“a remembrance in stone”
On 10 June 1897 the laborers of the Ringling Brothers Circus were erecting the main tent in Wahpeton, North Dakota, when the skies darkened. As the storm swept in, a bolt of lightning struck and shattered the main tent pole. Two workers, Charles Smith and Charles Walters, were killed by the falling pole. A third man, Charles Miller, would die a year later from injuries suffered that day. The newspaper reported that a dozen other men were knocked senseless by the lightning strike.Smith, 22 years old, and Walters, 30, were far from home and family, but they would be remembered. Circus people stick together, after all, like family. Moreover, both men were members of the Knights of Pythias, a popular fraternal order. The knights arranged for a proper funeral, while circus workers collected $400 for a monument. The funeral and burial took place folowing the afternoon show (before a crowd of 7000) on the same day as the accident. Burial was in Riverside Cemetery, also known as the Bohemian Cemetery, a mile south of town.The monument subsequently placed on the gravesite is a stone replica of the tent pole that shattered and killed the unfortunate workers. Most people in Wahpeton are unaware of this unusual and compelling monument, but still today, when a circus comes to town, circus workers come here to pay their respects.
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Circus Lightning Victims Monument
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