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Bowie, Jim (1795– March 1836), popularizer of the bowie knife, speculator, and co-commander of Texan forces at the Alamo, was the son of Rezin Bowie and Elvy Jones; his formal given name was James. Bowie’s birthday and his mother’s name are the subject of dispute. Some sources claim that he was born in 1795, while others believe the correct year was 1796; some claim that his mother’s name was Alvina, perhaps shortened to Elvy, and that the reading of her name as “Jones” from Spanish documents is an erroneous extrapolation from markings that could have been intended as “Jane.” Similarly, some sources state that Bowie was born in Burke County, Georgia, while others opt for Elliot Springs, Tennessee. ...

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Butterfield, John (18 November 1801–14 November 1869), western pioneer, express company operator, and investor, was born in Berne, near Albany, New York, the son of Daniel Butterfield (his mother’s name is unknown). His formal education consisted of intermittent attendance at local public schools. As a young man he became a stagecoach driver in New York State and later an investor in barges plying the Erie Canal....

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Hunt, John Wesley ( August 1773–21 August 1849), pioneer merchant, manufacturer, and financier, was born in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Abraham Hunt, a merchant, and Theodosia Pearson. Growing up with seven siblings, John probably attended a private school. At a young age he began training in business in his father’s general store in the same two-story building as their home in Trenton. His father also taught him about breeding racehorses and about flour milling....

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Patton, James (1692– July 1755), frontier leader and land speculator in southwestern Virginia, was born in Ulster, Ireland, the son of Henry Patton and Sarah Lynn. The Patton family had immigrated to Ulster in the early seventeenth century as part of the larger movement of Scottish Presbyterians encouraged by the English Crown in an attempt to enhance its control of Ireland. Henry Patton was a member of the landed gentry of County Donegal, and Sarah Lynn apparently belonged to a prominent family living in Ulster. James Patton married Mary Osborn; the couple had two children....

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Preston, William ( December 1729–1783), frontier leader and land speculator, was born in Ulster, the son of John Preston, a ship carpenter, and Elizabeth Patton. During Preston’s childhood, his family emigrated to western Virginia with his mother’s brother, James Patton, and by 1740 had settled in Augusta County in the Shenandoah Valley. After the death of Preston’s father, Patton helped him to complete his education. Preston studied for a time with a local Presbyterian minister and received instruction in surveying from Patton himself. In 1752 Preston served as his uncle’s private secretary in Virginia’s negotiations with the Iroquois and Delaware Indians at Logstown on the Ohio River....