Dec. 31, 1491 – French navigator and explorer Jacques Cartier was born in St. Malo, Duchy of Brittany. He claimed what is now Canada for France and was the first European to describe and map the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the shores of the Saint Lawrence River, which he named "The Country of Canadas," after the Iroquois names for the two big settlements he saw at Stadacona (Quebec City) and at Hochelaga (Montreal Island).
Dec. 31, 1759 – Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease at 45 pounds per year and started brewing Guinness.
Dec. 31, 1781 - The British released Henry Laurens from prison in exchange for American-held prisoner General Charles Lord Cornwallis. Laurens had been in the Tower of London for 15 months after being captured off the coast of New Foundland.
Dec. 31, 1841 – The Burnt Corn Male Academy was incorporated by the Alabama legislature.
Dec. 31, 1841 – Alabama became the first state to license dental surgeons by enacting the first dental legislation in the United States.
Dec. 31, 1857 – National Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder, catcher and manager King Kelly was born in Troy, N.Y. He went on to play for the Cincinnati Reds, the Chicago White Stockings, the Boston Beaneaters, the Boston Reds, the Cincinnati Kelly’s Killers and the New York Giants, and he also managed the Beaneaters, the Boston Reds and the Killers. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1945.
Dec. 31, 1862 – During the Civil War, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signed an act that admitted West Virginia to the Union, thus dividing Virginia in two.
Dec. 31, 1862 – During the Civil War, the Battle of Stones River began near Murfreesboro in central Tennessee. The battle ended on Jan. 2, 1863 as a victory for Union General William Rosecrans over Confederate Braxton Bragg.
Dec. 31, 1862 – During the Battle of Parker’s Crossroads, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest narrowly escaped capture during a raid in western Tennessee. Despite the close call, the raid was instrumental in forcing Union General Ulysses S. Grant to abandon his first attempt to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Dec. 31, 1864 – During the Civil War, a skirmish occurred at Paint Rock Bridge and Russellville, Ala.
Dec. 31, 1869 – Painter Henri Matisse was born in Le Cateau, France.
Dec. 31, 1879 – Thomas Edison demonstrated his first incandescent light bulb when he hung strings of lights inside his lab in Menlo Park, New Jersey, and switched them on and off repeatedly, to the awe and delight of his 3,000 spectators.
Dec. 31, 1891 - New York's new Immigration Depot was opened at Ellis Island to provide improved facilities for the massive numbers of arrivals.
Dec. 31, 1894 - Prof. Marsh reopened the Monroeville Academy after the holiday recess “with an increased attendance.”
Dec. 31, 1897 – Dr. W.A. Locke of Axle in Monroe County, Ala. passed away.
Dec. 31, 1898 – English ethnographer Sir John Thompson was born in London.
Dec. 31, 1907 – The first New Year's Eve celebration was held in Times Square (then known as Longacre Square) in New York, New York.
Dec. 31, 1909 – Manhattan Bridge opened.
Dec. 31, 1910 – The Manistee & Repton Railroad incorporated. (Some sources say this happened on Dec. 29.)
Dec. 31, 1917 - A movie version of Alabama author Octavus Roy Cohen's book, “The Strong Way,” was released.
Dec. 31, 1930 – Odetta Holmes Felious, the woman Martin Luther King Jr. called "The Queen of American Folk Music," was born in Birmingham, Ala. Her albums include “My Eyes Have Seen” (1959), “Sometimes I Feel Like Crying” (1962), and “Movin' It On” (1987).
Dec. 31, 1935 – Charles Darrow, an unemployed engineer in Germantown, Pa., patented the board game, Monopoly.
Dec. 31, 1946 - U.S. President Harry Truman officially proclaimed the end of hostilities in World War II.
Dec. 31, 1954 - The last episode of the radio show "Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok" aired.
Dec. 31, 1964 – The Monroe Journal reported that the need for a remedy to the parking and traffic situation in downtown Monroeville, Ala. was clearly in evidence during the past week as Christmas shoppers sought parking places or sought access to stores and places of business. During the previous week when a lot of persons were in Monroeville, traffic “jams” persisted throughout the business hours.
Dec. 31, 1964 – The Monroe Journal reported that Alice Lee and Nell Harper Lee visited during the Christmas holidays in Eufaula, Ala. where they were guests of Mr. and Mrs. Herschel Conner and family.
Dec. 31, 1964 – The Monroe Journal reported that new officers had been named by the Monroe County (Ala.) Medical Society, and they were to assume office on Jan. 1. Named president was Dr. Jack Whetstone of Monroeville; Dr. R.A. Smith Sr. of Monroeville, vice president; and Dr. R.A. Smith Jr. of Monroeville, secretary and treasurer. Named as delegates to the state convention were Dr. Whetstone and Dr. Smith Jr.
Dec. 31, 1964 – The Monroe Journal reported that Miss Joanna Ivey, senior at Monroe County High School, had been named Miss Good Citizen at MCHS. She was go to Montgomery, Ala. on Feb. 13, 1965 to compete for the statewide Miss Good Citizen. It was sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Dec. 31, 1967 - The Green Bay Packers won the National Football League championship game by defeating the Dallas Cowboys, 21-17. The game is known as the Ice Bowl since it was played in a wind chill of 40 degrees below zero.
Dec. 31, 1972 – National Baseball Hall of Fame right fielder Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates, age 38, was killed in a plane crash near Puerto Rico while flying relief supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims. He played his entire career, 1955-1972, for the Pirates, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973.
Dec. 31, 1973 – No. 3-ranked Notre Dame, coached by Ara Parseghian, beat Bear Bryant’s No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, 24-23, in the Sugar Bowl at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. Notre Dame quarterback Tom Clements was named the MVP. Broadcast nationally on ABC, the game was one of the highest-rated college football games of all time.
Dec. 31, 1974 – Fort Sinquefield in Clarke County, Ala. was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Dec. 31, 1975 – Bear Bryant’s No. 3-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide beat Joe Paterno’s No. 7-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions, 13-6, in the Sugar Bowl in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. Alabama quarterback Richard Todd was named the MVP. It was the first Sugar Bowl played in the Superdome.
Dec. 31, 1977 – Evergreen, Ala. weather reporter Earl Windham reported 55.12 inches of rain in 1977 as compared to 56.29 inches of rain in 1976. Approximately 111 inches fell in 1975.
Dec. 31, 1984 - ESPN debuted in Hawaii, making it available in all 50 states.
Dec. 31, 1988 – Mark Childress’ second novel, “V for Victor,” was released by Knopf.
Dec. 31, 1988 – The first winter ascent of Lhotse (8,516 meters) was achieved by Krzysztof Wielicki (solo).
Dec. 31, 1991 – Weather reporter Harry Ellis reported 3.24 inches of rain in Evergreen, Ala. during the month of December 1991. Total rainfall for 1991 amounted to 60.38 inches.
Dec. 31, 1992 – Weather reporter Harry Ellis reported 5.08 inches of rain in Evergreen, Ala. during the month of December 1992. Total rainfall for 1992 was 70.08 inches.
Dec. 31, 1999 – The United States Government handed control of the Panama Canal (as well all the adjacent land to the canal known as the Panama Canal Zone) to Panama. This act complied with the signing of the 1977 Torrijos–Carter Treaties.
Dec. 31, 1999 - The world braced for the “Y2K” chaos as computer systems switched over to the year 2000.
Dec. 31, 2006 – Major League Baseball second baseman Marv Breeding passed away at the age of 72 in Decatur, Ala. He played for the Baltimore Orioles, the Washington Senators and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Dec. 31, 2014 – Total rainfall during the month of December in Excel, Ala. amounted to 8.10 inches. Total rainfall during 2014 in Excel amounted to 63.60 inches.