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William Clark. Reproduction of a watercolor based on a painting by Charles Willson Peale. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-10609).

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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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Cocke, William (1748–22 August 1828), legislator, soldier, and Indian agent, was born in Amelia County, Virginia, the son of Abraham Cocke, a member of the tobacco gentry. As a young man, Cocke studied law and soon became prominent in public affairs. After moving in the early 1770s with his wife, Sarah Maclin (whom he married in 1773 or earlier), and the first of their nine children to a settlement in the Holston Valley near the present Virginia-Tennessee boundary, he served in the Virginia House of Delegates and was an officer in the Virginia militia. Sometime later, he married Keziah (or Kissiah) Sims; they had no children. While in the Holston Valley, he participated in the formation of Sullivan and Washington counties and held several minor positions. In 1776 he raised a company of troops, was commissioned captain, and established “Cocke’s Fort” in the nearby wilderness. He took part in several military encounters with the British and Indians and in 1780 led his troops—along with ...

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Hawkins, Benjamin (15 August 1754–06 June 1816), U.S. senator and Indian agent, was born in Bute, later Warren County, North Carolina, the son of Philomen Hawkins, a planter and land speculator, and Delia Martin. Family wealth enabled the young Hawkins to attend the College of New Jersey (later Princeton), class of 1777, but the approaching British army cut short his senior year. Fluent in French, he briefly served on General ...

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McKee, John (1767–11 August 1832), American Indian agent and congressman, was born on Buffalo Creek in Rockbridge County, Virginia, the son of John (or James) McKee and Esther “Nannie” Houston, farmers. He attended Liberty Hall Academy (now Washington and Lee University). In 1792 Governor ...

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Mitchell, David Brydie (22 October 1766–22 April 1837), governor of Georgia and U.S. Indian agent, was born near Muthill, Perthshire, Scotland, the son of John Mitchell; his mother’s name is unknown. He originally came to the United States in 1783 to claim a Georgia estate left to him under the terms of an uncle’s will. On 19 January 1792 he married Jane Mills, with whom he had four known children. Mitchell read law in the Savannah office of William Stephens, at which time he also served as a clerk for the committee to revise the state criminal code. This experience led to his election as state attorney general in 1795 as a Democratic-Republican. In 1796 Mitchell was elected to the first of two consecutive terms as a representative in the Georgia General Assembly, where he became known for his opposition to the fraudulent Yazoo land sales. From 1798 to 1801 he served as the eastern district judge in the state superior court, after which he was elected mayor of Savannah. His popularity and legal skills led to his appointment as U.S. attorney general for Georgia in the following year, a post he held until his selection as major general of the state militia in 1804....

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Mitchell, David Dawson (31 July 1806–31 May 1861), fur trader and government American Indian agent, was born in Louisa County, Virginia. Nothing is known about his parents. Mitchell’s youth remains wrapped in mystery. He arrived in St. Louis as a young man and quickly became involved in the Rocky Mountain fur trade. Employed by the American Fur Company as early as 1828, he was assigned first to the Ioway country and then to the Upper Missouri River, where he displayed considerable skill in dealing with the Blackfoot and Assiniboine Indians. During the period between 1828 and 1838 he headed several trading outfits and built Fort McKenzie in Montana in spite of American Indian objections to the construction at the mouth of the Marias River. Noted for a cool head in stressful situations, Mitchell managed to keep tensions from reaching a boiling point, especially over the issue of which native groups might be favored in trade. ...

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Thompson, Wiley (23 September 1781–28 December 1835), congressman, military officer, and Indian agent, was born in Amelia County, Virginia, the son of Isham Thompson, a soldier in the revolutionary war, and Elizabeth Williams. As a child, Thompson moved with his family to Elberton, in Wilkes County, later Elbert County, Georgia, where he attended the county school. In 1808 Thompson was appointed by the Georgia legislature to be commissioner of the Elbert County Academy....

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Tipton, John (14 August 1786–05 April 1839), soldier, American Indian agent, and senator, was born in Sevier County, Tennessee, the son of Joshua Tipton and Janet Shields, farmers. Tipton’s father was killed by American Indians in 1793. In 1807 Tipton’s mother, with four children, migrated to Harrison County, Indiana Territory. Tipton bought land and operated a ferry at the mouth of the Salt River. Although without formal education, he became an effective writer and a forceful speaker. In 1807 he married his cousin Martha Shields. They had three children before divorcing in 1817. In 1811 Tipton joined a militia company and marched to Tippecanoe, where his battlefield heroism won him a captain’s commission. He served in the War of 1812, continuing in the Indiana militia, and his leadership abilities led to his rise to major general in 1822....