John’s Believe It Or Not… July 4th

In 1886 – Pacific Express rolls into Port Moody from Montreal – CPR’s 1st scheduled transcontinental passenger train. In 1776 American colonies declare independence. In 1826 Death of the founding fathers. In 1997 Pathfinder lands on Mars. In 1838 Huskar Colliery Mining Disaster in Silkstone England.

John Fioravanti is standing in front of the blackboard in his classroom.

It’s Tuesday, the 4th – Happy Birthday, America! Did you know…

* 1886 – Pacific Express rolls into Port Moody from Montreal – CPR’s 1st scheduled transcontinental passenger train. (The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR; AAR reporting marks CP, CPAA, CPI), known as CP Rail between 1968 and 1996, is a Canadian Class I railway operated by Canadian Pacific Railway Limited. Its rail network stretches from Vancouver to Montreal and also serves major cities in the United States such as Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Its headquarters are in Calgary, Alberta.

The railway was originally built between eastern Canada and British Columbia between 1881 and 1885 (connecting with Ottawa Valley and Georgian Bay area lines built earlier), fulfilling a promise extended to British Columbia when it entered Confederation in 1871. It was Canada’s first transcontinental railway. Now primarily a freight railway, the CPR was for two decades the only practical means of long distance passenger transport in most regions of Canada and was instrumental in the settlement and development of Western Canada. Its primary passenger services were eliminated in 1986 after being assumed by VIA Rail Canada in 1978. A beaver was chosen as the railway’s logo because it is one of the national symbols of Canada and represents the hardworking character of the company. The object of both praise and damnation for over 120 years, the CPR remains an indisputable icon of Canadian nationalism.

Before the Canadian Pacific Railway, 1871-1881 Canada’s very existence depended on the successful completion of a major civil engineering project, via. the creation of a transcontinental railway. Creation of the Canadian Pacific Railway was a task originally undertaken for a combination of reasons by the Conservative government of prime minister Sir John A. Macdonald. British Columbia had insisted upon a national railway as a condition for joining the Confederation of Canada. The government thus promised to build a railway linking the Pacific province to the eastern provinces within ten years of July 20, 1871. Macdonald also saw it as essential to the creation of a unified Canadian nation that would stretch across the continent. Moreover, manufacturing interests in Quebec and Ontario desired access to sources of raw materials and markets in Canada’s west.)

Canadian Pacific Railway locomotive number 374 pulls the first train into Port Moody - 4 Jul 1886 Photographer unknown.
Canadian Pacific Railway locomotive number 374 pulls the first train into Port Moody – 4 Jul 1886 Photographer unknown. (OKthePK – Public Canadian Railway News)

* 1776 American colonies declare independence. (On this day in 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims the independence of a new United States of America from Great Britain and its king. The declaration came 442 days after the first shots of the American Revolution were fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts and marked an ideological expansion of the conflict that would eventually involve France’s intervention on behalf of the Americans.

The colonists called the first Continental Congress to consider united American resistance to the British. With the other colonies watching intently, Massachusetts led the resistance to the British, forming a shadow revolutionary government and establishing militias to resist the increasing British military presence across the colony. In April 1775, Thomas Gage, the British governor of Massachusetts, ordered British troops to march to Concord, Massachusetts, where a Patriot arsenal was known to be located. On April 19, 1775, the British regulars encountered a group of American militiamen at Lexington, and the first shots of the American Revolution were fired. Initially, both the Americans and the British saw the conflict as a kind of civil war within the British Empire. To King George III, it was a colonial rebellion, and to the Americans, it was a struggle for their rights as British citizens. However, Parliament remained unwilling to negotiate with the American rebels and instead hired Hessians, German mercenaries, to help the British army crush the rebellion.

In response to Britain’s continued opposition to reform, the Continental Congress began to pass measures abolishing British authority in the colonies. In January 1776, Thomas Paine published Common Sense, an influential political pamphlet that convincingly argued for American independence and sold more than 500,000 copies in just a few months. In the spring of 1776, support for independence swept the colonies, the Continental Congress called for states to form their own governments and a five-man committee was assigned to draft a declaration. The Declaration of Independence was largely the work of Virginian Thomas Jefferson. In justifying American independence, Jefferson drew generously from the political philosophy of John Locke, an advocate of natural rights, and from the work of other English theorists. The declaration features the immortal lines, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It then goes on to present a long list of grievances that provided the rationale for rebellion. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to approve a Virginia motion calling for separation from Britain. The dramatic words of this resolution were added to the closing of the Declaration of Independence.

Two days later, on July 4, the declaration was formally adopted by 12 colonies after minor revision. New York, the 13th colony, approved it on July 19. On August 2, the declaration was signed. The American War for Independence would last for five years. Yet to come were the Patriot triumphs at Saratoga, the bitter winter at Valley Forge, the intervention of the French and the final victory at Yorktown in 1781. In 1783, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris with Britain, the United States formally became a free and independent nation.)

The Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence (

* 1826 Death of the founding fathers. (John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the second and third presidents of the United States, respectively, died on this day, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Both men had been central in the drafting of the historic document; Jefferson had authored it, and Adams, who was known as the “colossus of the debate,” served on the drafting committee and had argued eloquently for the declaration’s passage.

After July 4, 1776, Adams traveled to France as a diplomat, where he proved instrumental in winning French support for the Patriot cause, and Jefferson returned to Virginia, where he served as state governor during the dark days of the American Revolution. After the British defeat at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, Adams was one of the negotiators of the Treaty of Paris that ended the war, and with Jefferson, he returned to Europe to try to negotiate a U.S.-British trade treaty.

After the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, Adams was elected vice president to George Washington, and Jefferson was appointed the secretary of state. During Washington’s administration, Jefferson, with his democratic ideals and concept of states’ rights, often came into conflict with Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, who supported a strong federal government and conservative property rights. Adams often arbitrated between Hamilton and his old friend Jefferson, though in politics he was generally allied with Hamilton.

In 1796, Adams defeated Jefferson in the presidential election, but the latter became vice president because at that time the office was still filled by the candidate who finished second. As president, Adams’ main concern was America’s deteriorating relationship with France, and war was only averted because of his considerable diplomatic talents. In 1800, Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans (the forerunner of the Democratic Party) defeated the Federalist party of Adams and Hamilton, and Adams retired to his estate in Quincy, Massachusetts.

As president, Jefferson reduced the power and expenditures of the central government but advocated the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France, which more than doubled the size of the United States. During his second administration, Jefferson faced renewed conflict with Great Britain, but he left office before the War of 1812 began. Jefferson retired to his estate in Monticello, Virginia, but he often advised his presidential successors and helped establish the University of Virginia. Jefferson also corresponded with John Adams to discuss politics, and these famous letters are regarded as masterpieces of the American enlightenment.

By a remarkable coincidence, Jefferson and Adams died on the same day, Independence Day in 1826, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Adams’ last words were, “Thomas Jefferson still survives,” though his old friend and political adversary had died a few hours before.)

Adams and Jefferson died on July 4, 1826
Adams and Jefferson died on July 4, 1826 (Stories From Ipswich)

* 1997 Pathfinder lands on Mars. (After traveling 120 million miles in seven months, NASA’s Mars Pathfinder becomes the first U.S. spacecraft to land on Mars in more than two decades. In an ingenious, cost-saving landing procedure, Pathfinder used parachutes to slow its approach to the Martian surface and then deployed airbags to cushion its impact. Colliding with the Ares Vallis floodplain at 40 miles an hour, the spacecraft bounced high into the Martian atmosphere 16 times before safely coming to rest.

On July 5, the Pathfinder lander was renamed Sagan Memorial Station in honor of the late American astronomer Carl Sagan, and the next day Sojourner, the first remote-control interplanetary rover, rolled off the station. Sojourner, which traveled a total of 171 feet during its 30-day mission, sent back a wealth of information about the chemical components of rock and soil in the area. In addition, nearly 10,000 images of the Martian landscape were taken.

The Mars Pathfinder mission, which cost just $150 million, was hailed as a triumph for NASA, and millions of Internet users visited the official Pathfinder Web site to view images of the red planet.)

High Point: Mars Pathfinder Lands.
High Point: Mars Pathfinder Lands. (

* 1838 Huskar Colliery Mining Disaster in Silkstone England.  (Huskar Pit was a coal mine on the South Yorkshire Coalfield, sunk to work the Silkstone seam. It was located in Nabs Wood, outside the village of Silkstone Common, in the then West Riding of Yorkshire. Huskar was the scene of a notorious pit disaster in 1838.

In 1838 Huskar was connected to Moorend Colliery, and used for ventilation. It had a vertical shaft to the surface and a drift shaft (known as a “dayhole”) leading to Nabs Wood. On 4 July 1838 heavy rainfall struck the area, disabling the winding engine on the vertical shaft. The workers stranded at the pit bottom were instructed to remain there until they were able to be brought up to the surface, but a number of children decided to try and escape via the dayhole to Nabs Wood. A nearby stream had burst its banks in the rain and a torrent of water entered the shaft, drowning 26 children aged 7 to 17. Some were able to escape via a passage that leads to Moorend and alert colliers on the surface.

The children’s bodies were brought up from the pit and buried together in the churchyard of All Saint’s Church, Silkstone. A memorial was erected bearing the names and ages of those who died, which today is the logo of the village’s primary school. Nationwide, the disaster shocked public opinion, and the resulting inquiry led to the 1842 Mines Act which sought to introduce some protection for child miners and meant that all girls and boys under the age of ten were prohibited from working underground.)

Huskar Pit Disaster Memorial... (Andy Milner)
Huskar Pit Disaster Memorial… (Andy Milner) (

Today’s 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.

13 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 4th”

  1. John, I like that even on the 4th you’re including Canadian info – makes me proud 🙂 The railway has such a distinguished history here. I also enjoyed learning more about the Mars Pathfinder. Wishing our American friends a great Independence Day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Every day, at least one of my stories is in Canadian history – except when my CDN source website is down for “maintenance” – which is so often, it has to be the best-maintained site in the galaxy! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Christy. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A winner of a post, John. Ironic that the founding fathers both died on the same day, 50 years later. Love the locomotive. Very sad story of the children in the mine. Happy Birthday, America!

    Liked by 1 person

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