FYI December 26, 2017

1862 – The largest mass-hanging in U.S. history took place in Mankato, Minnesota, where 38 Native Americans died.
The Dakota War of 1862, also known as the Sioux Uprising, Dakota Uprising, the Sioux Outbreak of 1862, the Dakota Conflict, the U.S.–Dakota War of 1862 or Little Crow’s War, was an armed conflict between the United States and several bands of Dakota (also known as the eastern ‘Sioux’). It began on August 17, 1862, along the Minnesota River in southwest Minnesota. The war saw extensive attacks on hundreds of settlers and immigrants, and caused many to flee. Intense desire for immediate revenge ended with the mass execution of 38 Dakota men on December 26, 1862, in Mankato, Minnesota.

Throughout the late 1850s, treaty violations by the United States and late or unfair annuity payments by Indian agents caused increasing hunger and hardship among the Dakota. Traders with the Dakota previously had demanded that the government give the annuity payments directly to them (introducing the possibility of unfair dealing between the agents and the traders to the exclusion of the Dakota). In mid-1862, the Dakota demanded the annuities directly from their agent, Thomas J. Galbraith. The traders refused to provide any more supplies on credit under those conditions, and negotiations reached an impasse.[3]

On August 17, 1862, one young Dakota with a hunting party of three others killed five settlers while on a hunting expedition. That night a council of Dakota decided to attack settlements throughout the Minnesota River valley to try to drive whites out of the area. There has never been an official report on the number of settlers killed, although in Abraham Lincoln’s second annual address, he stated that not less than 800 men, women, and children had died.

Over the next several months, continued battles pitting the Dakota against settlers and later, the United States Army, ended with the surrender of most of the Dakota bands.[4] By late December 1862, soldiers had taken captive more than a thousand Dakota, who were interned in jails in Minnesota. After trials and sentencing, 38 Dakota were hanged on December 26, 1862, in the largest one-day execution in American history. In April 1863, the rest of the Dakota were expelled from Minnesota to Nebraska and South Dakota. The United States Congress abolished their reservations.

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1780 – Mary Somerville, Scottish mathematician, astronomer, and author (d. 1872)
Mary Fairfax Somerville (26 December 1780 – 29 November 1872) was a Scottish science writer and polymath. She studied mathematics and astronomy, and was nominated to be jointly the first female member of the Royal Astronomical Society at the same time as Caroline Herschel.

When John Stuart Mill, the philosopher and economist, organised a massive petition to Parliament to give women the right to vote, he had Somerville put her signature first on the petition.

When she died in 1872, Mary Somerville was hailed by The Morning Post as “The Queen of Nineteenth-Century Science”.[1]

Early life and education

Somerville was the daughter of Vice-Admiral Sir William George Fairfax,[2] scion of a distinguished family of Fairfaxes, and she was related to several prominent Scottish houses through her mother.[3] She was born at the manse of Jedburgh, in the Borders, which was the house of her maternal aunt, wife of Dr Thomas Somerville (1741–1830) (author of My Own Life and Times).[3] Her childhood home was at Burntisland, Fife.[2] In her autobiography Somerville recollects that after returning from sea her father said to her mother “This kind of life will never do, Mary must at least know how to write and keep accounts”.[4] Thus the 10-year-old was sent for a year of tuition at Musselburgh, an expensive boarding school.[3] Somerville learned the first principles of writing, rudimentary French and English grammar.[5] Upon returning home, she:

“…was no longer amused in the gardens, but wandered about the country. When the tide was out I spent hours on the sands, looking at the star-fish and sea-urchins, or watching the children digging for sand-eels, cockles, and the spouting razor-fish. I made collections of shells, such as were cast ashore, some so small that they appeared like white specks, some so small that they appeared like white specks in patches of black sand. There was a small pier on the sands for shipping limestone brought from the coal mines inland. I was astonished to see the surface of these bocks of stone covered with beautiful impressions of what seemed to be leaves; how they got there I could not imagine, but I picked up the broken bits, and even large pieces, and brought them to my repository.”[6]

During bad weather she occupied herself with reading the books in her father’s library, including Shakespeare, and fulfilling her “domestic duties”. In later life she recollected “These occupied a great part of my time; besides, I had to shew my sampler, working the alphabet from A to Z, as well as the ten numbers, on canvas”.[7] Her aunt Janet came to live with the family and reportedly said to her mother “I wonder you let Mary waste her time in reading, she never shews more than if she were a man”. As a consequence Mary was sent to the village school to learn plain needlework. The youngster “was annoyed that my turn for reading was so much disapproved of, and thought it unjust that women should have been given a desire for knowledge if it were wrong to acquire it.” The village school master came to the house on several evenings in the week to teach Mary. He taught her how to use the two small globes in the house. In her Personal Recollections Mary notes that in the village school the boys learned Latin, “but it was thought sufficient for the girls to be able to read the Bible; very few even learnt writing.”[8]

At the age of 13 her mother sent her to writing school in Edinburgh during the winter months, where she improved her writing skills and studied the common rules of arithmetic.[9] Back in Burntisland she taught herself enough Latin so that she could read the books in the home library.[10] While visiting her aunt in Jedburgh she met her uncle Dr Thomas Somerville and picked up the courage to tell him that she had been trying to learn Latin. Dr Somerville assured her that in ancient times many women had been very elegant scholars, and proceeded to teach her Latin by reading Virgil with her.[11][2]

While visiting another uncle, William Charters, in Edinburgh, Mary was sent to Strange’s dancing school, where she learned how to curtsey and manners.[12] She also accompanied her uncle and aunt on their visits to the Lyell family in Kinnordy, Charles Lyell would go on to become a celebrated geologist and a friend of Mary.[13] With regards to the political upheaval of the time and the French Revolution she later wrote that her father was a Tory and that the “unjust and exaggerated abuse of the Liberal party made me a Liberal. From my earliest years my mind revolved against oppression and tyranny, and I resented the injustice of the world in denying all those privileges of education to my sex which were so lavishly bestowed on men.” Somerville asserted that her liberal religious and political opinions remained unchanged throughout her life, but that she was never a republican.[14]

While accompanying her uncle and aunt to a Burntisland in the summer she had access to elementary books on algebra and geometry. She spent the summer learning to play the piano and learning Greek so that she could read Xenophon and Herodotus.[15] Back in Edinburgh she was allowed to attend the academy Alexander Nasmyth had opened for ladies. Nasmyth advised another student to study Euclid’s Elements to gain a foundation in perspective, astronomy and mechanical science. Somerville spotted the opportunity, as she thought the book would help her understand Navigations by John Robertson.[16][2]

She continued in the traditional role of the daughter of a well-connected family, attending social events and maintaining a sweet and polite manner – she was nicknamed “the Rose of Jedburgh” among Edinburgh socialites.[17] Back in Burntisland a young tutor came to stay with the family to educate her younger brother Henry. Mr Craw was a Greek and Latin scholar, and Somerville asked him to purchase elementary books on algebra and geometry for her. He presented Somerville with Euclid’s Elements and Algebra by John Bonnycastle.[18] Somerville would rise early to play the piano, painted during the day, and stayed up late to study Euclid and algebra.[19] When the family friend Lord Balmuto invited her to visit his family, Somerville first saw a laboratory.[20] She also spent some time with the Oswalds family in Dunnikeir. Somerville was impressed with their daughter Elizabeth Oswald, a bold horsewoman who became a Greek and Latin scholar.[21]

The winters were usually spent in Edinburgh and under the care of Lady Burchan she made her first appearance at a ball, her first dancing partner being the Earl of Minto.[22] In the following autumn of 1797 her father was caught up in a mutiny while serving as flag-captain under Admiral Duncan on the HMS Venerable, but the Battle of Camperdown against the Dutch fleet was won.[23] Her father was knighted and made Colonel of Marines.[24] Her eldest brother died at the age of twenty-one in Calcutta while serving in the East India Company’s military service. The family had hoped that he would make a sufficient fortune in a few years to enable him to come home again.[25]

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By Aimée Lutkin: Sound of Music Actress Heather Menzies-Urich Dies at 68

Menzies-Urich’s husband, Robert Urich, also died from a rare form of cancer in 2002. She then founded the the Robert Urich Foundation, which raised money for cancer research and support for patients, CNN reports:

“After my husband lost his battle on April 16th, 2002, I vowed that I would make it my life’s mission to continue to fight for his dream and vision: a world where the word ‘cancer’ is simply a memory of war we have won,” Menzies-Urich wrote on the foundation’s website.

Menzies-Urich had three children and eight grandchildren. Her son, Ryan Urich, said in a statement, “She was an actress, a ballerina and loved living her life to the fullest.”
Heather Menzies-Urich (December 3, 1949 – December 24, 2017)
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