Upon a pretty
little plateau two hundred feet above the waters of Stony Creek, and directly
in front of a slender foot-bridge which leads into Kernsville, stands a
group of tents which represents the first effort of any national organization
to give material sanitary aid to the unhappy survivors of Johnstown.
It is in
the camp of the American National Association of the Red Cross, and is
under the direction of that noble woman, Miss Clara Barton of Washington,
the President of the organization in this country. The camp is not more
than a quarter of a mile from the scene of operations in this place, and,
should pestilence attend upon the horrors of the flood, this assembly of
trained nurses and veteran physicians will be known all over the land.
That an epidemic of some sort will come, there seems to be no question.
The only thing which can avert it is a successions of cool days, a possibility
which is very remote.
as soon as she heard of the catastrophe, started preparations for opening
headquarters in this place. By Saturday morning she had secured a staff,
tents, supplies, and all the necessary appurtenances of her work, and at
once started on the Baltimore and Ohio Road. She arrived here on Tuesday
morning, and pitched her tents near Stony Creek. This was, however, a temporary
choice, for soon she removed her camp to the plateau upon which it will
remain until all need for Miss Barton will have passed. with her came Dr.
John B. Hubbell, field agent; erstein, messenger, and a corps of fifteen
physicians and four trained female nurses, under the direction of Dr. O'Neill,
arrival they at once established quartermaster and kitchen departments,
and in less than three hours these divisions were fully equipped for work.
Then when the camp was formally opened on the plateau there were one large
hospital tent, capable of accommodating forty persons, four smaller tents
to give aid to twenty persons each, and four still smaller ones which will
hold ten patients each. Then Miss Barton organized a house-to-house canvass
by her corps of doctors, and began to show results almost immediately.
part of the district visited was Kernsville. There great want and much
suffering were discovered and promptly relieved. Miss Barton says that
in most of the houses which were visited were several persons suffering
from nervous prostration in the most aggravated form, many cases of temporary
insanity being discovered, which, if neglected, would assume chronic conditions.
There were a large number of persons, too, who were bruised by their battling
on the borders of the flood, and were either ignorant or too broken spirited
to endeavor to aid themselves in any particular. The majority of these
were not sufficiently seriously hurt to require removal from the homes
to the camp, and so were given medicines and practical, intelligent advice
how to use them.
fifteen persons, however, who were removed from Kernsville and from a district
known as the Brewery, on the extreme east of Johnstown. Three of the number
were women and were sadly bruised. One man, Caspar Walthaman, a German
operative at the Cambria Iron Works, was the most interesting of all. He
lived in a little frame house within fifty yards of the brewery. When the
flood came his house was lifted from its foundations and was tossed about
like a feather in a gale, until it reached a spot about on a line with
Washington Street. There the man's life as saved by a great drift, which
completely surrounded the house, and which forced the structure against
the Prospect Hill shore, where the shock wrecked it. Walthaman was sent
flying through the air, and landed n his right side on the water-soaked
turf. Fortunately the turf was soft and springy with the moisture and Walthaman
had enough consciousness left to crawl up the hillside, and then sank into
unconsciousness. At ten o'clock Saturday morning some friends found him.
He was taken to their home in Kernsville. He was scarcely conscious when
found, and before he had been in a place of safety an hour he had lost
his mind, the reaction was so great. his hair had turned quire white, and
the places where before the disaster his hair had been most abundant, on
the sides of his head, were completely denuded of it. His scalp was as
smooth as an apple-cheek. The physicians who removed him to the Red Cross
Hospital declared the case as the most extraordinary one resulting from
fright that had ever come under their observation. Miss Barton declares
her belief that not one of the persons who are now under treatment is seriously
injured, and is confident they will recover in a few days.
was reinforced by Mrs. and Dr. Gardner, of Bedford, who, during the last
great Western floods, rendered most excellent assistance to the sufferers.
Both are members of the Relief Association. The squad of physicians and
nurses was further added to by more from Philadelphia, and then Miss Barton
thought she was prepared to cope with anything in the way of sickness that
of the tents and the surroundings are exceedingly inviting. Everything
is exquisitely neat, the boards of the tent-floors being almost as white
as the snowy linen of the cots. This contrast to the horrible filth of
the town, with its fearful stenches and its dead-paved streets, is so invigorating
that it has become a place of refuge to all who are compelled to remain
is an old rink on the Bedford pike, which has been transformed into an
inviting retreat. Upon entering the door the visitor finds himself in a
small ante-room, to one side of which is attached the general consulting-room.
On the other side, opposite the hall, is the apothecary's department, where
the prescriptions are filled as carefully as they would be at a first-class
druggist's. In the rear of the medical department and of the general consultation-room
are the wards. There are two of them-one for mails and the other for females.
A long, high, heavy curtain divides the wards, and insures as much privacy
as the most modest person would wish. Around the walls in both wards are
ranged the regulation hospital beds, with plenty of clean and comfortable
in the hospital said they couldn't be better treated if they were paying
the physician for their attendance. The trained nurses of the Red Cross
Society carefully look after the wants of the sick and injured, and see
that they get everything they wish. People who have an abhorrence of going
into these hospitals need have no fear that they will not be well treated.
of the flood-sadly few there are of them, for it was the children that
usually went down first, not the parent-are looked after by the Pennsylvania
Children's Aid Society, which has transferred its headquarters for the
time being from Philadelphia to this city, There was a thriving branch
of this society here before the flood, but of all its officers and executive
force two-only are alive. Fearing such might be the situation, the general
officers of the society sent out on the first available train Miss H. E.
Hancock, one of the directors, and Miss H. W. Hinckley, the Secretary.
They arrived on Thursday morning, and within thirty minutes had an office
open in a little cottage just above the water-line in the upper part of
the city. Business was ready as soon as the office, and there were about
fifty children looked after before evening. In most cases these were children
with relatives of friends in or near Johnstown, and the society's work
has been to identify the and restore them to their friends.
as the society opened its office all cases in which children were involved
were sent at once to them, and their efforts have been of great benefit
in systematizing the care of the children who are left homeless. Besides
this, there are many orphans who have been living in the families of neighbors
since the flood, but for whom permanent homes must be found. One family
has cared for one hundred and fifty-seven children saved from the flood,
and nearly as many are staying with other families. There will be no difficulty
about providing for these little ones. The society already has offers for
the taking of as many are as are likely to be in need of a home.
Morgan Dix, on behalf of the Leake and Watts Orphan Home in New York, has
telegraphed an offer to care for seventy-five orphans. Pittsburg is proving
itself generous in this as in all other matters relating to the flood,
and other places all over the country are telegraphing offers of homes
for the homeless. Superintendent Pierson, of the Indianapolis Natural Gas
Company, has asked for two; Cleveland wants some; Altoona would like a
few; Apollo, Pa., has vacancies the orphans can fill, and scores of other
small places are sending in similar offers and requests. A queer thing
is that many of the officers are restricted by curious provisions as to
the religious belief of the orphans. The Rev. Dr. Griffith, for instance,
of Philadelphia, says that the Angora (Pa.) Home would like some orphans,
"especially Baptist ones," and Father Field of Philadelphia, offers to
look after a few Episcopal waifs.
of the society here has been greatly assisted by the fact that Miss Maggie
Brooks, formerly Secretary of the local society here, but living in Philadelphia
at the time of the flood, has come here to assist the general officers.
Her acquaintance with the town is invaluable.
is generous in its mercy. Whatever it has left it gives freely to the strangers
who have come here. It is not much, but is shows a good spirit. There are
means by which Johnstown people might reap a rich harvest by taking advantage
of the necessities of strangers. It is necessary, for instance, to use
boats in getting about the place, and men in light skiffs are poling about
the streets all day taking passengers from place to place. Their services
are free. They not only do not, but will not accept any fee. J. D. Haws
& Son own large brick-kilns near the bridge. The newspaper men have
possession of one of the firm's buildings and one of the firm spends most
of his time in running about trying to make the men comfortable. A room
in one of the firm's barns filled with straw has been set apart solely
for the newspaper men, who sleep there wrapped in blankets as comfortably
as in beds. There is no charge for this, although those who have tried
one night on the floors, sand-piles, and other usual dormitories of the
place, would willingly pay high for the use of the straw. Food for the
newspaper and telegraph workers has been hard to get except in crude form.
Canned corned beef, eaten with a stick for a fork, and dry crackers were
the staples up to Tuesday, when a house up the hill was discovered were
anybody who came was welcome to the best the house afforded. There was
no sugar for the coffee, no vinegar for the lettuce, and the apple butter
ran out before the siege was raised, but the defect was in the circumstances
of Johnstown, and not in the will of the family.
was asked at the end of the meal.
poor people. The man probably earns a dollar a day.
the woman, who was herself cook, waiter, and lady of the house, "we don't
charge anything in times like these. You see, I went out and spent ten
dollars for groceries at a place that wasn't washed away right after the
flood, and we've been living on that ever since. Of course we don't ask
any of the relief, not being washed out. You men are welcome to all I can
seen the last of her ten dollars worth of provisions gobbled up without
a murmur, and yet didn't "charge anything in times like there," Her scruples
did not, however, extend so far as to refusing tenders of coin, inasmuch
as without it her larder would stay empty. She filled it up last night,
and the news of the place having spread, she has been getting a continual
meal from five in the morning until late at night. Although she makes no
charge, her income would make a regular restaurant keeper dizzy.
as the Signal Service is concerned, the amount of rainfall in the region
drained by the Conemaugh River cannot be ascertained. Mrs. H. M. Ogle,
who had been the Signal Service representative in Johnstown for several
years and also manager of the Western Union office there, telegraphed at
eight o'clock Friday morning to Pittsburg that the river marked fourteen
feet, rising; a rise of thirteen feet in twenty-four hours. At eleven o'clock
she wired: "River twenty feet and rising, higher than ever before; water
in first floor. Have moved to second. River gauges carried away. Rainfall,
two and three-tenth inches." At twenty-seven minutes to one P.M. Mrs. Ogle
wired: "At this hour north wind; very cloudy; water still rising."
more was heard from her by the bureau, but at the Western Union office
at Pittsburg later in the afternoon she commenced to tell an operator that
the dam had broken, that a flood was coming, and before she had finished
the conversation a singular click of the instrument announced the breaking
of the current. A moment afterward the current of her life was broken forever.
Stewart, in charge of the Pittsburg bureau, says that the fall of water
on the Conemaugh shed at Johnstown up to the time of the flood was probably
two and five-tenth inches. He believes it was much heavier in the mountains.
The country drained by the little Conemaugh and Stony Creek covers an area
of about one hundred square miles. The bureau, figuring on this basis and
two and five-tenth inches of rainfall, finds that four hundred and sixty-four
million six hundred and forty thousand cubic feet of water was precipitated
toward Johnstown in its last hours. This is independent of the great volume
of water in the lake, which was not less than two hundred and fifty million
It is therefore
easily seen that there was ample water to cover the Conemaugh Valley to
the depth of from ten to twenty-five feet. Such a volume of water was never
known to fall in that country at the same time.
T. P. Roberts, a leading engineer, estimates that the lake drained twenty-five
square miles, and gives some interesting data on the probable amount of
water in contained. He says: "The dam, as I understand, was from hill to
hill, about one thousand feet long and about eighty-five feet high at the
highest point. The pond covered above seven hundred acres, at least for
the present I will assume that to be the case. We are told also that there
was a waster-weir at one end seventy-five feet wide and ten feet below
the comb or top of the dam. Now we are told that with the weir open and
discharging freely to the utmost of its capacity, nevertheless the pond
or lake rose ten inches per hour until finally it overflowed the top, and,
as I understand, the dam broke by being eaten away at the top.
have the elements for very simple calculation as to the amount of water
precipitated by the flood, provided these premises are accurate. To raise
seven hundred acres of water to a height of ten feet would require about
three hundred million cubic feet of water, and while this was rising the
waste-weir would discharge an enormous volume-it would be difficult to
say just how much without a full knowledge of the shape of its side-walls,
approaches, and outlets-but if the rise required ten hours the waste-weir
would have discharged perhaps ninety million cubic feet. We would then
have a total of flood water of three hundred and ninety million cubic feet.
This would indicate a rainfall of about eight inches over the twenty-five
square miles. As that much does not appear to have fallen at the hotel
and dam it is more than likely that even more than eight inches was precipitated
in places farther up. These figures I hold tentatively, but I am much inclined
to believe that there was a cloud burst."
the Johnstown disaster, great as it was, was by no means the greatest flood
in history, since Noah's Deluge. The greatest of modern floods was that
which, resulted from the overflow of the great Houng-Ho, or Yellow River,
in 1887. This river, which has earned the title of "China's Sorrow," has
always been the cause of great anxiety to the Chinese Government and to
the inhabitants of the country through which it flows. It is guarded with
the utmost care at great expense, and annually vast sums are spent in repairs
of its banks. In October, 1887, a number of serious breaches occurred in
the river's banks about three hundred miles from the coast. As a result
the river deserted its natural bed and spread over a thickly-populated
plain, forcing for itself finally an entire new road to the sea. Four or
five times in two thousand years the great river had changed its bed, and
each time the change had entailed great loss of life and property.
it burst through its banks two hundred and fifty miles from the sea and
cut a new bed through the northern part of Shaptung into the Gulf of Pechili.
The isolation in which foreigners lived at that time in China prevented
their obtaining any information as to the calamitous results of this change,
but in 1887 many of the barriers against foreigners had been removed and
a general idea of the character of the inundation was easily obtainable.
weeks preceding the actual overflow of its banks the Hoang-Ho had been
swollen from its tributaries. It had been unusually wet and stormy in northwest
China, and all the small streams were full and overflowing. The first break
occurred in the province of Honan, of which the capital is Kaifeng, and
the city next in importance is Ching or Cheng-Chou. The latter is forty
miles west of Kaifeng and a short distance above a bend in the Hoang-Ho.
At this bend the stream is borne violently against the south shore. For
ten days a continuous rain had been soaking the embankments, and a strong
wind increased the already great force of the current. Finally a breach
was made. At first it extended only for a hundred yards. The guards made
frantic efforts to close the gap, and were assisted by the frightened people
in the vicinity. But the breach grew rapidly to a width of twelve hundred
yards, and through this the river rushed with awful force. Leaping over
the plain with incredible velocity, the water merged into a small stream
called the Lu-chia. Down the valley of the Lu-chia, the torrent poured
in an easterly direction, overwhelming everything in its path.
miles from Cheng-Chou it encountered Chungmou, a walled city of the third
rank. Its thousands of inhabitants were attending to their usual pursuits.
There was no telegraph to warn them, and the first intimation of disaster
came with the muddy torrent that rolled down upon them. Within a short
time only the tops of the high walls marked where a flourishing city had
been. Three hundred villages in the district disappeared utterly and the
lands about three hundred other villages were inundated.
turned south from Chungmou, still keeping to the course of the Lu-chia,
and stretched out in width for thirty miles. This vast body of water was
from ten to twenty feed deep. Several miles south of Kaifeng the flood
struck a large river which there joins the Lu-chia. The result was that
the flood rose to a still greater height, and, pouring into a low-lying
and very fertile plain which was densely populated, submerged upward of
one thousand five hundred villages.
beyond this locality the flood passed into the province of Anhui, where
it spread very widely. The actual loss of life could not be computed accurately,
but the lowest intelligent estimate placed it at one million five hundred
thousand, and one authority fixed it at seven million. Two million people
were rendered destitute by the flood, and the suffering that resulted was
frightful. Four months later the inundated provinces were still under the
muddy waters. The government officials who were on guard when the Hoang-Ho
broke its banks were condemned to severe punishment, and were placed in
the pillory in spite of their pleadings that they had done their best to
avert the disaster.
which may be classes as the second greatest in modern history occurred
in Holland in 1530. There have been many floods in Holland, nearly all
due to the failure of the dikes, which form the only barrier between it
and the sea. In 1530 there was a general failure of the dikes, and the
sea poured in upon the low lands. The people were as unprepared as were
the victims of the Johnstown disaster. Good authorities place the number
of human beings that perished in this flood at about four hundred thousand,
and the destruction of property was in proportion.
INSERT PHOTO FROM PAGE 326 HERE!
1421, the River Meuse broke in the dikes at Dort, or Dordrecht, an ancient
town in the peninsula of South Holland, situated on an island. Ten thousand
persons perished there and more than one hundred thousand in the vicinity.
In January, 1861, there was a disastrous flood in Holland, the area sweeping
over forty thousand acres, and leaving thirty thousand villages destitute,
and again in 1876 severe losses resulted from inundations in this country.
flood in Europe of which history gives any authentic account occurred in
Lincolnshire, England, A. D. 245, when the sea passed over many thousands
of acres. In the year 353 a flood in Cheshire destroyed three thousand
human lives and many cattle. Four hundred families were drowned in Glasgow
by an overflow of the Clyde in 758. A number of English seaport towns were
destroyed by an inundation in 1014. In 1483 a terrible overflow of the
Severn, which came at night and lasted for ten days, covered the tops of
mountains. men, women, and children were carried from their beds and drowned.
The waters settled on the lands and were called for one hundred years after
the Great Waters.
in Catalonia, a province of Spain, occurred in 1617, and fifty thousand
persons lost their lives. One of the most curious inundations in history,
and one that was looked upon at the time as a miracle, occurred in Yorkshire,
England in 1686. A large rock was split asunder by some hidden force, and
water spouted out, the stream reaching as high as a church steeple. In
1771 another flood, known as the Ripon flood, occurred in the same province.
1687, mountain torrents inundated Navarre, and two thousand persons were
drowned. Twice, in 1787 and in 1802, the Irish Liffey overran its banks
and caused great damage. A reservoir in Lurca, a city of Spain, burst in
1802, in much the same way as did the dam at Johnstown, and as a result
one thousand persons perished. Twenty-four villages near Presburg, and
nearly all their inhabitants, were swept away in April, 1811, by an overflow
of the Danube. Two years later large provinces in Austria and Poland were
flooded, and many lives were lost. In the same year a force of two thousand
Turkish soldiers, who were stationed on a small island near Widdin, were
surprised by a sudden overflow of the Danube and all were drowned. There
were two more floods in this year, on in Silesia, where six thousand persons
perished, and the French army met such lasses and privations that its ruin
was accelerated; and another in Poland, where four thousand persons were
supposed to have been drowned. In 1816 the melting of the snow on the mountains
surrounding Strabane, Ireland, caused destructive floods, and the overflow
of the Vistula in Germany laid many villages under water. Floods that occasioned
great suffering occurred in 1829, when severe rains caused the Spey and
Findhorn to rise fifty feet above their ordinary level. The following year
the Danube again overflowed its banks and inundated the houses of fifty
thousand inhabitants of Vienna. The Saone overflowed in 1840, and poured
its turbulent waters into the Rhine, causing a flood which covered sixty
thousand acres. Lyons was flooded, one hundred houses were swept away at
Avignon, two hundred and eighteen at La Guillotiere, and three hundred
at Vaise, Marseilles, and Nimes. Another great flood, entailing much suffering,
occurred in the south of France in 1856.
in Mill River valley in 1874 was caused by the bursting of a badly constructed
dam. The waters poured down upon the villages in the valley much as at
Johnstown, but the people received warning in time, and the torrent was
not so swift. Several villages were destroyed and one hundred and forty-four
persons drowned. The rising of the Garonne in 1875 caused the death of
one thousand persons near Toulouse, and twenty thousand persons were made
homeless in India by floods in the same year. In 1882 heavy floods destroyed
a large amount of property and drowned many persons in the Mississippi
and Ohio valleys.
disaster in the Conemaugh Valley calls attention to the fact that there
are many similar dams throughout the United States. Though few of these
overhang a narrow gorge like the one in which the borough of Johnstown
reposed, there is no question that several of the dams now deemed safe
would, if broken down by a sudden freshet, sweep down upon peaceful hamlets,
cause immense damage to property and loss of life. The lesson taught by
the awful scenes at Johnstown should not go unheeded.
Lake Dam was first built with ninety feet of masonry overfall, the rest
being earth embankment. On January 7th, 1841, a freshet carried away this
earth embankment, and when rebuilt the overfall of the dam was made two
hundred and seventy feet long. The foundation is two lines of cribs, filled
with dry stone, and ten feet of concrete between. Upon this broken range
stone masonry was laid, the down-stream side being curved and faced with
granite, the whole being baked with a packing of earth. The dam is forty
feet high, its top is one hundred and sixty-six feet above tidewater, and
it controls a reservoir area of four hundred acres and five hundred million
gallons 9of water. The Boyd's Corner Dam holds two million seven hundred
and twenty seven thousand gallons, and was built during the years 1866
and 1872. It stands twenty-three miles from the Croton dam, and has cut-stone
faces filled between with concrete. The extreme height is seventy-eight
feet, and it is six hundred and seventy feet long. Although this dam holds
a body of water five times greater than that at Croton Lake, it is claimed
by engineers that should it give way the deluge of water which would flow
would cause very little loss of life and only destroy farming lands, as
below it the country is comparatively level and open. Middle Branch dam
holds four billion four hundred thousand gallons, and was built during
1874 and 1878. It is composed of earth, with a centre of rubble masonry
carried down to the rock bottom. It is also considered to be in no danger
of causing destruction by sudden breakage, as the downpour of water would
spread out over a large area of level land. Besides these there are other
Croton water storage basins formed by dams as follows: East Branch, with
a capacity of 4,500,000,000 gallons; Lake Mahopac, 575,000,000 gallons;
Lake Kirk, 565,000,000 gallons; Lake Gleneida, 165,000,000 gallons; Lake
Gilead, 380,000,000 gallons; Lake Waccabec, 200,000,000 gallons; Lake Lonetta,
50,000,000 gallons; Barrett's ponds, 170,000,000 gallons; China pond, 105,000,000
gallons; White pond, 100,000,000 gallons; Pinees pond, 75,000,000 gallons;
Long pong, 60,000,000 gallons; Peach pond, 230,000,000 gallons; Cross pond,
110,000,000 gallons, and Haines pond, 125,000,000 gallons, thus completing
the storage capacity of the Croton water system of 14,000,000,000 gallons.
The engineers claim that none of these last-named could cause loss of life
or any great damage to property, because there exist abundant natural outlets.
N. G., there is a reservoir created by a dam three hundred and twenty feet
long across a valley half a mile from the village and two hundred and sixty-six
feet above it. A break in this dam would release nearly six million gallons,
and probably sweep away the entire town. Norwich, N. Y., is supplied by
an earthwork dam, with centre puddle-wall, three hundred and twenty-three
feet long and forty feet high. It imprisons thirty million gallons and
stands one hundred and eighty feet above the village. At an elevation of
two hundred and fifty feed above the town of Olean N.Y., stands an embankment
holding in check two million, five hundred thousand gallons. Oneida, N.
Y., is supplied by a reservoir formed by a dam across a stream which controls
twenty-two million, three hundred and fifty thousand gallons. The dam is
nearly three miles from the village and at an altitude of one hundred and
ninety feet above it. Such are some of the reservoirs which threaten other
communities of our fair land.
Go to chapter 28
Go Back to
the Documents page!
This page has been accessed 7761 times since July 22, 1999
Last modified on:
©1998-2010 Robert Schoenberg - email@example.com