Manchester, NH Lightning Strike, Jun 1900

Where The Children Were Playing

Terrible Tragedy on Wilson Hill


Whittier Williams and James Murphy---Playmate Injured.

It is a long time since this community has been so shocked by the report of an accident as yesterday afternoon shortly after 5 o’clock when it was learned that two boys had been instantly killed by lightning and one other seriously injured. The victims of the fluid were Whittier Williams, the 7 year old son of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Williams, James Murphy, 11 years old, son of James Murphy the carriage painter, and Clair West Pettis, the 6 year old son of Mr. and Mrs. Munroe Pettis.

The death of the two former must have been instantaneous, but it is thought that the latter will recover. At this late hour last night, he was resting comfortably and the physicians had high hopes.

Little is known of the accident so swift and sure was the blow which plunged two homes into mourning and brought sorrow and fear into the hearts of a third family. The three boys were great chums. The Williams family was stopping at the old Gen. Charles Williams place on Belmont street, between Lowell and Concord streets with Mr. Williams mother, the widow of the general.

Mr. Pettis is the hired man at the Williams place and resides in the house with his family, so Whittier and Clair were close friends. The Murphy family lives at the southeast corner of Bridge and Hall streets, a few squares away from the Williams home.

Jimmie Murphy went up to visit his friends at the Williams house during the afternoon and the three boys went out to play in the yard. They helped the men get in hay and enjoyed themselves as only youngsters of that age can. When the shower came up along towards 5 o’clock, the three playmates were in an old one-horse cart a little to the south of the house in the spacious yard.

The cart was located under a grape arbor which formed a model play house. It was thoroughly sheltered from the rain drops by the arch like covering of thick leaves and the boys could easily imagine they were camping out and that the protecting shrubbery was a tent. They were happy and entirely thoughtless of any danger,

Close bedside this natural play house stands a peach tree of medium height, but rising some little distance above the arbor and surrounding bushes. It is thought that possibly this tree was the medium which attracted the death dealing bolt.

The rain storm came up suddenly and fiercely accompanied by some lightning and thunder. The play of the electricity did not seem to be of more than ordinary severity. Suddenly there resounded a crash of far more volume than any of the preceding claps and almost immediately a cry was heard from the vicinity of the boys’ shelter.

Mr. Petttis was on the front lawn where he had been watering the grass. Realizing that some harm had been done he hastened to the grape arbor, where a sad sight met his eyes. The three boys were in a heap in the bottom of the cart, apparently lifeless.

Probably the next person to reach the scene was Mrs. Arthur Williams, mother of Whittier. Mrs. Charles Williams was asleep at the time and she at first thought that the house had been struck. She immediately arose and was soon on hand. Neighbors from all around also hastened to the spot.

Seeing that his son was probably still alive, Mr. Pettis made haste to carry him across the street to the residence of Dr. George M. Davis. Kind hands assisted in removing the insensible and apparently lifeless forms of the Williams and Murphy boys to the Williams house The greatest of excitement prevailed.

Just about this time Arthur Williams drove up. He had been down on Bridge street, at the corner of Malvern looking over a block which is being erected there. When the shower commenced he started for home. As he drove into the yard, Mr. Williams was greeted by Mr. Pettis with the information that his son Whittier was probably dead.

“I guess not,” said Mr. Williams, his face blanching with the suddenness of the shock.