This Day in History – September 4th – Hijinx, Humor, and Insight


NewsWhistle is pleased to feature Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original at Gary’s THIS DAY IN HISTORY blog — or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at life’s comings and goings.




496 – Fall of the Roman Empire.

A Germanic prince, Odovacar, deposed the last Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustulus. Odovacar seized control of the Roman army in Italy ,and after centuries of rule the Empire ceased to exist. Instead of one centralized ruler, there were dozens of kings and princes leading the various tribes of Anglo-Saxons, Gauls, and Vandals. There wasn’t one massive invasion, rather barbarian tribes had been encroaching on Roman territory for a long time and setting up their own domains. Rome’s policy had been to conquer a part of the world, then turn the inhabitants into subjected versions of Roman citizens and soldiers. These subjects would form a large part of the mercenary army. Corruption within the Roman government which was led by political amateurs, the acceptance of slavery, and a reliance on a mercenary army that would eventually turn on its employer, all contributed to its fall. The end of the Empire also signaled the start of the Dark Ages. Literacy, education, architecture all fell out of favor, as well as the rule of written law.

As much as people justifiably complain about government and political hacks, turning over the reins to an amateur seldom turns out well.


1618 – Rodi Avalanche.

Plurs was a village on the Swiss-Italy border that was wiped out by a landslide; technically it was not an avalanche because no snow was involved. The mountain above Plurs had been extensively mined and provided the town with a modest wealth. However, the mining had been carelessly and haphazardly done, weakening the mountain’s structure. For years before the landslide sounds emanated from the mountain but caused no alarm among the local population. In the weeks leading up to the disaster the mountain trembled, swarms of bees fled from surrounding forests, cows behaved erratically in pastures, and there was a strange sulphur smell in the air. On September 4th the mountain came down, wiping out Plurs and killing somewhere between 1,000 and 2,500 people. At the time the disaster was not viewed as a geological event but rather a religious one. The inhabitants of Plurs were described as being corrupted by their wealth.

From the Scientific American:  “The clergyman Francé tells the story “of an earthly paradise with all sorts of lusts”, and the disaster is “an example of the fury of god above sins”, then “the peaks of the mountains, who raised behind Plurs, felt down and the entire place […] with all people became buried in night and terror.”

Mother Earth has a not-so-subtle way of responding to insults against its well being.


1781 – Los Angeles founded.

Eleven families from Mexico, comprising forty-four people, settled on a river and the Governor of Spanish California named the settlement El Pueblo Sobre el Rio de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula.

Thank goodness the name was shortened to Los Angeles.



1802 – Marcus Whitman.

Physician and missionary. In 1836 Whitman, his wife, and others founded a mission in what is now Walla Walla, Washington. They unsuccessfully attempted to convert the local Indians to Christianity. In 1842 Whitman temporarily returned east and upon his return west helped form the first large wagon train to proceed across the Oregon Trail. This was the beginning of a large migration of white settlers who encroached upon the land of the Cayuse Indians. The settlers also brought with them measles. The Indian tribes, having no natural immunity to the disease, were ravaged by it. Some tribes lost half of their people. The young were especially hard hit and the Cayuse lost nearly all of their children. Even though Whitman treated both whites and Indians, it did not go unnoticed by the Cayuse that many fewer whites died from measles. The anguish felt by the tribe at losing their children caused them to blame Whitman. They believed he was a shaman who was poisoning them to clear the way for more whites. On November 29th, 1847, the Cayuse killed the Whitmans and twelve other settlers and burned the town to the ground. This was the beginning of the Cayuse War which lasted until 1855.

Today there is a college in Walla Walla named after Whitman, and the U.S. Army has a helicopter named the Cayuse Warrior helicopter.

Given these honorary names based on tragic events, I recognize the strange irony at play here but I’m stymied at how to comment on it.


1825 – Dadabhai Naoroji.

Politician. Naoroji was known as the Grand Old Man of India. He was the first Asian to be a MP in the United Kingdom House of Commons. He was also one of the founding members of the Indian National Congress. While living in England, he helped establish the East India Association. The goals of that organization were to combat the existing views that Asians were inferior, as well as presenting the Indian point of view before the British public. Naoroji wrote a book detailing the drain of wealth from India to Britain. Among other things, he documented how India had to burden the cost of being governed by a foreign power, pay for an occupying army, and that immigration that would bring in labor and economic growth was not allowed. Also Englishmen took high-paying jobs in India and sent some of their income back to Britain. Naoroji was part of the Indian movement seeking independence from England. Mahatma Gandhi noted in a letter to him in 1894. “The Indians look up to you as children to their father.”

I’ve never heard of him before but he sounds like a great man.


1964 – Anthony Weiner.

Politician. Weiner, a Democrat, represented the 9th Congressional District in New York from 1999 to 2011 in the U.S. House of Representatives. A sex scandal forced him to resign and a subsequent incident landed him in prison. In February of 2019 he moved into the custody of a halfway house, and, according to the LA Times, was released several months later. 

There’s the noble politicians of the world like the Naorojis, and then there’s the Weiners.



At various junctures of his life, Gary has been an indifferent grade school student, poor high school student, good Navy radioman, one-time hippie, passable college student, inveterate traveler, dedicated writer, miscast accountant (except for one interesting stint at a Communist café), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, unsuccessful retiree and new blogger.

You can reach him at



The above information was sourced from the following sites and newspapers.



We’d also like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

*  Lead-In Image (Roman Colosseum) – Photo by Dario Veronesi on Unsplash

* Dadabhai Naoroji (video) – DD News /

* Outro (Man-In-Museum Cartoon) – SkyPics Studio /