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National UFO Reporting Center
Sighting Report
Occurred : 8/2/1860 23:00 (Entered as : 08/02/1860 23:00 EST)
Reported: 7/18/1999 03:03
Posted: 3/21/2003
Location: Cherokee, NC
Shape: Fireball
Duration:less than a minute?
meteor or fireball passage (circa 1860)

"I found this interesting comment in a letter written by my great-grandfather in 1860. I have scanned the letter and can send you a JPG of it, if you wish. He was in western North Carolina, in the Oconaluftee area near Cherokee, NC, on the southern boundary of what is now the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. "Last evening about 11 o'clock there was a curious circumstance took place as I was returning from evening meeting. There was a large comet passed so near that we could plainly feel the heat and in a few minutes after it passed there was two loud cracks, one immediately after the other, and went off with a droll lumbering for several minutes, like unto hot rocks thrown in to a barrel of water, which alarmed some of the females very much."

Notes by great grandson of the author of the above letter: "Number of witnesses" is a guess. The "meeting" was a religious gathering, may have been more than 12. I would think that since he described it as a "comet" it probably would be described in today's terms as a fireball with a trail."

PERSONAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE AUTHOR OF THE ABOVE LETTER:

William Riley Killian born 03 May 1814, Virginia or Pennsylvania; met his future
wife in Oconaluftee (Lufty, Oconylufty) area of western North Carolina; married
& moved to Missouri in 1833. Died while returning to Missouri from a trip to
North Carolina, 13 October, 1860, near Irving College, Tenn.

He was a farmer in Webster County, MO, as well as a circuit riding preacher; but
the purpose of this trip to NC was to visit his wife's relatives (and possibly
his own?). He was age 45 when this letter was written. He made the trip on
horseback, accompanied by a fellow Missourian & circuit rider, Roby Goss.


((NUFORC Note: Please note that the letter dates from 1860, NOT 1960, as our computer indicates. A photocopy was sent to us by the grandson, and reads exactly as indicated below.

We believe that the incident is much more characteristic of a meteoritic event, than it is of a UFO sighting. It is relatively rare that witnesses report sonic booms associated with UFO sightings.

It is interesting that the witnesses felt the heat from the object's incandescence, even though the source, apparently, was tens of miles from their location. The fact that they heard two sonic booms suggests that the object may have exploded prior to reaching the earth, as many meteors do.

Our thanks to the person to forwarded the information to NUFORC, and well as to his great grandfather, who so thoughtfully preserved the event for future generations.

We provide above personal information about the great grandfather. In addition, we provide below the complete text of the letter..))


((COMPLETE TEXT OF LETTER))


[transcript of letter from Wm. Riley Killian to wife Margaret Hughes Killian,
with spelling corrections and best-guess punctuation added for clarity]


Northcarolina Jackson Co August 3 AD 1860, Oconylufty PO

Dear Wife and Family, I now embrace this opportunity of communication by letter
to let you know that I am in tolerable health at this time and hope these lines
may find you all in good health at their arrival. I have not received any
intelligence from home, only one letter as yet that I received about 15 days
back. I am very anxious to hear from you all at this time. The friends are well
as far as I know. There is some cases of sickness in this country now. Such as
flus [flu] and fever. As to the health here I don't consider it any better than
Missouri. My health has not been very good since I have been here although I
have not been confined but a few days. I feel thankful to the great head of the
church that it is as well with me as what it is.

I have just passed through a very interesting meeting on Lufty which commenced
on last Friday and closed on last night with a general stir. There was only 2
or 3 conversions during the meeting. The whole neighborhood pretty much belongs
to the church and they seem to get along in harmony. I have enjoyed my self
tolerable well with the brethren here.

There is a meeting commences tomorrow at Shoal Creek which I expect to attend
and from there to Savanna and then to Locus Oldfields [don't know if this is a
place or a name] which commences on Friday before the third Lords day in
August, then I expect to start for home as soon as possible. My mind is on home
and on my family all the time and my prayers is for the welfare of you all. I
hope the Lord will permit us all to meet again and enjoy each others company and
according to my feelings now. I don't think I shall ever take as long a trip as
this from my family while I am permitted to live. I hope you will all remember
that we are only probationers here and prepare for another mode of existence
which is eternal. As for riches in this life it is vanity. I have tried the
things of this world in different ways and have proved them to be vanity and
vexation of spirit. By the grace of God I am determined to serve the Lord while
I live; and now my children, companion & friends, if I never see you in this
life, take my advice: if you have set your hearts on any known sin, forsake it
immediately and seek forgiveness with a firm resolution to serve the Lord while
you live, and the Lord will answer your petitions in mercy.

I could write many things on the subject of religion but I hope these few
remarks will suffice at present and that you will bear them in mind and make
that necessary preparation that if we should never meet in this life that by the
grace of God we may all meet in heaven where parting is no more.

Last evening about 11 o'clock there was a curious circumstance took place as I
was returning from evening meeting. There was a large comet passed so near that
we could plainly feel the heat and in a few minutes after it passed there was
two loud cracks, one immediately after the other, and went off with a droll
lumbering for several minutes, like unto hot rocks thrown into a barrel of
water, which alarmed some of the females very much.

I have not heard from Roby Goss since he left. He was considerable on the mind
when he left here. I have nothing more of importance at present to write only
if S. L. Killian hant sold my place I want wheat sowed in good time and fodder
taken, etc.

Yours affectionately
Wm R Killian

((END OF LETTER))


Note to above letter by great grandson--S. L. Killian was his oldest son; his closing comment was apparently written in jest. I will mail you photocopies of the letter.