John’s Believe It Or Not… May 16th

In 1806 Philemon Wright starts his first timber raft down the Ottawa River. In 1943 Allied Dambusters raid on Mohne & Eder dams. In 1975 A nurse steals another woman’s unborn baby. In 1975 Japanese woman scales Everest. In 1717 Voltaire is imprisoned in the Bastille.

John Fioravanti Stands at the front of his classroom in 2006

It’s Tuesday… We Survived Monday! Did you know…

* 1806 – Philemon Wright starts his first timber raft down the Ottawa River. (The Ottawa River timber trade, also known as the Ottawa Valley timber trade or Ottawa River lumber trade, was the nineteenth-century production of wood products by Canada on areas of the Ottawa River destined for British and American markets. It was the major industry of the historical colonies of Upper Canada and Lower Canada and it created an entrepreneur known as a lumber baron. The trade in squared timber and later sawed lumber led to population growth and prosperity to communities in the Ottawa Valley, especially the city of Bytown (now Ottawa, the capital of Canada). The product was chiefly red and white pine. The industry lasted until around 1900 as both markets and supplies decreased. The industry came about following Napoleon’s 1806 Continental Blockade in Europe causing the United Kingdom to require a new source of timber, especially for its navy and shipbuilding. Later the U.K.’s application of gradually increasing preferential tariffs increased Canadian imports. The first part of the industry, the trade in squared timber lasted until about the 1850s. The transportation for the raw timber was first by means of floating down the Ottawa River, proved possible in 1806 by Philemon Wright.[1] Squared timber would be assembled into large rafts which held living quarters for men on their six-week journey to Quebec City, which had large exporting facilities and easy access to the Atlantic Ocean.)

Philemon Wright on his raft "Colombo" (C.W. Jefferys)
Philemon Wright on his raft “Colombo” (C.W. Jefferys) (Courtesy of Twitter)

* 1943 – Dambusters raid on Mohne & Eder dams; 13 Canadians die; only 8 of 17 Lancasters return. (Operation Chastise was an attack on German dams carried out on 16–17 May 1943 by Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron, subsequently publicized as the “Dam Busters”, using a specially developed “bouncing bomb” invented and developed by Barnes Wallis. The Möhne and Edersee Dams were breached, causing catastrophic flooding of the Ruhr valley and of villages in the Eder valley; the Sorpe Dam sustained only minor damage. Two hydroelectric power stations were destroyed and several more were damaged. Factories and mines were also either damaged or destroyed. An estimated 1,600 civilians drowned: about 600 Germans and 1,000 mainly Soviet forced-labourers. The damage was mitigated by rapid repairs by the Germans, but production did not return to normal until September.)

Image of the Lancaster Bomber and the bombs used to destroy the dams.
May 16-17, 2013 — On the night of May 16-17, 1943, 19 Lancaster bombers of the RAF’s specially formed 617 Squadron carried out an attack on the Möhne, Eder, and Sorpe dams in Germany’s industrial heartland, using the famous “bouncing bomb” designed by Barnes Wallis Graphic shows how the RAF’s specially developed “bouncing bomb” was used to attack three German dams during World War II.

* 1975 A nurse steals another woman’s unborn baby. (Norma Jean Armistead checks herself into Kaiser Hospital in Los Angeles, California, with a newborn that she claims to have given birth to at home. Some staff members were already aware that Armistead, a nurse at the hospital, had a pregnancy listed on her medical charts the previous year, but dismissed it as a mistake because they didn’t believe the 44-year-old woman was still capable of getting pregnant. Examining doctors were even more confused when it appeared that Armistead hadn’t actually given birth. The mystery was soon solved when a 28-year-old woman turned up dead in her Van Nuys apartment. The baby she was carrying, and expected to give birth to shortly, had been cut from her body. Doctors quickly pieced the evidence together and Armistead was arrested for murder. Armistead had planned the strange and horrific crime almost nine months earlier. In October, she managed to sneak into her medical records to create a false report of her pregnancy. Then, in May, she used the hospital’s files to find a woman who was due to give birth. Armistead went to the woman’s apartment and stabbed her to death before ripping the baby from her womb to pass off as her own. Armistead, unsuccessfully pleading insanity, was convicted of murder and sent to prison for life.)

Nurse Norma Armistead also known as Norma Jean Jackson was worried of her relationship with her common-law husband Charles since she could not bear a child.
Nurse Norma Armistead also was known as Norma Jean Jackson was worried about her relationship with her common-law husband Charles since she could not bear a child. (TRIVIA. LIFE. ANYTHING UNDER THE SUN –

* 1975 Japanese woman scales Everest. (Via the southeast ridge route, Japanese mountaineer Junko Tabei becomes the first woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. Located in the central Himalayas on the border of China and Nepal, Everest stands 29,035 feet above sea level. Called Chomo-Lungma, or “Mother Goddess of the Land,” by the Tibetans, the English named the mountain after Sir George Everest, an early 19th-century British surveyor of the Himalayas. In May 1953, climber and explorer Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay of Nepal made the first successful climb of the peak. Hillary was later knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for the achievement. Ten years later, American James Whittaker reached Everest’s summit with his Sherpa climbing partner, Nawang Gombu. In 1975, Junko Tabei conquered the mountain, and in 1988 Stacy Allison became the first American woman to successfully climb Everest.) 

Junko Tabei as she scales Mt. Everest.
(History Things)

* 1717 Voltaire is imprisoned in the Bastille. (Writer Francois-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire, is imprisoned in the Bastille on this day in 1717. The outspoken writer was born to middle-class parents, attended college in Paris, and began to study law. However, he quit law to become a playwright and made a name for himself with classical tragedies. Critics embraced his epic poem, La Henriade, but its satirical attack on politics and religion infuriated the government, and Voltaire was arrested in 1717. He spent nearly a year in the Bastille. Voltaire’s time in prison failed to dry up his satirical pen. In 1726, he was forced to flee to England. He returned several years later and continued to write plays. In 1734, his Lettres Philosophiques criticized established religions and political institutions, and he was forced to flee again. He retreated to the region of Champagne, where he lived with his mistress and patroness, Madame du Chatelet. In 1750, he moved to Berlin at the invitation of Frederick II of Prussia and later settled in Switzerland, where he wrote his best-known work, Candide. He died in Paris in 1778, having returned to supervise the production of one of his plays.)

Alma Books on Twitter: "#Onthisday 1717, Voltaire is imprisoned in the Bastille. Pic: Bouchot's painting of Voltaire writing in prison.
Alma Books on Twitter: “#Onthisday 1717, Voltaire is imprisoned in the Bastille. Pic: Bouchot’s painting of Voltaire writing in prison.

Acknowledged Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

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

* This Day In History – What Happened Today

* Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia

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.

7 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… May 16th”

  1. A fascinating collection of interesting information, John. I didn’t know about the Canadian timber industry so that was new to me. I had heard the story of the nurse who “stole” the baby but didn’t know all this detail. So absolutely awful – reminded me a bit of the Sharon Tate murder.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that stolen baby story was quite gruesome. Yes, our lumber industry is still important and Trump just slapped some heavy duties on softwood lumber going across the US border. Thanks for your kind words and for sharing your thoughts today, Robbie!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. An interesting collection today, as always, John.
    I’d never heard of Norma Jean Armistead. It’s hard to imagine a woman capable of such a horrific crime. I hope that, at least, a relative of the true mother was able to raise the baby. Thinking of that child going to foster care just compounds the horror.

    Liked by 1 person

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