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Abraham  

Kenny A. Franks

also known as “Prophet,” was a runaway slave who became a prominent leader among the Seminole. Nothing is known about his parents or childhood. Fleeing his master, Abraham escaped south into Florida, and was eventually adopted into the Seminole tribe, with whom he enjoyed considerable status. In 1826 he accompanied a tribal delegation to Washington, D.C., and became an influential counselor to Micanopy, a leading Seminole leader. The Seminole, or Florida Indians, once were a part both of the Muskogee (Creek) nation that had been driven out of Georgia by the early English colonists, and also of the Oconee and Yamasee tribes that had been driven out of the Carolinas following the Yamasee uprising of 1715. They had first settled among the Lower Creeks in the Florida Panhandle and created a haven for runaway slaves. Indeed, Semino'le is the Creek word for “runaway.”

In 1818Andrew Jackson led ...

Article

M. W. Daly

British adventurer, explorer, and administrator, was born in London to Samuel Baker, a businessman, and his wife. Educated in England and Germany, and a civil engineer by training, he played a notable role in the history of the Upper Nile in the 1860s. His varied and peripatetic life as a planter, big-game hunter, writer, and controversialist may be studied in his extensive writings and the enormous literature on European travel in Africa.

His work in Africa began in 1861–1865 with explorations in the eastern Sudan, up the White Nile, (where he met James Augustus Grant and John Hanning Speke), and beyond to the Great Lakes. Credit for discovery of the source of the Nile has gone to Grant and Speke; Baker, famously accompanied by his second wife, Florence, explored and named Lake Albert Nyanza. For these adventures, embellished in several books, Baker was much acclaimed, and in 1869 as ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

mountain man, fur trapper and trader, scout, translator, and explorer, was born James Pierson Beckwith in Frederick County, Virginia, the son of Sir Jennings Beckwith, a white Revolutionary War veteran and the descendant of minor Irish aristocrats who became prominent Virginians. Little is known about Jim's mother, a mixed-race slave working in the Beckwith household. Although he was born into slavery, Jim was manumitted by his father in the 1820s. In the early 1800s, Beckwith moved his family, which reputedly included fourteen children, to Missouri, eventually settling in St. Louis. Some commentators suggest that Beckwith, an adventurous outdoorsman, was seeking an environment less hostile to his racially mixed family.

As a young teenager, after four years of schooling, Jim Beckwourth as his name came to be spelled was apprenticed to a blacksmith Unhappy as a tradesman he fled to the newly discovered lead mines in Illinois s Fever ...

Article

Elizabeth Mitchell

slave and guide, achieved fame in the decades preceding the Civil War. Nothing is known of his parents or early life, but it is known that Bishop was a slave belonging to Kentucky lawyer Franklin Gorin, who in the 1830s purchased Mammoth Cave for $5,000. Previous cave guides had been local white men, but Gorin either saw something promising in the teenaged Bishop or reasoned that he could save money by training a slave to do the same work. Either way, beginning in the spring of 1838 Bishop received training from the previous guide and quickly took to the job, learning the several miles of trail and numerous pits, rock formations, and other attractions of his underground place of employment.

Bishop was allowed to spend many hours exploring the cave on his own. In the fall of 1838 he penetrated a confusing maze of trails known as the ...

Article

Maria Elena Raymond

former slave, western pioneer, church founder, businesswoman, and philanthropist, was born in Gallatin, Tennessee—some sources offer a birth date of 1800—and at the age of three was sold with her mother to a planter in Virginia. There, at the age of eighteen, she married a slave named Richard and had several children. When her owner, Ambrose Smith, died in 1835Clara and her children were auctioned off to different slaveholders. Her daughter Margaret was sold to a slaveholder in Kentucky and reportedly died a few years later. Clara lost contact with her son Richard, who was sold repeatedly. Another daughter, Eliza Jane, was sold to a James Covington, also in Kentucky.Clara was sold again at auction, this time to a Kentucky slaveholder named George Brown a merchant and for the next two decades served the Brown family as a house slave During this ...

Article

Richard C. Lindberg

explorer and merchant, was born in San Marc, Haiti, the son of a slave woman (name unknown) and Dandonneau (first name unknown), scion of a prominent French Canadian family active in the North American fur trade. Surviving historical journals record the name of Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable (Pointe au Sable by some accounts), a Haitian of mixed-race ancestry, as the first permanent settler of Chicago. In her 1856 memoir of frontier life in the emerging Northwest Territory, Juliette Kinzie, the wife of the fur trader John Kinzie makes note of the fact that the first white man who settled here was a Negro Several of the voyageurs and commercial men who regularly traversed the shores of southern Lake Michigan in the last decade of the eighteenth century kept accurate records of their encounters in journals and ledger books One such entry describes du Sable as a ...

Article

Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable is reputed to be the founder of Chicago because he was the first non–Native American to build a home on the future site of the city. As an enterprising free black man on the Revolutionary frontier, Du Sable has become a symbolic figure of great importance to the modern-day African American community, especially in Chicago. The lack of much concrete evidence about his life seems only to enhance his mythic importance as a pioneering black settler and prominent frontiersman. Documents composed by English speakers spell his name variously as “Au Sable,” “Point Sable,” “Sabre,” and “Pointe de Saible.”

Du Sable s birth date is not known It is thought that he was born in the town of Saint Marc on the island of Saint Domingue in what later became the first free black republic in the Americas Haiti At the time of his birth Saint ...

Article

Esteban  

Dedra McDonald Birzer

explorer, enslaved North African, and the first representative of the so-called Old World to encounter peoples of today's American Southwest, was born in Azamor, Morocco. His career as an explorer began in 1528 with the journey to Florida of Pánfilo de Narváez.

This initial Spanish exploration of Florida ended in disaster. The Narváez expedition included four hundred men sailing on five ships. They departed Havana, Cuba, in April 1528 and reached present-day Tampa Bay on 1 May. There Narváez split his forces, ordering the ships to sail along the coast while he marched inward with three hundred men, searching for a fabled city of gold and its attendant riches. A series of attacks by natives reduced the Spanish forces, but they continued their explorations, reaching Apalachen, principal settlement of the Apalachee people (located near present-day Tallahassee) by July 1528 Overwhelmed by native forces defended by highly ...

Article

Kelli Cardenas Walsh

The story of Mary Fields is one of race, gender, and age. She was the antithesis of the nineteenth-century Victorian image of womanhood. In an age of domesticity, Fields lived a frontier life dependent upon no one and uninhibited by Jim Crow.

A former slave, in freedom Fields became an independent, gunslinging, liquor-drinking woman in the untamed frontier of Montana. She stood six feet tall and was stout. Details about the early life of Mary Fields are sparse, other than that she was born into slavery in 1832. Judge Dunn in Hickman County, Tennessee, owned Fields and presumably owned her family. She was befriended by her master’s daughter, Dolly, and remained with the family after Emancipation.

Once she left the Dunn family Fields spent an unspecified time in Ohio and along the Mississippi River During this time Dolly joined a convent of Ursuline nuns taking the name of ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Portuguese explorer who helped open up European commercial links to both western and eastern Africa, was born sometime between 1460 and 1469. He probably was born at Sines, a town on the southwestern coast of Portugal. His father was Estêvão da Gama, a knight in the court of the Duke of Viseu. Da Gama’s mother was Isabel Sodré, a woman of noble descent. It is a paradox that so little is known of da Gama’s life, given his fame as the first Portuguese sea captain to reach India. Since da Gama was a younger son, he may have entered Atlantic exploration to make up for losing out on his father’s inheritance.

At some point da Gama became an agent of King João II of Portugal who sought to promote Atlantic trade and exploration like his more famous predecessor Henry the Navigator Gama joined the Order of Santiago a brotherhood ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

Arctic explorer, was born in Charles County, Maryland, to Lemuel Henson, a sharecropper, and his wife, Caroline Gaines. As best as can be determined from the conflicting accounts of his life, Matthew's mother, Caroline, died when he was just two years old. His father then married Nellie, a neighbor with whom he already had a child. A few years later Lemuel died, leaving Matthew in the care of his abusive stepmother. Shortly after his eleventh birthday, Matthew left his five siblings and fled to Washington, D.C., where he worked for food and lodging at a restaurant owned by Janey Moore, whom he called “Aunt Janey.” He may have attended the N Street School in Washington before a seaman known as Baltimore Jack captured his imagination with tales of adventure upon the high seas.

At age twelve Henson signed on as cabin boy on the Katie ...

Article

Sandy Dwayne Martin

lay preacher, itinerant minister, early Methodist leader and guide, was born a slave, perhaps in the area of Fayetteville, North Carolina. There have been variations of his last name circulating throughout history: Hoosier, Hossier, and Hoshier in particular. Apparently he was often called “Black Harry” because of his purely African lineage. Little is known about his early life, his parentage or his family, and there is no record of the exact month and day of his death. He may have been enslaved by a Henry (or Harry) Dorset Gough in the Baltimore area.Hosier's tremendous power as a preacher, however, is well documented, beginning around 1780. Hosier preached in the Carolinas, the Middle Colonies and into the New England area. His fame as a circuit preacher emerged alongside several luminaries of early Methodism: Francis Asbury, Freeborn Garretson, Thomas Coke, Jesse Lee, Richard ...

Article

Margaret Blair Young

was born a slave in Mississippi and became a successful homesteader in Idaho after the Civil War. Records of Leggroan's birth year differ, some listing it as 1840 and others as 1856. His wife, Susan Leggroan, claimed that he was about twenty-five years old when they married, just after the Civil War ended. Given this information, his birth year was most likely 1840. In addition Leggroan's grave lists his date of death as 1 February 1926.

The couple came west with Ned's sister, Amanda Leggroan Chambers, and her husband Samuel. After arriving in Salt Lake City, the Leggroans were baptized into the Latter-day Saints religion. They began farming in Salt Lake and subsequently moved to Milo, Idaho, where they settled on a homestead ranch.

They were among a handful of blacks in that area which is why Leggroan is significant Only a few blacks ventured to the ...

Article

Lynn Hudson

Mary Ellen Pleasant arrived in San Francisco during the Gold Rush, probably sometime in 1852. For the next fifty years, she worked as cook, accountant, abolitionist, and entrepreneur in the bustling town on the bay. Histories of the West describe her as madam, voodoo queen, and prostitute. Pleasant herself requested that the words “she was a friend of John Brown’s” be printed on her gravestone, indicating her own desire to be remembered as an abolitionist. She was the target of what one historian has called an “avid conspiracy” that sought to silence her, and it was said that she harbored the skeletons of San Francisco’s elite in her closet.

The folklore about Pleasant reveals conflicting stories of her background (some say she was from Georgia, others Virginia), but Pleasant herself claimed she was born in Philadelphia She described her mother as a free colored woman and her ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

explorer and representative of Leopold II of Belgium’s efforts to build a Central African empire, was born with the name John Rowlands on 28 January 1841 in Denbigh, Wales. He came from an impoverished background. His mother, Elizabeth Parry, was nineteen years old and unmarried, and there is some debate over who his father may have been. While Stanley believed his father was an alcoholic named Rowlands, a lawyer named James Vaughan Horne may have actually been his father. In any event, his mother left Henry in the care of his grandfather, but his death in 1846 resulted in the boy’s placement in a workhouse for abandoned children and poor people. He only met his mother in 1850 Extremely bitter about his extended family s unwillingness to treat him as one of their own as well as the physical and psychological abuse he experienced in the workhouse Stanley graduated ...