Today In History August 31

Today In History August 31

Time in history is a kind of relationship. We can look at several historical events that all happened at the same time, and that together tell a story about that period or era. Or we can look at the development of an idea over the period, and learn how and why it changed. And we can consider the relationship between the past and the present, or the future and therefore the past (which is today!). The present is the result of choices that we made and the beliefs they held in the past, while the past, in being retold, is in some way remade in the present. The future will be the result of the coming together of several areas developing today.

Let’s take a look at what happened in world history on August 31:

1777: Sam Mason survives Native American attack

Samuel Mason, a Patriot captain in command of Fort Henry on the Ohio frontier, survives a devastating Indian attack on this day in the year 1777.

The son of a distinguished Virginia family, Samuel Mason became a militia officer and was assigned to the western frontier post of Fort Henry in present-day West Virginia. In the summer of the year 1777, with the colonies fighting a war for independence, Mason feared attacks by the Indian allies of the British. He was proven correct on August 31, 1777, when a band of Native Americans from many eastern tribes attacked the fort.

The Indians initially fired only on men who were outside the fort rounding up horses. Hearing the shots, Mason gathered fourteen men and rode to their rescue; this was exactly what the warriors hoped he would do. They ambushed the party, killing all but Mason. Badly wounded, Mason escaped death by hiding behind a log. A second party that attempted to come to his rescue suffered the same fate as the first. All told, Mason lost fifteen men, compared to only one fatality among the attackers.

Mason recovered from his wounds and continued to command Fort Henry for many years. Following the end of the war, though, he fell on hard times. Repeatedly accused of being a thief, he moved farther west into the lawless frontier of the young American nation. By the year 1797, he had become a pirate on the Mississippi River, preying on boatmen who moved valuable goods up and down the river. He also reportedly took to robbing travelers along the Natchez Trace (or trail) in Tennessee, often with the help of his four sons.

By the early 1800s, Sam Mason had become one of the most notorious desperados on the American frontier, a precursor to Jesse James, Cole Younger, and later outlaws of the “Wild West.” In the year 1803, Spanish authorities arrested Mason and his four sons and decided to turn them over to the Americans. En route to Natchez, Tennessee, Mason, and his son’s attack and killed the commander of the boat and escaped.

Determined to apprehend Sam Mason, the Americans upped the reward for his capture, dead or alive. The reward money soon proved too tempting for two members of Sam Mason’s gang; in July 1803 they killed Mason, cut off his head, and brought it into the Mississippi territorial offices to prove that they had earned the reward. The men were soon identified as members of sam Mason’s gang, and they were arrested and hanged.


1955: William Cobb demonstrates the first solar-powered car

On this date in the year 1955, William Cobb of the General Motors Corporation demonstrated the world’s first solar-powered car. This vehicle didn’t take the world by storm because it was a model a mere fifteen inches long. A solar-powered car that could be driven was unveiled in 1962; a 1912 Baker electric car was fitted with nearly 11,000 individual solar cells on the roof to power the vehicle.

Now, 55 years on, a fully practical solar-powered car remains a goal. But manufacturing automobiles, mostly powered by internal combustion, is a $118 billion a year business in the U.S.