merchant. His mother’s name is unknown. Robert Dickson emigrated to the United States in 1785–1786, soon after the American Revolution and was first employed at Oswego (N.Y.), where “he began his apprenticeship, which induced him to adopt the fur trade as a life-long occupation” (Cruikshank [1931], p. 88). Within a few months, Dickson was removed to the Niagara area, where his duties included selling and shipping goods to the fur-trade posts and managing accounts. As he was closely connected with some of the most respected and influential Loyalist families along the Niagara, Dickson enjoyed preferential treatment in both the choice and flexibility of his work. As a result of this good fortune, Dickson took the opportunity to leave the drab routine of his work at Niagara and in July 1786 was pleased to be transferred to the “Island of Michilimackinac” (MacKinac Island, Mich.) in order “to learn the art and mystery of commerce” (Cartwright papers, 10 July 1786)....

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Dorman, Isaiah (?–26 June 1876), frontiersman and interpreter, was known as “Teat,” or the Wasicun Sapa (Black White Man), among the Sioux of Dakota Territory. Nothing is known of his life before he entered the territory as a young man around 1850; he is thought to have been an escaped slave who fled to the wilderness to avoid capture. Sioux tribal history records his presence in their midst from that date; he became known to white settlers in 1865, by which time he had become fluent in the Sioux dialect. About this time he married a Sioux woman and built a log cabin near Fort Rice, in Dakota Territory, not far from present-day Bismarck, North Dakota. For a while he earned a living cutting wood for the fort and for a trading firm, Durfee and Peck....

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du Sable, Jean Baptiste Point (1745?–28 August 1818), explorer and merchant, was born in San Marc, Haiti, the son of a Negro slave woman (name unknown) and Dandonneau (first name unknown), scion of a prominent French-Canadian family active in the North American fur trade. Surviving historical journals record the name of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable (Point au Sable by some accounts), a Haitian of mixed-blood ancestry, as the first permanent settler of Chicago. In her 1856 memoir of frontier life in the emerging Northwest Territory, ...