[Oct. 1754] Saturd 5 fair. I was about home all day fitting up Cask for Cyder. I Rid out to Crossman Lot to water the Cattle. Thundr & Lightning in the night & a Storm of wind & Rain.
“Thunder and lightning” are fairly common with rain storms in this part of New England all through the summer and into the fall, as they were in Hempstead’s time. What has changed is our perception of them.
Well into the eighteenth century, it was the thunder that was assumed to be the dangerous part of the combination. When you think about an age without our capabilities to measure the transmission of sound and light, this makes sense. If you have ever had a tree or pole near your house struck by lightning, you know that the noise of the thunder accompanying it is impressive—and simultaneous. Looked at objectively, it does appear that the thunder is more important, since no harm came earlier from clearly visible lightning.
In the earlier parts of the diary Hempstead refers a couple of times to damage done by thunder and lightning. When the meetinghouse was struck on August 31, 1735, he records “a Terable Clap of Thunder & Lightning […]