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Kate Tuttle

James P. Beckwourth, born of mixed-race parentage in Fredericksburg, Virginia, escaped an apprenticeship to a St. Louis, Missouri blacksmith and went west, taking a job with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. He became an experienced trapper and fighter in the sparsely settled western territories. In 1824 the Crow Indian tribe adopted Beckwourth, who then married the daughter of the chief and earned such renown in battle that he was renamed Bloody Arm. Although he left the tribe after several years—and after earning honorary chief status—he continued a lifelong friendship with the Crows.

Criss-crossing the western and southern frontiers, Beckwourth worked as a guide, prospected for gold, served as a United States Army scout during the third Seminole War and was a rider for the Pony Express He also worked with California s Black Franchise League in an effort unsuccessful at the time to repeal a law barring blacks from ...

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

Jeremy Rich

French traveler and travel writer who explored West Africa, was born in 1799 in Mauzé-sur-le-Mignon in the Deux-Sèvres region of France. His family was extremely poor. Caillié’s father had been banished to work as a prisoner rowing on government boats before he was born. His mother died very young. According to his later account of his travels in West Africa, Caillié had dreamed of reaching the fabled trade center of Timbuktu on the banks of the Niger River since he was a child. Whether or not this actually was the case, Caillié did manage to reach the Senegalese town of Saint Louis in 1815 He stayed there for several months and tried to join an English expedition up the Gambia River This project did not work out He then spent some time working on the French Caribbean colony of Guadeloupe but soon returned to Senegal He came back to ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

In 1825 the Paris Société de Géographie offered a prize of 10,000 francs to the first person to visit the legendary city of Tombouctou and return with a description of it. With this challenge they made official an undeclared competition among European Explorers that had already claimed the lives of more than twenty men. Since 1788, explorers had been trying to reach the Sahelian market town, rumored to be the richest in Africa but also one of the most heavily guarded. Only one European, a Scottish explorer named Major Alexander Gordon Laing, had yet entered the fabled city, but he was murdered only days after leaving. However, in 1827 explorer René-Auguste Caillié, born in Mauzé, France, embarked on a journey to Tombouctou that would at last win the prize.

Inspired by the adventures of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719 Caillié had already made two voyages to ...

Article

Born in Annan, Scotland, Hugh Clapperton went to sea at the age of thirteen and later became a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. In 1821 the British Colonial Office sent him, along with explorers Walter Oudney and Dixon Denham, on the Bornu Mission to trace the true course of the Niger River in Africa. They crossed the Sahara from Tripoli, in present-day Libya, and became the first Europeans to see Lake Chad, which Denham set off to explore on his own. From there, Clapperton and Oudney headed west into present-day Nigeria toward Kano, but Oudney died along the way and Clapperton reached it alone. He then traveled on to Sokoto but, detained by local rulers, was unable to find a guide to take him the 240 km (150 mi) to the Niger. He returned briefly to England before coming back to West Africa in 1825 With British ...

Article

Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable's biography combines conjecture and lore with a few established facts. He was probably born in St. Marc, Saint Domingue (present-day Haiti) around 1750 to a French mariner and an African-born slave. He may have been educated in Paris and employed as a sailor during his young adult life. Du Sable entered North America through either Louisiana or French Canada, and first appeared in historical documents in 1779, when a British officer in the Great Lakes region reported that the local trader “Baptist Point de Sable” was “much in the interest of the French.”

The British detained Du Sable for suspected “intercourse with the enemy,” but he soon impressed his captors as a well-educated and highly capable frontiersman. British governor Patrick Sinclair sent Du Sable to the Saint Clair River region to manage trade and serve as a liaison between Native Americans and ...

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

Steven J. Niven

one of the first slaves to enter the Kansas Territory, was born in Madison County, Kentucky. In her narrative dictated to the Scottish American abolitionist James Redpath in 1858, Noll does not name her parents but notes that she, like her mother, a cook, was owned by William Campbell, a prominent landowner, while her father was owned by a man named Barrett, who lived three miles away. Among the other slaves owned by Campbell were Lewis Garrard Clarke and John Milton Clarke, who both later escaped slavery and became prominent abolitionists in Boston in the 1850s. As of 1858 Noll incorrectly believed that Lewis Clarke, upon whom Harriet Beecher Stowe modeled the character George Harris in Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851), had been caught and returned to slavery in Kentucky.

When Noll was fourteen her master moved to Clay County Missouri bringing with him ...

Article

Charles Withers

Scottish physician, botanist, and explorer, was the first European to return safely having observed the west–east course of the River Niger. His significance stems from this geographical accomplishment, from the much reprinted book of his first expedition, Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa, first published in 1799, and from his “heroic” failure and death in 1806, in circumstances that are still unclear, on a further Niger expedition. His second posthumously published work, published in 1815, and drawn from Park’s surviving papers and reports, began the process of Park’s biographical commemoration.

Park was born near Selkirk in Scotland on or about 11 September 1771, the seventh of thirteen children. Park was educated at home, at Selkirk Grammar School, and, from 1789, in the University of Edinburgh, where he studied medicine. In November of 1792 Park was introduced to Sir Joseph Banks by his brother ...