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Chouteau, René Auguste (07 September 1749–24 February 1829), pioneer in the western fur trade and explorer, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he was baptized on 9 September, 1749, the son of René Auguste Chouteau and Marie Thérèse Bourgeois. His father was a French immigrant who operated a tavern in New Orleans. The marriage of his parents broke up shortly after his birth, and his father returned to France. His teenage mother proved herself resourceful and eventually went to live with a prominent fur trader, ...

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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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Phelan, James (02 December 1821–23 December 1892), merchant and entrepreneur, was born near Grantstown, Queen’s County (now County Laois), Ireland, the son of John Phelan and Judith Brophy, farmers. Phelan was brought to America to rejoin his widowed father, who had emigrated in search of greater economic opportunities. James reunited with his two older brothers (John and Michael) and his father in Newark, New Jersey, in 1827. Upon the early business failure of John Phelan, Sr., the three sons ceased attending public school. James entered the retail trade at $5 per month plus his keep....

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Sarpy, Peter A. (03 November 1805–04 January 1865), fur trader and western entrepreneur, was born Pierre Sylvester Grégoire Sarpy in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Grégoire Berold Sarpy, a merchant and fur trader, and Pelagie L’Abadie, who had ties of blood and marriage with the family of ...

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Smith, Peter (15 November 1768–14 April 1837), land speculator, fur trader, and entrepreneur, was born near Tappan, New York, the son of Gerrit P. Smith and Wyntje Lent, the descendants of strongly religious seventeenth-century Dutch immigrants. Smith’s temporal life began well enough. He was in his mid-teens when he accepted his first job clerking for Abraham Herring, a New York City merchant. Smith soon demonstrated his entrepreneurial spirit and a belief in his inherent abilities by opening his own shop, selling books, school and library provisions, canes, and snuffboxes from 1785 until 1788. He also sold theatrical supplies in response to his interest in acting, which he suppressed because of the religious scruples he held throughout his life....

Article

Stearns, Abel (09 February 1798–23 August 1871), California pioneer merchant and ranchero, California pioneer merchant and ranchero, was born in Lunenburg, Massachusetts, the son of Levi Stearns and Elizabeth Goodrich (occupations unknown). When his parents died within three months of each other in 1810, Stearns went to sea and rose from merchant sailor to supercargo before acquiring his own trading schooner in 1822. By then, a failed marriage to Persis (maiden name unknown) between 1817 and 1820 had resulted in the birth of a child in 1819. In the meantime, Stearns traveled to the East and West Indies, China, and South America before abandoning the sea, the United States, and apparently his own child in 1826. Settling in Mexico City, Stearns became a naturalized Mexican citizen in 1828 and moved to Monterey, California, the following year....