The city of Philadelphia with characteristic generosity began the work of raising a relief fund on the day following the disaster, the Mayor's office and Drexel's banking house being the chief centres of receipt. Within four days six hundred thousand dollars was in hand. A most thorough organization and canvass of all trades and branches of business was made under the following committees:      By Tuesday the tide of relief was flowing strongly. On that day between eight and nine thousand packages of goods were sent to the freight depot of the Pennsylvania Railroad, to be forwarded to the sufferers. Wagons came in an apparently endless stream and the quantity of goods received far exceeded that of any previous day. Eight freight cars, tightly packed, were shipped to Johnstown, while five car-loads of provisions were sent to Williamsport, and one of provisions to Lewistown.

     The largest consignment of goods from an individual was sent to Williamsport by W. M. McCormick. He was formerly a resident of Williamsport, and when he heard that the people of that city were suffering for want of provisions, he immediat4ely went out and ordered a car-load of flour (one hundred and twenty-five barrels) and a car-load of groceries and provisions, consisting of dried and smoked meats, sugar, crackers, and a large assortment of other neccessaries. Mr. McCormick said he thought that several of his friends would go in with him when they knew of the venture, but if they did not he would foot all the bills himself.

     The saddest incident of the day was the visit of a handsome young lady, about twenty-three years of age. She was accompanied by an older lady, and brought three packages of clothing. It was Miss Clydia Blackford, whose home was in Johnstown. She said sobbingly that every one of her relatives and friends had been lost in the floods, and her home entirely wiped out. The gift of the packages to the sufferers of her old home seemed to give her a sort of sad pleasure. She departed with tears in her eyes.

     When the convicts in the Eastern Penitentiary learned of the disaster through the weekly papers which arrived on Wednesday and Thursday-- the only papers they are allowed to receive-- a thing that will seem incongruous to the outside world happened. The criminal, alone in his cell, was touched with the same sympathy and desire to help fellow-men in sore distress as the good people who have been filling relief depots with supplies and coffers with money. Each as he read they story of the flood would knock on his wicket and tell the keeper he wanted to give some of his money.

     The convicts, by working over and above their daily task, are allowed small pay for the extra time. Half the money so earned goes to the county from which the convict comes and half to the convict himself. The maximum amount a Cherry Hill inmate can make in a week for himself is one dollar.

     The keepers told Warden Cassidy of the desire expressed all along that the authorities receive their contributions. The convicts can do what they please with their over-time money, by sending it to their friends, and several had already sent small sums out of the Penitentiary to be given to the Johnstown sufferers. The warden very promptly acceded to the general desire and gave the keepers instructions. There are about one thousand one hundred and ten men imprisoned in the institution, and of this number one hundred and forty-six persons gave five hundred and forty-two dollars and ninety-six cents. It would take one convict working all his extra time ten years to earn that sum.

     There was one old man, a cripple, who had fifteen dollars to his credit. He said to the keeper: "I've been doing crooked work nearly all my life, and I want to do something square this time. I want to give all the money coming to me for these fellers out there." The warden, however, had made a rule prohibiting any individual from contributing more than five dollars. The old man was told this, but he was determined. "Look here," said he; "I'll send the rest of my money out to my folks and tell them to send it."

     Chief of Police Mayer, in denying reports that there was an influx of professional thieves into the flooded regions to rob the dead, said: "The thieves wouldn't do anything like that; there is too much of the gentleman in them." But here were thieves and criminals going into their own purses out of that same "gentlemanly" part of them.

     Up to Saturday, June 8th, the cash contributions in Philadelphia, amounted to $687,872.68. Meantime countless gifts and expressions of sympathy came from all over the world. The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ireland, raised a fund of $5,000. Archbishop Walsh gave $500.

     Sir Julian Pauncefote, the British Minister at Washington, called on the President on June 7th, in company with Secretary Blaine, and delivered a message from Queen Victoria expressing her deep sympathy for the sufferers by the recent floods in Pennsylvania. The President said in reply:

     "Mr. Minister: This message of sympathy from Her Majesty the Queen will be accepted by our people as another expression of her own generous character, as well as of the friendliness and good-will of her people. The disasters which have fallen upon several communities in the State of Pennsylvania, while extreme and full of the most tragic and horrifying incidents, have fortunately been limited in territorial extent. The generosity of our own citizens will promptly lessen to these stricken people every loss that is not wholly irretrievable; and these the sympathy of the Queen and the English people will help to assuage. Will you, Mr. Minister, be pleased to convey to the Queen the sincere thanks of the American people."


     A newspaper correspondent called upon the illustrious Miss Florence Nightingale, at her home in London, and asked her to send a message to America regarding the floods. In response, she wrote:

     "I am afraid that I cannot write such a message as I would wish to just at this moment. I am so overdone. I have the deepest sympathy with the poor sufferers by the floods, and with Miss Clara Barton, of the Red Cross Societies, and the good women who are hastening to their help. I am so overworked and ill that I can feel all the more but write all the less for the crying necessity.
     (Signed) "Florence Nightingale."

     Though Miss Nightingale is sixty-nine years old, and an invalid, this note was written in a hand indicating all the strength and vigor of a schoolgirl. She is seldom able to go out now, though when she can she dearly loves to visit the nightingale Home for Training Nurses, which constitutes such an enduring monument and noble record of her life. But, though in feeble health, Miss Nightingale manages to do a great deal of work yet. From all parts of the world letters pour in upon her, asking advice and suggestions on matters of hospital management, of health and education, all of which she seldom fails to answer.

     Last, but not least,. let it be recorded that the members of the club that owned the fatal lake sent promptly a thousand blankets and many thousands of dollars to the sufferers from the floods, which had been caused by their own lack of proper supervision of the dam.

Go on to chapter 25!

Go back to the PRR index!
This page has been accessed 21535 times since
Last modified on:
©1998-2010 Robert Schoenberg -