Thursday, February 26, 2015


The Cortland Democrat, Friday, June 7, 1889.


Full Particulars of the Damage, Flood and Fire at Johnstown and other Points in Pennsylvania.
   PITTSBURG, May 31.—A sudden freshet is reported in the North Fork River east of Johnstown in the Alleghany Mountains. Two-thirds of Johnstown is said to be under water and the railroad and telegraph lines are washed out. Pittsburg has had no wire communication with Johnstown for three hours.
   The flood at Johnstown has resulted in an awful catastrophe. It is said the reservoir above the town broke about 5 o'clock this evening and the immense volume of water rushed down to the city carrying with it death and destruction. Houses with their occupants were swept away and scores, probably hundreds of people, were drowned. There is no communication with Johnstown, but a telegraph operator in the Pennsylvania Railroad tower at Sang Hollow, 12 miles this side of Johnstown, says at least 75 dead bodies have floated past. The wires are all down and no trains are running east of Blairsville, which is about 25 miles from Johnstown There is no way to get to the scene of the disaster and full particulars can hardly be obtained to-night although every effort is being made to do so. There will be no trains through to the East before to-morrow.
   The latest reliable information received from Johnstown comes through the Pennsylvania railroad officials, who aver that over 200 dead bodies have been counted floating down stream at Johnstown alone, while along the line many additional lives have been lost. It is asserted that there are but two houses in Johnstown proper entirely above the water line.
   A special train bearing Pennsylvania road officials and a large number of newspapermen has left this city for the scene. Telegraphic communication is entirely cut off and until telegraph repairmen and operators open at the nearest points, but little information can be obtained.
   A special from Greensburg says: Johnstown is completely submerged and the loss of life is inestimable. Houses are going down the river by the dozen and people can be seen clinging to the roofs. At Coketown, a village of several hundred inhabitants, the houses are almost entirely covered and a great many dwellings at Blairsville are submerged. Scarcely a dwelling in the vicinity of Long Hollow can be seen. The bridges at Bolivar and Ninevah, it is reported, have given way and that at Saltsburg it is feared will be carried away. People here who have friends in the flooded district are eagerly awaiting for news at the telegraph office. Great uneasiness prevails. The river at Livermore is rising and great destruction will follow.
   NEW FLORENCE, Pa., June 1.—It’s now very evident that more lives have been lost because of foolish incredulity than from ignorance of the danger. For more than a year there have been fears of an accident of just such a character.
   The foundations of the South Fork dam were considered unsafe early last spring and many increasing breakages were reported from time to time.
   Ample warning was given to the Johnstown residents by the railroad officials and by other gentlemen of standing and reputation in dozens, yes, hundreds of cases. This was utterly disregarded and those who heeded it early in the day were looked upon as cowards and many jeers were uttered by lips that are now cold among the rank grass beside the river
   The basin contained water measuring two miles across by five miles in length, and was 70 feet deep in the deepest place. When the flood burst upon the city of Johnstown everything was carried before it, and not an instant’s time was given to seek safety. Houses were demolished, swept from their foundations and carried in the flood to a culvert near the town. Here a mass of all manner of debris soon lodged, and by evening it had dammed the water back in the city over the tops of the still remaining chimneys.
   At 11 o'clock last night the blockade at the Johnstown bridge was three-fourths of a mile and forty feet high and was all on fire. The sky was illuminated for miles by the conflagration. The bridge at Johnstown proved too stanch for the water. Some of the top stones were only displaced. Many people had taken refuge there and so there was no means of escape, they perished by fire from an over turned stove or some such cause.
   Johnstown is in a sort of hollow between two rivers and the flood must have swept over the city at a depth of forty feet. Whether incredulity and foolhardiness numbers its flood victims by scores or by hundreds no one yet knows, and it will be many days before the writing upon tombstones and the tracing of the unknown dead are ended. There has grown up a bitter feeling among the surviving sufferers against those who owned the lake and dam, and damage suits will be plentiful by and by. The dams in Stony creek above Johnstown broke about noon yesterday and thousands of feet of lumber passed down the stream.
   It is impossible what the loss of life will roll up to, but at 9 o'clock this morning the coroner of Westmoreland county sent a message out saying that one hundred bodies had been recovered at Nineveh. Half way from here to Johnstown sober minded people do not hesitate to say that 1,200 is a moderate estimate. "How can anybody tell how many are dead," said a railroad engineer to the correspondent this morning. "I have been at Sang Hollow with my train since 11 o'clock yesterday, and I have seen fully five hundred persons lost in the flood."
   J. W. Esch, a brave railroad employee, saved sixteen lives at Nineveh.
   The most awful culmination of the awful night was the roasting of a hundred or more persons in mid-flood at the new rail road bridge at Johnstown. There were crowds of men, women and children on the wreck and their screams were soon added to the awful chorus of horror. They were literally roasted on the flood. Soon after the fire burned itself out others were thrown against the mass.
   There were some fifty people in sight when the ruins suddenly parted, broke up, and was swept under the bridge into pitchy darkness. The latest news from Johnstown is that but two houses could be seen in the town. It is also said that only three houses remain in Cambria city. The first authentic news was brought by W. H. Hays, of the Pennsylvania railroad company, who reached New Florence at 9 o'clock. He says the valley towns are annihilated. The associated press now has the only wire between New Florence and Pittsburg.
   DERRY, Pa., June 1.—A flood of death swept down the Alleghany mountains yesterday afternoon and last night. Almost the entire city of Johnstown was swimming about in the rushing, angry tide. Dead bodies are floating about in every direction, and almost every piece of movable timber is carrying from the doomed city, a corpse. The disaster overtook Johnstown about 6 o'clock last evening. As the train bearing the special correspondents sped eastward, the report at each stop grew more appalling.
   At Derry a group of railway officials were gathered who had come from Bolivar, the end of the passable portion of the road westward. They had seen but a small portion of the awful flood, but enough to allow them to imagine the rest.
   Down through the Packsaddle came the rushing waters. The height of the Alleghanies looked down in solemn wonder at the scene of the most terrible destruction that ever struck the romantic valley of the Conemaugh.
   The water was raising when the men left at six o'clock at the rate of five feet an hour.
   Clinging to improvised rafts constructed in death's battle, from floating boards and timbers, were agonized men, women and children, their heartrending shrieks for help striking horror to the breasts of the onlookers. Their cries were of no avail. Carried along at railway speed on the breast of the rushing torrents, no human ingenuity could devise a means of rescue. With hair clinging wet and damp to her pallid cheek, a mother was seen grasping a floating timber, while in her other arm she held her babe, already drowned. With a death grip on a plank, a strong man just giving up hope cast an imploring look to those on the bank; an instant later and he had sunk into the waves. Prayers to their God, cries to those in safety, rang above the roaring waves.
   The special train pulled in at Bolivar at 11:30 P. M., and the trainmen were there notified that further progress was impossible. The greatest excitement prevailed at this place and parties of citizens are out all the time endeavoring to save the poor unfortunates that are being hurled to eternity on the rushing torrent.
   The tidal wave struck Bolivar just after dark, and in five minutes the Conemaugh rose from six to forty feet and the waters spread out over the beautiful country. Soon houses began floating down and clinging to the debris were men, women and children shrieking for aid.
   A large number of citizens at once gathered on the county bridge and they were reinforced by a number from Garfield, a town on the opposite side of the river. They brought a number of ropes and these were thrown into the boiling waters as persons drifted by in efforts to save some poor beings. For half an hour all efforts were fruitless until at last, when the rescuers were about giving up all hope, a little boy, astride a shingle roof, managed to catch hold of one of the ropes. He caught it under his left arm and was thrown violently against an abutment, but managed to keep hold, and was successfully pulled on to the bridge, amid the cheers of the onlookers. His name was Hesseler, and his rescuer was a train hand named Carney.
The lad was at once taken to the town of Garfield and cared for. The boy was about 16 years old.
   JOHNSTOWN, Pa., June 3.—The situation here is not changed and yesterday's estimates of the loss of life do not seem exaggerated. Six hundred bodies are now lying in Johnstown and a large number have already been buried. Four immense relief trains arrived last night and the survivors are being well cared for. Many of the dead were found with their hands yet clinging tenaciously to the branches of trees and shrubs. A young couple were locked in each others' arms. A mother was found with a child clasped in each arm and held closely to her bosom. There is no possibility of telling just who has been lost as thousands are missing.
   Many survivors tell of the most thrilling escapes from the collections of debris, house roofs, [train] car doors and planks, and seem paralyzed from fright and horror. The number of people visible from the banks are so few in contrast with the population of the various little boroughs which constitute the city that the question "Where are the people?" is asked on all sides.
   The impression is gaining that the disclosures yet to come where the gorge collected, and which is now burning over an area of several acres will be yet more ghastly. It is feared that thousands lie beneath the great bed of fire. Millions cannot repair the damage, and the desolation covers miles of territory. The agonized cries and lamentations of the friends who have not been able to learn any tidings of their loved ones is most deplorable and pathetic. When a form is seen to drop down deeper into the flames from the burning away of supports wild shrieks pierce the air.
   The following have been recognized as dead thus far:
   John W. Parsons, wife and child, Aubrey Parsons, wife and two children, Mrs. John Henderson and two children, Miss Frank, daughter of John Frank, James Lightner and wife and sister, Margaret Lightner, Mike Lather, James Bridges, Louis Weinseller and wife, Lizzie Howe, Mrs. Andrew Leonard, Mrs. Cush, Miss Katzenmeyer, Miss Broesby, Mrs. Caroline Polack, John Kurtz, Edward Lightner, missing, Dennis Carroll, missing, Samuel and Rose Hawthorne, Mrs. James Smith and three children, Peter McEnnerny and family of nine, Mrs. and Miss Hammel, Mrs. H. M. Ogle, Western Union telegraph operator, and Miss Minnie Ogle, Miss Grace Gorman, Miss Watkins, Miss Minnie Linzon, missing, Thomas Jackson, telegraph lineman, Mr. Rodgers, William Gaither, Charles Thomas, Mr. Amos, Mary Holleran, granddaughter of John Coad, John Jones, a boy, Cord McClarren, William Smith, Frank and Edward Kerlin, Alexander King, Jacob Waise, Emma Tusedara, Miss Oswald, Emma Breges, Eliza Delaney, George and Eddie Miller, Mr. and Mrs. John Tokatsch, Mrs. Huff, William Fredberger, Ida Warner, Lewis Leur, William J. Williams, Daisy Finnert, Mary Ann Howe, George Rowser, Thomas Davis, the famous tavern keeper known as "California Tom," A. L. Beter, John Leunbersky, Wat Stewart, Christ Craig, a child of John Hays, C. T. Schubert. Emma Bridges, David Dickinson, Andrew Greger, August Hickey, a beautiful young woman said to be Ida Fischer, a prominent young lady of Johnstown, Emma Kane, George Kritzf, Marie Duarooski and her daughter of the same name, Anna Tona, William Kush, James Bridges, Mrs. John Lobern and Miss Marie Lobern.
   Fine thoroughfares in the most densely populated parts of the town are denuded of their elegant houses. Trees were stripped of branches, uprooted and swept away. Not a single structure now left within the city is safe for habitation. All must be rebuilt. The gorge has so obstructed the sluiceways of the viaduct that the water does not recede very fast. All the water craft having been swept away the getting about in the deluged streets is attended with danger.
   Notwithstanding the distress of their fellow citizens the Huns were caught purloining the garments and searching the pockets of the flood victims. All food supplies having been destroyed and all places of shelter being insecure, hundreds took refuge on the slopes which surrounded the city.
   There were pathetic scenes. Little children clustered around their elders crying for food and shivering with the cold mountain air. For 18 hours the little city was cut off from the world, and the tragedies of the awful night can never be told.
   The Pennsylvania railroad tracks at Sang Hollow, three miles west, were torn out and absolutely washed away for three quarters of a mile. The heavy steel rails were twisted as if they were wires, and in some instances were broken off. One track was swept into the river, the rails and ties of the east track were thrown on the westbound track, and in one place they were twisted into a plait. The stone ballast was washed away from between the ties for over a mile and in one place the rails, ties and ballast were all swept away and the heavy roadbed was beaten as hard as a cemented floor.
   Food, clothing, money and shelter are needed by the inhabitants. Pittsburg and Alleghany have started a relief fund but the sum needed is more than any one can give. Food has been forwarded from the cities and towns along the road. On the Baltimore & Ohio there was much damage also. The actual loss of life cannot be ascertained within less than a week or 10 days. The damage done the Cambria Iron Works is incalculable, and they will have to spend a fabulous sum in repairs. It will be several months before they can resume operations.
   A portion of the police of Pittsburg and Alleghany are on duty, and better order is now maintained. There is an absence of pillaging. Communication has been restored between Cambria City and Johnstown by a footbridge. The work of repairing the tracks between Sang Hollow and Johnstown is going on rapidly and trains will probably be running by tomorrow. Not less than 15,000 strangers are here.
   Col. Norman M. Smith of Pittsburg, while returning from Johnstown after a visit to Adjutant General Hastings was knocked from the temporary bridge into the river and carried down stream a couple of hundred yards before he was able to swim ashore. He was not hurt. Gen. Hastings countermanded the ordering out of the Eighteenth regiment. The militia are not needed. J. G. Gill and 25 men started in a wagon to go up the mountain and all were drowned by the torrent which overtook them. Gus McHugh, an engineer on the Pennsylvania railroad, who lived in Conemaugh, was asleep when the torrent rushed down the valley. His wife was away from home at the time. Her husband and four children were drowned.
   Each hour reveals some new and horrible story of suffering and outrage and brings news of merited punishment meted out to the fiends who have dared to desecrate the corpses. Tales of almost indescribable horror come to light and deeds of the vilest nature, perpetrated in the darkness are brought to light. Last evening 13 Hungarians were noticed picking their way along the banks of the Conemaugh towards Sang Hollow. Several farmers armed themselves and started in pursuit. The Hungarians came upon the dead and mangled body of a woman upon which there were a number of trinkets and two diamond rings. In their eagerness to secure the plunder the Hungarians squabbled, and one of them severed the finger upon which were the rings and ran off with the prize. The farmers gave chase. Some of the Hungarians showed fight, but being outnumbered fled. Nine of the brutes escaped, but four were driven into the surging river and to their death. The monster whose acts has been described was among the drowned.
   This morning an old railroader, who had walked from Sang Hollow, stepped up to a number of men on the platform of the station at Curranville and said: "Gentlemen, had I a shot gun half an hour ago, I would now be a murderer, yet with no fear of ever having to suffer for my crime. Two miles below here I watched three men going along the bank stealing jewels from the bodies of the dead wives and daughters of the men who have been robbed of all they held dear on earth."
   He had no sooner finished than five burly men were on their way to the scene of plunder, one with a coil of rope and another with a revolver. In 20 minutes, so it is stated, they overtook two of the thieves in the act of cutting pieces from the ears and fingers from the hands of women. The scoundrels were captured and searched. As their pockets were emptied of their ghastly finds the indignation of the crowd intensified and when a bloody finger of an infant encircled with two gold rings was found among the plunder a cry went up, "Lynch them, lynch them." Without a moment's delay ropes were thrown around the robbers' necks and were soon dangling to the limbs of a tree in the branches of which but an hour before were entangled the bodies of a father and son. After half an hour the bodies were lowered and carried to a pile of rocks in the forest. It is hinted that an Alleghany county official was one of the most prominent actors in the lynching.
   The handsome high brick school building here is damaged so badly that it will have to be rebuilt. The water rose to the second floors. The upper stories formed a refuge for many persons. All Saturday afternoon two little girls at the windows frantically called for aid. They had spent all night and the day in the building without food and drinking water. Late in the evening they were rescued. A number of persons were taken from this building earlier in the day but in the excitement the children were forgotten. Morrill Institute, a beautiful building and the old homestead of the Morrill family is totally ruined. There is danger of its collapsing. Many families took refuge in this building and were saved. Now that the waters have receded there is great danger from falling walls. All day long the crashing of walls could be heard across the river. Horrible death awaited many who had escaped the flood.
   Library Hall was another fine building of the many in the city that were destroyed. Of the Episcopal church not a vestige remains. Its site is now a placid lake. The parsonage was swept away and the rector, Rev. Mr. Dillon, was drowned. The church was one of the first buildings to fall. It carried with it several surrounding houses, many occupied. The victims were swept into comparatively still waters at the bridge and there met death by fire or water.
   James M. Walters, the attorney, has his office on the second floor of Alma Hall. His home is at No. 135 Walnut street. He was in the house with his family when the waters struck it. All was carried away. Mr. Walters' family drifted on a roof in another direction. He passed down several streets and alleys until he came to Alma Hall. His dwelling struck that edifice and he was thrown into his own office. About 200 persons had taken refuge on the upper stories of the hall. The men drew up rules of conduct and Walters was chosen president. No lights were allowed and the whole night was spent in darkness. The sick were cared for. The weaker women and children had the best accommodations.
   The scenes were most agonizing. Heart rending shrieks, sobs and moans pierced the darkness. No one slept during the long night; many knelt for hours in prayer their supplications mingling with the roar of the waters and shrieks of the dying in the surrounding houses. Two women gave premature birth to children. Dr. Matthews had several of his ribs crushed by a falling timber and his pains were severe. Yet he attended the sick. When two women in a house across the street shouted for help he with two other men crossed the drift and ministered to their wants. Several women and children died the next day from terror and fatigue. Miss Row Young was frightfully cut and bruised. Mrs. Young had a leg broken. All of Mr. Walters' family were saved.
   Editor T. C. Schubert of Johnstown Free Press, German, one of the most popular and well known Germans here, Thursday sent his three sons to Conemaugh borough. Friday he and his wife and six other children called at Mr. Grlbble's residence. The water drove them to the attic. Mr. Schubert prepared a raft upon which all embarked. As the raft reached the bridge a heavy timber rose from the water and swept the editor beneath the surface. The raft glided through and all the rest were rescued. Mr. Schubert's remains were found yesterday beneath a pile of broken timbers.
   In a tour of the west bank of a river for two wiles not over a hundred bodies were seen, but while a mass of people walked back and forth they were strangers. Not one person in 10 was a resident in this vicinity. This leads to the belief that hundreds, perhaps thousands, are still buried in the mud and debris, buried in the awful furnace at the stone bridge, or lodged further down than the searchers have yet gone.
   That many are buried yet, is also indicated by a fresh find every few hours though no thorough search has been commenced. The work of getting the bodies together for identification began this afternoon.
   The central part was Morrellville. A large lot was almost covered with coffins, while between them were weeping men and women. The number was short of one hundred, but others will come in. In one rough box were three children, their bodies almost naked and the purple faces bruised and cut.
   In a rough box lay the body of an unknown young woman, elegantly dressed. St. Mary's German Catholic Church stands a quarter of a mile below the bridge. Its walls are standing, but inside it is filled with broken benches and ruined images. In it were found the mangled body of P. Eldridge and the remains of several negroes. The distance to St. Columbia's Catholic church is half a mile. The streets to it are filled with broken houses, and the people in those left standing ware shoveling mud from the first floors. The scene at St. Columbia's church was awful. Forty or fifty bodies had been carried into it and laid on the muddy seats. The following were identified:
   Kate Prank, Charles A. Keiss, James Lightner and wife, Justice of the Peace Edward O'Neil's baby, Louis Wineseller and wife, Miss Rose McAneny, Mrs. Jas. P. O'Conoughy, Daffney Keelan, Thomas Fagan, Mrs. P. Kush, Mrs. William Kirby, Mrs. Hitchin and Thomas, son of Michael Hays.
   Lying in a row were five unidentified children from 2 to 6 years old. Their little curls were matted with mud. Their nostrils were filled with sand and the eyes often completely covered. Their faces were stained with blood from cuts and bruises. Across the aisle lay the massive form of a Hungarian laborer. The following identified dead are in the Fourth ward school house:
   F. Butler, Jas. Q. Cox, George Randolph, Harry Barbour, James Martha, Mrs. W. Jones, Robert Miller, Elmer Brinky, S. D. Eldridge, Mrs. Barbour, Jacob Wald, wife and child, Kate Lindhait, Robert Baldwin, C. McNalley, Frank Dimond, William Penrod, P. McAuley, John Streiner, M. L. Davis, Mrs. Defrance, the two Misses Richards, Ella Harrington, Charles A. Marshall, John Beems, John Anderson, C. H. Wilson, M. Little, A. M. Jones, the Misses Hamilton, (three), C. R. Butler, Charles Wilson, John Andrews, John Burns, Mrs. McCoy and Mrs. O'Connell.
   A number of other bodies in the school house are unidentified. Men were digging trenches to-day in the cemeteries. The bodies that were exposed when the water began falling are in a bad condition. Some have already been interred. In the haste and excitement no definite arrangements seem to have been made for burial services. Harry Rose, District Attorney for Cambria, is reckoned among the lost.
   Many have been reported lost who are not. Col. John Linton and his family are safe. John M. Rose is not dead, as reported, nor Col. James McMillan. Rev. H. Chapman also reported dead is alive. These facts today caused much joy. A squad of Battery B arrived at 6:30 o'clock. Another dispensary under doctors Wakefield and Milligan is doing good work. They treated 300 patients to-day. Among the patients are many with fractured skull and nearly all have broken bones. One man had a heavy iron bar driven through his leg beneath the knee separating the two bones. A thigh amputation was made. A woman had her knee and the lower part of her limb crushed out of shape. A thigh amputation was necessary.
   Dr. Milligan reported at 6 P. M. that 76 bodies had been taken out at Kearnsville, and 83 above the silk works.
   Chief Coons, of the Pittsburg fire department, arrived this evening with engines and several hose carts, with a full complement of men. A large number of Pittsburg physicians came on the same train.



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