Friday, June 17, 2011

Lightning Strikes Twice, 1918

Rock Baptist Church, Highland Street, Rock, MA, real photo postcard,
early 20th century.  The view depicts the 1852 church which was constructed
on Highland Street and which burned December 4, 1918.  To the left of the
church may be seen the Ephraim Tinkham House (1767) and the Baptist
Parsonage (c. 1872) on Miller Street.

Contradicting the old adage that lightning never strikes in the same place twice, was the experience of the Third Baptist Church of Middleborough at Rock whose meetinghouse on Highland Street was struck by lightning twice - in 1905 and 1918 - ultimately burning to the ground following the second strike.

In August 1905, the building was able to escape destruction due to the fact that it was struck on Sunday when the janitor was still present to give alarm.  The fire, however, pointed up the need to insure the building against loss which was subsequently done.

During a storm on December 4, 1918, lightning struck the church roof "midway between the two rear windows.  Even while the roof and the walls were all ablaze the streak left by the lightning was plainly visible."

The lightning strike ignited the church and a call was made to the Middleborough Fire Department, with Combination No. 1 responding quickly.  Before the church was engulfed in flames, local residents were able to remove some of the church furnishings and "the piano [was] gotten out safely."

It was a spectacular fire, with the flames extending to the tip of the spire and lighting up for a long ways.  As the walls fell the firemen devoted their attention to prevent the horse sheds in the rear from burning, and although these caught a number of times the flames were quickly extinguished.

The community was devastated by the loss of its church which was held in high esteem.  "Seldom is a country church more beautiful than was Rock Baptist church", it was said.  Giving voice to the feelings within the community was the sermon delivered by Reverend Millard F. Johnson on the Sunday following the catastrophe which took as its text Isaiah 64:11, "Our Holy and Our Beautiful House, where our fathers praised Thee, is burned up with fire, and our pleasant things are laid waste."

This year, the Rock Village Church celebrates its 250th anniversary. As part of the celebrations, a walking tour, light cookout, concert and historical exhibit will be featured on Saturday, June 18, beginning at 11 a. m. at the Rock Village Church on Miller Street.


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