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Hutchinson, Thomas (09 September 1711–03 June 1780), colonial historian, royal official, and Loyalist refugee, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Colonel Thomas Hutchinson and Sarah Foster, both children of Boston merchants. He grew up in one of the finest mansions in Boston, plain in style but filled with busts of classical and British figures and pictures of historic events such as the destruction of the Spanish Armada. Preferring reading history to playing with other children, Thomas became absorbed in the history of England and New England and admired Charles I. He attended North Grammar School and at the age of twelve entered Harvard, where his family’s social standing entitled him to be ranked third in his class. In 1734 he married Margaret Sanford, daughter of a wealthy Rhode Island merchant and governor, and thereupon became linked by family ties and affection to ...

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Ramsay, David (02 April 1749–08 May 1815), historian and politician, was born in Drumore Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the son of James Ramsay and Jane Montgomery, Protestant Irish immigrant farmers. Ramsay graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1765 and received medical training at the College of Philadelphia (1770–1773) under the tutelage of ...

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Smith, John (1580–21 June 1631), colonial governor, promoter, and historian, was born in Willoughby by Alford in Lincolnshire, the son of George Smith, a yeoman, and Alice Rickard. His earliest schooling may have been under Francis Marbury, father of Anne Hutchinson, who was schoolmaster in Alford. Toward the end of his life Smith published an autobiography, one of the first examples of the modern genre, which he titled ...

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John Smith. Illustration from The True Travels, Adventures, and Observations of Captaine John Smith, 1629, depicting Smith's 1607 capture. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99524).

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Smith, Samuel (13 December 1720–13 July 1776), historian and colonial official, was born in Burlington, New Jersey, the son of Richard Smith, an assemblyman and merchant, and Abigail Rapier. The Smiths were a Yorkshire Quaker family, one of whom, Samuel’s great-uncle John, had been granted an original town lot in Burlington by the London Proprietors. As a young man Samuel was associated for a time with his father in the West India Company and lived in Philadelphia as well as Burlington. He settled in Burlington in the family town house and his nearby estate, “Hickory Grove.” In 1741 he married Jane Kirkbride; the couple had four children....

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Strachey, William (1572–1621), historian and secretary of the Virginia Company, was born in Lesnes, England, the son of William Strachey, a draper, and Mary Cooke. He spent his early years in Saffron Walden, Essex. Strachey’s father was a member of an ambitious yeoman family that owned substantial town property. In 1587 he was granted a coat-of-arms, making him a gentleman, a status inherited by his son. His mother came from a family of well-off London merchants. Strachey attended Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1588, and in 1605 he was a member of Gray’s Inn, though he apparently neither took a degree nor practiced law. In 1595 he married Frances Forster; they had two children. After the death of his father’s second wife in 1602 he came into the family property; it was much encumbered and never quite supported him in the life of a gentleman....

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John Winthrop. Oil on canvas, c. 1800. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Winthrop, John (12 January 1588–26 March 1649), first governor and chronicler of Massachusetts-Bay, was born in Edwardstone, Suffolk, England, the son of Adam Winthrop, lord of Groton Manor, and Anne Browne. His early life befitted a scion of the aspiring lesser gentry: matriculation at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1603; marriage in 1605 to Mary Forth (she died in 1615), a wealthy landowner’s sole heiress (shortcircuiting his college career); subsequent advantageous matches to Thomasine Clopton in 1615 (she died a year later) and Margaret Tyndal ( ...