Washington County, in the state of Vermont, was once named Jefferson County after the former US president Thomas Jefferson. But it renamed itself in 1814 to Washington County. The name change came about because Federalists took control of the Vermont Legislature from the Jeffersonians. Vermont had suffered under Jefferson because they were forbidden from trading with their northern neighbor, Canada, thanks to Jefferson's 1807 Embargo Act.

Genetics Find Contact Between Polynesians and Native Americans 1200 Years Ago

A genetic study provides evidence of contact between ancient Polynesians and indigenous South Americans around 1200 CE. The study compared DNA from more than 800 people from Polynesian islands and South America's Pacific Coast. The analyses found that some people from Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and nearby surrounding islands have Native American ancestry, which comes from individuals of the pre-Columbian Zenu culture. The pre-Columbian Zenu lived around 1200 CE in what is today Colombia. The geneticists suggest that Polynesians journeyed to South America, bringing back Zenu individuals to the Marquesas and starting families with them. Alternatively, South Americans may have traveled to eastern Polynesia and encountered (and intermarried with) Polynesians who in turn traveled further east.

The First and Last Man Executed for the Crime of Slave Trading

Only one person was ever executed in the United States for slave trading across borders, despite the fact that it was illegal from 1810 through the American Civil War. The Maine resident Nathaniel Gordon was captaining a slave ship from the Congo River to the United Stats in 1860 when it was seized at sea by a naval cruiser. The crime was automatically a federal case. After two trials in New York, Gordon was convicted and sentenced to hang on February 7, 1862. The only way out was a presidential pardon.


Abraham Lincoln had not yet been in office a full year, but he was widely known for his sense of mercy, and his frequent use of the presidential pardon. He also received thousands of letters asking for Gordon to be pardoned, and a visit to the White House by Gordon's wife and widowed mother. Lincoln held fast, however: there could be no pardon for a man who made his living selling other human beings into slavery.


“I think,” the president wrote, “I would personally prefer to let this man live in confinement and let him meditate on his deeds, yet in the name of justice and the majesty of law, there ought to be one case, at least one specific instance, of a professional slave-trader, a Northern white man, given the exact penalty of death because of the incalculable number of deaths he and his kind inflicted upon black men amid the horror of the sea-voyage from Africa.” Lincoln did give him a two-week reprieve because the president thought the condemned man had been misled into thinking he would be pardoned, and so had not properly made his peace with God and his upcoming death. The two weeks passed by, then Gordon was executed on February 21st, 1862.

Ochre Mine Found in Mexican Cenote

Archaeologists, examining underwater caves in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula for Mayan artifacts, have found evidence of something much older than the Maya. The remains of an underwater ochre mine from 12,000 years ago. It may be the oldest mine in the Americas, dating to when lower sea levels meant the caves were dry and on land.

The mine was a large operation, with enough ochre taken out to alter the landscape of the caverns permanently. The large operation also left behind lots of evidence. The team found a range of evidence of prehistoric mining activities, including digging tools, ochre extraction beds, navigational markers, and ancient fireplaces to light the caves. Then suddenly, 10,000 years ago, they stopped mining ochre at the site. It is unknown why. But with more than 2,000 kilometers of known cave systems they may simply have moved on to another site.

One thing the find makes clear is that ochre was very, very important in ancient Palaeoindian culture. They were willing to travel deep into a complex cave system that was illuminated only by small torches. Once inside they were willing to work hard, striking the ground with hammers made of stalagmites, then make the reverse journey carrying out the valuable pigment. For 2,000 years miners risked their lives deep in the darkness so it must have been a very important resource indeed.

Studying Native American Pipes To Understand Their Tobacco Habits

Researchers have detected traces of smooth sumac, or Rhus glabra, in the residues left in 1,400-year-old pipes unearthed in central Washington state, using a new technology that can detect thousands of plant compounds. Traces of a species of tobacco plant not currently grown in the region were also detected in the pipes. The smooth sumac may have been mixed with tobacco and used for its medicinal properties. Or simply to make the tobacco taste better. This study also analyzed a pipe used after contact with Europeans began in the area. It had residue containing a tobacco plant grown by Native Americans living on the East Coast. This is slightly surprising, as it had previously been thought that plants grown by Europeans quickly took over post-contact trade in tobacco. The evidence from the West Coast suggests that Native American growers remained in demand longer than previously thought.

A Brief History of the Terms POC and WOC

The terms "women of color" and "people of color" -- terms now in common use in American English to describe individuals who are not White -- were first created and used by persons of color. "Women of color" was created at the 1977 National Women’s Conference in Houston. An alliance of minority women's groups at the conference came up with the term as a way to describe their shared experience of oppression, and to express their commitment to working with all oppressed non-White women.

"People of color" is older, dating to the 1960s and 1970s. It was coined by groups like the Black Panther Party for Self Defense and the Brown Berets, who wanted to express their solidarity as people of color. These groups pioneered the idea (in the US) of people having color being a cause in how they were treated by society, and the groups needed a term that would include all oppressed non-White individuals that they could feel comfortable calling themselves. The new solidarity term deliberately started with the word "person," putting the people first, in contrast to the previously-used term "colored people" which put their category first. In short, people of color was created so that non-White individuals in the US could express, using a dignified term, that they were a group united by shared oppression and discrimination by American society and American institutions.

The 1986 rape and murder of 15-year-old American Dawn Ashworth was the first crime to be solved by DNA evidence. Serial killer Colin Pitchfork was identified as the murdered only after another man , who had confessed to the crimes earlier under coercion by police, was exonerated by DNA results.

Indigenous Land Management Still Impacting Amazon, Centuries After It Stopped Being Practiced

Researchers from the University of Exeter and Brazil’s State University of Mato Grosso sampled some 4,000 trees in southern and eastern Amazonia, and found that areas of the Amazon where so-called “dark earth” is found have more diverse ecosystems. Edmar Almeida de Oliveira explained that this vegetation includes more edible fruit trees and different species of colossal trees than are found in the surrounding forest. The study shows that these patches of dark earth, which were created over a period of 5,000 years by early farmers who fertilized the soil with charcoal from fires and food waste, still have more nutrients and are thus more fertile than untreated soils. Early farmers are thought to have grown food in the treated soils and forested trees from untreated areas. Dark earth areas were abandoned, the researchers added, when indigenous communities collapsed after the arrival of Europeans.

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    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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