History Nebraska Blog

Luella's Lightning Shoe

Luella's Lightning Shoe NSHS 13290-1

Carol Pearson was browsing an estate sale in California when she found an old shoe containing a yellowed newspaper clipping and a handwritten slip of paper. In the article, an elderly Mrs. Luella Brown of Chico, California, recalled the day in 1904 when she was struck by lightning near Lakeland, Brown County, Nebraska. The slip of paper read, “I was born in 1894. This happened 1904.”

Brown said the family had gathered for her grandfather’s birthday. She was inside sitting on a cousin’s lap when suddenly “the house was in shambles” and she “was on the floor covered with plaster.” The lightning apparently followed a clothesline to the house, passing through Brown and her cousin and exiting through her left foot. Her foot was blistered and the shoe damaged. Brown said she was once offered $100 for the shoe but refused to sell it. Pearson donated the shoe to the NSHS in August 2013.

We’ve learned that Brown’s paternal grandfather, Frederick Albert Cox, had a June 8 birthday. Hoping he was the correct grandfather, we searched the June 1904 (and 1902) issues of Nebraska newspapers. We found plenty of lightning strikes, but not this one.

June 1904 was a stormy month. On June 10 the Red Cloud Chief claimed that “Probably more than a score of persons have been killed or dangerously injured by lightning the last two weeks in Nebraska alone.” A day earlier the Valentine Democrat reported one dead from lightning in Fullerton and four killed by lightning or drowning during flooding in Greeley and Nance counties. Other Nebraska papers reported horses killed, fires started, and a rancher named Sam Lane struck dead while riding fence near Hay Springs; he was still mounted on his dead horse when neighbors found his body.

Maybe we’ve been searching the wrong date. Or perhaps the story simply didn’t make it into print until many years later. If you know anything about the correct date for this story or have more wild Nebraska weather stories to share, contact us!

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