Monday, May 13, 2019

On This Date in Minnesota History: May 13

May 13, 1900 - Kneeling near the alter with her head bowed in prayer, Miss Fannie Mullen, a devout member of St. Luke’s Catholic Church, St. Paul, was suddenly summoned by death last night.

While the litany was being read by Rev. Father Ambrose McNulty, lightning struck the church, at Victoria Street and Portland Avenue, and the mass of brick that was dislodged crashed through the building to the basement, carrying the victim with it.


So sudden did the storm that swept over a portion of St. Paul this evening break, the members of the congregation were not prepared for what was about to happen.

The evening services had opened as usual, and Father McNulty had concluded his brief sermon of instruction. He began to read the litany, and the congregation knelt. They could hear the low growl of thunder, but were two deeply interested in the services to give it heed.

Without warning there was a blinding flash, a crash and a roar of timbers falling within the edifice. The members of the church stood terror stricken until the cries of human agony aroused them to action. Their first impulse was to rush out into the streets, where rain was pouring in torrents. But the wails that came from the basement commanded their attention.

Father McNulty was the first to act. Directly in front of him was a great hole where the brick and timbers had forced their way into the basement. Through this agonizing cries came, and he rushed to the stairway to give relief.

2Rev. Father Ambrose McNulty

Several men followed, and within a few seconds the victim was being extricated from the mass of debris that held her prisoner.

Miss Mullen was extricated with great difficulty, while a crowd of women huddled around to watch, or turned away to avoid the sight. She was removed to a house on Victoria Street and Summit Avenue, where doctors were called. She had received internal injuries from which it was impossible to recover, and within two hours she was dead.

At the time Miss Mullen was hit she was surrounded by other members of the congregation, all of whom escaped injury. In front of her two women were kneeling, and behind her several children were in acts of devotion. On either side within the space of a few feet a dozen people were stationed. None of them were in harm’s way.

The mass of brick from the tall chimney, loosened by lightning, seemed to go through the building intact, and the hole that was torn in the church floor was not more than five feet across. The victim did not receive the full force of the falling pile of brick, but sat so near that she was carried down with the debris. Her body was only slightly bruised, but the force of the fall caused internal injuries.

Throughout the trying period when the congregation momentarily expected the remainder of the building to fall upon their heads, there was no panic and there was no crush in leaving the church. Several people in the audience assisted in reassuring the terror-stricken people and prevented them from leaving the building.

The dead woman was about 25 years old. She had been employed in St. Paul as a servant. She has a sister in the city but no other blood relatives.

The Minneapolis Tribune; “Victims of the Lightning’s Bolt; Three Persons Stricken Down to Death in the Storm Which Passed Over the Twin Cities Last Night. Miss Fannie Mullen Killed While Kneeling at Her Devotions at the Alter of St. Luke’s Church, in St. Paul.”; May 14, 1900; p. 1.



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