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“ Flood Just Part of Little Known
Tale Behind Johnstown Woes Story of Vandalism, Looting and Strikes Among Relief Workers Is Part of Epic of Era By JOHN J. DALY. Once there was a supreme tragedy—the Johnstown flood. On a rainy afternoon in May, 50 years ago, a dam broke 18 miles up the valley from the little town of Johnstown, in Cambria County, Pa., on the Conemaugh River. A wall of water 40 feet high came down the moun tain sides and 2.205 men, women and children were swept into eternity. There had been warnings. A year before the disaster some one dis vw»viv.u ill me UctXXl l X lri t XlflU back the waters of Lake Conemaugii —a splendid fishing grounds 2'-, miles long, l'i miles wide, averaging more than 50 feet in depth, A day before the break a lone fisherman came down into the valley —a pleasant place about 1.500 feet above sea level—and told the folks to get out. Only arrant cowards, so described by the residents, fol lowed the advice and went to the hillsides. The brave remained. And when the waters came, at the rate of a fast-moving railroad train, few were prepared for the getaway. That was at 3:30 p.m. Friday, May 31. 1889. While every American and peoples of the far-flung world have heard of "the Johnstown flood" —a byword in the language of hor ror—few know the story behind the story. It is an epic of American life as it was lived in the rugged days that preceded the era that came to be known as the gay 90s. The Day Before Pay Day. Settled in 1794, just after the Revolutionary War, Johnstown. Pa., was a rugged coal and iron ore re gion that had attracted men and women from many nations. It wras incorporated as a borough in 1831 and by the time the flood waters struck the town was ready for in corporation as a city—with 25.000 inhabitants. It was the day before payday at the mines. Spring was in the air and festivities were at hand. Wed dings were scheduled for Saturday —the bridal day that never came. They worked hard, those men at the mines—10 to 12 hours a day for a W'age of $2—and when they go paid off they w'ent to town in a big way. Throughout the neigh borhood. in Johnstown and sur rounding territory, 138 saloons and dance halls furnished grog for thirsty throats and music for danc ing feet. Only thing that spoiled anticipa tion of a high old time was a rain fall that had lasted several days. Spring freshets were at hand. With the heavy rains, most streams in the vicinity had become roaring torrents. Then there were the rumors of that weakened dam: but that was far up on the lake, where members of the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club prepared for a merry week end. It was never to be. Fifteen minutes after the dam had burst the valley was flooded. Johnstown was under water. Strong men, mothers with babes in their arms were swept away. Houses were lifted bodily from their foundations and cracked to pieces like so much matchwood. One Warning. Now the tragedy was at hand— and no one to give a word of warn ing. No one. except one little wom an. a Mrs. Ogle, who was a tele graph operator for Western Union. Soon as she heard of the onrushing uproar, the terrible march of the waters, she tapped off the message to all the towns she could reach along the way—down the valley. And they found her dead at the key. With all lines of communication down, with railroad tracks of the B. ct: O. and the Pennsylvania washed away, only meager reports of a nightmare reached the rest of America. On the morning of June 1. 1889. newspapers carried rambling reports of what had taken place in Johns town. Pa.: but the stories did not come from Johnstown. They were date-lined from Cambria and other small towns in the valley, where frantic men and women from the hills had run to call for help. First reports were exaggerated, naturally. Twenty thousand persons had lost their lives. The whole town had gone. For 29 days the newspapers car ried first-page stories of America's No. 1 disaster—and even at the end of that time no one knew the exact number of dead and missing. Nor who they were. Even to this day there has never been an accurate checkup. In Green View Cemetery are graves of 777 unidentified dead who perished in the Johnstown flood. In marked graves are 1,418 known citi zens who perished. Those were identified; but many more were swept away with the waters, buried under debris, burned or dynamited into oblivion—not a trace of them left—when the rescue crews set to work. Then Came Fire. Day after the flood the lumber from the destroyed houses caught fire. With the receding waters the flames had their play. Those who had sought shelter on top of floating roofs and makeshift rafts merely courted a funeral pyre. They were cremated alive. That W'as the meager story of Johnstown that finally reached all America. Immediately the newspa per reporters started on their way, along with the agencies of mercy. Pittsburgh was 80 miles to the east, but most of the railroad track age was destroyed and the mud roads were well-nigh impassable. It took almost two days to get the first relief through—and then the story came out. Only two structures withstood the ravages of the flood waters, a stone church and a high school building. Properly damage soared to $10,000, 000. Clara Barton, then in her 68th year, led the first expedition into the town—and the horror that met her eyes was afterward described as far worse than any she had seen all through the Civil War—floods m the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys—and afterward in the Russian famine, the Cuban insurrection, and among the starving Armenians. With Clara Barton had come a Dr. Hubbell, field officer of the Red Cross Association, and a staff of skilled assistants. They went to work first of all to stamp out pesti lence. Fortunately for Johnstown and its survivors the rains continued. Day after day it rained—and the downpour purified the air, heavy with the smell of dead. Came Vandals. Before foodstuffs arrived, men and women and little children, scantily clad, were on the verge of starvation. That fight between life and death became the battle of the age—and with the humanitarian touches of Clara Barton and her angels of mercy came the vandals of civilization—looters of the dead. Upstream a distance was a camp of foreigners — rough, illiterate foreigners who worked in the mines. Afterwards, ‘the correspondents , came to call them ‘‘The Huns.” i ' The Huns” descended in mob j formation on Johnstown—not to' render any assistance, not to help the helpless, but to steal. And then murder was in the air. ' National Guardsmen, sent by the State, shot and killed "The Huns.” One sheriff—rated as a brave man j —rounded up an even dozen ghouls, I marched them at the point of his pistols to the brink of the swollen Stony Creek and drowned the en tire 12—all with loot on either per sons—necklaces, wedding rings, en gagement rings, trinkets. This was the consternation that was Johnstown. When word got around America that here was the supreme tragedy of the age the hearts and purse strings of human ity were thrown open. Before she left town, after a five months' stay, Clara Barton was pleased to report that Americans from all parts of the land had sent her $2,378,000. This was distributed by a flood com mission set up by the great war nurse. It was not all. Clothing, foodstuffs, building material— enough to build three apartment houses—had come to her from all over the land. Undertakers Strike. With this outside help, the inside fracas increased. A detachment of undertakers had been called in— from Pittsburgh and other cities. They .did not like each other. And they went out on strike. Then, the State of Pennsylvania imported 1.500 day laborers to clean away the debris—at ‘‘$1.50 a day, out of which must be purchased rations.” When the day laborers, imported, learned that the men at the mines had received $2 a day there was more trouble. A leader amongst them organized a strike—and they struck for more wages. All this time, men and women were looking for their lost ones. Up and down the valley, from Johns town to Blairville, to Cambria, searching parties were out, trying to find the remains of little children, of old men and women—and the work of clearing away the debris at Johnstown proper was at a stand still. At the stone bridge, in the heart of the town, the debris was piled 40 feet high—and in it were mothers and fathers and little ones, caught in their homes, their homes smashed against the rocks of the mountain side and the stones of the sturdy bridge. Finally the undertakers got to gether. Then the workmen went back to work. Another crew came in and 5,000 men worked day and night to bring order out of chaos. Thieving Continued. In a month's time something like law and order came to Johnstown, but it was not enough. Thieving still went on, looting was in order. Some one had remembered the vaults of the First National Bank. Filled with money, they remained intact. So burglars went to work— and shots again filled the air. This, with fresh outbreaks of fight ing between relief workers—mostly over authority—and petty thievery and profiteering on foodstuffs caused much bitterness. Supt. of Police O’Meara came in from Pittsburgh and observed: "All the thieving done here was done by a lot of tramps and bums. There are too many relief commit tees and not enough workers. There are more reneters than sunerers. Al most every man you meet here has on a lot of yellow ribbon. A lot of dudes came down here and think more of filling their stomachs than they do of relieving the poor.” They relieved the poor of almost everything the poor had. Neverthe less sunshine came to Conemaugh Valley. Johnstown began to build again, on a vacant site. It got going in short order. The dead were buried and new life set up. Today Johns town is one of the beauty cities of Pennsylvania, with a population slightly more than 70.000, a fine free library, a $250,000 Y. M. C. A. build ing, 67 churches and a city hall and schools. Still the survivors can never for get that rainy afternoon in 1889, the year of the Johnstown flood. Justice Wheat Back On Bench After Illness Chief Justice Alfred A. Wheat of ! District Court was back on the bench yesterday following an illness which kept him indisposed since ; Easter. The jurist will be entitled to retire t from the Federal judiciary early next month following 10 years’ serv ice on the bench, but Chief Justice Wheat's friends say he is disposed to continue in active service. FOR WEDDING GIFTS New and Old Silverware Moderately Priced LIBERAL TERMS LOUIS ABRAHAMS 711 G St. N.W. ROACHES Rid the home of these B pests quickly and surely. One applica —- 35c _______^____________^______________________^__ Woodward & Lothrop 10th 11th F and G Streets Phone District 330 0 The Health-way in Dieting with < * Battle Creek Foods now being demonstrated in the Food Shop Do you have diet problems? Mrs. Josephine Walters, nutrition ist of the Battle Creek Diet System Foods, is here to help you. Do consult her, during her visit this week. Battle Creek Foods Special Saving—during Mrs. W alters' demonstration. Fig Bran and ZO— Both ^ jrc Would regularly be 30c for both for ZJ And do you know these Battle Creek products? Food Ferrin for blood-building, LD-Lax to combat constipation due $1.25 to crippled colon, $1.25 and $4.50 Kobo to relieve faulty elimina- Lacto-Dextrin to aid in changing tion-$1 and $3.50 the intestinal flora_90e and $3.95 Th* Food Shop, Fitth Floor. Woodward & lothrop 10th 11™ F and G Streets Phone DIstkfct 5300 Cool, Restful Glider Real refreshing comfort for your cool hours on porch or terrace—in this easy swinging glider. Smart white frames con trast with green, blue or maroon cushions of durable Fabrikoid. Unusual ly fine at this moderate price. Summer Furniture, Sixth Floor. Hand-hooked Wool Rugs At Special Savings Just what you need for cool—colorful—"in teresting" floors for Summer. Scatter them throughout the house—your bedroom—the hall—the breakfast room—the baby's play room—they will "lift up the spirits" qf every room in the house. Excellent reproductions of antiques and stunning new modern pat terns—and all come to match in all the I different sizes. I Size Regularly Special I 24x36, oblong_$4.95 $3.95 f 24x48, oblong- 56.95 $5^75 3x5, oblong-SI2.95 $9^95 4x6, oblong-$22.50 $16.95 Ovals at proportionate low prices Rugs, Fifth Floor. / Roomy Boudoir Chair —inexpensive solid comfort Add luxurious comfort to your bedroom at small cost to you—or replace your old and perhaps uncomfortable boudoir chair with a new one in which you can really relax. Covered in durable cotton crash, with reversible pillow-back and cushion. Natural, rose, blue, mulberry and green backgrounds with ^ contrasting floral patterns _ Box-style Ottoman to match_$5 Beds and Bedding, Sixth Floor. Your Blankets Are Restored to Your Furs Are Safe in Our Dependable Fur Storage Vaults —during Summer months Enjoy holidays away from home more, confident your furs, and other valuable garments, are protected against theft, fire, moths, dust and dirt. For your peace of mind Telephone District 5300—we will collect your furs and store them in our new modern vaults. Then, when you return, they will be safe—ready for you. Fttr Storage, Eighth Floor. Downy Softness « —by our washing process We store them for you till Fall—then you open the package and find, de liciously clean, almost unbelievably soft again, the soiled blankets you send us now. Rates are moderate. Telephone District 5300 for prompt collection.' Single Blankets-75c Double Blankets _$1.25 Crib Blankets_50c Comforts, dry cleaned, from-$1.50 For Storing—Per Season Single Blankets _^5c Double Blankets and Comforts-SOc Dry Cleaning Desk, 11th Am O Streets Corner, First Floor. Sherwin-Williams Special V2 Gallon Porch and Deck Paint with 3-inch Brush $7-65 I Durable enamel-finish paint—made to resist rain, the grinding of scuffing feet, broiling sunshine—and snow, next Win ter. In your choice of six shades. Sherwin-Williams Black Screen Point— » enough for on eight-room house. Quart, Q Mc with applicator, special_ Hotwwares, Fifth Floor.