Dec. 17, 1777 – During the American Revolution, France formally recognized the United States and American independence when French foreign minister, Charles Gravier, count of Vergennes, officially acknowledged the United States as an independent nation. News of the Continental Army’s overwhelming victory against the British General John Burgoyne at Saratoga gave Benjamin Franklin new leverage in his efforts to rally French support for the American rebels. Although the victory occurred in October, news did not reach France until Dec. 4, and a formal treaty of alliance followed on Feb. 6, 1778.
Dec. 17, 1821 – The Alabama legislature authorized the opening of a road from Cahaba, Ala. to Pensacola, Fla.
Dec. 17, 1821 – Covington County was created by the Alabama legislature.
Dec. 17, 1824 – During his tour of the United States, the Marquis de Lafayette arrived at Annapolis, Md. at 3 p.m. He was received in the Senate chamber, visited Fort Severn and attended a ball that night.
Dec. 17, 1848 – Gadi Finklea Jr. was born. He served with the Monroe County Militia in Beats 8, 9 and 10. He apparently enlisted late in the war and served as a private in Co. C of the 5th Alabama Infantry. Federal records indicate he was taken prisoner at Petersburg and was imprisoned at Point Lookout, Md. He took the Oath of Allegiance on June 12, 1865 and was released. He stood six-feet tall, had a light complexion, brown hair and blue eyes and lived in Monroe County. He died in Coleman County, Texas in September 1928 and was buried in Coleman Cemetery in Coleman County.
Dec. 17, 1861 – During the Civil War, a skirmish was fought at Woodsonville, Ky.
Dec. 17, 1861 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought on Chisolm’s Island and another near Hilton Head, S.C.
Dec. 17, 1861 – During the Civil War, a five days of Confederate operations began against Dam No. 5, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, Potomac River, Va.
Dec. 17, 1862 - Confederate General Earl Van Dorn gathered three cavalry brigades and left Grenada, Miss. He attacked Union General Ulysses S. Grant's supplies at Holly Springs, Mississippi on Dec. 20. The attacked thwarted Grant's first attempt to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Dec. 17, 1862 – Union General Ulysses S. Grant issued General Order No. 11, lashing out at at Jewish cotton speculators, who he believed were the driving force behind the black market for cotton, and issued an order expelling all Jewish people from his military district, which encompassed parts of Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky.
Dec. 17, 1863 – Alexander Travis Henderson of Brooklyn, Ala. was said to have been “killed in action” near Claiborne, Ala. His wife, Amanda Floyd Henderson, learned of his death a short time later, traveled to Claiborne by wagon with an infant daughter, “her trusted slaves” and several shovels. They dug up her husband’s body and returned it to Brooklyn for burial.
Dec. 17, 1867 – Greenville (Ala.) Advocate founder and longtime editor James B. Stanley married Lulu Reid.
Dec. 17, 1892 - Alabama author Henry W. Hilliard died in Atlanta, Ga.
Dec. 17, 1892 – “The Nutcracker” ballet premiered at the Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia. The ballet was based on a story by Alexandre Dumas, which in turn was based on “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” a much darker story by E.T.A. Hoffman. The score for the ballet was composed by Peter Tchaikovsky.
Dec. 17, 1893 – Butler County, Ala. Tax Collector C.J. Armstrong was robbed and murdered by outlaws John Hipp and Charles Kelley. They were lynched in Greenville, Ala. on Dec. 28.
Dec. 17, 1900 - A prize of 100,000 francs was offered for contact with extraterrestrials by the French Academy of Science. Martians were excluded however, as at the time, their civilization was considered an established fact.
Dec. 17, 1903 - The first successful gasoline-powered airplane flight took place near Kitty Hawk, N.C. Orville and Wilbur Wright made the flight.
Dec. 17, 1903 – Writer Erskine Caldwell was born in Moreland, Ga. His most famous books include “Tobacco Road” (1932) and “God’s Little Acre” (1933).
Dec. 17, 1914 – The Monroe Journal reported “A Singular Accident” involving A.J. Petty, his wife and their five-year-old son, Horace. The three were at a “sand gully near Mexia” where they hoped to procure “some white sand.” While the husband tended the horses and wagon, the wife became “covered up in the sand.” The husband and four men worked frantically to free her, and she eventually survived thanks to intensive medical car by Dr. Bayles and Dr. Aaron White.
Dec. 17, 1916 – Booker Prize-winning novelist Penelope Fitzgerald was born in Lincoln, England
Dec. 17, 1918 – During World War I, Army 1LT Harry I. Savage of Camden, Ala. “died from disease.”
Dec. 17, 1919 – During World War I, Army Pvt. Lewis Richardson of Pollard, Ala. “died from disease.”
Dec. 17, 1928 - Actor George Lindsey was born in Fairfield, Ala. He earned a bachelor's degree from Florence State Teachers College (now the University of North Alabama) in 1952, where he was quarterback for the football team and participated in the school's theater productions. Lindsey's successful acting career included musicals and film, but his most famous role on television as Goober Pyle in The Andy Griffith Show.
Dec. 17, 1933 - The Chicago Bears defeated the New York Giants in the first National Football League interdivisional championship game. The Bears won, 23-21.
Dec. 17, 1936 – Train engineer Joe (or Lee) Gorey of Montgomery, engineer Philip Grizzard of Montgomery and train fireman Barnes were killed when two Louisville & Nashville passenger trains collected head-on in heavy fog around 5 a.m. in Castleberry, Ala. The crash involved Passenger Train No. 3, which was traveling rapidly south when it collided with Passenger Train No. 2, which was sitting at a water tank on the main line at the Castleberry train station. The No. 2 train ran from Mobile to Cincinnati, and the No. 3 ran from Cincinnati to Mobile. Grizzard was driving No. 3, and Gorey was driving No. 2. Barnes was on No. 3.
Dec. 17, 1939 – After a public hearing in which no protest or higher offers were received, Conecuh Circuit Judge F.W. Hare approved the sale of the Peoples Bank of Evergreen (Ala.) building to Mrs. V.W. Millsap for $16,000. This sale marked the first transfer of the property in more than 29 years, the bank having purchased it on April 5, 1906 from J.D. Deming and his wife, Fannie D. Deming.
Dec. 17, 1939 – W.R. Shaver was elected to the District 4 seat on the Conecuh County, Ala. Board of Revenue. He had previously served five years and three months on the board and was chosen to fill the unexpired term of M.A. Travis, who resigned to become chairman.
Dec. 17, 1940 – Navy Ensign Clarence Moore Dannelly Jr. was killed in an airplane crash during a training accident in Pensacola, Fla. Dannelly, who was born on Feb. 3, 1916 in Evergreen, Ala. to former Conecuh County Superintendent of Educaiton C.M. Dannelly, grew up in Montgomery and is considered to be the first casualty of World War II from Montgomery. Dannelly Field (now Montgomery Regional Airport) was named in his honor in July 1943.
Dec. 17, 1942 – The Evergreen Courant reported, under the headline “Saw Action At Pearl Harbor,” that First Sgt. Fred F. Dean had recently spent a short furlough with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Aubrey Dean of McKenzie, Ala., Route 2. Dean had served with the Air Force in Hawaii for three years. “He saw plenty of action on Dec. 7 and was ‘standing by’ at Midway. He did not talk much on duties performed by his squadron.” He had been chosen to attend Officers Candidate School, Miami Beach, Fla. and was attending that school on Dec. 17.
Dec. 17, 1950 – The Birmingham News announced the Class A All-State Football Team, and 197-pound senior Douglas Potts of Evergreen (Ala.) High School was named a second team all-state tackle. Potts had already signed a football scholarship with the University of Alabama. Max Pope, a senior guard at Evergreen High School, received honorable mention on The Montgomery Advertiser-Journal all-state football team.
Dec. 17, 1955 – Evergreen High School’s boys basketball team won the T.R. Miller Invitational Tournament in Brewton, Ala. In the opening game, Evergreen beat Flomaton, 73-26. Randy White led Evergreen with 28 points. In the semi-finals, Evergreen beat Excel, 52-31. White led Evergreen with 24 points. In the finals, Evergreen beat W.S. Neal, 50-41, with White scoring a team-high 25 points.
Dec. 17, 1953 - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to approve RCA’s color television specifications.
Dec. 17, 1955 - A large number of people were present for the grand opening of Miller Trading Company’s new Check-R-Mix Feed Mill in Evergreen, Ala.
Dec. 17, 1957 - The Evergreen (Ala.) City Council approved two building permits at its meeting on this Tuesday night. Robert East was given a permit for a residence on Reynolds Avenue. Knud Nielsen Co. was granted a permit for addition to its manufacturing plant. The council also approved the placing of stop signs on Shipp and McMillan Streets.
Dec. 17, 1960 – Lee Roy Jordan of Excel, Ala. was named the MVP of the Bluebonnet Bowl, which ended in a 3-3 tie. This game was played between Alabama and Texas at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas. Alabama was coached by Bear Bryant, and Texas was led by head coach Darrell Royal.
Dec. 17, 1967 - Noland Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs ran a kickoff return back 106 yards to set an NFL record.
Dec. 17, 1969 - The U.S. Air Force closed its Project "Blue Book" by concluding that there was no evidence of extraterrestrial spaceships behind thousands of UFO sightings.
Dec. 17, 1972 – Around 8 p.m. in Brewton, Ala., Charles Brooks, 34, of Brewton was arrested on charges of burglary and grand larceny for allegedly breaking into O.L. Higdon’s Store at Brantley Switch late on the night of Dec. 15.
Dec. 17, 1975 – Actress Milla Jovovich was born in Kiev, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union.
Dec. 17, 1976 – NFL linebacker Takeo Spikes was born in Augusta, Ga. He went on to play for Sandersville (Ga.) Washington High School, Auburn University and the Cincinnati Bengals, the Buffalo Bills, the Philadelphia Eagles, the San Francisco 49ers and the San Diego Chargers. He was a first-round draft pick (13th pick overall) in the 1998 NFL Draft.
Dec. 17, 1980 – Hmong writer Kao Kalia Yang was born in Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand.
Dec. 17, 1984 - Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins set NFL season records for touchdowns (48), completions (362) and yards (5,084).
Dec. 17, 1985 – Weather reporter Earl Windham reported a low temperature of 23 degrees in Evergreen, Ala.
Dec. 17, 1989 – The first episode of the television series “The Simpsons,” "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire," aired on Fox.
Dec. 17, 1992 - U.S. President George H.W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari signed the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Dec. 17, 1993 - FOX outbid CBS for the National Football Conference TV package.
Dec. 17, 1993 – Jennings Faulk Carter became the first and believed to be the only Monroe County, Ala. native to be inducted into the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Mobile.
Dec. 17, 1993 – Episode No. 12 of “The X-Files” – entitled “Fire” – aired for the first time.
Dec. 17, 1999 – United Nations Security Council Resolution 1284 relating to Iraq was adopted.
Dec. 17, 2000 – Alexander City, Ala. native Terrell Owens of the San Francisco 49ers caught an NFL-record 20 passes for 283 yards and a touchdown against the Chicago Bears. The previous record was held by Tom Fears of the Los Angeles Rams with 18 catches on Dec. 3, 1950, against the Green Bay Packers. Owens also broke Jerry Rice's franchise record of 16 receptions set in 1994 against the Los Angeles Rams.
Dec. 17, 2002 - The Conecuh County (Ala.) Commission announced on this Tuesday that the opening of bids for the new courthouse had been postponed. The original opening was scheduled to be done on Dec. 19 at 2 p.m., but it was rescheduled for Jan. 9 at 2 p.m. with all bidders being notified of the change.
Dec. 17, 2002 – The Evergreen Courant reported the results of the Evergreen (Ala.) Chamber of Commerces Entrance Decoration Contest. Sonny Bradley of 422 Belleview Ave. won first place, and Mr. and Mrs. Rex Golson of 316 Liberty Hill Drive won Most Elegant. Travis and Addie Bee Richardson of 112 Pierce St. were double winners, claiming prizes for Most Original and Best in Children’s Christmas.