The language of pathos is too weak to describe the
scenes where the living were searching for their loved and lost ones among
"That's Emma," said an old man before one of the bodies.
He said it as coolly as though he spoke of his daughter in life, not in death, and as if it were not the fifth dead child of his that he had identified.
"Is that you, Mrs. James," said one woman to another on the foot-bridge over Stony Creek.
"Yes, it is, and we are all well," said Mrs. James.
"Oh, have you heard from Mrs. Fenton?"
"She's left," said the first woman, "but Mr. Fenton and the children are gone."
The scenes at the different relief agencies, where food, clothing, and provisions were given out on the order of the Citizens Committee, were extremely interesting. These were established at the Pennsylvania Railroad depot, at Peter's Hotel, in Adams Street, and in each of the suburbs.
At the depot, where there was a large force of police, the people were kept in files, and the relief articles were given out with some regularity, but at such a place as Kernsville, in the suburbs, the relief station was in the upper story of a partially wrecked house.
The yard was filled with boxes and barrels of bread, crackers, biscuit, and ables of blankets. The people crowed outside the yard in the street, and the provisions were handed to them over the fence, while the clothing was thrown to them from the upper windows. There was apparently great destruction in Kernsville.
"I don't care what it is, only so long as it will keep me warm," said one woman, whose ragged clothing was still damp.
The stronger women pushed to the front of the fence and tried to grab the best pieces of clothing which came from the windows, but the people in the house saw the game and tossed the clothing to those in the rear of the crowd. A man stood on a barrel of flour and yelled out what each piece of clothing was as it came down.
At each yell there was a universal cry of "That's just what I want. My boy is dying; he must have that. Thrown me that for my poor wife," and the likes of that. Finally the clothing was all gone, and there were some people who didn't get any. They went away bewailing their misfortune.
A reporter was piloted to Kernsville by Kellog, a man who had lost his wife and baby in the flood.
"She stood tight thar, sir" said the man, pointing to a house whose roof and front were gone. "She climbed
up thar when the water came first and almost smashed the house. She had the baby in her arms. Then another house came down and dashed against ours, and my wife went down with the baby raised above her head. I saw it all from a tree thar. I couldn't move a step to help 'em."
Coming back, the same reporter met a man whose face was radiant.He fairly beamed good nature and kindness.
"You look happy," said the reporter.
"Yes, sir; I found my boy," said the man.
"Is your house gone?" asked the reporter.
"Oh, of course," answered the man. "I've lost all I've got except my little boy," and he went on his way rejoicing.
A wealthy young Philadelphian named Ogle had became engaged to a Johnstown lady, Miss Carrie Diehl. They were to be wedded in the middle of June, and were preparing for the ceremony. The lover heard of the terrible flood, but, knowing that the residence of his dear was up in the hills, felt little fear for her safety. To make sure, however, he started for Johnstown. Near the Fourth street morgue he met Mr. Diehl.
"Thank God! you are safe," he exclaimed, and then added: "Is Carrie well?"
"She was visiting in the valley when the wave came," was the mournful reply. Then he beckoned the young man to enter
the chamber of death.
A moment later Mr. Ogle was kneeling beside the rough bier and was kissing the cold, white face. From the lifeless finger he
slipped a ring and in its place put one of his own. Then he quietly stole out.
"Mamma! Mamma!" cried a child. She had recognized a body that no one else could, and in a moment the corpse was
ticketed, boxed, and delivered to laborers, who bore it away to join the long funeral procession.
A mother recognized a baby boy. "Keep it a few minutes," she asked the undertaker in charge. In a few moments she returned, carrying in her arms a little white casket. Then she hired two men to ear it to a cemetery. No hearses were seen in Johnstown. Relatives recognized their dead, secured the coffins, got them carried the best way they could to the morgues, then to the graveyards. A prayer, some tears, and a few more of the dead thousands were buried in mother earth.
A frequent visitor to these horrible places was David John Lewis. All over Johnstown he rode a powerful gray horse, and to each one he met whom he knew he exclaimed: "Have you seen my sisters?" Hardly waiting for a reply, he galloped away, either to seek ingress into a morgue or to ride along the river banks One week before Mr. Lewis was worth $60,000, his all being invested in a large commission business. After the flood he owned the horse he rode, the clothes on his back, and that was all. In the fierce wave were buried five of his near relatives, sons, and his sisters Anna, Louise, and Maggie. The latter was married, and her little boy and babe were also drowned. They were all dearly loved by the merchant, who, crazed with grief and mounted on his horse, was a conspicuous figure in the ruined city.
William Gaffney, an insurance agent, had a very pitiful duty to perform. On his father's and wife's side he lost fourteen relatives, among them his wife and family. He had a men to take the bodies to the grave, and he himself dug graves for his wife
and children, and buried them. In speaking of the matter he said: "I never thought that I could perform such a sad duty, but
I had to do it, and I did it." No one had any idea of the feelings of a man who acts as undertaker, grave-digger, and pall-bearer
for his own family.
The saddest sight on the river bank was Mr. Gillmore, who lost his wife and family of five children. Ever since the calamity
this old man was seen on the river bank looking for his family. He insisted on the fireman playing a stream of water on the place
where the house formerly stood, and where he supposed the bodies lay. The fireman recognizing his feelings, played the stream
on the place, at intervals, for several hours, and at last the rescuers got to the spot where the old man said his house formerly
stood. "I know the bodies are there, and you must find them." When at last one of the men picked up a charred skull, evidently that of a child, the old man exclaimed: "That is my child. There lies my family; go on and get the rest of them." The workmen continued, and in a few minutes they came to the remains of the mother and three other children. There was only
enough of their clothing left to recognize them by.
On the floor of William Mancarro's house, groaning with pain and grief, lay Patrick Madden, a furnaceman of the Cambria Iron Company. He told of his terrible experience in a voice broken with emotion. He said: "When the Cambria Iron Company's bridge gave way I was in the house of a neighbor, Edward Garvey. We were caught through our own neglect, like a great many others, and a few minutes before the houses were struck Garvey remarked that he was a good swimmer, and could get away no matter how high the water rose. Ten minutes later I saw him and his son-in-law drowned.
"No human being could swim in that terrible torrent of debris. After the South Fork Reservoir broke I was flung out of the building and saw, when I rose to the surface of the water, my wife hanging upon a piece of scantling. She let it go and was drowned almost within reach of my arm, and I could not help or save her. I caught a log and floated with it five of six miles, but it was knocked from under me when I went over the dam. I then caught a bale of hay and was taken out by Mr. Morenrow.
"My wife is certainly drowned, and six children. Four of them were: James Madden, twenty-three years old; John, twenty-one years; Kate, seventeen years; and Mary, nineteen years.
A spring wagon came slowly from the ruins of what was once Cambria. In it, on a board and covered by a muddy cloth, were the remains of Editor C.T. Schubert, of the Johnstown Free Press, German. Behind the wagon walked his friend Benjamin Gribble. Editor Schubert was one of the most popular and well-known Germans in the city. He sent his three sons to Conemaugh Borough on Thursday, and on Friday afternoon he and his wife and six other children called at Mr. Gribble's residence. They noticed the rise of the water, but not until the flood from the burst dam washed the city did they anticipate danger. All fed from the first to the second floor. Then, as the water rose, they went to the attic, and Mr. Schubert hastily prepared a raft, upon which all embarked. Just at the raft reached the bridge, a heavy piece of timber swept the editor beneath the surface. The raft then glided through, and all the rest were rescued. Mr. Schubert's body was found beneath a pile of broken timbers.
A pitiful sight was that of an old, gray-haired man named Norn. He was walking around among the mass of debris, looking for his family. He had just sat down to eat his supper when the crash came, and the whole family, consisting of wife and eight children, were buried beneath the collapsed house. He was carried down the river to the railroad bridge on a plank. Just at the bridge a cross-tie struck him with such force that he was shot clear upon the pier, and was safe. But he is a mass of bruises and
cuts from head to foot. He refused to go to the hospital until he found the bodies of his loved ones.