From the Files of the Rochester Historical Society

            My mother used to tell stories about staying with her cousins at the cottage/camp at Snows Pond. They mostly centered on eating crackers with ketchup or peanut butter out of the jar for breakfast because they had run out of food. Then there were the stories about fitting a tarp onto the tall posts of the bed when it rained because the roof leaked. Of course, the tricky part came in the morning when it was time to get up and the tarp had to be tipped just so for the rain to run off without soaking them.

            By 1938, when this scary story I found at the museum happened, my mother had outgrown her sleepover adventures which were tame compared to what eight Rochester girls experienced. In August of 1938, the eight girls, all softball teammates, went camping for the weekend on an island in Snows Pond owned by Raynor Gifford.

            Late the first night, they went to sleep on the ground outside the tent until they were woken up by rain and thunder in the early morning. They moved inside the tent. Sitting on the ground inside they saw a brilliant flash of light unaccompanied by any noise. They felt heat and burning and two of the girls were knocked unconscious. In the article, they say that they worked over one girl for half an hour before she came to. At the same time, they were holding up the tent which had partially collapsed.

            Going outside, the girls realized first, that all but two of them had itchy pale red zigzag marks on their skin and second, a very large pine tree had fallen on the back of their tent. They determined that lightning had hit the tree, ripped it to splinters and burned a hole in the canvas tent. The lightning then traveled among the girls causing the burns.

            These girls: two Nutes, 2 Tomkiewiczs, a Hartley, a Gauthier, a Lawrence and a Forand, ranging in age from 13 to 18 must certainly have been made of sturdy stock. After miraculously surviving both the falling tree and the lightning strike, they continued their camping weekend. They did, however, spend the remaining night in the island’s cottage. I have a feeling that their softball team was tough to beat.

By Connie Eshbach

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