Tag Archives: Limerick

Thriller Thursday – Lightning Strikes!

With summer here I’ve been a little lax about posting on this blog. But when I woke up and saw the headlines about the devastation caused by a severe storm that passed through our area yesterday, I knew that I had to write about another storm that wreaked havoc some 136 years ago…

It was Sunday evening, June 27, 1875 when severe thunderstorms hit southeastern Pennsylvania. The next day the Reading Eagle led the story with this description: “The elements were in high glee in this vicinity last evening. About seven o’clock the heavens became overcast with inky black clouds, and a few minutes later such a storm of wind, rain, lightning and thunder broke upon us to cause the strongest to tremble and the weak to quail with fear. At times the sky would be one sheet of fire, and the next moment the earth would be shrouded in Egyptian darkness. Rain fell as though the very flood gates of Heaven were open, and our streets were turned into miniature rivers. The lightning was sharp, vivid and blinding, and at time terrifically grand. The electric fluid leveled trees, destroyed buildings, scattered fences to the four winds, and left death in it’s wake.”

One of the casualties of the horrific storm was the Shaner family of Limerick in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Their house was destroyed and two family members left dead. The June 30th edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer provides these details. ” When the storm commenced Mr. John Shaner was at the barn. His wife, Mrs. Rose Shaner, his father, Mr. George Shaner, his two daughters, and a nephew, were in the kitchen of the house. The mother sat near the middle of the room, and the youngest daughter, Lizzie Shaner, about 12 years old, sat near the fireplace. The bolt of lightning that struck the house seemed to divide in the second story, one portion passing down near the fireplace and killing the little girl, and the other coming down through the floor above Mrs. Shaner, and striking her. The peal of thunder that followed the flash of lightning was terrific. The other inmates of the room were slightly stunned, but not hurt. The death of Mrs. Shaner was instantaneous; that of her daughter nearly so.”

The Reading Eagle account claims the lightning bolt struck an upstairs window, shattering the shutter and setting fire to a bed. There was also a hole two inches in circumference in the ceiling above where Mrs. Shaner was standing, presumably where the bolt of electricity passed through from the upper story before striking her dead. The walls on one side of the house were cracked and broken and the posts holding the porch roof were “forced from their places.”

John Shaner, the husband and father of the two who died, was my first cousin, 5x’s removed. The maiden name of his wife Rose was Hetzel. She was 48 years old when she died. In addition to 12-year old Lizzie the other daughter mentioned in the article was 15 year-old Ida. The Shaners also had three sons: Franklin H., William Milton and Henry Warren. They were older than the girls and were not at the house when the tragedy occurred.

George Shaner, John’s father, was my 5x’s great-uncle. He was married to Mary Hartenstine who had passed away in 1850. George died March 22, 1881 – less than 3 months from his 90th birthday. He had just turned 84 at the time of the lightning strike.  John Shaner died in Pottstown, PA at the home of his daughter Ida and her husband John Gensch in July of 1892. He was 69.

As always, if you have any connection to this family, I would love to hear from you.

Thriller Thursday – The Accidental Shooting of Emma

Well, it’s time for another installment of Thriller Thursday – an on-going blogging prompt suggested by members of Geneabloggers. Today I have the story of my 3x’s great-aunt, Emeline Newman Moyer Hallman.

Emeline Newman was born in December of 1852. She and her twin sister Rebecca were the youngest children of Abraham and Rebecca (Derr) Newman. For many years Abraham operated a stage coach between Norristown and Pottstown, Pennsylvania. By 1860, however, the family had taken up residence in Limerick, PA, (near Pottstown) where Abraham eventually followed the occupation of farming.

About 1871 Emma married a neighborhood boy, Charles K. Moyer. He was the son of Henry Moyer and Esther Krause. Charles and Emma had two daughters, Ella and Ida. Charles died in 1906, leaving Emma a widow. In April of 1910 Emma married John G. Hallman. John was a blacksmith. He was also widowed, his first wife Catherine Umstead having died in 1906 as well.

On the morning on September 12, 1910, Emma and her new husband were having their breakfast. The time was about 7 o’clock in the morning. As they were eating they heard a commotion. They looked outside and discovered a chicken hawk among their fowl. John got up and went to the sitting room to get his gun. As he walked back into the kitchen he tripped. The gun bumped against the door frame and discharged. Through a bizarre twist of fate, the bullet hit Emma in the back. She was actually still seated at the breakfast table when it happened. Although a physician was summoned, it was to no avail. Emma unfortunately died within a few minutes.

Emma was 56 years old and the mother of two grown daughters. She was buried in the Limerick Church Cemetery next to her first husband Charles K. Moyer. In addition to her daughters, she was survived by sisters Matilda Linderman, Mary Evans (my great-great-grandmother) and Rebecca Lightcap.

As a post script to this story, I also happen to be related to John G. Hallman. He was the son of John Hallman and Hannah Grimley and was my (half) third cousin, 4x’s removed. His first wife Catherine Umstead, was the daughter of Nathan Umstead and Eliza Shaner, and was my 2nd cousin, 4x’s removed. After the death of Emma Newman, John apparently married a third time. In 1920 he was enumerated with a wife named Mary Elizabeth. She died prior to 1930 and he died in 1937. (In case you are wondering, I have no information on the cause of death for the first or third wives.)