Today in NC State History: A fatal day at State College

February 10, 2013
By Bill Krueger

blog_series6The news was enough to force the college’s president, Dr. E.C. Brooks, to forgo his plans to attend devotional services at church. He was told that a student had come in contact with a live electrical wire and been killed. Brooks spent the morning investigating the incident and eventually learned that there had been a death — four of them, in fact — caused by a live electrical wire.

But the victims were not students. They were cows. But not just any cows, according to an account in the Technician of the incident on this day in 1929. “Twenty-three hundred volts of electricity signed the death warrant of four of State College’s prize cows…” read the story.

Dr. E.C. Brooks

Dr. E.C. Brooks

The incident took place in the college’s animal husbandry pasture, where insulation somehow wore off of an electrical wire which then fell into an animal enclosure. One of the cows died after brushing up against the live wire. What happened next is described in the story: “When the first cow fell three of the herd ran up to see what was going on, in the act hitting the fatal wire, and costing the college about $1,500 more.”

The story went on to note that the first cow was the “gold medal animal” of the herd and valued at about $2,000. “It had won many prizes, both in and out of the State,” read the story.

The story also noted that the situation could have gotten worse were it not for some quick thinking. “No doubt many more of the herd would have suffered if one of the boys on duty had not run to the power house and turned the power off,” the story said.

But the story did end on a positive note — the prize cow had finished “a very important test” that was conducted on it the day before the incident.

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