This Day In History, December 29th

What happened on this day in history: The Wounded Knee Massacre takes place in 1890, serial killer Richard Chase begins his murder spree in 1977, and more.

1170: Thomas Becket Is Assassinated

English nobleman Thomas Becket is murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by followers of King Henry II of England. Becket, who was serving as Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, had recently been involved in a small conflict with the king. The ruler apparently said something that his knights construed as an order to kill Becket — so they did. Upon seeing his killers enter the cathedral, Becket reportedly said, “I am no traitor and I am ready to die.”

1607: Pocahontas Pleads For John Smith’s Life


Library of CongressA 19th-century depiction of Pocahontas, also known as Matoaka, saving the life of Captain John Smith.

Pocahontas or Matoaka, the daughter of an important Powhatan chief, allegedly saves the life of Englishman John Smith. According to Smith’s writings, Pocahontas pleaded for his life after a group of Powhatan men ambushed his expedition team and took him prisoner.

Listen above to the History Uncovered podcast, episode 33: Pocahontas, also available on iTunes and Spotify.

While archaeological evidence does suggest Smith was in the area where he claimed his execution was supposed to take place, it is unknown whether Pocahontas ever truly saved his life. Seven years later, Pochantos would wed another settler, John Rolfe, and die shortly after traveling to England.

1890: Wounded Knee Massacre

Nearly 300 Lakota Native Americans are slaughtered by the United States Army in what’s known as the Wounded Knee Massacre or the Battle of Wounded Knee. The soldiers were attempting to disarm the Lakota reservation in South Dakota to ease the fears of settlers who worried the tribe was going to attack them. Exactly how the massacre began is unclear, hundreds of Lakota men, women, and children were killed.

1937: Ireland Is Founded

The state of Ireland is established by the Constitution of Ireland. The constitution granted religious rights to citizens of Ireland and delineated the new government. Ireland would have a president and two legislative houses, a House of Representatives and a Senate. The constitution also recognized Northern Ireland as a separate territory in which Ireland did not have governing power. The constitution was passed with 57% of participants voting in favor.

1977: Richard Chase Commits His First Murder

Richard Chase On This Day In History

Public DomainThe mugshot of serial killer Richard Chase.

American serial killer Richard Chase, also known as the “Vampire of Sacramento,” murders 51-year-old Ambrose Griffin in a drive-by shooting.

Over the next month, he killed five more people — then reportedly drank their blood and ate pieces of their remains. Chase was arrested after he left bloody handprints at the scene of his final crime, and he died by suicide in prison in 1980 while awaiting his execution.