Collection: The Johnstown Flood

Rescues at the signal tower

Hairbreadth Escapes

So vast is the field of destruction that to get an adequate idea from any point level with the town is simply impossible. It must be viewed from a height. From the top of Kernville Mountain just at the east of the town the whole strange panorama can be seen. Looking down from that height many strange things about the flood that appear inexplicable from below are perfectly plain. How so many houses happened to be so queerly twisted, for instance, as if the water had a whirling instead of a straight motion, was made perfectly clear. The town was

Map of the Conemaugh Valley

Digging for the Dead

A party started in early exploring the huge mass of débris banked against the Pennsylvania Railroad bridge. This collection, consisting of trees, sides of houses, timber and innumerable articles, varies in thickness from three or four feet to twenty feet. It is about four hundred yards long, and as wide as the river. There are thousands of tons in this vast pile. How many bodies are buried there it is impossible to say, but conservative estimates place it at one thousand at least. The corps of workmen who were searching the ruins near the Methodist Church late this evening were

Child found thumping on a wrecked piano

Pathetic Scenes

Some of the really pathetic scenes of the flood are just coming to the public ear. John Henderson, his wife, his three children, and the mother of Mrs. Henderson remained in their house until they were carried out by the flood, when they succeeded in getting upon some drift. Mr. Henderson took the babe from his wife, but the little thing soon succumbed to the cold and the child died in its father’s arms. He clung to it until it grew cold and stiff and then, kissing it, let it drop into the water. His mother-in-law, an aged lady, was

Map of Johnstown Flood

New Tales of Horror

The accounts contained in the foregoing chapters bring this appalling story of death down to June 4th. We continue the narrative as given from day to day by eye-witnesses, as this is the only method by which a full and accurate description of Johnstown’s unspeakable horror can be obtained. On the morning of June 5th one of the leading journals contained the following announcements, printed in large type, and preceding its vivid account of the terrible situation at Johnstown. Death, ruin, plague! Threatened outbreak of disease in the fate stricken valley. Awful effluvia from corpses! Swift and decisive means must

An engineer's terrific race in the valley of death

Thrilling Experiences

JOHNSTOWN, Pa., June 3, 1889.–Innumerable tales of thrilling individual experiences, each one more horrible than the others, are told. Frank McDonald, a conductor on the Somerset branch of the Baltimore and Ohio, was at the Pennsylvania Railroad depot in this place when the flood came. He says that when he first saw the flood it was thirty feet high and gradually rose to at least forty feet. “There is no doubt that the South Fork Dam was the cause of the disaster,” said Mr. McDonald. “Fifteen minutes before the flood came Decker, the Pennsylvania Railroad agent read me a telegram

Johnstown Flood

View of the Wreck

Each visitor to the scene of the great disaster witnessed sights and received impressions different from all others. The following graphic account will thrill every reader: The most exaggerative imagination cannot too strongly picture the awful harvest of death, the wreck which accompanied that terrible deluge last Friday afternoon. I succeeded in crossing from the north side of the Little Conemaugh, a short distance above the point, to the sandy muddy desert strewn with remnants of the buildings and personal property of those who know not their loss. It is almost an impossibility to gain access to the region, and

Johnstown and Its Industries

At this point of our narrative a sketch of Johnstown, where the most frightful havoc of the flood occurred, will interest the reader. The following description and history of the Cambria Iron Company’s Works, at Johnstown, is taken from a report prepared by the State Bureau of Industrial Statistics: The great works operated by the Cambria Iron Company originated in a few widely separated charcoal furnaces, which were built by pioneer iron workers in the early years of this century. It was chartered under the general law authorizing the incorporation of iron manufacturing companies, in the year 1852. The purpose

Distributing supplies from the relief train

Burial of the Victims

Hundreds have been laid away in shallow trenches without forms, ceremonies or mourners. All day long the work of burial has been going on. There was no time for religious ceremonies or mourning and many a mangled form was coffined with no sign of mourning save the honest sympathy of the brave men who handled them. As fast as the wagons that are gathering up the corpses along the stream arrive with their ghastly loads they are emptied and return again to the banks of the merciless Conemaugh to find other victims among the driftwood in the underbrush, or half

The Village of Johnstown before the Flood

Shadows of Despair

Another graphic account of the fearful calamity is furnished by an eye-witness: The dark disaster of the day with its attendant terrors thrilled the world and drew two continents closer together in the bonds of sympathy that bind humanity to man. The midnight terrors of Ashtabula and Chatsworth evoked tears of pity from every fireside in Christendom, but the true story of Johnstown, when all is known, will stand solitary and alone as the acme of man’s affliction by the potent forces to which humanity is ever subject. The menacing clouds still hover darkly over the valley of death, and

The Awful Work of Death

The record of June 3rd continues as follows: The horror of the situation does not lessen. The latest estimate of the number of dead is an official one by Adjutant General Hastings, and it places the number between 12,000 and 15,000. The uncovering of hundreds of bodies by the recession of the waters has already filled the air with pestilential odors. The worst is feared for the surviving population, who must breathe this poisoned atmosphere. Sharp measures prompted by sheer necessity have resulted in an almost complete subsidence of cowardly efforts to profit by the results of the disaster. Thieves