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Coram, Thomas (1668–29 March 1751), philanthropist and colony promoter, was born in the Dorsetshire coast village of Lyme Regis, England, the son of John Coram, a mariner, and Spes (maiden name unknown). Coram was primarily self-educated. He went to sea from age eleven to sixteen and was then apprenticed to a shipwright. Coram’s steady rise from humble birth to prominent merchant was due to his great vigor, ambition, and trustworthiness. In 1694 a group of London merchants sent him to Boston as head of a team of shipwrights in order to establish a shipyard. The new governor, ...

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Hastings, Serranus Clinton (22 November 1814–18 February 1893), jurist, politician, educational philanthropist, and real estate magnate, was born near Watertown, Jefferson County, New York, the son of Robert Collins Hastings, a farmer, and Patience Brayton, who was from an early settler family in western New York. Robert Hastings, a Bostonian, saw action in the War of 1812 as a militia officer during the several attacks on the U.S. Naval Station at Sackets Harbor on Lake Ontario. Serranus attended Gouverneur Academy for six years, taught by graduates of the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution in a strenuously moral classicism acceptable to Baptist tenets. He instituted that learning, aged twenty, as principal of the Norwich Academy, Chenango, New York. Within a year, however, he began the westward trek that brought him first to Lawrenceburg, southeastern Indiana, in 1835, to study law with two prominent lawyers there, meanwhile editing the ...

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Lafon, Thomy (28 December 1810–22 December 1893), real estate broker and philanthropist, was born a free person of color in New Orleans, the son of Modeste Foucher (of Haitian descent) and perhaps Pierre Laralde, who might have been a Caucasian born in France or a free person of color born in Louisiana. Although Thomy Lafon was a devout Roman Catholic, no baptismal record has been found, and there is no birth record. He probably took the name Lafon from Barthélémy Lafon, a prominent architect, engineer, and city planner, who was born in Villepinte, France, and took up permanent residence in New Orleans in 1789 or 1790. The connection between Thomy Lafon and Barthélémy Lafon is still unclear; there was a relationship, however, between the elder Lafon and Thomy Lafon’s mother....

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Newberry, Walter Loomis (18 September 1804–06 November 1868), real estate investor, was born in East (now South) Windsor, Connecticut, the son of Amasa Newberry and Ruth Warner, wealthy farmers. When Newberry was less than a year old, the family moved to Oneida County, New York, and he attended school in nearby Clinton. His mother died when he was eleven, but he managed to complete his secondary education. After graduation he received an appointment to West Point but failed the physical and returned home. Newberry went to work for his brother, Oliver, a shipbuilder and merchant in Buffalo, New York. Oliver also owned a dry-goods store in Detroit, where his younger brother went to work in 1830. Two years later voters elected Walter Newberry to the Detroit City Council, but a fire destroyed the store that same year and the brothers moved to Chicago in 1833....

Article

Wadsworth, James (20 April 1768–07 June 1844), pioneer settler, philanthropist, and educational reformer, was born in Durham, Connecticut, the son of John Noyes Wadsworth, a farmer, justice of the peace, and constable, and Esther Parsons. Shortly after graduation from Yale College in 1787, James and his brother William were encouraged by their cousin Colonel ...