Early life, 1816-1837
William Marsh Rice was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on March 14, 1816. He was the third of ten children born to David and Patty Hall Rice. Little is known about Rice's childhood but records indicate that he dropped out of school at age 15, for unknown reasons. He went to work as a clerk in the Family Grocery Store, owned by a retired whaling captain named Henry L. Bunker. After working for Bunker for a few years, and with a modest amount of help from his father, Rice opened his own store and quickly repaid his father.
By then it was 1837, and the nation entered into a period of financial panic that affected businesses everywhere, including Rice’s. But the newspapers carried a note of hope for adventurous souls—there was fresh and unmistakable opportunity in the new nation of Texas.
(Excerpted from"William Marsh Rice: A centennial portrait," by Christopher Dow)