This Day In History, August 17th

What happened on this day in history: Davy Crockett is born, Billy the Kid kills his first man, and more.

1786: Davy Crockett Is Born

Today In History August 17

Public DomainA portrait of Davy Crockett by John Gadsby Chapman. Unknown date.

American frontiersman Davy Crockett is born in Greene County, Tennessee — which was at that time part of North Carolina. Growing up in the forested wilderness, he gained a reputation for hunting. Later in life, he was elected to U.S. Congress, where he was a fierce opponent of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. After his time in Congress, Crockett moved to Texas, where he fought and died in the Battle of the Alamo. Today, Crockett is remembered as one of America’s greatest folk heroes.

1877: Billy The Kid Kills His First Man

Billy The Kid

Wikimedia CommonsOne of the only authenticated photos of Billy the Kid. Circa 1879-1880.

Billy the Kid, the infamous Old West outlaw, kills his first man. At the time, the teenage Billy was living as a ranch hand in Arizona after fleeing from his home in New Mexico, where he was accused of theft. While in Arizona, he got on the wrong side of a blacksmith named Frank “Windy” Cahill, who frequently made fun of him. On August 17, 1877, Cahill called Billy a “pimp” and threw the boy to the floor, leading Billy to pull out his pistol and shoot him.

1888: James Jameson Dies

A 19th-century explorer and heir to the Jameson Irish Whiskey fortune, James Jameson dies of a fever, shortly after he’s implicated in a gruesome incident of cannibalism involving a young enslaved girl.

While on an expedition to the Congo, Jameson purchased a 10-year-old girl so he could watch her be killed and eaten by cannibals. Though Jameson later claimed in his diary that he initially believed the proceedings were a joke and that the girl wouldn’t actually be murdered, the fact that he paid exactly six handkerchiefs for the girl and that he tried to sketch the grisly murder after it happened cast his claims into serious doubt.

Though Jameson’s involvement in the gruesome crime sent shockwaves throughout Britain, his death of a fever meant that he never faced justice for the atrocity.

1959: David Koresh Is Born

Vernon Howell, later known as Branch Davidian leader David Koresh, is born in Houston, Texas.

1962: Peter Fechter Is Killed While Trying To Cross The Berlin Wall

Peter Fechter, a German bricklayer, is shot by East German border guards while trying to cross the Berlin Wall into West Berlin. The 18-year-old and his friend Helmut Kulbeik plotted their daring escape attempt carefully, and Kulbeik actually made it across the wall safely. Fechter, however, was shot in the pelvis while climbing the wall, and East German guards refused to let anyone provide medical attention. He bled out in front of hundreds of onlookers, and the guards who shot him were found guilty of manslaughter decades later in 1997.

1978: First Transatlantic Balloon Flight Takes Place

Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson, and Larry Newman become the first people to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a helium-filled balloon. The three adventurers had boarded a balloon named the Double Eagle II in Presque Isle, Maine. Just over 137 hours later, they safely landed in Miserey, France, about 50 miles from Paris. This was the 14th known attempt to cross the Atlantic in a balloon.