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Bidwell, John (1819-1900), California pioneer, agriculturalist, and politician  

Richard H. Dillon

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....


Calvert, Charles Benedict (1808-1864), politician and agricultural reformer  

Jean Harvey Baker

Calvert, Charles Benedict (23 August 1808–12 May 1864), politician and agricultural reformer, was born at the family plantation, “Riversdale,” in Prince George’s County, Maryland, the son of the Belgian-born heiress Rosalie Eugenia Stier and George Calvert, a lineal descendant of Maryland proprietors. Calvert’s grandfather Benedict was an illegitimate, although acknowledged, son of ...


Dymond, John (1836-1922), planter, publisher, and politician  

Edward L. Lach, Jr.

Dymond, John (03 May 1836–05 March 1922), planter, publisher, and politician, was born in Canada (exact location unrecorded), the son of Richard Dymond, a Methodist minister, and Anne Hawkens. During his early childhood Dymond’s family moved to Zanesville, Ohio, where he was educated in the local public schools and the Zanesville Academy before entering Bartlett’s College, a business school in Cincinnati. Following his graduation from Bartlett’s in 1857 he took a job as a clerk with his father, who had by that time established himself in the mercantile trade. He then toyed with the cotton manufacturing business in partnership with Homer White (trading under the name White & Dymond) before moving to New York City, where, on the eve of the Civil War, he took a job as a traveling salesman with a firm whose name has not survived. He returned to Zanesville on 3 June 1862 to marry Nancy Elizabeth Cassidy; they had six children....


Furnas, Robert Wilkinson (1824-1905), governor and agriculturist  

Jon C. Teaford

Furnas, Robert Wilkinson (05 May 1824–01 June 1905), governor and agriculturist, was born near Troy, Ohio, the son of William Furnas and Martha Jenkins, farmers. Orphaned at the age of eight, Robert lived with his paternal grandfather until he was twelve and then went to work in a general store in Troy. At fourteen he began an apprenticeship with a Troy tinsmith, followed by four years as a printer’s apprentice in Covington, Kentucky. During his childhood, Robert attended school only irregularly, accumulating no more than twelve months of formal schooling....


Garnett, James Mercer (1770-1843), congressman, agricultural reformer, and educator  

Sara B. Bearss

Garnett, James Mercer (08 June 1770–23 April 1843), congressman, agricultural reformer, and educator, was born at “Mount Pleasant” plantation, near present-day Loretto in Essex County, Virginia, the son of planters Muscoe Garnett and Grace Fenton Mercer. He was privately educated, and in 1793 married his first cousin, Mary Eleanor Dick Mercer. The couple had four daughters and four sons....


Hoffmann, Francis Arnold (1822-1903), German-American political leader, businessman, and agricultural writer  

James M. Bergquist

Hoffmann, Francis Arnold (05 June 1822–23 January 1903), German-American political leader, businessman, and agricultural writer, was born in Herford, Westphalia, Prussia, the son of Frederick William Hoffmann, a bookbinder, and Wilhelmina Groppe. Educated at the Gymnasium in Herford, he left home in 1840 to emigrate to the United States. He traveled first to Chicago, where he worked briefly as a hotel porter then took a position as teacher for a German congregation in Addison township, Du Page County, Illinois, west of Chicago. He also led hymns and read sermons in the church services. In 1841 he went to Michigan to study under clergy of the Lutheran Michigan Synod and was ordained. He returned to Addison to serve as pastor and also served other congregations in northeastern Illinois. In 1844 he married Cynthia Gilbert, a native of Ohio. The exact number of their children is unknown; four survived Hoffmann. He acquired citizenship by naturalization in 1846....


Kinloch, Cleland (1760-1823), planter and legislator  

James M. Clifton

Kinloch, Cleland (1760–12 September 1823), planter and legislator, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Francis Kinloch, a planter, and Anna Isabella Cleland, both of Scottish descent. His father’s death left Kinloch a ward of Governor Thomas Boone at age seven. The governor sent him abroad for schooling (which was very rare for South Carolina youths). He studied at Eton College in England and in Rotterdam, Holland, where, intending to be a merchant, he pursued commercial studies. The revolutionary war prevented his returning to the United States until after the South Carolina Confiscation Act of 1782, which fined his estate at 12 percent of its value. He planned to return to England, but the inheritance of his father’s Weehaw Plantation in 1784 led to his choosing the life of a rice planter instead. Subsequently Kinloch expanded Weehaw to 5,000 acres and made a number of major improvements. Apparently he was relieved of the fines, but his factor, John White, was trustee of his 300 slaves as late as 1790. On 15 April 1786 Kinloch married Harriet Simmons, the daughter of Ebenezer Simmons, Jr., and Jane Stanyarne. This union produced one child....


Kolb, Reuben Francis (1839-1918), scientific farmer and leader in the Populist movement  

Glenn T. Eskew

Kolb, Reuben Francis (16 April 1839–23 March 1918), scientific farmer and leader in the Populist movement, was born in Eufaula, Alabama, the son of Davis Cameron Kolb, a merchant and cotton factor, and Emily Frances Shorter. Both of Kolb’s parents died within two years of his birth, and his maternal grandfather, General Reuben C. Shorter, and his uncle, John Gill Shorter, who served as governor during the Civil War, reared him. The public service of his ancestors impressed Reuben Francis. He attended Howard (Samford) College and the University of North Carolina, where he graduated in 1859. In 1860 he married Mary Caledonia Cargile; they had three children....


Ladd, Edwin Fremont (1859-1925), agricultural scientist and U.S. senator  

David B. Danbom

Ladd, Edwin Fremont (13 December 1859–22 June 1925), agricultural scientist and U.S. senator, was born near Starks, Maine, the son of John Ladd and Rosilla Locke, farmers. Reflecting the progressive agricultural notions of his parents, Ladd earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of Maine in 1884. After graduation he was employed as an agricultural chemist at the New York Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva, where he worked under ...


Logan, George (1753-1821), innovative gentleman farmer and politician  

John K. Alexander

Logan, George (09 September 1753–09 April 1821), innovative gentleman farmer and politician, was born at the family estate of “Stenton” near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William Logan, gentleman farmer, and Hannah Emlen. He attended the Friends Public School from age eight to fourteen and continued his education in England from 1768 to 1771. After an apprenticeship to a Philadelphia Quaker merchant, Logan was allowed to pursue medicine and obtained the M.D. from Edinburgh in 1779. Having already become master of Stenton due to the recent demise of his parents, he returned to Philadelphia in 1780. He married Deborah Norris in 1781; they had three sons. Logan actively practiced medicine only briefly. By the mid-1780s he was devoting himself to making Stenton a model, scientific farm. Over time, for example, he conducted and reported on fourteen experiments to determine the best way to rotate crops. In 1793 ...


Lowden, Frank Orren (1861-1943), businessman, governor of Illinois, and agriculturist  

John M. Allswang

Lowden, Frank Orren (26 January 1861–20 March 1943), businessman, governor of Illinois, and agriculturist, was born near the village of Sunrise City, Minnesota, the son of Lorenzo Orren Lowden and Nancy Elizabeth Bregg, and grew up in central Iowa. His father, a restless and independent man, worked as blacksmith and farmer, then studied law while in his forties; he was also somewhat of a rebel and political activist, involved in the Grange and the Democratic and Greenback parties. Lowden studied at rural schools, became a teacher at the age of fourteen, and in 1881 entered the University of Iowa, where he graduated as valedictorian in 1885. He then moved to Chicago, where he studied law at the Union College of Law, graduating in 1887, and landed a position at a major law firm. In 1896 he married Florence Pullman, daughter of the extremely wealthy and powerful industrialist ...


Ruffin, Edmund (1794-1865), agricultural reformer and southern nationalist  

William K. Scarborough

Ruffin, Edmund (05 January 1794–17 June 1865), agricultural reformer and southern nationalist, was born in Prince George County, Virginia, the son of James River planter George Ruffin and Jane Lucas. As a consequence of the early demise of his parents and the absence of siblings near his own age, Ruffin grew up in an atmosphere of emotional isolation. He became a voracious reader, digesting, for example, all of Shakespeare’s plays before reaching the age of eleven. He also developed a fierce sense of independence and a determination to control his own destiny. During these formative years Ruffin was profoundly influenced by Thomas Cocke, who became his legal guardian following the death of his father in 1810 and remained his closest friend for the next thirty years. Ruffin enrolled in the College of William and Mary shortly before his father’s death but withdrew after little more than a year of study. During his brief residence in Williamsburg, he formed an amorous attachment to a local belle, Susan Hutchings Travis, whom he married in 1813. After six months’ service as a militia private during the War of 1812, Ruffin returned home to claim his inheritance, a 1,600-acre farm at Coggin’s Point on the south side of the James River, bequeathed to him by his grandfather. There, in company with the bride who would bear him eleven children within a span of eighteen years, Ruffin embarked upon a career as a gentleman-farmer....


Cover Ruffin, Edmund (1794-1865)
Edmund Ruffin. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-123816).


Strong, Harriet Williams Russell (1844-1926), agribusinesswoman, inventor, and engineer  

Sara Alpern

Strong, Harriet Williams Russell (23 July 1844–16 September 1926), agribusinesswoman, inventor, and engineer, was born in Buffalo, New York, the daughter of Henry Pierrepont Russell and Mary Guest Musier. Her family moved to California in the 1850s, and Harriet attended the Mary Atkins...


Taylor, John (1753-1824), agricultural reformer and political philosopher  

Robert E. Shalhope

Taylor, John (19 December 1753–21 August 1824), agricultural reformer and political philosopher, , known as John Taylor of Caroline, was born probably in Caroline County, Virginia, the son of James Taylor and Ann Pollard, tobacco planters. At age six he went to live with his uncle ...


Tilton, James (1745-1822), physician, politician, and agriculturist  

John A. Munroe

Tilton, James (01 June 1745–14 May 1822), physician, politician, and agriculturist, was born in Duck Creek Hundred, Kent County, Delaware, the son of John Tilton, a farmer, and Comfort Roades. His father died when James was three. Seven years later his mother remarried, and he was sent to the school of the Reverend ...


Wallace, Henry Agard (1888-1965), agriculturist, secretary of agriculture, and vice president of the United States  

Richard S. Kirkendall

Wallace, Henry Agard (07 October 1888–18 November 1965), agriculturist, secretary of agriculture, and vice president of the United States, was born on a farm in Adair County, Iowa, the son of Henry Cantwell Wallace and May Brodhead. In 1895, Wallace’s father and grandfather, ...


Ward, Joshua John (1800-1853), planter and legislator  

James M. Clifton

Ward, Joshua John (24 November 1800–27 February 1853), planter and legislator, was born in All Saints Parish (Georgetown District), South Carolina, the son of Joshua Ward, a planter, and Elizabeth Cook. He grew up in a rice planter’s world on the Waccamaw River and after graduating from South Carolina College began with one plantation (given to him by his father with 100 slaves), proving so successful at rice planting that he eventually became (with the exception of ...