CHAPTER XXVI

     And now begins the task of burying the dead and caring for the living. It is Wednesday morning. Scarcely has daylight broken before a thousand funerals are in progress on the green hillsides. There were no hearses, few mourners, and as little solemnity as formality. The majority of the coffins were of rough pine. The pall-bearers were strong ox-teams, and instead of six pall-bearers to one coffin, there were generally six coffins to one-team. Silently the processions moved, and silently they unloaded their burdens in the lap of mother earth. no minister of God was there to pronounce a last blessing as the clods rattled down, except a few faithful priests who had followed some representatives of their faith to the grave.
     All day long the corpses were being hurried below ground. The unidentified bodies were grouped on a high hill west of the doomed city, where one epitaph must do for all, and that the word "unknown."
     Almost every stroke of the pick in some portions of the city resulted in the discovery of another victim, and, although the funerals of the morning relieved the morgues of their crush, before night they were as full of the dead as ever. Wherever one turns the melancholy view of a coffin is met. every train into Johnstown was laden with them, the better ones being generally accompanied by friends of the dead. men could be seen staggering over the ruins with shining mahogany caskets on their shoulders.
     In the midst of this scene of death and desolation a relenting Providence seems to be exerting a subduing influence. Six days have elapsed since the great disaster, and the temperature still remains low and chilly in the Conemaugh valley. When it is remembered that in the ordinary June weather of this locality from two to three days are sufficient to bring an unattended body to a degree of decay and putrefaction that would render it almost impossible to prevent the spread of disease throughout the valley, the inestimable benefits of this cool weather are almost beyond appreciation.
     The first body taken from the ruins was that of a boy, Willie Davis, who was found in the debris near the bridge. He was badly bruised and burned. The remains were taken to the undertaking rooms at the Pennsylvania Railroad station, where they were identified. The boy's mother has been making a tour of the different morgues for the past few days, and was just going though the undertaking rooms when she saw the remains of her boy being brought in. She ran up to the body and demanded it. She seemed to have lost her mind, and caused quite a scene by her actions. She said that she had lost her husband and six children in the flood, and that this was the first one of the family that had been recovered. The bodies of a little girl named Bracken and of Theresa and Katie Downs of Clinton Street were taken out near where the remains of Willie Davis were found.
     Two hundred experienced men with dynamite, a portable crane, a locomotive, and half a dozen other appliances for pulling, hauling, and lifting, toiled all of Wednesday at the sixty-acre mass of debris that lies above the Pennsylvania Railroad bridge at Johnstown. "As a result," wrote a correspondent, "there is visible, just in front of the central arch, a little patch of muddy water about seventy-five feet long by thirty wide. Two smaller patches are in front of the two arches on each side of this one, but both together would not be heeded were they not looked for especially. Indeed, the whole effect of the work yet done would not be noticed by a person who had never seen a wreck before. The solidity of the wreck and the manner in which it is interlaced and locked together exceeds the expectations of even those who had examined the wreck carefully, and the men who thought that with dynamite the mass could be removed in a week, now do not think the work can be done in twice this time. The work is in charge of Arthur Kirk, a Pittsburg contractor. Dynamite is depended upon for loosening the mass, but it has to be used in small charges for fear of damaging the bridge, which, at this time, would be another disaster for the town. As it is, the south abutment has been broken a little by the explosions.
     "After a charge of dynamite had shaken up a portion of the wreck in front of the middle arch, men went to work with long poles, crowbars, axes, saws, and spades. All the loose pieces that could be got out were thrown into the water under the bridge, and then, beginning at the edges, the bits of wreck were pulled, pushed and cut out, and sent floating away. At first the work of an hour was hardly perceptible, but each fresh log of timber pulled loosened others and made better progress possible. When the space beneath the arch was cleared, and a channel thus made through which the debris could be floated off, a huge portable crane, built on a flat-car and made for raising locomotives and cars, was run upon the bridge over the arch and fastened to the track with heavy chains. A locomotive was furnished to pull the rope, instead of the usual winch with a crank handle. A rope from the crane was fastened by chains or grapnels to a log, and then the locomotive pulled. About once in five times the log came out. Other times the chain slipped or something else made the attempt a failure. Whenever a big stick came out men with pikes pushed off all the other loosened debris that they could get at. Other men shoveled off the dirt and ashes which cover the raft so thickly that it is almost as solid as the ground.
     "When a ten-foot square opening had been made back on the arch, the current could be seen flushing up like a great spring from below, showing that there was a large body of it being held down there by the weight of the debris. The current through the arch became so strong that the heaviest pieces in the wreck were carried off readily once they got within its reach. One reason for this is that laborers are filling up the gaps on the railroad embankment approaching the bridge in the north, through which the river had made itself a new bed, and the water thus dammed back has to go through or under the raft and out by the bridge-arches. This both buoys up the whole mass and provides a means of carrying off the wooden part of the debris as fast as it can be loosened.
     "Meanwhile an attack on the raft was being made through the adjoining arch in another way. A heavy winch was set up on a small island in the river seventy-five yards below the bridge, and ropes run from this were hitched to heavy timbers in the raft, and then pulled out by workmen at the winch. A beginning for a second opening in the raft was made in this way. One man had some bones broken and was otherwise hurt by slipping of the handle while he was at work at the winch this afternoon. The whole work is dangerous for the men. There is twenty feet of swift water for them to slip into, and timbers weighing tins are swinging about in unexpected directions to crush them.
     "So far it is not known that any bodies have been brought out of the debris by this work of removal, though many logs have been loosened and sent off down the river beneath the water without being seen. There will probably be more bodies back toward the centre of the raft than at the bridge, for of those that came there many were swept over the top. Some went over the arches and a great many were rescued from the bridge and shore. People are satisfied now that dynamite is the only thing that can possibly remove the wreck and that as it is being used it is not likely to mangle bodies that may be in the debris any more than would any other means of removing it. There are no more protests heard against its use."
     Bodies continue to be dug out of the wreck in the central portion all day. A dozen or so had been recovered up to nightfall, all hideously burned and mangled. In spite of all the water that has been thrown upon it by fire engines and all the rain that has fallen, the debris is still smouldering in many spots.
     Work has begun in dead earnest on Wednesday on the Cambria Iron Works buildings. The Cambria people gave out the absurd statement that their loss will not exceed $100,000. It will certainly take this amount to clean the works of the debris, to say nothing of repairing them. The buildings are nearly a score in number, some of them of enormous size, and they extend along the Conemaugh River for half a mile, over a quarter of a mile in width. Their lonely chimneys, stretching high out of the slate roofs above the brick walls, make them look not unlike a man-of-war of tremendous size. The buildings on the western end of the row are not damaged a great deal, though the torrent rolled through them, turning the machinery topsy-turvy; but the buildings on the eastern end, which received the full force of the flood, fared badly. The eastern ends are utterly gone, the roofs are bent over, and smashed in, the chimneys flattened, the walls cracked and broken, and, in some cases, smashed entirely.
     Most of the buildings are filled with drift. The workmen, who have clambered over the piles of logs and heavy drift washed in front of the buildings and inside, say that they do not believe that the machinery in the mills is damaged very much, and that the main loss will fall on the mills themselves. Half a million may cover the loss of the Cambria people, but this is a rather low estimate. They have nine hundred men to work getting things in shape, and the manner in which they have had to go to work illustrates the force with which the flood acted. The trees hammed in and before the buildings were so big and so solidly wedged in their places that no force of men could pull them out, and temporary railroad tracks were built up to the mass of debris. Then one of the engines backed down from the Pennsylvania Railroad yards, and the workmen, by persistent effort, managed to get big chains around parts of the drift. These chains were attached to the engine, which rolled off puffing mightily, and in this way the amiss of drift was pulled apart. Then the laborers gathered up the loosened material, heaped it in piles a distance from the buildings, and burned them. Sometimes two engines had to be attached to some of the trees to pull them out, and there are many trees which cannot be extricated in this manner. They will have to be sawed into parts, and these parts lugged away by the engines.

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