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Ethan Allen at Ticonderoga. Reproduction of a painting by E. Percy Moran (1862–1935). Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-96539).

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Allen, Ethan (10 January 1738–12 February 1789), frontier revolutionary leader and author of the first deistic work by an American, was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Allen and Mary Baker, farmers. Allen served briefly in the French and Indian War and in 1762 began operating a productive iron forge in Salisbury, Connecticut. That same year he married Mary Brownson, with whom he would have five children. But Allen’s deism and aggressive personal conduct ruined his early prospects: he was warned out of Salisbury in 1765 and Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1767....

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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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Ballou, Adin (23 April 1803–05 August 1890), Universalist clergyman, reformer, and founder of Hopedale Community, was born in Cumberland, Rhode Island, the son of Ariel Ballou and Edilda Tower, farmers. A largely self-educated preacher, Ballou’s earliest religious experience was Calvinist in nature, and he later recalled the “very solemnizing effect” of the preaching he heard as a youth. At about age eleven, however, Ballou experienced a religious conversion, and a year later he was baptized into a Christian Connection church that emphasized a more enthusiastic and fundamentalist religiosity. Ballou developed a deep interest in religious matters over the next several years and eventually became a self-proclaimed preacher. At age eighteen, in the autumn of 1821, he was received into the fellowship of the Connecticut Christian Conference, a Christian Connection body. In 1822 he married Abigail Sayles; they had two children before Abigail died in 1829....

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Barnwell, John (1671– June 1724), frontier settler and Indian fighter, was the son of Alderman Matthew Barnwell of Dublin, Ireland, and Margaret Carberry. The elder Barnwell was killed in the siege of Derry in 1690 as a captain in James II’s Irish army, which attempted to restore the last Stuart king after the revolution of 1688. The family seat, Archerstown in County Meath, was forfeited as a result of this support of James II against William and Mary....

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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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Blue Jacket (1740?–1808?), Shawnee warrior and diplomat, was probably born in Pennsylvania. Originally called Sepettekenathe (Big Rabbit), he changed his name to Waweyapiersenwa (Whirlpool) before 1778 but was generally known as Blue Jacket. He probably belonged to the Pekowi division of the Shawnee tribe. By 1772 he had become a war chief among the Shawnees of the upper Scioto River, where he had a village on Deer Creek. His influence rested upon his prowess as a warrior and his extensive connections and familiarity with whites....

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Boggs, Lilburn W. (14 December 1796–11 March 1860), governor of Missouri and California pioneer, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of John M. Boggs and Martha Oliver. After graduating from the local public schools at age fifteen, he became a bookkeeper at the Insurance Bank of Kentucky in Lexington. Following the outbreak of the War of 1812, Boggs enlisted with a force of Kentucky volunteers who, under the command of Governor ...

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Joseph Brant. Engraving by J. R. Smith after a painting by George Romney, c. 1776. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-4913).

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Brant, Joseph (1743–24 November 1807), Mohawk chief and captain in the British Indian Department, also known as Thayendanegea, was born while his family was in the Ohio country, the son of Peter Tehowaghwengaraghkwin and Margaret. His father died shortly after Brant’s birth, and he may have had several stepfathers, one of them the influential Brant Canagaraduncka, from whom Joseph Brant took his name. His mother’s family appears to have been prominent in the Mohawk town of Canajoharie. Brant is reputed to have gone to war as part of the Mohawk contingent allied to the British in the French and Indian War. His sister ...

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Brant, Molly (1736–16 April 1796), Mohawk, Loyalist, and Anglican, also known as Mary Brant or Konwatsi tsiaienni, was born either at the Mohawk “castle” of Canajoharie in upper New York or in the Ohio Valley, the daughter of Peter and Margaret, both Mohawks of the Six Nations Confederacy of Iroquois. She was the sister of ...

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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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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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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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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 ...