Today’s Memorable U. S. Events
Today is officially Leif Ericson Day in the United States, in honor of the first European discovery of the North American continent.
Lief Ericson ( c. 970 – c. 1020) was a Norse explorer who is regarded as the first European to land in North America (excluding Greenland), nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus. According to the Sagas of Icelanders, he established a Norse settlement at Vinland, which has been tentatively identified with the L’Anse aux Meadows Norse site on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
During a stay in Norway, Leif converted to Christianity, like many Norse of that time, at the behest of the King of Norway, Olaf I. When he returned to Greenland, he bought Bjarni Herjólfsson‘s boat and set out with 35 men to explore the land that Bjarni had seen to the west of Greenland, which was likely coastal Canada.
The Saga of the Greenlanders tells that Leif set out in the year 1002 or 1003 to follow Bjarni’s route with 35 crew members, but going north.
The first land he went to was covered with flat rocks (Old Norse hella). He therefore called it Helluland (“Land of the Flat Stones”). This was possibly Baffin Island. Next he came to a land that was flat and wooded, with white sandy beaches. He called this Markland (“Wood-land”), which is possibly Labrador.
Leif and his crew left Markland and again found land, which they named Vinland. They landed and built a small settlement which they called Leifsbúdir, meaning Leif’s storage houses, suggesting the settlement was temporary. They found the area pleasant as there were wild grapes and plenty of salmon in the river. The climate was mild, with little frost in the winter and green grass year-round. They remained in the region over the winter and returned to Greenland in spring carrying a cargo of timber.
Today in 1635, Roger Williams was banished from Massachusetts.
Roger Williams (near 1603 – between January and February 1683) was an English Protestant theologian who was an early proponent of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. On October 9, 1635 he was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony as a religious dissident after he speaks out against punishments for religious offenses and giving away Native American land. In 1636, he began the colony of Providence Plantation, which provided a refuge for religious minorities. Williams started the first Baptist church in America, the First Baptist Church of Providence, before leaving to become a Seeker. He was a student of Native American languages and an advocate for fair dealings with Native Americans.