Map of the deluged Conemaugh District.
Map of the deluged Conemaugh District.

 

HISTORY

 

OF

 

THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD.

 

INCLUDING

 

ALL THE FEARFUL RECORD; THE BREAKING OF THE SOUTH FORK DAM;

THE SWEEPING OUT OF THE CONEMAUGH VALLEY; THE OVER-

THROW OF JOHNSTOWN; THE MASSING OF THE WRECK AT

THE RAILROAD BRIDGE; ESCAPES, RESCUES, SEARCHES

FOR SURVIVORS AND THE DEAD; RELIEF

ORGANIZATIONS, STUPENDOUS CHARI-

TIES, ETC., ETC.

 

WITH FULL ACCOUNTS ALSO OF THE

 

DESTRUCTION ON THE SUSQUEHANNA AND JUNIATA RIVERS AND THE

BALD EAGLE CREEK.

 

BY

WILLIS FLETCHER JOHNSON.

 


ILLUSTRATED.


 

EDGEWOOD PUBLISHING CO.,

1889.

 


Copyright, 1889, by

WILLIS FLETCHER JOHNSON.


 

PREFACE.


 

     The summer of 1889 will ever be memorable for its appalling disasters by flood and flame. In that period fell the heaviest blow of the nineteenth century -- a blow scarcely paralleled in the histories of civilized lands. Central Pennsylvania, a centre of industry, thrift and comfort, was desolated by floods unprecedented in the records of the great waters. On both sides of the Alleghenies these ravages were felt in terrific power, but on the western slope their terrors were infinitely multiplied by the bursting of the South Fork Reservoir, letting out millions of tons of water, which, rushing madly down the rapid descent of the Conemaugh Valley, washed out all its busy villages and hurled itself in a deadly torrent on the happy borough of Johnstown. The frightful aggravations which followed the coming of this torrent have waked the deepest sympathies of this nation and of the world, and the history is demanded in permanent form, for those of the present day, and for the generation to come.

 

CONTENTS.


 

Title page -- Preface -- Table of Contents -- List of Illustrations Title
CHAPTER I.
The Conemaugh Valley in Springtime -- Johnstown and its Suburbs -- Founded a Hundred Years ago -- The Cambria Iron Works -- History of a Famous Industry -- American Manufacturing Enterprise Exemplified -- Making Besemer Steel -- Social and Educational Features -- The Busiest City of its Size in the State 15
CHAPTER II.
Conemaugh Lake -- Remains of an Old-time Canal System -- Used for the Pleasure of Sportsmen -- The Hunting and Fishing Club -- Popular Distrust Growing into Indifference -- The Old Cry of "Wolf!" -- Building a Dam of Straw and Mud -- Neglect Ripening into Fitness for a Catastrophe 31
CHAPTER III.
Dawning of the Fatal Day -- Darkness and Rain -- Rumors of Evil -- The Warning Voice Unheeded -- A Whirlwind of Watery Death -- Fate of a Faithful Telegrapher -- What an Eye-Witness Saw -- A Solid Wall of Water Rushing Down the Valley 42
CHAPTER IV.
The Pathway of the Torrent -- Human Beings Swept away like Chaff -- The Twilight of Terror -- The Wreck of East Conemaugh -- Annihilation of Woodvale -- Locomotives Tossed about like Cockle-shells by the might Maelstrom 51
CHAPTER V.
"Johnstown is Annihilated" -- Appearance of the Wreck -- An Awful Sabbath Spectacle -- A Sea of Mud and Corpses -- The City in a Gigantic Whirlpool -- Strange Tokens of the Fury of the Flood -- Scene from the Bridge -- Sixty Acres of Debris -- A Carnival of Slaughter 66
CHAPTER VI.
Pictures of the Flood Drawn by Eye-witnesses -- A Score of Locomotives Swallowed up -- Railroad Cars Swept away -- Engineers who would not Abandon their Posts -- Awful Scenes from a Car Window -- A Race for Life -- Victims of the Flood 81
CHAPTER VII.
Some Heroes of the Flood -- The Ride of Collins Graves at Williamsburg Recalled -- John G. Parke's Heroic Warning -- Gallant Self-sacrifice of Daniel Peyton -- Mrs. Ogle, the Intrepid Telegraph Operator -- Wholesale Life Saving by Miss Nina Speck 97
CHAPTER VIII.
Stories of Suffering -- A Family Swept away at a Stroke -- Beside a Sister's Corpse -- A Bride Driven Mad -- The Unidentified Dead -- Courage in the Face of Death -- Thanking God his Child had not Suffered -- One Saved out of a Household of Thirteen -- Five Saved out of Fifty-Five 108
CHAPTER IX.
Stories of Railroad Men and Travelers who were in the Midst of the Catastrophe -- A Train's Race with the Wave -- Housses Crushed like Eggshells -- Relics of the Dead in the Tree tops -- A Night of Horrors -- Fire and Flood Commingled -- Lives Lost for the Sake of a Pair of Shoes 119
CHAPTER X.
Scenes in a House of Refuge -- Stealing from the Dead -- A Thousand Bodies seen Passing over the Bridge -- "Kill us, or Rescue us!" -- Thrilling Escapes and Agonizing Losses -- Children Born amid the Flood -- A Night in Alma Hall -- Saved through Fear 135
CHAPTER XI.
The Flight to the Mountains -- Saving a Mother and her Babe -- The Hillsides Black with Refugees -- An Engineer's Story -- How the Dam gave away -- Great Trees Snapped off like Pipe-stems by the Torrent 147
CHAPTER XII.
A Desperate Voyage -- Scenes like those after a Great Battle -- Mother and Babe Dead together -- Praying as they Drifted to Destruction -- Children Telling the Story of Death -- Significant Greetings between Friends -- Prepared for any News 154
CHAPTER XIII.
Salutations in the City of the Dead -- Crowds at the Morgues -- Endless Trains of Wagons with Ghastly Freight -- Registering the Survivors -- Minds Unsettled by the Tragedy -- Horrible Fragments of Humanity Scattered through Piles of Rubbish 161
CHAPTER XIV.
Recognizing the Dead -- Food and Clothing for Destitute Survivors -- Looking for the Lost -- The Bereaved Burying their Dead -- Drowned Close by a Place of Safety -- A Heroic Editor -- One who would not be Comforted 171
CHAPTER XV.
A Bird'seye View of the Ruined City -- Conspicuous Features of the Disaster -- The Railroad Lines -- Stones and Iron Tossed about like Driftwood -- An Army Officer's Valuable Services in Restoring and Maintaining Order 179
CHAPTER XVI.
Clearing a Road up the Creek -- Fantastic Forms of Ruin -- An Abandoned Locomotive with no Rail to Run on -- Iron Beams Bent like Willow Twigs -- Night in the Valley -- Scenes and Sounds of an Inferno 188
CHAPTER XVII.
Sights that Greeted Visitors -- Wreckage Along the Valley -- Ruins of the Cambria Iron Works -- A Carnival of Drink -- Violence and Robbery -- Camping on the Hillsides -- Rich and Poor alike Benefit 198
CHAPTER XVIII.
The First Train Load of Anxious Seekers -- Hoping against Hope -- Many Instances of Heroism -- Victims Seen Drifting down beyond the Reach of Help -- Unavailing Efforts to Rescue the Prey of the Flood 207
CHAPTER XIX.
Newspaper Correspondents Making their Way In -- The Railroads Helpless -- Hiring a Special Train -- Making Desperate Speed -- First faces of the Flood -- Through to Johnstown at Last 216
CHAPTER XX.
The Work of the Reporters -- Strange Chronicles of Heroism and of Woe -- Deadly Work of the Telegraph Wires -- A Baby's Strange Voyage -- Prayer wonderfully Answered -- Steam against Torrent 228
CHAPTER XXI.
Human Ghouls and Vampires on the Scene -- A Short Shrift for Marauders -- Vigilance Committees Enforcing Order -- Plunderers of the Dead Relentlessly Dispatched -- Outbursts of Righteous Indignation 238
CHAPTER XXII.
The Cry for Help and the Nation's Answer -- President Harrison's Eloquent and Effective Appeal -- Governor Beaver's Message -- A Proclamation by the Governor of New York -- Action of the Commissioner of Pensions -- Help from over the Sea 249
CHAPTER XXIII.
The American Heart and Purse Opened Wide -- A flood of Gold against the Flood of Water -- Contributions from every Part of the Country, in Sums Large and Small 265
CHAPTER XXIV.
Benefactions of Philadelphia -- Organization of Charity -- Train loads of Food and Clothing -- Generous spirit of Convicts in the Penitentiary -- Contributions from over the Sea -- Queen Victoria's sympathy -- Letter from Florence Nightingale 281
CHAPTER XXV.
Raising a Great Relief Fund in New York -- Where the Money came from -- Churches, Theatres and Prisons join in the good work -- More than One Hundred Thousand Dollars a Day -- A few Names from the Great Roll of Honor 292
CHAPTER XXVI.
Breaking up the Ruins and Burying the Dead -- Innumerable Funerals -- The Use of Dynamite -- The Holocaust at the Bridge -- The Cambria Iron Works -- Pulling out Trees with Locomotives 299
CHAPTER XXVII.
Caring for the Sufferers -- Noble Work of Miss Clara Barton and the Red Cross Society -- A Peep into a Hospital -- Finding Homes for the Orphans -- Johnstown Generous in its Woe -- A Benevolent Eating House 309
CHAPTER XXVIII.
Recovering from the Blow -- The Voice of the Locomotive Heard again -- Scenes Day by Day amid the Ruins and at the Morgue -- Strange Salvage from the Flood -- A Family of Little Children 319
CHAPTER XXIX.
The City Filled with Life Again -- Work and Bustle on Every Hand -- Railroad Trains Coming In -- Pathetic Meetings of Friends -- Persistent Use of Dynamite to Break Up the Masses of Wreckage -- The Daily Record of Work Amid the Dead 341
CHAPTER XXX.
Scenes at the Relief Stations -- The Grand Army of the Republic in Command -- Imposing Scenes at the Railroad Station -- Cars Loaded with Goods for the Relief of the Destitute 353
CHAPTER XXXI.
General Hastings' Headquarters -- Duties of the Military Staff -- A Flood of Telegrams of Inquiry Pouring In -- Getting the Post-office to Work Again -- Wholesale Embalming -- The Morgue in the Presbyterian Church -- The Record of the Unknown Dead -- A Commemorative Newspaper Club 358
CHAPTER XXXII.
A Cross between a Military and a Mining Camp -- Work of the Army Engineers -- Equipping Constables -- Pressure on the Telegraph Lines -- Photographers not Encouraged -- Sight-seers Turned Away -- Strange Uses for Coffins 370
CHAPTER XXXIII.
Sunday Amid the Ruins -- Services in One Church and in the Open Air -- The Miracle at the Church of the Immaculate Conception -- Few Women and Children Seen -- Disastrous Work of Dynamite -- A Happy Family in the Wreck 378
CHAPTER XXXIV.
Plans for the Future of Johnstown -- The City to be Rebuilt on a Finer Scale than Ever Before -- A Real Estate Boom Looked For -- Enlarging the Conemaugh -- Views of Capitalists 387
CHAPTER XXXV.
Well-known People who Narrowly Escaped the Flood -- Mrs. Halford's Experience -- Mrs. Childs Storm bound -- Tales Related by Travelers -- A Theatrical Company's Plight 392
CHAPTER XXXVI.
The Ubiquitous Reporter Getting There -- Desperate Traveling through a Storm-swept Country -- Special Trains and Special Teams -- Climbing Across the Mountains -- Rest for the Weary in a Hay Mow 400
CHAPTER XXXVII.
The Reporter's Life at Johnstown -- Nothing to Eat, but Much to Do -- Kindly Remembrances of a Kindly Friend -- Driven from Bed by Rats -- Three Hours of Sleep in Seventy-two -- A Picturesque Group 410
CHAPTER XXXVIII.
Williamsport's Great Losses -- Flooded with Thirty-four Feet of Water -- Hundreds of Millions of Feet of Lumber Swept Away -- Loss of Life -- Incidents of Rescue and of Death -- The Story of Garret Crouse and his Gray Horse 421
CHAPTER XXXIX.
The Juniata Valley Ravaged by the Storm -- Losses at Tyrone, Huntingdon and Lewistown -- Destruction at Lock Haven -- A Baby's Voyage Down Stream -- Romantic Story of a Wedding 435
CHAPTER XL.
The Floods along the Potomac -- The National Capital Submerged -- A Terrible Record in Maryland -- Gettysburg a Sufferer -- Tidings of Devastation from Many Points in Several States 444
CHAPTER XLI.
Fire following the Flood -- Ghastly sacrifices at the Railroad Bridge -- Burning Wreckage -- Many Houses Destroyed by a Conflagration 460
CHAPTER XLII.
The Record of Restoration -- Beginning work again at the Mills -- Erecting Portable Houses -- Clearing away the Debris 463
CHAPTER XLIII.
Dynamite to the Rescue -- Efficient work of the Explosive -- The Populace Panic-stricken by the heavy charges -- Force of the Explosions 471
CHAPTER XLIV.
The Work Performed by General Hastings -- Bidding him farewell at Johnstown and welcoming him home again at Bellefonte 475
CHAPTER XLV.
Work of the Telegraph Operators -- Improvised offices and apparatus -- How the great newspaper dispatches were sent 483
CHAPTER XLVI.
Impossibility of determining the exact loss of life -- Reckoning the loss of property by millions -- Confusion for the Savings Banks 492
CHAPTER XLVII.
Unfounded dissatisfaction over the management of the relief fund -- Judicious course pursued by Governor Beaver and his associates 496
CHAPTER XLVIII.
Parceling out the funds -- Opening a free bank -- Talking of National Aid -- Dishonest benefit-seekers -- The money going out slowly 503
CHAPTER XLIX.
Adventures of a newsboy -- Timing the Flood -- Life-saving by a dog -- Noble exertions of a noble brute 507
CHAPTER L.
Letters from the President, the Vice-President, and Ex-Secretary Cameron -- Theatrical benefits -- The Babe of the Flood 513

 

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


 

Map of the Deluged Conemaugh District 1
Panoramic View of Johnstown Before the Flood 15
Johnstown as Left by the Flood 19
Ruins of Johnstown, Viewed from Prospect Hill, 37
General View of the Ruins, Looking up Stony Creek 55
Ruins, Showing the Path of the Flood 73
Typical Scene in Johnstown 91
Johnstown -- View Corner of Main and Clinton Streets 109
View on Clinton Street, Johnstown 127
Main and Clinton Streets, Looking Southwest 145
Ruins, corner of Clinton and Main Streets 163
Ruins, from Site of the Hulburt House 181
The Debris above the Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge 199
Ruins of the Cambria Iron Works 217
Ruins of the Cambria Iron Company's Store 235
Third Street, Williamsport, Pa., During the Flood 253
Wreck of the Iron Bridge at Williamsport, Pa. 271
Wreck of the Lumber Yards at Williamsport, Pa. 289
250,000,000 Feet of Logs Afloat in the Susquehanna 307
Last Trains in and out of Harrisburg 325
Columbia, Pa., Under the Flood 343
Pennsylvania Avenue at Sixth Street, Washington, D.C. 361
Seventh Street, Washington, D.C., in the Flood 379
Fourteenth Street, Washington, D.C. in the Flood 397
The Flood in Washington, D.C. Opposite Harris's Theatre 415
Repairing Damages on the Pennsylvania Railroad 465
Clearing the Railroad Tracks 481
The Burned Roman Catholic Church of St. John 497
Interior of the Roman Catholic Church in Cambria City 512
Adjutant-General Hastings 513

 

 

Panoramic View of Johnstown Before the Flood
Panoramic View of Johnstown Before the Flood.

 


This book was transcribed by Lynne Canterbury, Clark Creery, Martha Humenik,
Betty Mirovich and Diann Olsen for the county web site in 2001.

Archives version created in 2004.

 

There is a transcription, with images of each book page at the Cambria County web site at:
http://www.camgenpa.com/books/jofl/


 


 
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