Thursday, April 19, 2018

Lightning's Freaks in New Jersey ~ 52 Ancestors #16

I am participating in this year's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Each week has an optional writing prompt and this week's writing prompt is Storms.

This prompt just begs for newspaper research. I subscribe to and GenealogyBank, both of which have a variety of old newspapers. The Library of Congress's Chronicling America is a free newspaper resource, as is Old Fulton Postcards.

I searched for different surnames and the word "storm" to see what results I got. One story I found in the New York Tribune at GenealogyBank (entitled "Lightning's Freaks in Jersey") and then found in The Madison Eagle at was from July 1897 when there had been a series of fierce thunderstorms to hit northern New Jersey. (While searching for the word "storm," I found several other mentions of storms during that week.)

The Madison [NJ] Eagle, 23 July 1897, page 5, column 2; online image, ( : accessed 19 April 2018).

A heavy electrical storm did much havoc at Morristown on Wednesday. Three houses in various parts of the city were struck and considerably damaged. The grandstand at the Driving Park was struck by a bolt and a large portion of it shattered. The large barns of David H. McAlpin, about two miles from the city, were set on fire by the lightning and totally consumed, together with about twenty tons of hay. The loss is about $7,500.

David Hunter McAlpin was my second great-grandfather. His property, Glen Alpin, was the subject of one of my first blog posts at Glen Alpin, Harding Township, New Jersey. Although he was wealthy, I'm sure he was not pleased at losing his barns and that much hay.

More than thirty years later, another lightning storm in that same neighborhood burned down a barn with my dad's pet goat in it. I shared that story at My Dad's Pet Goat.


  1. Must have been quite a storm to cause $7,500 worth of damage in 1897! Perfect post for the "storm" prompt this week.

    1. As I noted, I love exploring old newspapers. Thanks for the comment!

  2. I love old newspapers, too. It's really amazing the things they reported on back then. Nice post!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. I know you have enjoyed finding your ancestors in newspapers!