Graves of John Cloyce & Abraham Rice – Framingham, Massachusetts - Atlas Obscura

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Graves of John Cloyce & Abraham Rice

Church Hill Cemetery

In 1777, two men were killed after being struck by lightning at the same time. 


Throughout the United States, there is no shortage of historic graves. There are headstones dedicated to people who died of old age, disease, war, accidents, and other tragic circumstances. But, in the Church Hill Cemetery in Framingham, Massachusetts, there is one remarkably unusual grave that’s dedicated to two men from the 18th century who were both killed after being struck by lightning at the exact same time.

There is not much information regarding the backgrounds of John Cloyce and Abraham Rice but it is known that Rice was a Cornet in the British colonial cavalry before the time of his death. According to accounts, on June 3, 1777, several men congregated around a metal fence to see a horse that a local Framingham preacher, Peter Parker, was interested in purchasing. When Parker was riding the horse, ominous rain clouds suddenly gathered and a light rain began to fall. A lightning bolt then struck the horse and three men present. Rice was killed by the strike and Cloyce was still weakly alive but soon killed when the horse collapsed on top of him leaving Parker the only survivor.

The two men were buried next to each other. Their graves include an epitaph and a short poem. The inscription on John Cloyce’s grave reads: “In Memory Of Mr. John Cloyes Who Being Struck With Lightning Died June The 3rd Anno Do 1777 In The 43 Year Of His Age”

Cloyce’s poem reads, “O may you all both far and near / Who of this dispensation here / Now harken to the call of Heaven / And take the warning God has given / Surprising death to you soon may / Come in some unexpected way / I Pray that all make it their care / For sudden death now to prepare.”

Abraham Rice’s inscription reads: “In Memory Of Cornt Abraham Rice Who Departed This Life In A Sudden & Awful Manner & As We Trust Enterd A Better June The 3rd Anno Do 1777 In The 81st Year Of His Age”

And Rice’s poem reads, “My trembling heart with grief overflows / While I record the death of those / Who died by thunder sent from Heaven / In seventeen hundred and seventy seven / Let’s all prepare for judgments day / As we may be called out of time / And in a sudden and awful way / Whilst in our youth and in our prime”

According to the CDC, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year is about one in a million. Of those who are struck by lightning, 90 percent survive. Undoubtedly, lightning striking three men and a horse at the same time is extremely rare. It’s likely those who heard of the event in the 18th century saw divine significance in the tragedy. Cloyce and Rice were unrelated to each other and it’s not certain how well the two men were acquainted with one another, but a freak weather event would forever entwine their fates together at the Church Hill Cemetery.

Know Before You Go

To find the grave, enter the main entrance and continue straight until you see a large headstone inscribed Forbush on the left. Immediately turn right and the grave should be straight ahead next to a pine tree. 

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