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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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Cazenove, Théophile (13 October 1740–06 March 1811), speculator, was born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the son of Théophile Cazenove and Marie de Raspin-Thoyras. His marriage in 1763 to Margaretha Helena van Jever, a member of a noted mercantile family, helped Cazenove secure a comfortable spot within Amsterdam’s commercial circles. He worked as a broker and trader through the following decades, evidently spending some time in the 1780s in Paris, where he became acquainted with the cleric and future statesman Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord....

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Craigie, Andrew (22 February 1754–19 September 1819), druggist, entrepreneur, and speculator, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Andrew Craigie, a ship captain and merchant, and Elizabeth Gardner. He attended Boston Latin School for an undetermined period starting in 1763; there is no information as to his further education. Indeed, there seems to be no further record of him until 1775, when the Massachusetts Committee of Safety appointed him to take care of medical stores and the Provincial Congress named him “medical commissary and apothecary for the Massachusetts army.” This and his subsequent activity in the Continental army suggest that he had had some background in pharmacy or the wholesale drug business. There is nothing known of Craigie’s background or later activity that would warrant the appellation “Doctor” frequently accorded him....

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Croghan, George (?–31 August 1782), Indian agent and land speculator, was born in Dublin, Ireland. Croghan’s early life is obscure. Scholars do not know who George Croghan’s parents were, or even the name of his European wife. We do know that he had one European daughter, Susannah, and at least one daughter from a union with a Mohawk woman. In 1741 Croghan immigrated to Pennsylvania, where he entered the fur trade. Between 1741 and 1754 Croghan became one of the most successful fur traders in Pennsylvania because he refused to wait for the Indians to bring their furs to his trading post. Instead he emulated French traders and traded with the Indians at their villages. During this time Croghan came to appreciate his Indian trading partners and their society. His letters are filled with defenses of Indian society. He learned their languages (he knew Delaware and at least one of the Six Nations’ languages, probably Mohawk) and their customs....

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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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Dexter, Andrew, Jr. (28 March 1779–02 November 1837), attorney, financier, real estate speculator, and swindler, was the eldest child of Andrew Dexter, a Boston dry goods merchant, and Mary Newton. He was born in Brookfield, Massachusetts, where his parents had fled during the British siege of Boston, and grew up in Providence, Rhode Island. Dexter graduated from Rhode Island College (later Brown University) in 1798. His salutatory address expressed the heady combination of reverence for the leaders of the Revolution, anxiety about the future, and soaring ambition that marked the Revolutionary generation....

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Donelson, John (c. 1718–1725–11 April 1786), land speculator and explorer, was born in Somerset County, Maryland, the son of John Donelson, a merchant and seaman, and Catherine Davis. Following his father’s death in 1736, Donelson entered the shipbuilding business. He then migrated to Virginia in 1743, settling near the town of Pastoria in what was Accomack County. About that time he married Rachael Stokely, daughter of prominent landowner and member of the House of Burgesses Alexander Stokely. They had eleven children; the tenth, Rachel ( ...

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Duer, William (18 March 1743–07 May 1799), businessman and politician, was born in Devonshire, England, the son of John Duer, a wealthy squire, and Frances Frye. After graduating from Eton, Duer joined the British army and traveled to India, where he later served as secretary to Lord Clive, governor-general of the East India Company. Duer soon fell ill, however, and returned to England. His father’s subsequent death left him in possession of a large inheritance, which included an estate in the West Indies. By 1768 Duer was actively managing his estate and trading with prominent businessmen in New York, including ...

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Fisk, James (01 April 1834–07 January 1872), financial speculator, was born in Pownal, Vermont, the son of James Fisk, a country peddler; his mother’s name is unknown. He was four years old when his mother died and his father moved to Brattleboro and married Love B. Ryan. He left school at age twelve to accompany his father on peddling trips, became a waiter two years later when his father built a temperance hotel, and joined the Van Amberg Circus as a roustabout and ticketseller when he was fifteen. Returning home at age eighteen, he reorganized his father’s peddling business and married Lucy Moore in 1854. They had no children....

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Fitch, James (02 August 1649–10 November 1727), Connecticut land speculator and magistrate, was born in Saybrook, Connecticut, the son of the Reverend James Fitch and Abigail Whitfield. In 1659 his father led a group of people to settle the town of Norwich, situated where the Quinebaug and Shetucket rivers combine to form the Thames. Fitch was raised largely on the frontier in close proximity to the Indians, with whom his father had numerous contacts. He gained knowledge of the unsettled lands in eastern Connecticut and learned to manipulate the Native Americans who controlled them. Fitch served in ...

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Garey, Thomas Andrew (07 July 1830–20 August 1909), citriculturist and land developer, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Samuel Garey, a physician, and Margaret Wringer. Little is known about his childhood, except that his family lived in Hagerstown, Maryland, for several years, eventually moving to Iowa in 1847. By age twenty Garey was living in Independence, Missouri, at which time he left with a group of travelers bound for California. In the fall of 1850, however, Garey abandoned the group in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when he met Louise Josephine Smith, whom he married on 27 October 1850. The couple had seven children who survived infancy....

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Gilpin, William (04 October 1815–19 January 1894), geopolitician, soldier, and land speculator, was born in New Castle County, Delaware, the son of Joshua Gilpin, a manufacturer of fine paper, and Mary Dilworth. He was educated at home until age thirteen, when he was sent to Settle, England, for preparatory school. Two years later he returned home, and after an examination, he was admitted to the University of Pennsylvania as a junior. He received his A.B. in 1833 at the age of eighteen....

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Greene, William Cornell (26 August 1853–05 August 1911), rancher, mineowner, and investor, was born at Duck Creek, Wisconsin, the son of Townsend Greene and Eleanor Cornell, farmers. His father died when William was very young, leaving his mother apparently little choice but to split up the family of two sons and two daughters. As a result, Greene was brought up by his great aunt in Chappaqua, New York. He apparently obtained a decent education, given the standards of that day, then moved to New York at age seventeen to begin his business career as a clerk in a tea store. In 1872 Greene moved west, apparently working in the Dakotas, then in Texas, and finally drifting to Arizona, where he became a prospector in the Bradshaw Mining District in 1877. He was then twenty-four years old, brave to a fault, given to gambling, short in temper, and modest of means....

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Hagar, Jonathan (1714–06 November 1775), land speculator, assemblyman, and town developer, was born in the duchy of Westphalia, Germany; the names of his parents are unknown. Hagar (also spelled Hager) arrived as a freeman in Philadelphia from Rotterdam on the ship Harle on 1 September 1736, at the age of twenty-two. He was one of the many German-speaking settlers who began to migrate to the western areas of Maryland in the 1730s and 1740s. While most of these settlers first spent a few years in eastern Pennsylvania (sometimes as indentured servants to pay for their passage), high land prices in that settled land forced new arrivals to establish their own homes farther west and south....

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Harvey, Coin (16 August 1851–11 February 1936), economic reformer, lawyer, and real estate investor, was born William Hope Harvey in Buffalo, West Virginia, the son of Robert Trigg Harvey and Anna Maria Hope, farmers. After two years at a local academy, he entered Marshall College in nearby Huntington but remained there only a few months. He then began to study law on his own while supporting himself by teaching school. After being admitted to the West Virginia bar, he practiced law, first in Barboursville (1870–1874), then with his brother in Huntington for two years, then in Cleveland, Ohio. He married Anna R. Halliday in 1876; they had four children. In 1879 they moved to Chicago and two years later to Gallipolis, Ohio, where Harvey served as attorney for several wholesale firms....

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Henderson, Richard (20 April 1735–30 January 1785), land speculator, judge, and politician, was born in Hanover County, Virginia, the son of Samuel Henderson and Elizabeth Williams. Samuel Henderson, who had served for a time as sheriff of Hanover County, moved his family to North Carolina around 1742 and settled on Nutbush Creek in Granville County; within a few years he became sheriff. Little is known of Richard Henderson’s childhood, but it must have been a happy one. Under the watchful eye of his mother his education was guided toward a law career. He studied under a private tutor before getting his first job as a deputy sheriff under his father. He then read law under John Williams, his mother’s cousin and a gifted attorney who became a lifelong friend. After being admitted to the bar, Henderson joined Williams in law practice. Their association grew closer after 1763, when Henderson married Elizabeth Keeling, Williams’s stepdaughter who was the daughter of an English peer, Lord Keeling. They had six children....

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David Hunter. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1820).

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Hunter, David (21 July 1802–02 February 1886), soldier and businessman, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Andrew Hunter, a minister, and Mary Stockton. His maternal grandfather was Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. David entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1818 and graduated with the class of 1822. He served on the American frontier and was stationed at Fort Dearborn, now the city of Chicago, from 1828 until 1831. He married Maria Indiana Kinzie, the daughter of Chicago’s first permanent white resident, John Kinzie. Hunter resigned his army commission in 1836 and pursued business interests, engaging in land speculation in and around Chicago. His efforts in civilian life were not sufficiently rewarding, so he applied for a restoration of his army commission. His application was accepted, and in 1842 he was made a paymaster with the rank of major. For the next eighteen years he served at various frontier posts....

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Imlay, Gilbert (09 February 1754–20 November 1828), speculator and author, was born probably in Monmouth County, New Jersey, the son of Peter Imlay, a landowner. His mother’s name is not known, and only segments of his life appear in the historical record. He served as a lieutenant and paymaster in a Continental regiment in 1777–1778, subsequently assuming the title of captain. In 1783 he began acquiring paper claims to tens of thousands of acres in Kentucky. In those dealings Imlay, who also became a deputy county surveyor, associated with notable inhabitants of the western country such as ...

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Johnson, Sir William (1715–11 July 1774), merchant, land speculator, and royal official among the Iroquois Indians, was born in County Meath, Ireland, the son of Christopher Johnson and Anne Warren, members of the gentry. William’s mother provided the family connections that started her son on the way to fortune. Her brother, Vice Admiral ...