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Allen, Ira (01 May 1751–15 January 1814), frontier entrepreneur and Vermont political leader, was born in Cornwall, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Allen and Mary Baker, farmers. Little is known of his youth, but in 1770 he followed his five elder brothers north to the New Hampshire Grants region and joined the Yankee versus Yorker struggle, which stemmed from the 1764 Crown decree that New York rather than New Hampshire owned the area that would become Vermont. While brother ...

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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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Benton, Thomas Hart, Jr. (05 September 1816–10 April 1879), frontier educator and legislator, was born in Williamson County, Tennessee, the son of Samuel Benton, a congressman. His mother’s name is unknown. His uncle and namesake practiced law as an associate of Andrew Jackson...

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Bidwell, John (05 August 1819–04 April 1900), California pioneer, agriculturalist, and politician, was born on a farm in Chautauqua County, New York, the son of Abram Bidwell and Clarissa Griggs, farmers. The family moved to Pennsylvania and then Ohio. John was bookish, although he had only three winter months of schooling each year, at best. But he walked 300 miles to attend Kingsville Academy in 1836 and, after a year, was elected its principal. He returned home to teach, then went to Missouri to farm. There, a western trader told him of fertile California, a land of perpetual spring. So he helped organize a western emigration society....

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Burleson, Edward (15 December 1798–26 December 1851), frontiersman and vice president of the Republic of Texas, was born in Buncombe County, North Carolina, the son of James Burleson and Elizabeth Shipman, a couple who never lived in the same place for more than ten years and never settled on cleared land. During Burleson’s youth, his family gained a reputation as American Indian fighters in eastern Tennessee and northern Alabama, and he became part of that tradition by serving as a fifteen-year-old volunteer with ...

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Campbell, Arthur (03 November 1743–08 August 1811), frontiersman, soldier, and politician, was born in Augusta County, Virginia, the son of David Campbell and Mary Hamilton, immigrant Scotch-Irish Presbyterian farmers. He was not quite fifteen when, during the French and Indian War, he joined a company of Virginia rangers stationed in western Augusta County. At Fort Young on the Jackson River in September 1758, Campbell was captured by Wyandot Indians and spent two years in captivity in the vicinity of Detroit before escaping....

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Castiglioni, Luigi (03 October 1757–22 April 1832), naturalist, author, and politician, was born in Milan, Italy, the son of Count Ottavio Castiglioni and Teresa Verri, both of distinguished families. In childhood, after the death of his father, Castiglioni and his older brother, Alfonso, were adopted by their mother’s brother, Pietro Verri, whose political ideas and writings placed him and his brother, Alessandro, among the central figures of the Italian Enlightenment. Although Verri provided his nephews with material comfort and intellectual guidance, their relationship was sometimes contentious....

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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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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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John C. Frémont. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-107503).

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Frémont, John Charles (21 January 1813–13 July 1890), explorer and presidential candidate, was born in Savannah, Georgia, the son of Jean Charles Fremon, a French émigré teacher, and Anne Beverley Whiting Pryor, a Virginia woman of patrician birth who left her elderly husband in 1811 to run away with Fremon. The couple, who apparently never married, moved frequently, living for a period in Savannah, where Jean Charles gave French and dancing lessons, and Anne took in boarders. In 1818 Jean Charles Fremon died, and the family, which by then included several younger children, eventually settled in Charleston, South Carolina, to a life of genteel poverty. The social and economic insecurity of his situation profoundly influenced Frémont. He grew up an outsider—proud, reserved, cautious in sharing his feelings, skeptical of rules and authority, and eager, at times to the point of recklessness, to prove himself....

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Hathorne, William (1607– April 1681), developer of Salem, Massachusetts, and progenitor of the Ha(w)thorne family in America, developer of Salem, Massachusetts, and progenitor of the Ha(w)thorne family in America, was born in Bray, Berkshire, England, the son of William Hathorne, a yeoman, and Sarah (full name unknown). Little is known of his early years except that he received more education than was usual for one of his family’s standing and grew up in relatively comfortable surroundings. As a young man of eighteen or nineteen, he was converted to Puritanism and, soon after, announced that he intended to migrate to New England. His close friend Richard Davenport, betrothed to Hathorne’s sister Elizabeth Hathorne, left for America in 1628 with the understanding that William and his sister would soon follow. When the Hathornes reached New England is unclear. Probably they arrived after 1630 and no later than the fall of 1633....

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Kawananakoa, Abigail Wahiikaahuula Campbell (01 January 1882–12 April 1945), politician, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, the daughter of James Campbell, a millionaire financier, landowner, and businessman, and Abigail Kuaihelani Maipinepine Bright. Her mother was a member of a part-native Hawaiian family from Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii. Her father was an immigrant from Derry, Ireland. Kawananakoa was educated at private schools in Honolulu. She then went to San Jose, California, where her father had business interests. Kawananakoa attended San Jose’s College of Notre Dame, a Roman Catholic convent, from which she graduated in 1900....

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Menard, Pierre (07 October 1766–13 June 1844), frontier trader, merchant, and politician, was born at St. Antoine, Quebec, Canada, the son of Jean Baptiste Menard, a French-born merchant, and Marie Françoise Cirée, a Canadian. He had a common school education. Following in the footsteps of his father, who had supported the American side in the American Revolution and served in the American army, Menard, at age twenty-one, moved from Quebec to find opportunities on the American frontier as a trader or merchant. Rather than following those among the French Canadians who, in response to the Treaty of Paris, tried to continue trading under British control and protection in the western Great Lakes and the Mississippi River valley, Menard moved to Vincennes, Indiana, around 1787 and actively sided with the Americans in their relations with the British and Indians. Menard was employed by Colonel François Vigo ( ...

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Nairne, Thomas (?–18 April 1715), South Carolina political leader and explorer of the colonial Southeast, was a native Scot who emigrated to South Carolina prior to 1695. At Charles Town Nairne married Elizabeth Edwards Quintyne (b. 1658), a Scot and widow of Richard Quintyne, a Barbadian settler of Carolina. Through land grants and his wife’s inheritance Nairne established a plantation on St. Helena Island, south of Charles Town. In addition to his political and planting activities, Nairne was a magistrate, surveyor, admiralty judge, and provincial Indian agent. In 1702 he led neighboring Yamasee Indians on a slave-catching raid to Florida. He then sold captured Indians in Charles Town....

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Edward James Roye. Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society.

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Roye, Edward James (03 February 1815–28 October 1871), fifth president of the Republic of Liberia, was born in Newark, Ohio, the son of John Roye, a wealthy merchant. His mother’s name is unknown. His father died in 1829, leaving some personal property and land to Roye. He went to public schools in Ohio, attended Oberlin College, and taught for a few years in Chillicothe. He also tried his hand as a sheep trader and shopkeeper in various parts of the Middle West. After his mother died in 1840, he was influenced by the emigration movement to escape American prejudice. He rejected Haiti and instead went to Liberia in 1846 when an independent republic was proclaimed, taking with him a stock of goods....