There was terrible destruction to life and property throughout the entire Juniata Valley by the unprecedented flood. Between Tyrone and Lewistown the greatest devastation was seen and especially below Huntingdon at the confluence of the Raystown branch and the Juniata River. During the preceding days of the week the rainfilled clouds swept around the southeast, and on Friday evening met an opposing strata of storm clouds, which resulted in an indescribable downpour of rain of twelve hours' duration.
The surging, angry waters swept down the river, every rivulet and tributary adding its raging flood to the stream, until there was a sea of water between the parallel hills of the valley. Night only added to the terror and confusion. In Huntingdon City, and especially in the southern and eastern suburbs, the inhabitants were forced to flee for their lives at midnight on Thursday, and by daybreak the chimneys of their houses were visible above the rushing waters. Opposite the city the people of Smithfield found safety within the walls of the State Reformatory, and for two days they were detained under great privations.
Some conception of the volume of water in the river may be had from the fact that it was thirty-five feet above low-water mark, being eight feet higher than the great flood of 1847. Many of the inhabitants in the low sections of Huntingdon, who hesitated about leaving their homes, were rescued, before the waters submerged their houses, with great difficulty.
Huntingdon, around which the most destruction is to be seen of any of the towns in the Juniata Valley, was practically cut off from all communication with the outside world, as all the river bridges crossing the stream at that point were washed away. There was but one bridge standing in the county, and that was the Huntingdon and Broad Top Railroad bridge, which stood isolated in the river, the trestle on the other end being destroyed. Not a county bridge was left, and this loss alone approximated $200,000.
The gas works were wrecked on Thursday night and the town was left in darkness.
Just below where the Juniata and Raystown branch meet, lived John Dean and wife, aged seventy-seven each, and both blind. With them resided John Swaner and wife. Near by lived John Rupert, wife and three small children. When the seething current struck these houses they were carried a half mile down the course of the stream and lodged on the ends amid stream.
The Ruperts were soon driven to the attic, and finally, when it became evident that they must perish, the frantic mother caught up two bureau drawers, and placed her little children in them upon the angry waves, hoping that they might be saved; but all in vain.
The loss of life by the flood in Clinton County, in which Lock Haven is situated, was heavy. Twenty of those lost were in the Nittany Valley, and seven in Wayne Township. Lock Haven was very fortunate, as the inhabitants there dwelling in the midst of logs on the rivers are accustomed to overflows. There were many sagacious inhabitants who, remembering the flood of 1865, on Saturday began to prepare by removing their furniture and other possessions to higher ground for safety. It was this full and realizing sense of the danger that gave Lock Haven such immunity from loss of life.
The only case of drowning in Lock Haven was of James Guilford, a young man who, though warned not to do so, attempted to wade across the main street, where six feet of the overflowed river was running, and was carried off by the swift current. The other dead include William Confur and his wife and three children, all carried off and drowned in their little home as it floated away, and the two children of Jacob Kashne.
Robert Armstrong and his sister perished at Clintondale under peculiarly dreadful circumstances. At Mackeyville, John Harley, Andrew R. Stine, wife and two daughters, were drowned, while the two boys were saved. At Salona, Alexander M. Uting and wife, Mrs. Henry Snyder were drowned. At Cedar Springs, Mrs. Luther S. Eyler and three children were drowned. The husband was found alive in a tree, while his wife was dead in a drift-pile a few rods away. At Rote, Mrs. Charles Cole and her two children were drowned, while he was saved. Mrs. Charles Barner and her children were also drowned, while the husband and father was saved. This is a queer coincidence found all through this section, that the men are survivors, while the wives and children are victims.
The scenes that have been witnessed in Tyrone City during the time from Friday evening, May 31st, to Monday evening, June 3d, are almost indescribable. On Friday afternoon, May 31st, telephone messages from Clearfield gave warning of a terrible flood at that place, and preparations were commenced by everybody for high water, although no one anticipated that it would equal in height that of 1885, which had always in the past served as high-water mark in Lock Haven.
All of that Friday rain descended heavily, and when at eight o'clock in the evening the water commenced rising, the rain was falling in torrents. The river rose rapidly, and before midnight was over the top of the bank. Its rapid rising was the signal for hasty preparations for higher water than ever before witnessed in the city. As the water continued rising, both the river and Bald Eagle Creek, the vast scope of land from mountain to mountain was soon a sea of foaming water.
The boom gave away about two o'clock Saturday morning, and millions of feet of logs were taken away. Along Water Street, logs, trees, and every conceivable kind of driftwood went rushing by the houses at a fearful rate of swiftness. The night was one to fill the stoutest heart with dread, and the dawn of day on Saturday morning was anxiously awaited by thousands of people.
In the meantime men in boats were busy during the night taking people from their houses in the lower portions of the city, and conveying them to places of imagined security.
When day dawned on June 1st, the water was still rising at a rapid rate. The city was then completely inundated, or at least all that portion lying east of the high lands in the Third and Fourth Wards. It was nearly three o'clock Saturday afternoon before the water reached the highest mark. It then was about three feet above the high-water mark of 1885.
At four o'clock Saturday evening the flood began to subside, slowly at first, and it was nearly night on Sunday before the river was again within its banks. Six persons are reported missing at Salona, and the dead bodies of Mrs. Alexander Whiting and Mrs. William Emenheisen were recovered at Mill Hall and that of a six-year old child near by. The loss there is terrible, and the community is in mourning over the loss of life.
G. W. Dunkle and wife had a miraculous escape from drowning early Saturday A. M. They were both carried away on the top of their house from Salona to Mill Hall, where they were both rescued in a remarkable manner. A window in the house of John Stearn was kicked out, and Mr. and Mrs. Dunkle taken in the aperture, both thus being rescued from a watery grave.
Near by a baby was saved, tied in a cradle. It was a pretty, light-haired light cherub, and seemed all unconscious of the peril through which it passed on its way down the stream. The town of Mill Hall was completely gutted by the flood, entailing heavy loss upon the inhabitants.The town of Renovo was completely wrecked. Two spans of the river bridge and the operahouse were swept away. Houses and business places were carried off or damaged and there was some loss of life. At Hamburg seven persons were drowned by the flood, which carried away almost everything in its path.
Bellefonte escaped the flood's ravages, and lies high and dry. Some parts of Centre County were not so fortunate, however, especially in Coburn and Miles Townships, where great destruction is reported. Several persons were drowned at Coburn, Mrs. Roust and three children among the number. The bodies of the mother and one child were recovered.
James Corss, a well-known resident of Lock Haven, and Miss Emma Pollock, a daughter of ex-Governor Pollock of Philadelphia, were married at the fashionable Church of the Holy Trinity, Philadelphia, at noon of Wednesday, June 5th. The cards were sent out three weeks before, but when it was learned that the freshet had cut off Lock Haven from communication with the rest of the world, and several telegrams to the groom had failed to bring any response, it was purposed to postpone the wedding. The question of postponement was being considered on Tuesday evening, when a dispatch was brought in saying that the groom was on his way overland. Nothing further was heard from him, and the bride was dressed and the bridal party waiting when the groom dashed up to the door in a carriage at almost noon.
After an interchange of joyful greetings all around, the bride and groom set out at once for the church, determined that they should not be late. On the way to the church the bride fainted. As the church came into view she fainted again, and she was driven leisurely around Rittenhouse Square to give her a chance to recover. She got better promptly. The groom stepped out of the carriage and went into the church by the vestry way. The carriage then drove round to the main entrance, and the bride alighted with her father and her maids, and, taking her proper place in the procession, marched bravely up the aisle, while the organ rang out the well-remembered notes of Mendelssohn's march. The groom met her at the chancel, the minister came out, and they were married. A reception followed.
The bride and groom left on their wedding journey in the evening. Before they went the groom told of his journey from Lock Haven. He said that the little lumber town had been shut out from the rest of the world on Friday night. He is a widower, and, accompanied by his grown daughter, he started on his journey on Monday at two o'clock. They drove to Bellefonte, a distance of twenty-five miles, and rested there on Monday night. They drove to Leedsville on Tuesday morning. There, by hiring relays of horses and engaging men to carry their baggage and row them across streams, they succeeded in reaching Lewistown, a distance of sixty-five miles, by Tuesday night. At Lewistown they found a direct train for Philadelphia, and arrived there on Wednesday forenoon.