Jonathan Carver was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, on April 13, 1710, the son of local government official, David Carver, and his wife, Hannah Dyer. As a child, he moved with his family to Connecticut, and there, he married Abigail Robbins in 1746 and worked as a shoemaker. They later settled in Montague, Massachusetts, and had at least seven children. In 1755, Carver joined the colonial militia and he subsequently fought in the French and Indian War, serving in engagements at Crown Point, Lake George, Fort William Henry (where he was briefly imprisoned), and Fort Edward. In 1763, he left the Army and set out to explore the territories newly acquired from the French, armed with some knowledge of drafting, mathematics, and trade. By this time, he had befriended the popular solider and frontiersman, Major Robert Rogers.
In August 1766, Carver traveled to Fort Michilimackinac in Michigan, where Rogers, who was commander there, contracted him to search for the Northwest Passage and to encourage Native Americans to conduct their trading at Michilimackinac. Carver traveled to Green Bay, Wisconsin, and up the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers to the Mississippi River. In the winter of 1766-1767, he lived among the Naudowessie Indians and encouraged them to engage in fur-trading at Michilimackinac. In the spring of 1767, Carver awaited supplies to be sent by Rogers, but the latter had come under suspicions of plotting treason with France against England, and was arrested in December 1768, leaving Carver with little to show for his two years of exploration.
Carver left for England in 1769 to petition the British government for payment to cover his expedition to find the Northwest Passage, and eventually received about £1300. Needing additional funds, he fabricated a land grant by the Naudowessie Indians for property actually owned by their enemies, the Ojibwe, in Wisconsin. In 1774, despite having a wife in America, he married a British woman, Mary Harris, with whom he had two children. In 1778, he published Travels through the Interior Parts of North America in the Years 1766, 1767 and 1768, based on the journals he kept during his journey. He died in 1780.