Alonzo Barton Hepburn was born on July 24, 1846, in Colton, New York, United States, the son of Zina Earl Hepburn and Beulah (Gray) Hepburn. His father was descended from Peter or Patrick Hepburn, a Scotchman who settled at Stratford, Connecticut, about 1700. His mother came from similar stock: the Grays, Scotch-Irish, who came to Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1718. Hepburn’s American ancestors were pioneers throughout, moving across Vermont to the wild country of northern New York. The conditions of life in his early years were hard, and every child in the family of eight was called upon to be an “asset in the family economy”; hunting and fishing were economic activities as well as sports: but the family also gathered about the fireplace reading good books aloud by turn.