John’s Believe It Or Not… July 15th

In 1617 – Louis Hébert and family settle in Quebec at Champlain’s Invitation. In 1381 John Ball – a leader in the Peasants’ Revolt – is executed in the presence of Richard II of England. In 1799 The Rosetta Stone is found in the Egyptian village of Rosetta. In 2002 John Walker Lindh accepts a plea bargain. In 1965 Mariner 4 studies Martian surface.

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

Yay! It’s Saturday! Did you know…

* 1617 – Louis Hébert and family settle in Quebec at Champlain’s Invitation. (Champlain spent the winter of 1616-1617 in Paris searching for support for his colony of Quebec. Hébert was allured, believing that there would be good opportunities for him in the St. Lawrence Valley. The Compagnie de Canada made Hébert an offer: If he would take his family to Quebec for three years and practice medicine in the settlement and establish farming, the company would pay him an annual salary of 600 livres (pounds) and grant him ten acres of land at the settlement on which to build his house and farm. Louis agreed to the terms and signed the contract.

Louis sold his practice and his home and proceeded with his wife, son, and two daughters to the port of Honfleur, France. When he arrived, Louis was told by the ship’s master that instructions from the Compagnie de Canada were that they could only board if Louis agreed to sign a new contract with the company. The new provision reduced his annual salary to 300 livres per year, required him to serve as the physician and surgeon at the settlement, and required him to farm ten acres of land and give the company exclusive right to buy all of his agricultural products at the prevailing price in France. Having already sold his house and left his practice, Louis reluctantly accepted and signed the new contract.

On April 11, 1617, Hébert and his family left Honfleur aboard the Saint-Etienne (captained by Normand Morin) and arrived in Quebec on 15 July. Only five other French families were to follow them on similar voyages to New France in the next 10 years.

In the spring of 1617, Louis became the first private individual to receive a grant of land in the New World from the French Government.

Upon his arrival in Quebec, Louis selected ten acres on a site that is today located in the city of Quebec between Ste. Famille and Couillard Streets, on the grounds of the Seminary of Quebec and Basilica of Notre Dame. Soon afterward, Louis started clearing out some old-growth forest so he could plant crops. This put him in conflict with the fur trading company, who was strongly opposed to deforestation for farming because of its adverse effect on the fur business. Louis had to work very hard, doing all the work by hand. The fur trading company would not let him import a plow from France. On this land, Louis, his son Guillaume, and an unnamed servant with the help of only an axe, a pick, and a spade, broke the soil and raised corn, winter wheat, beans, peas, and livestock including cattle, swine, and fowl. He also established an apple orchard and a vineyard.)

Photograph, Colchester Historeum. Louis Hebert, the first apothecary and farmer in Canada.
Photograph, Colchester Historeum. Louis Hebert, the first apothecary, and farmer in Canada. (

* 1381 John Ball – a leader in the Peasants’ Revolt – is executed in the presence of Richard II of England. (He was born and lived in St Albans, Hertfordshire, later moving to Norwich and then to Colchester during the plague years of the Black Death. The country was exhausted by death on a massive scale and crippling taxes; the Black Death was followed by years of war, which had to be paid for. The population was nearly halved by disease and overworked, and onerous flat-rate poll taxes were imposed.

Ball was imprisoned in Maidstone, Kent, at the time of the 1381 Revolt. What is recorded of his adult life comes from hostile sources emanating from the established religious and political social order. He is said to have gained considerable fame as a roving preacher without a parish or any link to the established order by expounding the doctrines of John Wycliffe, and especially by his insistence on social equality.

His utterances brought him into conflict with Simon of Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, and he was thrown in prison on several occasions. He also appears to have been excommunicated; owing to which, in 1366 it was forbidden for anyone to hear him preach. These measures, however, did not moderate his opinions, nor diminish his popularity. He took to speaking to parishioners in churchyards after the official services: in English, the “common tongue”, not the Latin of the clergy, a radical political move. Ball was “using the bible against the church”, very threatening to the status quo.

Shortly after the Peasants’ Revolt began, Ball was released by the Kentish rebels from his prison. He preached to them at Blackheath (the revolting peasants’ rendezvous to the south of Greenwich) in an open-air sermon. When the rebels had dispersed, Ball was taken prisoner at Coventry, given a trial in which, unlike most, he was permitted to speak. He was hanged, drawn and quartered at St Albans in the presence of King Richard II on 15 July 1381. His head was displayed stuck on a pike on London Bridge, and the quarters of his body were displayed at four different towns.)

Bernard Fleetwood-Walker, John Ball (1938) Chelmsford County Hall
Bernard Fleetwood-Walker, John Ball (1938) Chelmsford County Hall (Spartacus Educational)

* 1799 The Rosetta Stone is found in the Egyptian village of Rosetta. (The Rosetta Stone is a granodiorite stele, found in 1799, inscribed with three versions of a decree issued at Memphis, Egypt in 196 BC during the Ptolemaic dynasty on behalf of King Ptolemy V. The top and middle texts are in Ancient Egyptian using hieroglyphic script and Demotic script, respectively, while the bottom is in Ancient Greek. As the decree is the same (with some minor differences) in all three versions, the Rosetta Stone proved to be the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The stone, carved in black granodiorite during the Hellenistic period, is believed to have originally been displayed within a temple, possibly at nearby Sais. It was probably moved during the early Christian or medieval period and was eventually used as building material in the construction of Fort Julien near the town of Rashid (Rosetta) in the Nile Delta. It was rediscovered there in July 1799 by a French soldier named Pierre-François Bouchard during the Napoleonic campaign in Egypt. It was the first Ancient Egyptian bilingual text recovered in modern times, and it aroused widespread public interest with its potential to decipher this previously untranslated hieroglyphic language. Lithographic copies and plaster casts began circulating among European museums and scholars. Meanwhile, British troops defeated the French in Egypt in 1801, and the original stone came into British possession under the Capitulation of Alexandria and was transported to London. It has been on public display at the British Museum almost continuously since 1802. It is the most-visited object in the British Museum.

Study of the decree was already under way when the first full translation of the Greek text appeared in 1803. It was 20 years, however, before the transliteration of the Egyptian scripts was announced by Jean-François Champollion in Paris in 1822; it took longer still before scholars were able to read Ancient Egyptian inscriptions and literature confidently. Major advances in the decoding were recognition that the stone offered three versions of the same text (1799); that the demotic text used phonetic characters to spell foreign names (1802); that the hieroglyphic text did so as well, and had pervasive similarities to the demotic (Thomas Young, 1814); and that, in addition to being used for foreign names, phonetic characters were also used to spell native Egyptian words.)

The Rosetta Stone, named for the Egyptian village where it was discovered during Napoleon's Egyptian Campaign
The Rosetta Stone, named after the Egyptian village where it was discovered during Napoleon’s Egyptian Campaign. (Penigma’s Today in History – blogger)

* 2002 John Walker Lindh accepts a plea bargain. (On this day in 2002, John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban,” accepts a plea-bargain deal in which he pleads guilty to one count of supplying services to the Taliban and carrying weapons. Under the terms of the deal, Walker Lindh agreed to serve 20 years in prison and cooperate with the American government in their investigation into the terrorist group al Qaeda. In return, all other charges against him were dropped, including one count of conspiring to kill U.S. nationals.

The previous year, Walker Lindh, an American citizen, gained infamy across the country when he was found by U.S. forces in Afghanistan during the U.S. invasion that followed the September 11th attacks. It was soon found that Lindh had served as a Taliban soldier. He was one of only about 80 prisoners to survive a prison uprising in Mazar-e-Sharif that had been put down by a combination of Northern Alliance and U.S. troops. Hundreds of prisoners, as well as a C.I.A. agent named Johnny Spann, were killed in the riot.

John Walker Lindh was born outside of Washington, D.C., and moved to Marin County, an affluent San Francisco suburb, when he was 10 years old. A precocious student, he attended Tamiscal High School, an elite alternative institution where students design their own curriculum. He performed well academically and was said to have a talent for languages and music. He reports becoming interested in Islam as an adolescent after learning about the life of Malcolm X. At 16, he converted to Islam. He soon began using the name “Suleyman,” wearing traditional Muslim dress, and attending services at a local mosque. In July 1998, he traveled to Yemen to learn Arabic. It was the beginning of a journey that would land him in the custody of U.S. Special Forces.

After returning to California briefly in February 2000, Walker Lindh again left for Yemen. Eight months later in October 2000, he traveled to Pakistan to study at a madrasah, a fundamentalist Islamic school. While at the school, he became interested in the Muslim struggle against the Indian government in the disputed Kashmir region. He joined a radical Islamic group and underwent military training, but left when he became disenchanted with the cause. It was then that the Taliban–the notorious ultra-conservative Islamist group that ruled Afghanistan from 1998 to 2001–caught his attention. “I was in [Pakistan’s] Northwest Frontier Province. The people there, in general, have a great love for the Taliban. So I started to read some of the literature of the scholars and my heart became attached to it. I wanted to help them one way or another.” Walker Lindh became so enamored with the Taliban cause that he asked to join them.

Because he spoke Arabic but not any local Afghan language, Walker Lindh was assigned to al Qaeda, an Arab group in league with the Taliban, and attended their al Farooq training camp two hours outside of the Afghan city of Kandahar. His training included lessons on weapons, maps, battlefields, and explosives. He also briefly met and says he was “thanked” by Osama bin Laden for his service. After training, he was sent to the front lines of the Taliban’s battle with the Northern Alliance for control of the country. When the U.S. invaded, Walker Lindh walked 100 miles to the town of Kunduz, where he and about 3,000 other Taliban fighters were taken prisoner and sent to Mazar-e-Sharif.

Walker Lindh spent three weeks holed up in the prison’s basement with other Taliban detainees before giving himself up on November 29. He was held on the Navy ship USS Bataan before being transferred to Kandahar and eventually to the United States.

As part of his plea agreement, Walker Lindh would be tried as an enemy combatant if he were ever again found to be associating with terrorists. In the meantime, he pledged to continue to study Islam and the Koran while in jail.)

John Walker Lindh, a 20-year-old American from California, was captured while fighting for the Taliban.
John Walker Lindh, a 20-year-old American from California, was captured while fighting for the Taliban. (Twitter)

* 1965 Mariner 4 studies Martian surface. (The unmanned spacecraft Mariner 4 passes over Mars at an altitude of 6,000 feet and sends back to Earth the first close-up images of the red planet.

Launched in November 1964, Mariner 4 carried a television camera and six other science instruments to study Mars and interplanetary space within the solar system. Reaching Mars on July 14, 1965, the spacecraft began sending back television images of the planet just after midnight on July 15. The pictures–nearly 22 in all–revealed a vast, barren wasteland of craters and rust-colored sand, dismissing 19th-century suspicions that an advanced civilization might exist on the planet. The canals that American astronomer Percival Lowell spied with his telescope in 1890 proved to be an optical illusion, but ancient natural waterways of some kind did seem to be evident in some regions of the planet.

Once past Mars, Mariner 4 journeyed on to the far side of the sun before returning to the vicinity of Earth in 1967. Nearly out of power by then, communication with the spacecraft was terminated in December 1967.)

Mariner 4 Snaps First TV Image of Mars | NASA.
Mariner 4 Snaps First TV Image of Mars | NASA.

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                                       


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.

17 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 15th”

  1. I read this one last night and admit to reading the Rosetta Stone part twice. I really hadn’t understood before it’s significance. But it “cracked the code” on reading Egyptian hieroglyphics, which is huge! I get it now (lightbulb moment) and thank you for it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly right, Christy – you got it! This is why we know that we don’t know the ‘facts’ of history for sure. New discoveries lead to new knowledge. When I was in elementary school in the 50s we were taught that Columbus was the first European to discover the Americas. Later, archeologists found evidence of a Viking settlement in Labrador that predated Columbus. So I like this definition of history: the study of what we think happened in the past…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Super edition, John. From the Rosetta stone which lifted man’s understanding to the Mariner mission. As top or two. I felt badly for Louis Hebert. He couldn’t catch a break. Wonder how he turned out. John Walker got off easy give his activities. Nice Job.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He died about ten years after this – some disease got him. The fur trade companies back then remind me of the big corporations today – so short-sighted: profits for today no matter the cost. The French did one thing right back then – they made friends with the local Natives. Thanks for your comments, John!


  3. It is stunning how we humans are so afraid of divergent thought – and how we attempt to silence that thinking through violence. 😦 Thank you for the story of the Rosetta Stone; I did not know its origin!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I likely wouldn’t have known about the Rosetta Stone if I hadn’t taught modern European History. Yes, the violence – puts the ISIS atrocities into perspective. I know that fear is an important part of our survival mechanism, but it certainly provokes some of humanity’s worst traits and behavior. Sometimes, I think Mr. Spock and the Vulcan race had it partially right. Thanks for your thoughts, Gwen!


  4. A splendid post this morning, John. That piece about John Ball is really terrible and sad. I heard his story and also saw the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum on the same day during our UK trip last year. We heard the John Ball story at the Tower of London.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Robbie. I envy your trip to the UK – I’m sure it was wonderful. What happened to John Ball and after the capture of Jerusalem by the Crusaders certainly puts the ISIS atrocities in perspective for me. Thanks for your thoughts, Robbie!

      Liked by 1 person

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