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John’s Believe It Or Not… March 1st

* 1632 – Champlain appointed Canada’s First Royal Governor * 1961 Kennedy establishes Peace Corps * 1692 Salem Witch Hunt begins * 1954 Puerto Rican nationalists wound five representatives * 1872 Yellowstone Park established

President John F. Kennedy

It’s Thursday! Did You Know…

* 1632 – Champlain appointed Canada’s First Royal Governor

Samuel de Champlain born Samuel Champlain; on or before August 13, 1574 – December 25, 1635, “The Father of New France”, was a French navigator, cartographer, draftsman, soldier, explorer, geographer, ethnologist, diplomat, and chronicler. He made from 21-29 trips across the Atlantic and founded New France and Quebec City on July 3, 1608. He is important to Canadian history because he made the first accurate map of the coast and he helped found the settlements.

Born into a family of mariners, Champlain, while still a young man, began exploring North America in 1603 under the guidance of François Gravé Du Pont, his uncle. From 1604 to 1607 Champlain participated in the exploration and settlement of the first permanent European settlement north of Florida, Port Royal, Acadia (1605) as well as the first European settlement that would become Saint John, New Brunswick (1604). Then, in 1608, he established the French settlement that is now Quebec City. Champlain was the first European to explore and describe the Great Lakes and published maps of his journeys and accounts of what he learned from the Natives and the French living among the Natives. He formed relationships with local Montagnais and Innu and later with others farther west (Ottawa River, Lake Nipissing, or Georgian Bay), with Algonquin and with Huron Wendat, and agreed to provide assistance in the Beaver Wars against the Iroquois.

In 1620, Louis XIII of France ordered Champlain to cease exploration, return to Quebec, and devote himself to the administration of the country. In every way but formal title, Samuel de Champlain served as Governor of New France, a title that may have been formally unavailable to him owing to his non-noble status. He established trading companies that sent goods, primarily fur, to France, and oversaw the growth of New France in the St. Lawrence River valley until his death in 1635.

Champlain returned to New France in 1620 and spent the winter building Fort Saint-Louis on top of Cape Diamond. By mid-May, he learned that the fur trading monopoly had been handed over to another company led by the Caen brothers. After some tense negotiations, it was decided to merge the two companies under the direction of the Caens. Champlain continued to work on relations with the natives and managed to impose on them a chief of his choice. He also negotiated a peace treaty with the Iroquois.

Champlain continued to work on the fortifications of what became Quebec City, laying the first stone on May 6, 1624. On August 15 he once again returned to France where he was encouraged to continue his work as well as to continue looking for a passage to China, something widely believed to exist at the time. By July 5 he was back at Quebec and continued expanding the city.

In 1627 the Caen brothers’ company lost its monopoly on the fur trade, and Cardinal Richelieu (who had joined the Royal Council in 1624 and rose rapidly to a position of dominance in French politics that he would hold until his death in 1642) formed the Compagnie des Cent-Associés (the Hundred Associates) to manage the fur trade. Champlain was one of the 100 investors, and its first fleet, loaded with colonists and supplies, set sail in April 1628.

Champlain returned to Quebec on May 22, 1633, after an absence of four years. Richelieu gave him a commission as Lieutenant General of New France, along with other titles and responsibilities, but not that of Governor. Despite this lack of formal status, many colonists, French merchants, and Indians treated him as if he had the title; writings survive in which he is referred to as “our governor”.

Painting: Original title: Champlain Trading with the Indians.
Original title: Champlain Trading with the Indians. (Dictionary of Canadian Biography)

* 1961 Kennedy establishes Peace Corps

Newly elected President John F. Kennedy issues an executive order establishing the Peace Corps. It proved to be one of the most innovative and highly publicized Cold War programs set up by the United States.

During the course of his campaign for the presidency in 1960, Kennedy floated the idea that a new “army” should be created by the United States. This force would be made up of civilians who would volunteer their time and skills to travel to underdeveloped nations to assist them in any way they could.

To fulfill this plan, Kennedy issued an executive order on March 1, 1961, establishing the Peace Corps as a trial program. Kennedy sent a message to Congress asking for its support and made clear the significance of underdeveloped nations to the United States. The people of these nations were “struggling for economic and social progress.” “Our own freedom,” Kennedy continued, “and the future of freedom around the world, depend, in a very real sense, on their ability to build growing and independent nations where men can live in dignity, liberated from the bonds of hunger, ignorance, and poverty.” Many in Congress and the U.S. public were skeptical about the program’s costs and the effectiveness of American aid to what were perceived to be “backward” nations, but Kennedy’s warning about the dangers in the underdeveloped world could not be ignored. Revolutions were breaking out around the globe and many of these conflicts—such as in Laos, the Congo, and elsewhere—were in danger of becoming Cold War battlefields. Several months later, Congress voted to make the Corps permanent.

During the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of Americans—especially young people—flocked to serve in dozens of nations, particularly in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Working side by side with the people of these nations, Peace Corps volunteers helped build sewer and water systems; constructed and taught in schools; assisted in developing new crops and agricultural methods to increase productivity; and participated in numerous other projects. Volunteers often faced privation and sometimes danger, and they were not always welcomed by foreign people suspicious of American motives. Overall, however, the program was judged a success in terms of helping to “win the hearts and minds” of people in the underdeveloped world. The program continues to function, and thousands of Americans each year are drawn to the humanitarian mission and sense of adventure that characterizes the Peace Corps.

President John F. Kennedy greeting Peace Corps volunteers. (John F. Kennedy Library)
President John F. Kennedy greeting Peace Corps volunteers. (John F. Kennedy Library) (Office of the Historian)

* 1692 Salem Witch Hunt begins

In Salem Village in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Sarah Goode, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba, an Indian slave from Barbados, are charged with the illegal practice of witchcraft. Later that day, Tituba, possibly under coercion, confessed to the crime, encouraging the authorities to seek out more Salem witches.

Trouble in the small Puritan community began the month before, when nine-year-old Elizabeth Parris and 11-year-old Abigail Williams, the daughter and niece, respectively, of the Reverend Samuel Parris, began experiencing fits and other mysterious maladies. A doctor concluded that the children were suffering from the effects of witchcraft, and the young girls corroborated the doctor’s diagnosis. With encouragement from a number of adults in the community, the girls, who were soon joined by other “afflicted” Salem residents, accused a widening circle of local residents of witchcraft, mostly middle-aged women but also several men and even one four-year-old child. During the next few months, the afflicted area residents incriminated more than 150 women and men from Salem Village and the surrounding areas of Satanic practices.

In June 1692, the special Court of Oyer, “to hear,” and Terminer, “to decide,” convened in Salem under Chief Justice William Stoughton to judge the accused. The first to be tried was Bridget Bishop of Salem, who was found guilty and executed by hanging on June 10. Thirteen more women and four men from all stations of life followed her to the gallows, and one man, Giles Corey, was executed by crushing. Most of those tried were condemned on the basis of the witnesses’ behavior during the actual proceedings, characterized by fits and hallucinations that were argued to be caused by the defendants on trial.

In October 1692, Governor William Phipps of Massachusetts ordered the Court of Oyer and Terminer dissolved and replaced with the Superior Court of Judicature, which forbade the type of sensational testimony allowed in the earlier trials. Executions ceased, and the Superior Court eventually released all those awaiting trial and pardoned those sentenced to death. The Salem witch trials, which resulted in the executions of 19 innocent women and men, had effectively ended.

Fanciful representation of the Salem witch trials, lithograph from 1892
Fanciful representation of the Salem witch trials, lithograph from 1892 (

* 1954 Puerto Rican nationalists wound five representatives

In the U.S. Capitol, four members of an extremist Puerto Rican nationalist group fire more than 30 shots at the floor of the House of Representatives from a visitors’ gallery, injuring five U.S. representatives. Alvin Bentley of Michigan, George Fallon of Maryland, Ben Jensen of Iowa, Clifford Davis of Tennessee, and Kenneth Roberts of Alabama all eventually recovered from their gunshot wounds and returned to their seats in Congress. Three of the Puerto Rican terrorists were detained immediately after the shooting, and the fourth was captured later. The group was protesting the new constitution of Puerto Rico, which granted the U.S. Congress ultimate authority over the commonwealth’s affairs.

Exactly 17 years later, on March 1, 1971, a bomb exploded in a restroom in the Senate wing of the Capitol, causing some $300,000 in damages but no injuries. The Weather Underground, a U.S. leftist radical group that opposed the war in Vietnam, claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Puerto Rican nationalists Irving Flores Rodriguez, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Lolita Lebron, and Andres Figueroa Cordero, all from New York, are stand in a police lineup following their arrest
Puerto Rican nationalists Irving Flores Rodriguez, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Lolita Lebron, and Andres Figueroa Cordero, all from New York, are standing in a police lineup following their arrest (

* 1872 Yellowstone Park established

President Grant signs the bill creating the nation’s first national park at Yellowstone.

Native Americans had lived and hunted in the region that would become Yellowstone for hundreds of years before the first Anglo explorers arrived. Abundant game and mountain streams teaming with fish attracted the Indians to the region, though the awe-inspiring geysers, canyons, and gurgling mud pots also fascinated them.

John Colter, the famous mountain man, was the first Anglo to travel through the area. After journeying with Lewis and Clark to the Pacific, Colter joined a party of fur trappers to explore the wilderness. In 1807, he explored part of the Yellowstone plateau and returned with fantastic stories of steaming geysers and bubbling cauldrons. Some doubters accused the mountain man of telling tall tales and jokingly dubbed the area “Colter’s Hell.”

Before the Civil War, only a handful of trappers and hunters ventured into the area, and it remained largely a mystery. In 1869, the Folsom-Cook expedition made the first formal exploration, followed a year later by a much more thorough reconnaissance by the Washburn-Langford-Doane expedition. The key to Yellowstone’s future as a national park, though, was the 1871 exploration under the direction of the government geologist Ferdinand Hayden. Hayden brought along William Jackson, a pioneering photographer, and Thomas Moran, a brilliant landscape artist, to make a visual record of the expedition. Their images provided the first visual proof of Yellowstone’s wonders and caught the attention of the U.S. Congress.

Early in 1872, Congress moved to set aside 1,221,773 acres of public land straddling the future states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho as America’s first national park. President Grant signed the bill into law on this day in 1872. The Yellowstone Act of 1872 designated the region as a public “pleasuring-ground,” which would be preserved “from injury or spoilation, of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within.”

For a nation bent on settling and exploiting the West, the creation of Yellowstone was surprising. Many congressmen gave it their support simply because they believed the rugged and isolated region was of little economic value. Yet the Yellowstone Act of 1872 set a precedent and popularized the idea of preserving sections of the public domain for use as public parks. Congress went on to designate dozens of other national parks, and the idea spread to other nations around the world.

Enter Yellowstone National Park from the north entrance and you’ll get a chance to see (and take a picture next to) the iconic Roosevelt Arch.
Enter Yellowstone National Park from the north entrance and you’ll get a chance to see (and take a picture next to) the iconic Roosevelt Arch. (

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* On This Day – History, Film, Music and Sport               

* This Day In History – What Happened Today              

* Wikipedia                                                                                     

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December 2013 and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

22 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… March 1st”

    1. It was a more formal society back then – even the rock bands performed in suits and ties. Thanks, Jennie!


  1. The piece about the Salem witch trials really caught my interest, John. I have read The Scarlet Letter and am currently reading a book about the Scottish settlers in that area and accusations of witchcraft come into that too. It is important that we remember our history so that we can continue to learn from it. Forgetting could lead to a repetition of past mistakes.


    1. You are spot on in that conclusion. Unfortunately, people today seem no wiser than those of the witch trial era. If someone prominent starts hurling smears at individuals or groups, with no basis in fact, they are believed. I believe it was a factor in Trump’s electoral success. Thanks, Robbie.


  2. We are forever indebted to the presidents who established our National Parks. One of these days, I hope to visit Yellowstone. I just checked the list and I’ve been to 15 but that’s only 20% of the parks. Amazing. I’m creating my bucket list! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Salem Witch Hunt is an episode of insanity roughly 300 years old. The speciation of Homo sapiens from Homo erectus occurred as early as 300,000 years ago. The age of the former represents only .1% of the age of the latter. Man, do we have a long way to go!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed. The superstition, hatred, and bloodlust live on into the present. All the more reason to speak out and act against it. Thanks, Bob.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. It was natural for the director to ask for less given the fact that the budget was increasing every year of a number of reasons. Those reasons (except for a $15M new headquarters) have gone away due to completion of projects. Sorry to take this “Trump’s fault.” away. Maybe next year he will cut funding and you will be back in the saddle. 😀

            Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a wonderful idea. Unfortunately, American and other first world investment initiatives in developing nations over the years were seen as exploitive so the Peace Corps initiative was viewed suspiciously. Thanks, John

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you are right. Also, as much as I hate to say it, many underdeveloped countries are run by folks not too interested in having others point out the need for outside help.


  4. Well we certainly need a Peace Corps right now!! The world’s in a mess. But then a lot of that lies at the door of the West. We’re certainly not making it better.
    They estimate that up to 2 million ‘witches’ were murdered or driven to death in Europe.
    I would like to see 50% of the planet made into a hunting free national park – a haven for wildlife. We could have half and the rest could have half. That seems fair to me. Somehow we have to protect the remaining rainforest, unique habitats and wildlife.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Peace Corps is still operating – but I’m sure their budget has been cut by you-know-who. How about we just outlaw hunting and create a professional league for skeet-shooters and the like? Thanks, Opher.


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