While yet the first wild cry of anguish was thrilling among the startled hills of the Conemaugh, the great heart of the nation answered it with a mighty throb of sympathy. On Tuesday afternoon, at Washington, the President called a gathering of eminent citizens to devise measures of relief. The meeting was held in Willard's Hall, on F street, above Fourteenth, and President Harrison made such an eloquent appeal for assistance that nearly $10,000 was raised in the hour and a half that the meeting was in session.
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THIRD STREET, WILLIAMSPORT, PA. DURING THE FLOOD.
As presiding officer the Chief Magistrate sat in a big arm-chair on the stage. On his right were District Commissioner Douglass, Hine and Raymond, and on his left sat Postmaster-General Wanamaker and Private Secretary Halford. In the audience were Secretaries Noble, Proctor and Tracy, Attorney-General Miller, Congressman Randall and Senators and Representatives from all parts of the country.
President Harrison called the meeting to order promptly at 3 o'clock. A dead silence fell over the three hundred people as the President stepped to the front of the platform and in a clear, distinct voice appealed for aid for the thousands who had been bereft of their all by the terrible calamity. His voice trembled once or twice as he dwelt upon the scene of death and desolation, and a number of handkerchiefs were called into use at his vivid portrayal of the disaster.
Upon taking the chair the President called into use at his vivid portrayal of the disaster.
"Every day one here to-day is distressingly conscious of the circumstances which have convened this meeting. It would be impossible to state more impressively than the newspapers have already done the distressing incidents attending the calamity which has fallen upon the city of Johnstown and the neighboring hamlets, and upon the Susquehanna river. The grim pencil of Dore would be inadequate to portray the horrors of this visitation. In such meetings as we have here in the national capital and other like gatherings that are taking place in all the cities of this land, we have the only rays of hope and light in the general gloom. When such a calamitous visitation falls upon any section of our country we can do no more than to put about the dark picture the golden border of love and charity. [Applause.] It is in such fires as these that the brotherhood of man is welded.
"And where is sympathy and help more appropriate than here in the national capital? I am glad to say that early this morning, from a city not long ago visited with pestilence, not long ago itself appealing to the charitable people of the whole land for relief-the city of Jacksonville, Fla.-there came the ebb of that tide of charity which flowed toward it in the time of its need, in a telegram from the Sanitary Relief Association authorizing me to draw upon them for $2000 for the relief of the Pennsylvania sufferers. [Applause.]
"But this is no time for speech. While I talk men and women are suffering for the relief which we plan to give. One word or two of practical suggestion, and I will place this meeting in your hands to give effect to your impatient benevolence. I have a dispatch from the Governor of Pennsylvania advising me that communication has just been opened with Williamsport, on a branch of the Susquehanna river, and that the losses in that section have been appalling; that thousands of people there are homeless and penniless, and that there is an immediate call for food to relieve their necessities. He advises me that any supplies of food that can be hastily gathered here should be sent via Harrisburg to Williamsport, where they will be distributed. I suggest, therefore, that a committee be constituted having in charge the speedy collection of articles of food.
"The occasion is such that the bells might well be rung through your streets to call the attention of the thoughtless to this great exigency-in order that a train load of provisions may be dispatched to-night or in the early morning to this suffering people.
"I suggest, secondly, as many of these people have had the entire furnishing of their houses swept away and have now only temporary shelter, that a committee be appointed to collect such articles of clothing, and especially bed clothing, as can be spared. Now that the summer season is on, there can hardly be a house in Washington which cannot spare a blanket or a coverlet.
"And, third, I suggest that from the substantial business men and bankers there be appointed a committee who shall collect money, for after the first exigency is past there will be found in those communities very many who have lost their all, who will need aid in the construction of their demolished homes and in furnishing them so that they may be again inhabited.
"Need I say in conclusion that, as a temporary citizen of Washington, it would give me great satisfaction if the national capital should so generously respond to this call of our distressed fellow citizens as to be conspicuous among the cities of our land. [Applause.] I feel that, as I am now calling for contributions, I should state that on Saturday, when first apprised of the disaster at Johnstown, I telegraphed a subscription to the Mayor of that city. I do not like to speak of anything so personal as this, but I felt it due to myself and to you that I should say so much as this."
The vice presidents elected included all the members of the Cabinet, Chief Justices Fuller, Bingham and Richardson, M. G. Emery, J. A. J. Cresswell, Dr. E. B. Clark, of the Bank of the Republic; C. L. Glover, of the Riggs Bank; Cashier James, of the Bank of Washington; B. H. Warner, Ex-Commissioners Webb and Wheatley, Jesse B. Wilson, Ex-Minister Foster and J. W. Thompson. The secretaries were S. H. Kaufmann, Beriah Wilkins, E. W. Murphy and Hallett Kilbourne; treasurer, E. Kurtz Johnson.
While subscriptions were being taken up, the President intimated that suggestions would be in order, and a prompt and generous response was the result. The Adams Express Company volunteered to transport all material for the relief of the distressed people free of charge, and the Lamont Opera Company tendered their services for a benefit, to be given in aid of the sufferers. The managers offered the use of their theatre free of charge for any performances. Numerous other offers of provisions and clothing were made and accepted.
Then President Harrison read a number of telegrams from Governor Beaver, in which he gave a brief synopsis of the horrors of the situation and asked for the government pontoon bridge.
"I regret to say," added the President, "that the entire length of the pontoon bridge is only 550 feet. Governor Beaver advises me that the present horrors are not alone to be dreaded, but he fears that pestilence may come. I would therefore suggest that disinfectants be included in the donations. I think we should concentrate our efforts and work, through one channel, so that the work may be expeditiously done. In view of that fact we should have one headquarters and everything should be sent there. Then it could be shipped without delay."
The use of Willard Hall was tendered and decided upon as a central point. The District Commissioners were appointed a committee to receive and forward the contributions. When the collections had been made, the amounts were read out and included sums ranging from $500 to $1.
The President in dismissing the meeting, said:-
"May I express the hope that this work will be earnestly and thoroughly pushed, and that every man and woman present will go from this meeting to use their influence in order that these supplies of food and clothing so much and so promptly needed may be secured, and that either to-night or to-morrow morning a train well freighted with relief may go from Washington."
In adjourning the meeting, President Harrison urged expediency in forwarding the materials for the sufferers. Just before adjournment a resolution was read, thanking the President for the interest he had taken in the matter. President Harrison stepped to the front of the platform then, and declined the resolution in a few graceful remarks.
"I appreciate the resolution," he said, "but I don't see why I should be thanked any more than the others, and I would prefer that the resolution be withdrawn."
Pension Commissioner Tanner, on Monday, sent the following telegram to the United States Pension agent at Pittsburg:-
"Make special any current vouchers from the towns in Pennsylvania ruined by floods and pay at once on their receipt. Where certificates have been lost in floods send permit to execute new voucher without presenting certificate to magistrate. Permits signed in blank forwarded to-day. Make special all original certificates of pensioners residing in those towns and pay on receipt of vouchers, regardless of my instruction of May 13th."
The Governor of Pennsylvania issued the following:-
"COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA,
"HARRISBURG, PA., June 3d, 1889.
"To the People of the United States: -
"The Executive of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has refrained hitherto from making any appeal to the people for their benefactions, in order that he might receive definite and reliable information from the centres of disaster during the late floods, which have been unprecedented in the history of the State or nation. Communication by wire has been established with Johnstown to-day. The civil authorities are in control, the Adjutant General of the State cooperating with them; order has been restored and is likely to continue. Newspaper reports as to the loss of life and property have not been exaggerated.
"The valley of the Conemaugh, which is peculiar, has been swept from one end to the other as with the besom of destruction. It contained a population of forty thousand to fifty thousand people, living for the most part along the banks of a small river confined within narrow limits. The most conservative estimates place the loss of life at 5000 human beings, and of property at twenty-five millions. Whole towns have been utterly destroyed. Not a vestige remains. In the more substantial towns the better buildings, to a certain extent, remain, but in a damaged condition. Those who are least able to bear it have suffered the loss of everything.
"The most pressing needs, so far as food is concerned, have been supplied. Shoes and clothing of all sorts for men, women and children are greatly needed. Money is also urgently required to remove the debris, bury the dead and care temporarily for the widows and orphans and for the homeless generally. Other localities have suffered to some extent in the same way, but not in the same degree.
"Late advices seem to indicate that there is great loss of life and destruction of property along the west branch of the Susquehanna and in localities from which we can get no definite information. What does come, however, is of the most appalling character, and it is expected that the details will add new horrors to the situation.
"The responses from within and without the State have been most generous and cheering. North and South, East and West, from the United States and from England, there comes the same hearty, generous response of sympathy and help. The President, Governors of States, Mayors of cities, and individuals and communities, private and municipal corporations, seem to vie with each other in their expressions of sympathy and in their contributions of substantial aid. But, gratifying as these responses are, there is no danger of their exceeding the necessities of the situation.
"A careful organization has been made upon the ground for the distribution of whatever assistance is furnished, in kind. The Adjutant General of the State is there as the representative of the State authorities, and is giving personal attention, in connection with the Chief Burgess of Johnstown and a committee of relief, to the distribution of the help which is furnished.
"Funds contributed in aid of the sufferers can be deposited with Drexel & Co., Philadelphia; Jacob C. Bomberger, banker, Harrisburg, or William R. Thompson & Co., bankers, Pittsburg. All money contributed will be used carefully and judiciously. Present wants are fairly met.
"A large force will be employed at once to remove the debris and bury the dead, so as to avoid disease and epidemic.
"The people of the Commonwealth and others whose unselfish generosity is hereby heartily appreciated and acknowledged may be assured that their contributions will be made to bring their benefactions to the immediate and direct relief of those for whose benefit they are intended.
"JAMES A. BEAVER.
"By the Governor, CHARLES W. STONE, Secretary of the Commonwealth."
Governor Hill, of New York, also issued the following proclamation:-
STATE OF NEW YORK.
"A disaster unparalleled of its kind in the history of our nation has overtaken the inhabitants of the city of Johnstown and surrounding towns in our sister State of Pennsylvania. In consequence of a mighty flood thousands of lives have been lost, and thousands of those saved from the waters are homeless and in want. The sympathy of all the people of the State of New York is profoundly aroused in behalf of the unfortunate sufferers by the calamity. The State, in its capacity as such, has no power to aid, but the generous-hearted citizens of our State are always ready and willing to afford relief to those of their fellow countrymen who are in need, whenever just appeal has been made.
"Therefore, as the Governor of the State of New York, I hereby suggest that in each city and town in the State relief committees be formed, contributions be solicited and such other appropriate action be taken as will promptly afford material assistance and necessary aid to the unfortunate. Let the citizens of every portion of the State vie with each other in helping with liberal hand this worthy and urgent cause.
"Done at the Capitol, this third day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty-nine." DAVID B. HILL.
By the Governor, WILLIAM G. RICE, Sec.
Nor were Americans in foreign lands less prompt with their offerings. On Wednesday, in Paris, a meeting of Americans was held at the United States Legation, on a call in the morning papers by Whitelaw Reid, the United States Minister, to express the sympathy of the Americans in Paris with the sufferers by the Johnstown calamity. In spite of the short notice the rooms of the Legation were packed, and many went away unable to gain admittance. Mr. Reid was called to the chair, and Mr. Ernest Lambert was appointed secretary. The following resolutions were offered by Mr. Andrew Carnegie and seconded by Mr. James N. Otis:-
Resolved, That we send across the Atlantic to our brethren, overwhelmed by the appalling disaster at Johnstown, our most profound and heartfelt sympathy. Over their lost ones we mourn with them, and in every pang of all their misery we have our part.
Resolved, That as American citizens we congratulate them upon and thank them for the numerous acts of noble heroism displayed under circumstances calculated to unnerve the bravest. Especially do we honor and admire them for the capacity shown for local self-government, upon which the stability of republican institutions depends, the military organizations sent from distant points to preserve order during the chaos that supervened having been returned to their homes as no longer required within forty-eight hours of the calamity. In these few hours the civil power recreated and asserted itself and resumed sway without the aid of counsel from distant authorities, but solely by and from the inherent power which remains in the people of Johnstown themselves.
Resolved, That the thanks of this meeting be cordially tendered to Mr. Reid for his prompt and appropriate action in this matter, and for services as chairman of this meeting.
Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be forwarded at once by telegraph to the Mayors of Johnstown, Pittsburg and Philadelphia.
Brief and touching speeches were made by General Lawton, late United States Minister to Austria; the Hon. Abram S. Hewitt, General Meredith Read and others.
The resolutions were then unanimously adopted, and a committee was appointed to receive subscriptions. About 40,000 francs were subscribed on the spot. The American bankers all agreed to open subscriptions the next day at their banking houses. "Buffalo Bill" subscribed the entire receipts of one entertainment, to be given under the auspices of the committee.
Besides those already named, there were present Benjamin Brewster, Louis von Hoffman, Charles A. Pratt, ex-Congressman Lloyd Bryce, Clarence Dinsmore, Edward Tuck, Professor Chanler, the Rev. Dr. Stoddard and others from New York; Colonel Otis Ritchie, of Boston; General Franklin and Assistant Commissioner Tuck; George W. Allen, of St. Louis; Consul-General Rathbone, and a large number of the American colony in Paris. It was the largest and most earnest meeting of Americans held in Paris for many years.
The Municipal Council of Paris gave 5000 francs to the victims of the floods.
In London, the American Minister, Mr. Robert T. Lincoln, received from his countrymen there large contributions. Mr. Marshall R. Wilder, the comedian, gave an evening of recitations to swell the fund. Generous contributions also came from Berlin and other European cities.
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