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Abel [Able], Elijah  

John G. Turner

Latter-day Saint elder and Utah pioneer, was born in northern Maryland to Andrew Abel and Delila Williams. Abel left the area as a young man. Little is known of his early life; it is unclear whether he was born enslaved or free. One later census identified Abel as a “quadroon,” but others listed him as “Black” or “Mulatto.”

In 1832, Abel was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and soon gathered with the Mormons in Kirtland, Ohio. In 1836, he was ordained to the church's Melchizedek or higher priesthood, making him one of a very small number of African American men to “hold the priesthood” during the church's early years. An expectation for all righteous adult male members of the church, priesthood meant the possibility of leadership positions and the authority to perform ordinances. In December 1836 Abel had become a ...

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Anderson, Benjamin Joseph Knight  

Jeremy Rich

was born in Baltimore, Maryland. His father was Israel Anderson and his mother was Henrietta Anderson. Though he planned on writing a study of trigonometry later in his life, Anderson appears to have attended only primary school in Baltimore. He faced harassment and physical abuse in school because of his race. Anderson also worked at a brickyard prior to moving to Liberia.

Henrietta Anderson decided to move to Liberia, and Anderson accompanied her and another woman (perhaps his sister) aboard the ship Liberia Packet to Monrovia in early 1852. Anderson stayed in Monrovia for over ten years after his arrival. He first became an apprentice to the accountant Ashbury Johns. Anderson also served in the Liberian militia, and reached the rank of ensign. Pan-Africanist intellectual Edward Wilmot Blyden met Anderson during an 1856 expedition to put down a rebellion by Kru people in southern Liberia For the rest ...

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Anderson, William Spencer  

Jeremy Rich

was born in the state of Delaware in the United States in 1833. Not much is available about Anderson’s early life. He was from a free black family and was a barber in Burlington, New Jersey, prior to moving to Africa. Barbering was a prosperous occupation for African Americans before the Civil War. He belonged to the Episcopal Church. In 1853 Anderson moved to the Liberian capital of Monrovia. He soon became a planter. His uncle J. M. Richardson of New York had established an agricultural concession. When Richardson drowned, Anderson inherited the plantation.

Like other aspiring Americo-Liberian entrepreneurs in the mid-nineteenth century, Anderson moved out of Monrovia to establish his agriculture ventures up the Saint Paul River. He wrote an article in 1863 that provided an overview of his successful operation Relying on steam mills to process raw sugar cane Anderson s primary customers were in the ...

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Baikie, William Balfour  

James McCarthy

Scottish explorer, naturalist, surgeon, and philologist who opened up the Niger region to European trade and influence, was born in Kirkwall, Scotland, the eldest son of a Royal Navy captain, John Baikie. He was educated for a time at Kirkwall Grammar School in Orkney, but mainly privately, in company with his cousins. He gained a medical degree from Edinburgh University, where he also developed his interest in natural history. In 1848, together with Robert Heddie, he wrote the first part of a published study of the natural history of Orkney, Historia naturalis Orcadensis. In the same year he joined the Royal Navy as an assistant surgeon, serving on no less than five different ships in the Mediterranean before being appointed in the same capacity to Haslar Hospital, Portsmouth, from 1851 to 1854. It was from here in 1854 that through the patronage of the influential Sir Roderick ...

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Baker, Samuel White  

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

Ballard, John  

Charles Rosenberg

pioneer settler in Los Angeles County, California, in the 1850s, blacksmith, teamster, firewood salesman, and landowner, was born in Kentucky around 1827. Although it is commonly assumed that he had been enslaved there, he arrived in California a free man prior to the Civil War, and nothing has been established about his previous life.

He was married on 6 November 1859 to a woman named Amanda, born in Texas, by Jesse Hamilton, the earliest pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal church, Los Angeles. Their first two children, Dora and Julia, were born in 1857 and 1859. In 1860 the household included a laborer named Juan Jose, recorded by the census as being of Indian ancestry. Another man of African descent, Oscar Smith from Mississippi lived next door and no race was specified for the other neighbors who had either English or Hispanic names ...

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Ballay, Noël Eugène  

Jeremy Rich

was born on 14 July 1847 in the town of Eure et Loir, Centre, France, the son of André Ferdinand Ballay, a somewhat prosperous laborer, and Marie Anne Thérèse Ballay (née Bouvart). He had one brother, Léon, who may have died in infancy. Ballay grew up in a rural setting. He went to Catholic schools for his primary education at Chartres before enrolling in a public secondary school. After he completed his secondary education in 1865 Ballay passed the baccalaureate examination and became a medical student at the Faculté de Medicine in Paris. He served in the French Army during the Franco-Prussian War and returned to his studies after the German victory in 1871. By 1874 Ballay had completed his training and had received an award for his aptitude in medicine.

He also became intrigued by the growing number of European exploratory missions to Africa Learning of Pierre Savorgnan ...

Article

Barth, Heinrich  

Elizabeth Heath

During the mid-nineteenth century, Heinrich Barth traveled widely in northern Africa and the central Sudan and authored some of the earliest and most comprehensive works on North and West African history. The son of a German businessman, Barth earned a degree in classics and linguistics at the University of Berlin. He completed his studies in 1845 and subsequently spent two years traveling in northern Africa, where he perfected his Arabic and kept a detailed diary of his trip. After a disappointing experience teaching in Germany, he accepted an offer to join a British expedition to the central Sudan. At first led by James Richardson, the expedition left Tripoli in 1850. Within a year, however, Richardson died and Barth assumed command. During the next four years, Barth led the group through present-day Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, and Mali and visited all of the major towns ...

Article

Baumann, Oscar  

Jeremy Rich

cartographer, ethnographer, and traveler to Africa, was born in Vienna, then capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the son of Heinrich Baumann, who worked at a bank, and a mother, whose name is not recorded. His family had some Jewish ancestry, which would in 1938 prompt the Nazi government of Austria to destroy a monument erected to celebrate his African exploration. Though his parents do not seem to have been very prosperous, his distant relations in the wealthy von Arnstein banking family paid for his secondary education. Baumann attended primary and secondary schools in Vienna, and at the age of seventeen, joined the Imperial Royal Geographical Society based in the same city. He did some geographical research in Montenegro and began to study geography and geology at the University of Vienna, but in 1885 took a leave of absence from school to join an Austrian expedition to Central ...

Article

Brazza, Pierre Savorgnan de  

Eric Young

After schooling and naval service in France, the Italian-born Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza became a naturalized French citizen in 1874. The following year he led his first official trip to Africa to explore Gabon. From 1875 to 1878 he traveled along the Gabon coast and up the Ogooué River to its source, also reaching the Alima River, a tributary of the Congo River. In 1880, in competition with American journalist and explorer Henry Stanley, Brazza traveled into the Congo River basin interior. There he signed a treaty with leaders of the Téké people, clearing the way for French control of the northern bank of the Congo River, an area that would be known as the Moyen-Congo. He served as general commissioner of the Moyen-Congo from 1884 to 1898, establishing the town that became Brazzaville and building the colonial administration As commissioner Brazza became disenchanted with ...

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Brazza, Pierre Savorgnan de  

Jeremy Rich

French explorer and administrator, was born on 26 January 1852 in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, to the aristocratic family of Ascanio Savorgnan de Brazza and Giacinta Simonetti de Brazza. Although he was born and raised in Italy, he volunteered to join the French navy and became an officer in 1869 and served in Algeria. In 1874, he proposed to the French Minister of the Navy an expedition to travel up the Ogooué River, the longest waterway in Gabon, to see if it eventually reached the Congo River. Although French officials had established a small coastal enclave on the northern Gabonese coast in 1843, the limited budget and personnel of the colony had restricted exploration of the Gabonese interior.

Brazza assembled a collection of several dozen Frenchmen and Senegalese soldiers for this mission His ability to combine intimidation with diplomacy proved very useful as he struggled to convince Adouma Fang ...

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Burton, Richard Francis  

Jeremy Rich

explorer, the son of Colonel Joseph Burton and Martha Beckwith Burton was born on 19 March 1821 in Torquay, Devon, England. As a military officer in the British Army, Joseph Burton traveled regularly, and his son Richard grew up in France and different Italian states. He showed early in life a tremendous gift for learning languages, and he eventually mastered Arabic to the point he regularly passed for an Arab or Persian or an Indian Muslim. Burton was admitted to Oxford University in 1840, but his wild behavior eventually led to his dismissal in 1842. His taste for adventure led him to join the British colonial army in India, and he first visited Africa en route from England via the Cape of Good Hope to Mumbai (Bombay). From 1842 until 1849, Burton mastered Arabic, Farsi, and Hindustani as he served as a British intelligence officer.

Burton ...

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Burton, Sir Richard  

Ari Nave

Sir Richard Burton spoke twenty-five languages and multiple dialects, including Greek, Latin, English, French, Italian, Marathi, Punjab, Arabic, and Hindi. During his travels he observed an enormous range of cultural practices, which he documented in forty-three manuscripts. He also wrote two books of poetry and four volumes of folklore.

Born in Torquay, England, Burton was raised by his English parents primarily in France. He briefly attended Trinity College, Oxford, but was expelled in 1842 for insubordination. He then joined the Bombay army, and served in India (in present-day Pakistan) until 1850. Working as an intelligence officer, Burton learned to impersonate Muslim merchants. His reputation was called into question and his military career cut short, however, when a rival officer spread word that Burton had been investigating homosexual bathhouses in Karachi, failing to divulge that Burton had done so under orders from a senior officer.

After returning to France and ...

Article

Collier, Holt  

Minor Ferris Buchanan

slave, soldier, hunter, guide, and pioneer, was born on Home Hill plantation, Jefferson County, Mississippi, the son of slaves Harrison and Daphne Collier. Little is known of Daphne Collier, although it is believed that she had some Native American ancestry. In 1815Harrison Collier accompanied the famed General Thomas Hinds when he fought alongside General Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812 at the Battle of New Orleans. As house servants the Colliers maintained a higher status on the plantation, and from all indications young Holt was a favorite of the Hinds family. At age ten he was taken into the upriver wilderness to serve as a juvenile valet and hostler on Plum Ridge plantation in what would later become known as Washington County in the Mississippi Delta.

At Plum Ridge plantation Holt was trained to hunt and kill anything that could be used as food for the growing ...

Article

Crampel, Paul  

Jeremy Rich

explorer and colonial official, was born in Nancy, France on 18 November 1864 the son of Charles Victor Crampel a devout Catholic tobacco inspector and Elisabeth Pierret After attending primary school in Nancy and Dordogne Crampel then attended secondary school in Périgueux and Bordeaux Since other civil servants had doubts about Crampel s father s loyalty to the French Republic due to his Catholic faith his career required Paul and the rest of the family to move frequently Like so many other young Frenchmen Crampel became interested in Africa through the work of explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza whose first two expeditions to Africa received much coverage in the French press Crampel viewed both his mother s religious zeal and the discipline he endured in secondary education as backward Rather than continue his education as his father had hoped Crampel quit the prestigious Henry IV school where he ...

Article

Dean, Harry Foster  

David H. Anthony

adventurer, mariner, and African emigrationist, was born to Susan Cuffe and John Dean in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Harry Foster Dean followed the family profession when he decided to become a seafarer. By the age of thirteen he was on an around-the-world cruise captained by his Uncle Silas. A decade later he had made his way to Southampton, England, where he was mentored by a Captain Forbes. He later reported that he won his captain's license in that port, beginning a new phase in his life. According to Dean, his mother, Susan, was a granddaughter of the black Yankee Paul Cuffe As the progeny of the Cuffe family Dean considered himself a black aristocrat Since Cuffe was a merchant and back to Africa advocate Dean dreamed of reversing the effects and trajectories of the Middle Passage and removing himself to his ancestral continent of origin Much of what ...

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Dorman, Isaiah  

Ann T. Keene

Dorman, Isaiah (?–26 June 1876), frontiersman and interpreter, was known as “Teat,” or the Wasicun Sapa (Black White Man), among the Sioux of Dakota Territory. Nothing is known of his life before he entered the territory as a young man around 1850; he is thought to have been an escaped slave who fled to the wilderness to avoid capture. Sioux tribal history records his presence in their midst from that date; he became known to white settlers in 1865, by which time he had become fluent in the Sioux dialect. About this time he married a Sioux woman and built a log cabin near Fort Rice, in Dakota Territory, not far from present-day Bismarck, North Dakota. For a while he earned a living cutting wood for the fort and for a trading firm, Durfee and Peck.

In November 1865 Dorman was hired by the U S Army ...

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Du Chaillu, Paul Belloni  

Jeremy Rich

explorer, was born on La Réunion, a French colonial possession in the Indian Ocean, on 31 July 1831. His father was French; his mother was a mixed-race woman from Réunion. Du Chaillu later tried to hide his mixed-race ancestry and claimed he had been born in Paris. Du Chaillu's father was forced to flee Réunion to evade legal proceedings before his son's birth. However, Du Chaillu did manage to reach France, where he spent part of his adolescence training in Paris to become a taxidermist. His father found work for a French trading firm in the Gabon Estuary in 1846, which had been colonized by the French navy between 1839 and 1844. This fledgling colonial coastal enclave had attracted only a few French merchants, but was known as a source of ivory and camwood. With the coming of the Revolution of 1848 to France ...

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Ferguson, George Ekem  

Raymond Dumett

treaty maker, cartographer, and one of the great West Africans of his generation, was born to an African mother and a Scottish father in the central coastal town of Anomabu in the Gold Coast’s Fanti region in present-day Ghana. Like several prominent members of the African middle class, he was educated at the famous Wesleyan School of Cape Coast. He also attended school in Sierra Leone. On the basis of strong recommendations, Ferguson was selected to join the colonial government as a clerk in 1881. In 1884 he began his career as a mapmaker by drawing a map of the Gold Coast Colony and Protectorate which was of assistance to the governor in showing the approximate boundaries of various linguistic groups their states and chieftaincies Ferguson proceeded from strength to strength and with each new job effectively completed he was rewarded with greater responsibilities by the colonial government ...

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Grenfell, George  

Jeremy Rich

explorer and Baptist missionary pioneer in central Africa, was born in Sancreed, Cornwall, England, on 21 August 1849. His father moved the family to Birmingham in 1852. Although his father was an Anglican, Grenfell became interested in Baptist teachings and attended a Baptist church in his youth. When Grenfell reached the age of fifteen, he joined the great revival of 1859 that swept through much of England and was baptized. Like so many other British and North American missionaries in the nineteenth century, the books of David Livingstone captivated Grenfell with stories of adventure. Before seriously considering a missionary career, Grenfell worked as an apprentice at a hardware factory. This practical training later was extremely valuable in central Africa as Grenfell traveled on his steamer up and down the Congo River. In 1873 he decided to leave behind his work and previous religious training by enrolling at ...