No travelers in an upheaved and disorganized land push through with more pluck and courage than the newspaper correspondents. Accounts have already been given of some of their experiences. A writer in the New York Times thus told of his, a week after the events described:
"A man who starts on a journey on ten minutes' notice likes the journey to be short, with a promise of success and of food and clothes at its end. Starting suddenly a week ago, the Times's correspondent has since had but a small measure of success, a smaller measure of food, and for nights no rest at all; a long tramp across the Blue Hills and Allegheny Mountains, behind jaded horses; helping to push uphill the wagon they tried to pull or to lift the vehicle up and down bridges whose approaches were torn away, or in and out of fords the pathways to which had disappeared; and in the blackness of the night, scrambling through gullies in the pike road made by the storm, paved with sharp and treacherous rocks and traversed by swift-running streams, whose roar was the only guide to their course. All this prepared a weary reporter to welcome the bed of straw he found in a Johnstown stable loft last Monday, and on which he has reposed nightly ever since.
"And let me advise reporters and other persons who are liable to sudden missions to out-of-the-way places not to wear patent leather shoes. They are no good for mountain roads. This is the result of sad experience. Wetness and stone bruises are the benisons they confer on feet that tread rough paths.
"The quarter past twelve train was the one boarded by the Times's correspondent and three other reporters on their way hither a week ago Friday night. It was in the minds of all that they would get as far as Altoona, on the Pennsylvania Road, and thence by wagon to this place. But all were mistaken. At Philadelphia we were told that there were wash-outs in many places and bridges were down everywhere, so that we would be lucky if we got even to Harrisburg. This was harrowing news. It caused such a searching of time-tables and of the map of Pennsylvania as those things were rarely ever subjected to before. It was at last decided that if the Pennsylvania Railroad stopped at Harrisburg an attempt would be made to reach the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad at Martinsburg, West Virginia, by way of the Cumberland Railroad, a train on which was scheduled to leave Harrisburg ten minutes after the arrival of the Pennsylvania train."It was only too evident to us, long before we reached Harrisburg, that we would not get to the West out of that city. The Susquehanna had risen far over its banks, and for miles our train ran slowly with the water close to the fire-box of the locomotive and over the lower steps of the car platform. At last we reached the station. Several energetic Philadelphia reporters had come on with us from that lively city, expecting to go straight to Johnstown. As they left the train one cried: 'Hurrah, boys, there's White. He'll know all about it.' White stood placidly on the steps, and knew nothing more than that he and several other Philadelphia reporters, who had started Friday night, had got no further than the Harrisburg station, and were in a state of wonderment, leaving them to think our party caught.
As the Cumberland Valley train was pulling out of the station, its conductor, a big, genial fellow, who seemed to know everybody in the valley, was loth to express an opinion as to whether we would get to Martinsburg. He would take us as far as he could, and then leave us to work out our own salvation. He could give us no information abut the Baltimore and Ohio Road. Hope and fear chased one another in our midst; hope that trains were running on that road, and fear that it, too, had been stopped by wash-outs. In the latter case it seemed to us that we should be compelled to return to Harrisburg and sit down to think with our Philadelphia brethren.
The Cumberland Valley train took us to Hagerstown, and there the big and genial conductor told us it would stay, as it could not cross the Potomac to reach Martinsburg. We were twelve miles from the Potomac and twenty from Martinsburg. Fortunately, a construction train was going to the river to repair some small wash-outs, and Major Ives, the engineer of the Cumberland Valley Road, took us upon it, but he smiled pitifully when we told him we were going across the bridge."'Why, man,' he said to the Times's correspondent, the Potomac is higher than it was in 1877, and there's no telling when the bridge will go.'
At the bridge was a throng of country people waiting to see it go down, and wondering how many more blows it would stand from foundering canal-boats, washed out of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, whose lines had already disappeared under the flood. A quick survey of the bridge showed that its second section was weakening, and had already bent several inches, making a slight concavity on the upper side."No time was to be lost if we were going to Martinsburg. The country people murmured disapproval, but we went on the bridge, and were soon crossing it on the one-foot plank that served for a footwalk. It was an unpleasant walk. The river was roaring below us. To yield to the fascination of the desire to look between the railroad ties at the foaming water was to throw away our lives. Then that fear that the tons of drift stuff piled against the upper side of the bridge, would suddenly throw it over, was a cause of anything but confidence. But we held our breath, balanced ourselves, measured our steps, and looked far ahead at the hills on the Western Virginia shore. At last the firm embankment was reached, and four reporters sent up one sigh of relief and joy.
"Finding two teams, we were soon on our way to Martinsburg.
"The Potomac was nine feet higher than it was ever known to be before, and it was out for more than a mile beyond the tracks of the Cumberland Valley Railroad at Falling Waters, where it had carried away several houses. This made the route to Martinsburg twice as long as it otherwise would have been. To weary, anxious reporters it seemed four times as long, and that we 'should never get beyond the village of Falling Waters. It confronted us at every turn of the crooked way, until it became a source of pain. It is a pretty place, but we were yearning for Johnstown, not for rural beauty.
All roads have an end, and Farmer Sperow's teams at last dragged us into Martinsburg. Little comfort was in store for us there. No train had arrived there for more than twenty-four hours. Farmer Sperow was called on to take us back to the river, our instructions being to cross the bridge again and take a trip over the mountains. Hope gave way to utter despair when we learned that the bridge had fallen twenty minutes after our passage. We had put ourselves into a pickle. Chief Engineer Ives and his assistant, Mr. Schoonmaker joined us a little while later. They had followed us across the bridge and been cut off also. They were needed at Harrisburg, and they backed up our effort to get a special train to go to the Shenandoah Valley Road's bridge, twenty-five miles away, which was reported to be yet standing.
"The Baltimore and Ohio officials were obdurate. They did not know enough about the tracks to the eastward to experiment with a train on them in the dark. They promised to make up a train in the morning. Wagons would not take us as soon. A drearier night was never passed by men with their hearts in their work. Morning came at last and with it the news that the road to the east was passable nearly to Harper's Ferry. Lots of Martinsburg folks wanted to see the sights at the Ferry, and we had the advantage of their society on an excursion train as far as Shenandoah Junction, where Mr. Ives had telegraphed for a special to come over and meet us if the bridge was standing.
"The telegraph kept us informed about the movement of the train. When we learned that it had tested and crossed the bridge our joy was modified only by the fear that we had made fools of ourselves in leaving Harrisburg, and that the more phlegmatic Philadelphia reporters had already got to Johnstown. But this fear was soon dissipated. The trainman knew that Harrisburg was inundated and no train had gone west for nearly two days. A new fear took its place. It was that New York men, starting behind us, had got into Johnstown through Pittsburg by way of the New York Central and its connections. No telegrams were penned with more conflicting emotions surging through the writer than those by which the Time's correspondent made it known that he had got out of the Martinsburg pocket and was about to make a wagon journey of one hundred and ten miles across the mountains, and asked for information as to whether any Eastern man had got to the scene of the flood.
"The special train took us to Chambersburg, where Superintendent Riddle, of the Cumberland Valley Road, had information that four Philadelphia men were on their way thither, and had engaged a team to take them on the first stage of the overland trip. A wild rush was made for Schiner's livery, and in ten minutes we were bowling over the pike toward McConnellsburg, having already sent thither a telegraphic order for fresh teams. The train from Harrisburg was due in five minutes when we started. As we mounted each hill we eagerly scanned the road behind for pursuers. They never came in sight.
"In McConnellsburg the entire town had heard of our coming, and were out to greet us with cheers. They knew our mission and that a party of competitors was tracking us. Landlord Prosser, of the Fulton Hotel, had his team ready, but said there had been an enormous wash-out near the Juniata River, beyond which he could not take us. We would have to walk through the break in the pike and cross the river on a bridge tottering on a few supports. Telegrams to Everett for a team to meet us beyond the river and take us to Bedford, and to the latter place for a team to make the journey across the Allegehenies to Johnstown settled all our plans.
"As well as we could make it out by telegraphic advices, we were an hour ahead of the Philadelphians. Ten minutes was not, therefore, too long for supper. Landlord Prosser took the reins himself and we started again, with a hurrah from the populace. As it was Sunday, they would sell us nothing, but storekeeper Young and telegraph operator Sloan supplied us with tobacco and other little comforts, our stock of which had been exhausted. It will gratify our Prohibition friends to learn that whisky was not among them. Mc- Connellsburg is, unfortunately, a dry town for the time being. It was a long and weary pull to the top of Sidling Hill. To ease up on the team, we walked the greater part of the way. A short descent and a straight run took us to the banks of Licking Creek.
"Harrisonville was just beyond, and Harrisonville had been under a raging flood, which had weakened the props of the bridge and washed out the road for fifty feet beyond it. The only thing to do was to unhitch and lead the horses over the bridge and through the gully. This was difficult, but it was finally accomplished. The more difficult task was to get the wagon over. A long pull, with many strong lifts, in which some of the natives aided, took it down from the bridge and through the break, but at the end there were more barked shins and bruised toes than any other four men ever had in common.
"It was a quick ride from Everett to Bedford, for our driver had a good wagon and a speedy team. Arriving at Bedford a little after two o'clock in the morning, we found dispatches that cheered us, for they told us that we had made no mistake, and might reach the scene of disaster first. Only a reporter who has been on a mission similar to this can tell the joy imparted by a dispatch like this:
"'New York--Nobody is ahead of you. Go it!'
"At four o'clock in the morning we started on our long trip of forty miles across the Alleghenies to Johnstown. Pleasantville was reached at half-past six A. M. Now the road became bad, and everybody but the driver had to walk. Footsore as we were, we had to clamber over rocks and through mud in a driving rain, which wet us through. For ten miles we went thus dismally. Ten miles from Johnstown we got in the wagon, and every one promptly went to sleep, at the risk of being thrown out at any time as the wagon jolted along. Tired nature could stand no more, and we slumbered peacefully until four half-drunken special policemen halted us at the entrance to Johnstown. Argument with them stirred us up, and we got into town and saw what a ruin it was."