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John’s Believe It Or Not… April 5th

* 1669 – Jean Talon grants a royal bounty to large families in New France * 1614 Pocahontas marries John Rolfe * 1992 Abortion rights advocates march on Washington * 1968 James Brown calms Boston following the King assassination * 1976 Howard Hughes dies

James Brown in 1971

It’s Thursday! Did You Know…

* 1669 – Jean Talon grants a royal bounty to large families in New France

Jean Talon, Count d’Orsainville (January 8, 1626 – November 23, 1694) was the first Intendant of New France. Talon was appointed by King Louis XIV and his minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert to serve as the Intendant of Justice, Public Order, and Finances in Canada, Acadia, and Newfoundland for two terms: 1665 to 1668 and 1670 to 1672.

Talon attempted to change the economic base of the colony from fur-trading to agriculture but found this could not be accomplished without a larger population. Talon arranged for settlers to come to New France, including over 800 women known as the Filles du Roi – the king’s daughters. These were young orphans that came to New France to marry men present there. He encouraged population growth through marriage grants and baby bonuses, which was financial compensation given to a couple when they married, and again when they had children.

Talon tried to diversify the economy of New France by introducing new crops such as flax and hops for making beer, by starting a shipyard and lumber industry, and by encouraging mining. (Talon started the first commercial brewery in Canada, La Brasseries due Roy in Québec City in 1668.) Talon also worked to increase the population, agricultural production, and private sector of the burgeoning colony.

To further encourage the growth of the colony, Talon established various policies to promote marriage and bearing of children. To young women who married, the intendant gave 50 livres in household supplies and some provisions. According to the king’s decree, each youth who married at or before the age of twenty was entitled to 20 livres, called “the king’s gift.” During the years 1665-68, 6000 livres were used to support the marriage of young gentlewomen without means, and another 6000 livres for settlement and marriage of four captains, three lieutenants, five ensigns and a few minor officers. Furthermore, a family having ten children in their household were entitled to a pension of three hundred livres annually and four hundred livres were given to a family with twelve children.

To balance the number of men and women living in the colony and to promote further marriage, girls were carefully selected from France to be taken to Canada. Some of them were orphans, who grew up under the king’s protection in charitable institutions. They were called Les Filles du Roi. The rest of the girls belonged to honest families, whose parents were willing to send them to a new country where they would be well provided for. When these young women arrived in Canada, they immediately married or were placed for a time in good families.

Strenuous efforts of Talon gave great impulse to the population. In 1665, there were 3,215 settlers and 533 families. After three years, the population composed of 6,282 settlers and 1,139 families. Jean Talon was hard at work in laying the foundation of an economic and political system and making commercial, industrial progress.

(NOTE: 3 pounds sterling at that time = 40 French Livres)

Jean Talon, Bishop François de Laval and several settlers welcome the King's Daughters upon their arrival. Painting by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale
Jean Talon, Bishop François de Laval, and several settlers welcome the King’s Daughters upon their arrival. Painting by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale (Perrault and Mosier. . . Climbing the Family Tree)

* 1614 Pocahontas marries John Rolfe

Pocahontas, daughter of the chief of the Powhatan Indian confederacy, marries English tobacco planter John Rolfe in Jamestown, Virginia. The marriage ensured peace between the Jamestown settlers and the Powhatan Indians for several years.

In May 1607, about 100 English colonists settled along the James River in Virginia to found Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America. The settlers fared badly because of famine, disease, and Indian attacks, but were aided by 27-year-old English adventurer John Smith, who directed survival efforts and mapped the area. While exploring the Chickahominy River in December 1607, Smith and two colonists were captured by Powhatan warriors. At the time, the Powhatan confederacy consisted of around 30 Tidewater-area tribes led by Chief Wahunsonacock, known as Chief Powhatan to the English. Smith’s companions were killed, but he was spared and released, (according to a 1624 account by Smith) because of the dramatic intercession of Pocahontas, Chief Powhatan’s 13-year-old daughter. Her real name was Matoaka, and Pocahontas was a pet name that has been translated variously as “playful one” and “my favorite daughter.”

In 1608, Smith became president of the Jamestown colony, but the settlement continued to suffer. An accidental fire destroyed much of the town, and hunger, disease, and Indian attacks continued. During this time, Pocahontas often came to Jamestown as an emissary of her father, sometimes bearing gifts of food to help the hard-pressed settlers. She befriended the settlers and became acquainted with English ways. In 1609, Smith was injured from a fire in his gunpowder bag and was forced to return to England.

After Smith’s departure, relations with the Powhatan deteriorated and many settlers died from famine and disease in the winter of 1609-10. Jamestown was about to be abandoned by its inhabitants when Baron De La Warr (also known as Delaware) arrived in June 1610 with new supplies and rebuilt the settlement–the Delaware River and the colony of Delaware were later named after him. John Rolfe also arrived in Jamestown in 1610 and two years later cultivated the first tobacco there, introducing a successful source of livelihood that would have far-reaching importance for Virginia.

In the spring of 1613, English Captain Samuel Argall took Pocahontas hostage, hoping to use her to negotiate a permanent peace with her father. Brought to Jamestown, she was put under the custody of Sir Thomas Gates, the marshal of Virginia. Gates treated her as a guest rather than a prisoner and encouraged her to learn English customs. She converted to Christianity and was baptized, Lady Rebecca. Powhatan eventually agreed to the terms of her release, but by then she had fallen in love with John Rolfe, who was about 10 years her senior. On April 5, 1614, Pocahontas and John Rolfe married with the blessing of Chief Powhatan and the governor of Virginia.

Their marriage brought a peace between the English colonists and the Powhatans, and in 1615 Pocahontas gave birth to their first child, Thomas. In 1616, the couple sailed to England. The so-called Indian Princess proved popular with the English gentry, and she was presented at the court of King James I. In March 1617, Pocahontas and Rolfe prepared to sail back to Virginia. However, the day before they were to leave, Pocahontas died, probably of smallpox, and was buried at the parish church of St. George in Gravesend, England.

John Rolfe returned to Virginia and was killed in an Indian massacre in 1622. After an education in England, their son Thomas Rolfe returned to Virginia and became a prominent citizen. John Smith returned to the New World in 1614 to explore the New England coast. On another voyage of exploration in 1614, he was captured by pirates but escaped after three months of captivity. He then returned to England, where he died in 1631.

In 1614, Pocahontas married John Rolfe, not John Smith as it is commonly believed.
In 1614, Pocahontas married John Rolfe, not John Smith as it is commonly believed. (www.history.com)

* 1992 Abortion rights advocates march on Washington

A march and rally in support of abortion rights for women draws several hundred thousand people to demonstrations in Washington, D.C. One of the largest protest marches in the nation’s capital, the pro-choice rally came as the U.S. Supreme Court was about to consider the constitutionality of a Pennsylvania state law that limited access to abortions. Many abortion-rights advocates feared that the high court, with its conservative majority, might endorse the Pennsylvania law or even overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that made abortion legal.

In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that women, as part of their constitutional right to privacy, could terminate a pregnancy during the first two trimesters. Only during the last trimester, when the fetus can survive outside the womb, would states be permitted to regulate abortion in a healthy pregnancy. The historic and controversial ruling, essentially reversing a century of anti-abortion legislation in America, was the result of a call by many American women for control over their own reproductive processes.

Although defended by the Supreme Court on several occasions, the legalization of abortion became a divisive and intensely emotional public issue. The debate intensified during the 1980s, and both anti- and pro-choice organizations strengthened their membership and political influence. By 1992, 12 years of Republican rule in the White House had weakened abortion rights, and the Supreme Court threatened to overturn the 1973 ruling. In April 1992, a massive pro-choice rally was held in Washington, and soon after, the high court refused to endorse Pennsylvania’s new restrictions and left the Roe v. Wade decision intact.

In January 1993, Democrat Bill Clinton was inaugurated as president and within days of taking office overturned several key pieces of anti-abortion executive legislation that had been signed by his Republican predecessors, Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush. In the 1990s, some extreme opponents of abortion rights turned to violent methods in their campaign to make abortion illegal again.

On April 25, 2005, more than a million abortion-rights activists again hit the Mall in Washington as part of the March for Women’s Lives. They protested what they saw as attempts by President George W. Bush’s administration to chip away at women’s reproductive rights, as well as the U.S. ban on aid to abortion clinics abroad.

With the resignation of frequent swing vote Sandra Day O’Connor from the Supreme Court in 2005, who though conservative had helped block efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion-rights advocated worried that the landmark ruling might be in jeopardy. With South Dakota’s passing of a law to ban nearly all abortions in 2006, many expect to see the issue in front of the U.S. Supreme Court again in the near future.

Women wear signs and masks during an abortion rights march in Washington, DC
Women wear signs and masks during an abortion rights march in Washington, DC (youtube.com)

* 1968 James Brown calms Boston following the King assassination

On the morning after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., city officials in Boston, Massachusetts, were scrambling to prepare for an expected second straight night of violent unrest. Similar preparations were being made in cities across America, including in the nation’s capital, where armed units of the regular Army patrolled outside the White House and U.S. Capitol following President Johnson’s state-of-emergency declaration. But Boston would be nearly alone among America’s major cities in remaining quiet and calm that turbulent Friday night, thanks in large part to one of the least quiet and calm musical performers of all time. On the night of April 5, 1968, James Brown kept the peace in Boston by the sheer force of his music and his personal charisma.

Brown’s appearance that night at the Boston Garden had been scheduled for months, but it nearly didn’t happen. Following a long night of riots and fires in the predominantly black Roxbury and South End sections of the city, Boston’s young mayor, Kevin White, gave serious consideration to canceling an event that some feared would bring the same kind of violence into the city’s center. The racial component of those fears was very much on the surface of a city in which school integration and mandatory busing had played a major role in the recent mayoral election. Mayor White faced a politically impossible choice: anger black Bostonians by canceling Brown’s concert over transparently racial fears or antagonize the law-and-order crowd by simply ignoring those fears. The idea that resolved the mayor’s dilemma came from a young, African American city councilman name Tom Atkins, who proposed going on with the concert, but finding a way to mount a free, live broadcast of the show in the hopes of keeping most Bostonians at home in front of their TV sets rather than on the streets.

Atkins and White convinced public television station WGBH to carry the concert on short notice, but convincing James Brown took some doing. Due to a non-compete agreement relating to an upcoming televised concert, Brown stood to lose roughly $60,000 if his Boston show were televised. Ever the savvy businessman, James Brown made his financial needs known to Mayor White, who made the very wise decision to meet them.

The broadcast of Brown’s concert had the exact effect it was intended to, as Boston saw less crime that night than would be expected on a perfectly normal Friday in April. There was a moment, however, when it appeared that the plan might backfire. As a handful of young, male fans—most, but not all of them black—began climbing on stage mid-concert, white Boston policemen began forcefully pushing them back. Sensing the volatility of the situation, Brown urged the cops to back away from the stage, then addressed the crowd. “Wait a minute, wait a minute now WAIT!” Brown said. “Step down, now, be a gentleman….Now I asked the police to step back because I think I can get some respect from my own people.”

Brown successfully restored order while keeping the police away from the crowd, and continued the successful peacekeeping concert in honor of the slain Dr. King on this day in 1968.

James Brown takes control as fans rush the stage in the live concert at the Boston Garden, April 5, 1968.
James Brown takes control as fans rush the stage in the live concert at the Boston Garden, April 5, 1968. (New England Historical Society)

* 1976 Howard Hughes dies

Howard Robard Hughes, one of the richest men to emerge from the American West during the 20th century, dies while flying from Acapulco to Houston.

Born in Houston, Texas, in 1905, Hughes inherited an estate of nearly a million dollars when his father died in 1923. Hughes’ father also left him the business that had created this fortune, the Hughes Tool Company, which controlled the rights to a new oil drill technology that was in high demand. The young Hughes quickly began to expand his business empire into new fields. In 1926, he moved to Hollywood, where he became involved in the rapidly growing movie industry. He produced several popular films, including Hell’s Angels, Scarface, and The Outlaw.

Fascinated with the new technology of airplanes, Hughes also invested heavily in the burgeoning West Coast aviation industry. With some training in engineering from the California Institute of Technology and the Rice Institute of Technology, Hughes designed his own aircraft and then had his Hughes Aircraft Company build it. In 1935, he piloted one of his airplanes to a new world speed record of 352.46 mph. His reputation as an aircraft designer and builder suffered after an ill-fated WWII government-sponsored project to build an immense plane that Hughes claimed would be able to transport 750 passengers. Nicknamed the Spruce Goose, Hughes’ monstrosity flew only once: a one-mile hop on November 2, 1947.

Never an extrovert, Hughes became increasingly reclusive after 1950. Operating through managers who rarely saw him in person, he bought up vast tracts of real estate in California, Arizona, and Nevada that skyrocketed in value. In 1967, he became involved in the Nevada gambling industry when he purchased the famous Desert Inn Hotel on the Las Vegas strip. Nevada gaming authorities welcomed Hughes’ involvement because it counteracted the popular image that the Mafia dominated the gambling industry. By the early 1970s, Hughes had become the largest single landholder in Nevada, and with around 8,000 Nevada residents on his payroll, Hughes was also the state’s largest employer.

Although the rumors of Hughes’ bizarre behavior have been exaggerated–in part due to a fraudulent memoir published in 1971–in his final years, the billionaire became even more obsessed with privacy. He continually moved between his residences in Las Vegas, the Bahamas, Nicaragua, Canada, England, and Mexico. Other than a few male aides, almost nobody saw Hughes, and he sometimes worked for days at a stretch in a black-curtained room without sleeping.

Emaciated and deranged from too little food and too many drugs, Hughes finally became so ill that his aides decided that he needed medical treatment. He died in his airplane en route from Acapulco to Houston at the age of 70.

Howard Hughes' at the controls of his H-4 Hercules troop transport plane,
Howard Hughes’ at the controls of his H-4 Hercules troop transport plane, (Time Magazine)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology  http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                        http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/

* Wikipedia                                                                        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Talon

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 (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

27 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… April 5th”

    1. Unless you studied U.S. history, Disney would likely be your only source about Pocahontas. I think she was a great hero who was able to put her humanity ahead of her race and culture when dealing with the European colonists. What the racists in Canada and the U.S.A. conveniently forget is that the European colonists would never have survived as well as they did without the help, skills, and wisdom of the Indigenous peoples they encountered. For that, they were labeled as dumb savages. It sets my blood boiling… Thanks, Robbie!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I really loved the look at Pocahontas. I’ve been to Jamestown and found the history fascinating.

    I recall reading that Bobby Kennedy was scheduled to give a speech to a predominately black group of citizens when he learned MLK had been assassinated. He had to break the news to the group and his security people feared rioting. They wanted him to cancel but he went ahead and spoke eloquently of Dr. King and his message of peace. While the rest of the country was experiencing riots, that group mourned King’s passing peacefully and with great sorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing the story about RFK’s speaking engagement after MLK’s assassination. It is especially poignant knowing that RFK would share the same fate.
      I think Disney did a lot to enhance Pocahontas in the minds of people in America and around the globe. Thanks, Mae.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m afraid that abortion will always be a hot-button issue for conservatives. I despise the Alt-right who jump up and down about murder in the womb but don’t mind murdering doctors and other proponents of pro-choice. I thought a lot of James Brown in that circumstance. Thanks, Opher.

      Like

    1. Disney is not a historical association so they will tell the story to maximize profits – artistic license. Thanks, Bethany!

      Like

          1. All of it! They made a love interest where there was none. They did not show her being captured or how important she was in history. Her significance. She was just some girl who fell in love with a white man. They could have done so much with that movie

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I agree that more could have been done in that movie to reveal her significance. Unfortunately, the Indigenous peoples in your country don’t get any better treatment than those here in Canada.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad I decided to drop by before going to bed tonight! I did not know, or at least if I knew, did not remember, about James Brown’s concert that night! See what a little teamwork and compromise can accomplish! All great bits of history … thanks John!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad you stopped by too! I thought a lot of James Brown and the way he handled that explosive situation. Considering what was going on elsewhere, it could have been awful. Thanks, Jill!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Indeed it could, and probably would have. There’s a saying … been around for a long time … “You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” James Brown could and did ‘walk the walk’. Now if we had just a handful like him in our government today … the sky’s the limit.

        Liked by 1 person

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