April 17, 618 AD - In Scotland, 53 monks were burned alive by a gang of armed women seeking revenge for being cheated out of their pasture rights.
April 17, 1397 – Geoffrey Chaucer told “The Canterbury Tales” for the first time at the court of Richard II. Chaucer scholars have also identified this date (in 1387) as the start of the book's pilgrimage to Canterbury.
April 17, 1492 – Spain and Christopher Columbus signed the Capitulations of Santa Fe, a contract to find a passage to Asia and the Indies to acquire spices.
April 17, 1524 – Giovanni da Verrazzano discovered New York harbor.
April 17, 1704 - John Campbell published what would eventually become the first successful American newspaper. It was known as the Boston "News-Letter."
April 17, 1783 - British Captain James Colbert launched a raid on Fort Carlos, Arkansas. The British retreated after a six-hour battle. The "Colbert Raid" was the only Revolutionary War action to take place in Arkansas. The state of Arkansas maintained the fort and its surroundings as the Arkansas Post Memorial and Arkansas Post Museum State Park.
April 17, 1790 – Benjamin Franklin passed away at the age of 84 in Philadelphia, Pa.
April 17, 1794 – German botanist and explorer Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius was born in Erlangen, Germany.
April 17, 1820 – National Baseball Hall of Famer Alexander Cartwright, considered to be the inventor of the modern game of baseball, was born in New York City. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1930.
April 17, 1837 - Alabama author Elizabeth Bellamy was born in Quincy, Fla.
April 17, 1852 – National Baseball Hall of Fame first baseman Cap Anson was born in Marshalltown, Iowa. He would go on to play for the Rockford Forest Citys, the Philadelphia Athletics and the Chicago White Stockings/Colts, and he managed the Philadelphia Athletics, the Stockings/Colts and the New York Giants. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1939.
April 17, 1861 – The state of Virginia's secession convention voted to secede from the United States, becoming the eighth state to join the Confederate States of America. Within the next five weeks, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina seceded bringing the total of Confederate states to 11.
April 17, 1861 – During the Civil War, more Federal reinforcements arrived at Ft. Pickens, near Pensacola, Fla.
April 17, 1861 - Missouri’s governor refused to provide its allotment of militia to the United States.
April 17, 1862 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Warsaw, Mo.; at Monterey, Tenn., right across the state line from Corinth, Miss.; at Woodson Gap, Tenn.; at Falmouth, Rude’s Hill and Piedmont, Va.; and at Holly River, West Virginia. A five-day Federal operation between Summerville and Addison, West Virginia began. The occupation of Fredericksburg, Mount Jackson and New Market, Va. began.
April 17, 1863 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Lundy’s Lane, Cherokee Station, Great Bear Creek and Barton Station, Ala.
April 17, 1863 – During the Civil War, Grierson's Raid began as troops under Union Army Colonel Benjamin Grierson left La Grange, Tenn. with 1,700 cavalry troops on a mission to destroy enemy supplies, telegraph lines and railroads in central Mississippi. The raid ended on May 2 when Grierson and his men rode into Union occupied Baton Rouge, La.
April 17, 1863 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought along the Amite River and another at Vermillion Bayou, La.; in the vicinity of Relleford’s Mill, Mo.; at Core Creek, N.C.; and at Suffolk, Va. A two-day Federal operation between Winchester to Stump’s Tannery, Va. began. A five-day Federal operation originating at Saint Martinsville to Breaux Bridge, and then to Opelousas, La. began. A three-day Federal operation between New Berne and Washington, N.C. began.
April 17, 1864 – During the Civil War, the Battle of Plymouth began as Confederate forces under General Robert Hoke attacked Plymouth, North Carolina, 50 miles north of New Bern. The rebels were attempting to recapture ports lost to the Union two years before. The four-day battle ended with the fall of Plymouth, but the Yankees kept the city bottled up with a flotilla on nearby Albemarle Sound. The Confederates lost 163 men killed and 554 wounded, but captured the entire Union garrison and vast amounts of supplies and arms. The Union lost about 150 killed and wounded, while several hundred of the captured soldiers eventually died at the notorious Andersonville Prison in Georgia.
April 17, 1864 - U.S. Civil War General Grant banned the trading of prisoners.
April 17, 1864 - Union General Frederick Steele sent Colonel John Williams to gather corn that had been found west of Camden. On the way back, the wagon train was attacked and stopped by Confederate General Samuel Maxey's troops.
April 17, 1864 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought in Limestone Valley and Red Mound, Ark.; at Holly Springs, Miss.; in the vicinity of Ellis’ Ford, Va.; and at Beaver Creek, N.C.
April 17, 1865 - Mary Surratt was arrested as a conspirator in the Lincoln assassination.
April 17, 1865 – During the Civil War, a skirmish was fought near Morgantown, N.C.
April 17, 1882 - Several copies of Sheriff Pat Garrett’s wildly inauthentic biography, “An Authentic Life of Billy the Kid,” arrived at the Library of Congress, beginning the widespread dissemination of this highly fictionalized story of the western outlaw.
April 17, 1885 – Isak Dinesen was born Karen Dinesen on a rural estate called Rungsted near Copenhagen, Denmark.
April 17, 1892 - At Sportsman's Park in St. Louis, the first National League game to be played on a Sunday took place. The Reds beat the Browns, 5-1.
April 17, 1894 – Naomi Rabb Winston was born in Evergreen, Ala. She went on to study at the Art Students League in New York, and she painted many oil paintings. She also designed the Official Great Seal of Alabama.
April 17, 1895 – The “atrocious murder” of Watts Murphy occurred on this Wednesday in the northeastern portion of Monroe County, near the Butler County line. Murphy had three men working for him, cutting logs, and as he approached them to give them instructions, one of the men struck him on the neck or shoulder with an axe, killing him. They then piled logs and brush on top of his body and set it on fire. All three were arrested, and one of them made a full and detailed confession. Those arrested in connection with the crime were Cal Johnson, Fred Douglas, Jim Calhoun, Sim Jernigan, Mary Davis and a woman called “Jenny.” The murderers were taken into custody by a posse and were transported to the jail in Greenville.
April 17, 1897 – The Aurora, Texas, UFO incident reportedly occurred when, according to locals, a UFO crashed on a farm near Aurora, Texas. The incident (similar to the more famous Roswell UFO incident 50 years later) was claimed to have resulted in a fatality from the crash and the alleged alien body is to have been buried in an unmarked grave at the local cemetery.
April 17, 1897 – Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thornton Wilder was born in Madison, Texas. His works include “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” (1927) and “Our Town” (1938).
April 17, 1904 - Joseph Stillwell “Joe” Cain Jr. passed away at the age of 71 in Mobile, Ala. He is largely credited with the rebirth of Mardi Gras celebrations in Mobile, Alabama, which had stopped due to the Civil War.
April 17, 1908 – In Lovecraftian fiction, Kingston, New York occultist Alonzo Hasbrouch Typer vanished near the abandoned van der Heyl mansion. His disappearance left authorities puzzled, though a diary found in the van der Heyl mansion in 1935 and the Rev. Edgar Dowling’s psychic research have provided wildly unlikely accounts of his life thereafter. Typer first appeared in 1938’s “The Diary of Alonzo Typer” by H.P. Lovecraft and William Lumley.
April 17, 1909 - Alabama author and illustrator Dorothea J. Snow was born in McMinnville, Tenn.
April 17-19, 1916 – The uniform examination of applicants for teachers’ certificates was held in Monroeville, Ala. during this three-day period, under the supervision of County Superintendent J.A. Barnes. Some 25 or 30 applicants were enrolled.
April 17, 1919 – During World War I, Army Pvt. William A. Glidewell of Red Level, Ala. “died from disease.”
April 17, 1923 – Major League Baseball shortstop and second baseman Solly Hemus was born in Phoenix, Ariz. He would go on to play for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies. He also managed the Cardinals for three seasons.
April 17, 1925 – Austrian-German SS officer Erich Göstl was born in Vienna, Austria.
April 17, 1926 – H.P. Lovecraft returned to Providence, R.I. from New York, settling at 10 Barnes Street, north of Brown University.
April 17, 1945 – During World War II, Brazilian forces liberated the town of Montese, Italy from Nazi forces.
April 17, 1947 - Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers performed a bunt for his first major league hit.
April 17, 1952 – Monroeville (Ala.) Little League held its first official practices ever in preparation for its first season, which opened on May 12, 1952.
April 17, 1953 – Army Pvt. James L.C. Jeter of Covington County, Ala. was killed in action in Korea.
April 17, 1953 – “Bright Road,” a movie version of Alabama author Mary Elizabeth Vroman's story "See How They Run," was released.
April 17, 1955 – English physician and explorer Dr. Michael “Mike” Adrian Stroud was born in England. He became an expert on human health under extreme conditions and became widely known when he partnered with famous explorer Ranulph Fiennes on polar expeditions.
April 17, 1960 - A television version of Alabama author Octavus Roy Cohen's book “Aftermath” was broadcast.
April 17, 1961 – NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason was born in West Islip, N.Y. He went on to play for the Cincinnati Bengals, the New York Jets and the Arizona Cardinals.
April 17, 1963 – Ground was broken for the Miller’s Ferry lock and dam in Wilcox County, Ala., marking the beginning of development on the Alabama River.
April 17, 1967 – Major League Baseball center fielder Marquis Grissom was born in Atlanta, Ga. He went on to play for the Montreal Expos, the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants.
April 17, 1969 - In Los Angeles, Sirhan Sirhan was convicted of assassinating U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy. He was sentenced to death on April 23, but that sentence was later reduced to life in prison.
April 17, 1970 - The crew of Apollo 13 safely returned to Earth, in spite of a severe malfunction that occurred in their spacecraft on their way to the moon.
April 17, 1972 - The first major antiwar protest of 1972 was held. The demonstration, held at the University of Maryland, was organized to protest the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). Hundreds of students were arrested and 800 National Guardsmen were ordered onto the campus. Significant protests continued across the country in reaction to the increased bombing of North Vietnam, which had been initiated in response to the new communist offensive in South Vietnam.
April 17, 1973 – George Lucas began writing the treatment for “Star Wars.”
April 17, 1975 - The Khmer Rouge troops captured Phnom Penh and government forces surrendered. The war between government troops and the communist insurgents had been raging since March 1970, when Lt. Gen. Lon Nol had ousted Prince Norodom Sihanouk in a bloodless coup and proclaimed the establishment of the Khmer Republic.
April 17, 1976 - Mike Schmidt of the Philadelphia Phillies hit four consecutive home runs in a game against the Chicago Cubs. Schmidt was only the fourth player in the history of Major League Baseball to accomplish this feat.
April 17, 2001 - Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants hit his 500th home run.
April 17, 2004 – The remains of the crew of the H.L. Hunley submarine were laid to rest at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, S.C.
April 17, 2010 - Ubaldo Jiménez threw the first no-hitter in Colorado Rockies history. The Rockies beat the Braves, 4-0.
April 17, 2012 – The Cleveland-Harris Cemetery in Clarke County, Ala. was added to the Alabama Historic Cemetery Register.
April 17, 2014 – ‘A Celebration of Reading’ bronze sculpture was unveiled on the Old Courthouse Museum lawn in Monroeville, Ala.