Tombstone Tuesday: Abraham Rice (1697-1777)

Abraham Corent Rice gravestone


Poor Abraham suffered a bizarre end: he and a neighbor, Mr. John Cloyes, were struck and killed by lightning during a very short thunder squall on 3 Jun 1777.

An account of the event appears in A History of Framingham, Massachusetts: Including the Plantation, from 1640 to the Present Time (1847):

The following particulars were taken by the author from Mr. Josiah Clayes, now living, who was son of one of the victims, and a spectator of the scene. Mr. Laban Wheaton was at the time preaching in the first Parish, and had employed Mr. John Clayes, (who lived in a house a few rods E. of the one now occupied by his son Josiah), to try a horse he had proposed to buy. On the day above mentioned, a little after noon, the neighbors assembled at Mr. Clayes’ house to see the animal, viz. Peter Parker, Abraham Rice, Simon Pratt and his son Ephraim. Old Mr. Parker had rode away upon the horse at some distance, when a cloud began to rise in the N.W. On Mr. Parker’s return, the company, who during his absence had retired to the house, went out to see him ride, at which time a few drops of rain were falling. As Mr. Parker rode up, Mr. John Clayes stepped out of the gate, leaving the others leaning against the fence within; and as he took the horse by the reins, the lightning struck every individual of the company to the ground. Mr. Rice and Mr. Clayes, with the horse, were instantly killed. Mr. Parker lay as if dead, but gradually recovered his consciousness, though a long time elapsed before he was fully restored to his usual health. The boy recovered quickly. Mr. Pratt suffered much, and for a long time after the event. Josiah Clayes, then a boy, went for Dr. Stone, who was absent at Natick ; but before his return, Mr. Fiske, a neighbor, had procured Dr. Hemenway, who gave what relief he could to the sufferers. The horse was struck in the head, and the lightning descended each side of the neck and both fore legs to the shoes, singeing the hair in its course. Mr. Clayes was struck in the head, and the fluid passed along the neck — leaving a blister in the breast — down both legs, which showed traces of its course, but left his shoes uninjured. Having hold of the horse’s bridle, the animal fell upon him. All were singed in body and dress, having on, at the time, woollen clothes. The boy was a little distant from the company. The shower was very brief, and Mr. Clayes thinks there was but a single clap of thunder. This event excited great interest at the time, and a long elegy was written by Miss Lydia Learned, (who to the gift of teaching added a devotion to the poetic Muse), and was afterwards printed. The reader will probably be satisfied with the following stanzas, which were inscribed upon the gravestone of the victims of the disaster.

” My trembling heart with grief o’erflows,
While I record the death of those
Who died by Thunder sent from Heaven,
In 17 hundred seventy seven.

Let’s all prepare for Judgment Day,
As we may be called out of Time,
And in a sudden, awful way,
Whilst in our youth and in our prime.”

Abraham is buried at the Church Hill Cemetery (Old Burying Ground) in Framingham, MA. The gravestone bears the image of the death’s head, a popular decorative motif found among the iconography of 17th century gravemarkers.

Abraham Rice served as a private and then cornet during the French and Indian War. He was appointed to the office of selectman in the town of Framingham, MA, and was a great-grandson of Edmund Rice.  He is my 7th g-grandfather through my g-great grandmother, Delia Jane Rice.

Gravestone of John Cloyes and Abraham Rice

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