The first thing that Johnstown people do in the morning is to go to the relief stations and get something to eat. They go carrying big baskets, and their endeavor is to get all they can. There has been a new system every day about the manner of dispensing the food and clothing to the sufferers. At first the supplies were placed where people could help themselves. Then they were placed in yards and handed to people over the fences. Then people had to get orders for what they wanted from the Citizens Committee, and their orders were filled at the different relief stations. Now the whole matter of receiving and dispensing relief supplies has been placed in the hands of the Grand Army of the Republic men. Thomas A. Stewart, commander of the Department of Pennsylvania, G. A. R., arrived with his staff and established his headquarters in a tent near the headquarters of the Citizens Committee, and opposite the temporary post-office. Over this tent floats Commander Stewart's flag, with purple border, bearing the arms of the State of Pennsylvania. The members of his staff are: Quartermaster-General Tobin Taylor and his assistant H. J. Williams, Chaplain John W. Sayres, and W. V. Lawrence, quartermaster-general of the Ohio Department. The Grand Army men have made the Adams Street relief station a central relief station, and all the others, at Kernville, the Pennsylvania depot, Cambria City, and Jackson and Somerset Street, sub-stations. The idea is to distribute supplies to the sub-stations from the central station, and thus avoid the jam of crying and excited people at the committee's headquarters.
The Grand Army men have appointed a committee of women to assist them in their work. The women go from house to house, ascertaining the number of quartered there, the number of people lost from there in the flood, and the exact needs of the people. It was found necessary to have some such committee as this, for there were women actually starving, who were too proud to take their places in line with the other women with bags and baskets. Some of these people were rich before the flood. Now they are not worth a dollar. A Sun reporter was told of one man who was reported to be worth $100,000 before the flood, but who now is penniless, and who has to take his place in the line along with others seeking the necessaries of life.
Though the Adams Street station is now the central relief station, the most imposing display of supplies is made at the Pennsylvania Railroad freight and passenger depots. Here, on the platforms and in the yards, are piled up barrels of flour in long rows, three and four barrels high, biscuits in cans and boxes, where car-loads of them have been dumped; crackers, under the railroad sheds in bins; hams, by the hundred, strung on poles; boxes of soap and candles, barrels of kerosene oil, stacks of canned goods, and things to eat of all sorts and kinds. The same is visible at the Baltimore and Ohio road, and there is now no fear of a food famine in Johnstown, though of course everybody will have to rough it for weeks. What is needed most in this line is cooking utensils. Johnstown people want stoves, kettles, pans, knives, and forks. All the things that have been sent so far have been sent with the evident idea of supplying an instant need, and that is right and proper, but it would be well now, if, instead of some of the provisions that are sent, cooking utensils would arrive. Fifty stoves arrived from Pittsburgh this morning, and it is said that more are coming.
At both the depots where the supplies are received and stored a big rope-line encloses them in an impromptu yard, so as to give room to those having them in charge to walk around and see what they have got. On the inside of this line, too, stalk back and forth the soldiers, with their rifles on their shoulders, and, beside the lines pressing against the ropes, there stands every day, from daylight until dawn, a crowd of women with big baskets, who make piteous appeals to the soldiers to give them food for their children at once, before the order of the relief committee. Those to whom supplies are dealt out at the stations have to approach in a line, and this line is fringed with soldiers, Pittsburgh policemen, and deputy sheriffs, who see that the children and weak women are not crowded out of their places by the stronger ones. The supplies are not given in large quantities, but the applicants are told to come again in a day or so and more will be given them. The women complain against this bitterly, and go away with tears in their eyes, declaring that they have not been given enough. Other women utter broken words of thankfulness and go away, their faces wreathed in smiles.
One night something in the nature of a raid was made by Father McTahney, one of the Catholic priests here, on the houses of some people whom he suspected of having imposed upon the relief committee. These persons represented that they were destitute, and sent their children with baskets to the relief stations, each child getting supplies for a different family. There are unquestionably many such cases. Father McTahney found that his suspicions were correct in a great many cases, and he brought back and made the wrong-doers bring back the provisions which they had obtained under false pretenses.
The side tracks at both the Pennsylvania and Baltimore and Ohio Railroad depots are filled with cars sent from different places, bearing relief supplies to Johnstown. The cars are nearly all freight cars, and they contain the significant inscriptions of the railroad officials: "This car is on time freight. It is going to Johnstown, and must not be delayed under any circumstances." Then, there are the ponderous labels of the towns and associations sending the supplies. They read this way: "This car for Johnstown with supplies for the sufferers." "Braddock relief for Johnstown." "The contributions of Beaver Falls to Johnstown." The cars from Pittsburgh had no inscriptions. Some cars had merely the inscription, in great big black letters on a white strip of cloth running the length of the car, "Johnstown." One car reads on it: "Stations along the route fill this car with supplies for Johnstown, and don't delay it."
Go to chapter 31
Go Back to the Documents page!
This page has been accessed 462 times since December 1, 2007
Last modified on:
©1998-2010 Robert Schoenberg - email@example.com