"And her beautiful hair all matted and her sweet face bruised and stained with mud and water."
The dead woman was the sister of the mourner. The body was placed in a coffin a few minutes later and sent away to its narrow house.
These incidents are but fair samples of the scenes familiar to every turn in this stricken city.
The Horror Increases.
During the night thirty-three bodies were brought to one house. As yet the relief force is not perfectly organized and bodies are lying around on boards and doors. Within twenty feet of where this was written the dead body of a colored woman lies.
Provision has been made by the Relief Committee for the sufferers to send despatches to all parts of the country. The railroad company has a track through to the bridge. The first train arrived about half-past nine o'clock this morning. A man in a frail craft got caught in the rapids at the railroad bridge, and it looked as if he would increase the already terrible list of dead, but fortunately he caught on a rock, where he now is and is liable to remain all day.
The question on every person's lips is—Will the Cambria Iron Company rebuild? The wire mill is completely wrecked, but the walls of the rolling mill are still standing. If they do not resume it is a question whether the town will be rebuilt. The Hungarians were beginning to pillage the houses, and the arrival of police was most timely. Word had just been received that all the men employed by Peabody, the Pittsburgh contractor, have been saved.
The worst part of this disaster has not been told. Indeed, the most graphic description that can be written will not tell half the tale. No pen can describe nor tongue tell the vastness of this devastation.
I walked over the greater part of the wrecked town this morning, and one could not have pictured such a wreck, nor could one have imagined that an entire town of this size could be so completely swept away.
A.J. Haws, one of the prominent men of the town, was standing on the hillside this morning, taking a view of the wreck. He said:
"I never saw anything like this, nor do I believe any one else ever did. No idea can be had of the tremendous loss of property here. It amounts up into the millions. I am going to leave the place. I never will build here."
I heard the superintendents and managers of the Cambria Iron Works saying they doubted if the works will be rebuilt. This would mean the death blow to the place. Mr. Stackhouse, first vice-president of the iron works, is expected here to-day. Nothing can be done until a meeting of the company is held.
Preparations for Burial.
Adjutant General Hastings, who is in charge of the relief corps at the railroad station, has a force of carpenters at work making rough boxes in which to bury the dead. They will be buried on the hill, just above the town, on ground belonging to the Cambria Iron Company. The graves will be numbered. No one will be buried that has not been identified without a careful description being taken. General Hastings drove fifty-eight miles across the country in order to get here, and as soon as he came took charge. He has the whole town organized, and in connection with L.S. Smith has commenced the building of bridges and clearing away the wrecks to get out the dead bodies.
General Hastings has a large force of men clearing private tracks of the Cambria Iron Company in order that the small engines can be put to work bringing up the dead that have been dragged out of the river at points below.
The bodies are being brought up and laid out in freight cars. Mr. Kittle, of Ebensburg, has been deputized to take charge of the valuables taken from the bodies and keep a registry of them, and also to note any marks of identification that may be found. A number of the bodies have been stripped of rings or bracelets and other valuables.
Over six hundred corpses have now been taken out on the south side of Stony Creek, the greater portion of which have been identified.
Send Us Coffins.
Preparations for their burial are being carried on as rapidly as possible, and "coffins, coffins," is the cry. No word has been received anywhere of any being shipped. Even rough boxes will be gladly received. Those that are being made, and in which many of the bodies are being buried, are of rough unplaned boards. One hundred dead bodies are laid out at the soap factory, while two hundred or more people are gathered there that are in great distress. Boats are wanted. People have the greatest difficulty in getting to the town.
Struggling for Order.
Another account from Johnstown on the second day after the disaster says:
The situation here has not changed, and yesterday's estimates of the loss of life do not seem to be exaggerated. Six hundred bodies are now lying in Johnstown, and a large number have already been buried. Four immense relief trains arrived last night, and the survivors are being well cared for.
Adjutant General Hastings, assisted by Mayor Sanger, has taken command at Johnstown and vicinity. Nothing is legal unless it bears the signature of the former. The town itself is guarded by Company H, Sixth regiment, Lieutenant Leggett in command. New members were sworn in by him, and they are making excellent soldiers.
Special police are numerous, and the regulations are so strict that even the smoking of a cigar is prohibited. General Hastings expresses the opinion that more troops are necessary.
Mr. Alex. Hart is in charge of the special police. He has lost his wife and family. Notwithstanding his great misfortune he is doing the work of a Hercules in his own way.
Firemen and Soldiers Arriving.
Chief Evans, of the Pittsburgh Fire Department, arrived this evening with engines and several hose carts, with a full complement of men. A large number of Pittsburgh physicians came on the same train.
A squad of Battery B, under command of Lieutenant Brown, the forerunners of the whole battery, arrived at the improvised telegraph office at half-past six o'clock. Lieutenant Brown went at once to Adjutant General Hastings and reported for duty.
A portion of the police force of Pittsburgh and Alleghany are on duty, and better order is maintained than prevailed yesterday. Communication has been restored between Cambria City and Johnstown by a foot bridge.
The work of repairing the tracks between Sang Hollow and Johnstown is going on rapidly, and trains will probably be running by to-morrow morning. Not less than fifteen thousand strangers are here.
The unruly element has been put down and order is now perfect. The Citizen's Committee are in charge and have matters well organized.
A proclamation has just been issued that all men who are able to work must report for work or leave the place. "We have too much to do to support idlers," says the Citizen's Committee, "And will not abuse the generous help that is being sent by doing so." From to-morrow all will be at work.
Money now is greatly needed to meet the heavy pay rolls that will be incurred for the next two weeks. W. C. Lewis, Chairman of the Finance Committee, is ready to receive the same.
Fall of the Wall of Water.
Mr. Crouse, proprietor of the South Fork Fishing Club Hotel, came to Johnstown this afternoon. He says:—
"When the dam of Conemaugh Lake broke the water seemed to leap, scarcely touching the ground. It bounded down the valley, crashing and roaring, carrying everything before it. For a mile its front seemed like a solid wall twenty feet high."
Freight Agent Dechert, when the great wall that held the body of water began to crumble at the top sent a message begging the people of Johnstown for God's sake to take to the hills. He reports no serious accidents at South Fork.
Richard Davis ran to Prospect Hill when the water raised. As to Mr. Dechert's message, he says just such have been sent down at each flood since the lake was made. The warning so often proved useless that little attention was paid to it this time. "I cannot describe the mad rush," he said. "At first it looked like dust. That must have been the spray. I could see houses going down before it like a child's play blocks set on edge in a row. As it came nearer I could see houses totter for a moment, then rise and the next moment be crushed like egg shells against each other."
To Rise Phoenix-like.
James McMillin, vice-president of the Cambria Iron Works, was met this afternoon. In a conversation he said:
"I do not know what our loss is. I cannot even estimate, as I have not the faintest idea what it may be. The upper mill is totally wrecked—damaged beyond all possibility of repairs. The lower mill is damaged to such an extent that all machinery and buildings are useless.
"The mills will be rebuilt immediately. I have sent out orders that all men that can must report at the mill to-morrow to commence cleaning up. I do not think the building was insured against a flood. The great thing we want is to get the mill in operation again."
The Gautier Wire Works was completely destroyed. The buildings will be immediately rebuilt and put in operation as soon as possible. The loss at this point is complete. The land on which it stood is to-day as barren and desolate as if it were in the midst of the Sahara Desert.
The Cambria Iron Company loses its great supply stores. The damage to the stock alone will amount to $50,000.
The building was valued at $150,000, and is a total loss. The company offices which adjoins the store was a handsome structure. It was protected by the first building, but nevertheless is almost totally destroyed.
The Dartmouth Club, at which employees of the works boarded, was carried away in the flood. It contained many occupants at the time. None were saved.
Estimates of the losses of the Cambria Iron Company given are from $2,000,000 to $2,500,000. But little of this can be recovered.
History of the Works.
The Cambria Iron Works at Johnstown were built in 1853. It was the second largest plant of its kind in the country, and was completely swept away. Its capacity of finished steel per annum was 180,000 net tons of steel rails and 20,000 net tons of steel in other shapes. The mill turned out steel rails, spike bars, angles, flats, rounds, axles, billets and wire rods. There were nine Siemens and forty-two reverbatory heating furnaces, one seven ton and two 6,000 pound hammers and three trains of rolls.
The Bessemer Steel Works made their first blow July 10, 1871, and they contained nine gross ton converters, with an annual capacity of 200,000 net tons of ingots. In 1878 two fifteen gross tons Siemens open-hearth steel furnaces were built, with an annual capacity of 20,000 net tons of ingots.
The Cambria Iron Company also owns the Gautier Steel Works at Johnstown, which were erected in 1878.
The rolling mill produced annually 30,000 net tons of merchant bar steel of every size and for every purpose. The wire mill had a capacity alone of 30,000 tons of fence wire.
There are numerous bituminous coal mines near Johnstown, operated by the Cambria Iron Company, the Euclid Coal Company and private persons. There were three woolen mills, employing over three hundred hands and producing an annual product valued at $300,000.
Awful Work of the Flames.
Fifty acres of town swept clean. One thousand two hundred buildings destroyed. Eight thousand to ten thousand lives lost.
That is the record of the Johnstown calamity as it looked to me just before dark last night. Acres of the town were turned into cemeteries, and miles of the river bank were involuntary storage rooms for household goods.
From the half ruined parapet at the end of the stone railroad bridge, in Johnstown proper, one sees sights so gruesome that none but the soulless Hungarian and Italian laborers can command his emotions.
At my right is a fiery pit that is now believed to have been the funeral pyre of almost a thousand persons.
The fiercest rush of the current was straight across the lower, level part of Johnstown, where it entirely obliterated Cinder, Washington, Market, Main and Walnut streets. These streets were from a half to three-quarters of a mile in length, and were closely crowded along their entire course with dwellings and other buildings, and there is now no more trace of streets or houses than there is at low tide on the beach at Far Rockaway.
In the once well populated boroughs of Conemaugh and Woodvale there are to-night literally but two buildings left, one the shell of the Woodvale Woolen Mill and the other a sturdy brick dwelling.
The buildings which were swept from twenty out of the thirty acres of devastated Johnstown were crowded against the lower end of the big stone bridge in a mass 200 yards wide, 500 yards broad and from 60 to 100 feet deep. They were crushed and split out of shape and packed together like playing cards.
When you realize that in nearly every one of these buildings there were at least one human being, while in some there were as many as seventy-five, it is easy to comprehend how awful it was when this mass began to burn fiercely last night. It was known that a large number of persons were imprisoned in the debris, for they could be plainly seen by those on shore, but it was not until people stopped to think and to ask themselves questions, which startled them in a ghastly way, that the fact became plain that instead of a pitiful hundred or two of victims at least a thousand were in that roaring, crackling, loathsome, blazing mass upon the surface of the water and in the huge, inaccessible arches of the big bridge.
Charred bodies could be seen here and there all through the glowing embers. There was no attempt to check the fire by the authorities, nor for that matter did they try to stop the robbing of the dead, nor any other glaring violation of law. The fire is spreading toward a large block of crushed buildings further up the stream. There is a broad stretch of angry water above and below, while over there, just opposite the end of the bridge, is the ruin of the great Cambria Iron Works, which have been damaged to the extent of over $1,000,000.
The Gautier Steel Works have been wiped away, and are represented by a loss of $1,000,000 and a big hole.
The Holbert House, owned by Renford Brothers, has entirely disappeared. It was a five story building, was the leading hotel of Johnstown, and contained a hundred rooms. Of the seventy-five guests who were in it when the flood came, only eight have been saved. Most of them were crushed by the fall of the walls and flooring.
Hundreds of searching parties are looking in the muddy ponds and among the wreckage for bodies and they are being gathered in ghastly heaps.
In one building among the bloated victims, I saw a young and well-dressed man and woman, still locked in each other's arms, a young mother with her babe pressed with delirious tenacity to her breast, and on a small pillow was a tiny babe a few hours old, which the doctors said must have been born in the water. It is said that 720 bodies have so far been recovered, or have been located.
The coroner of Westmoreland county is ordering coffins by the carload.
In the Raging Waters.
A dispatch from Derry says: In this city the poor people in the raging waters cried out for aid that never came. More than one brave man risked his life in trying to save those in the flood. Every hour details of some heroic action are brought to light. In many instances the victims displayed remarkable courage and gave their chances for rescue to friends with them. Sons stood back for mothers, and were lost while their parents were taken out. Many a son went down to a watery grave that a sister or a father might be saved. Such instances of sacrifice in the face of fearful danger are numerous.
The Force of the Waters.
One can estimate the force of the water when it is known that it carried locomotives down the mountain side and turned them upside down where they are now lying. Long trains of cars have been derailed and carried great distances from the railroads.
The first sight that greeted the men at nine this morning was the body of a beautiful woman lying crushed and mangled under the ponderous wheels of a gondola car. The clothing was torn to shreds. Dr. Berry said that he never saw such intense pain pictured on a face before.
At this time of writing it is impossible to secure the names of any of the lost. Every person one meets along the road has some horrible tale of drowned and dead bodies recovered.
One thousand people or more were buried and crushed in the great fire. The flats below Conemaugh are full of cars with many dead bodies lying under them. At Sang Hollow a man named Duncan sat on the roof of a house and saw his father and mother die in the attic below him. The poor fellow was powerless to help them, and he stood there wringing his hands and tearing his hair.
A man was seen clinging to a tree, covered with blood. He was lost with the others.
Long after dark the flames of fire shot high above the burning mass of timber, lighting the vast flood of rushing waters on all sides.
Dead bodies are being picked up. The train master, E. Pitcairn, has been working manfully directing the rescuing of dead bodies at Nineveh. In a ten acre field seventy-five bodies were taken out within a half mile of each other. Of this number only five were men, the rest being women and children. Many beautiful young girls, refined in features and handsomely dressed, were found, and women and young mothers with their hair matted with roots and leaves are constantly being removed.
The wrecking crew which took out these bodies are confident that 150 bodies are lying buried in the sand and under the debris on those low-lying bottom lands. Some of the bodies were horribly mangled, and the features were twisted and contorted as if they had died in the most excrutiating agony. Others are found lying stretched out with calm faces.
Many a tear was dropped by the men as they worked away removing the bodies. An old lady with fine gray hair was picked up alive, although every bone in her body was broken. Judging from the number of women and children found in the swamps of Nineveh, the female portion of the population suffered the most.
A Fatal Tree.
Mr. O'Conner was at Sang Hollow when the flood began. He remained there through the afternoon and night, and he states that there was a fatal tree on the island against which a number of people were dashed and instantly killed. Their bodies were almost tied in a knot doubled over the tree by the force of the current. Mr. O'Conner says that the first man who came down had his brains knocked out against this obstruction. In fact, those who hit the tree met the same fate and were instantly killed under the pile of driftwood collected there. He could give no estimate of the number lost at this point, but says that it is certainly large.
Braves Death for His Family.
One of the most thrilling incidents of the disaster was the performance of A.J. Leonard, whose family reside in Morrellville, a short distance below this point. He was at work here, and hearing that his house had been swept away determined at all hazards to ascertain the fate of his family. The bridges having been carried away he constructed a temporary raft, and clinging to it as close as a cat to the side of a fence, he pushed his frail craft out in the raging torrent and started on a chase which, to all who were watching, seemed to mean an embrace in death.
Heedless of cries "For God's sake go back, you will be drowned," and "Don't attempt it," he persevered. As the raft struck the current he threw off his coat and in his shirt sleeves braved the stream. Down plunged the boards and down went Leonard, but as it rose he was seen still clinging. A mighty shout arose from the throats of the hundreds on the banks, who were now deeply interested, earnestly hoping he would successfully ford the stream.
Down again went his bark, but nothing, it seemed, could shake Leonard off. The craft shot up in the air apparently ten or twelve feet, and Leonard stuck to it tenaciously. Slowly but surely he worked his boat to the other side of the stream, and after what seemed an awful suspense he finally landed amid ringing cheers of men, women and children.
The last seen of him he was making his way down a mountain road in the direction of the spot where his house had lately stood. His family consisted of his wife and three children.
An Angel in the Mud.
The Pennsylvania Railroad Company's operators at Switch Corner, which is near Sang Hollow, tell thrilling stories of the scenes witnessed by them on Friday afternoon and evening. Said one of them:
"In order to give you an idea of how the tidal wave rose and fell, let me say that I kept a measure and timed the rise and fall of the water, and in forty-eight minutes it fell four and a half feet.
"I believe that when the water goes down about seventy-five children and fifty grown persons will be found among the weeds and bushes in the bend of the river just below the tower.
"There the current was very strong, and we saw dozens of people swept under the trees, and I don't believe that more than one in twenty came out on the other side."
"They found a little girl in white just now," said one of the other operators.
"Good God!" said the chief operator, "she isn't dead, is she!"
"Yes; they found her in a clump of willow bushes, kneeling on a board, just about the way we saw her when she went down the river." Turning to me he said:—
"That was the saddest thing we saw all day yesterday. Two men came down on a little raft, with a little girl kneeling between them, and her hands raised and praying. She came so close to us we could see her face, and that she was crying. She had on a white dress and looked like a little angel. She went under that cursed shoot in the willow bushes at the bend like all the rest, but we did hope she would get through alive."
"And so she was still kneeling," he said to his companion, who had brought the unwelcome news.
"She sat there," was the reply, "as if she were still praying, and there was a smile on her poor little face, though her mouth was full of mud."
All agreed in saying that at least one hundred people were drowned below Nineveh.
The situation at Johnstown grows worse as fuller particulars are being received in Pittsburgh.
This morning it was reported that three thousand people were lost in the flood. In the afternoon this number was increased to six thousand, and at this writing despatches place the number at ten thousand.
It is the most frightful destruction of life that has ever been known in the United States.
Vampires at Hand.
It is stated that already a large gang of thieves and vampires have descended on and near the place. Their presumed purpose is to rob the dead and ransack the demolished buildings.
The Tenth regiment of the Pennsylvania National Guard has been ordered out to protect property.
A telegram from Bolivar says Lockport did not suffer much, but that sixty-five families were turned out of their homes. The school at that place is filled with mothers, fathers, daughters and children.
Noble Acts of Heroism.
Edward Dick, a young railroader living in the place, saw an old man floating down the river on a tree trunk whose agonized face and streaming gray hair excited his compassion. He plunged into the torrent, clothes and all, and brought the old man safely ashore. Scarcely had he done this when the upper story of a house floated by on which Mrs. Adams, of Cambria, and her two children were borne. He plunged in again, and while breaking through the tin roof of the house cut an artery in his left wrist, but, although weakened with loss of blood, succeeded in saving both mother and children.
George Shore, another Lockport swimmer, pulled out William Jones, of Cambria, who was almost exhausted and could not possibly have survived another twenty minutes in the water.
John Decker, who has some celebrity as a local pugilist, was also successful in saving a woman and boy, but was nearly killed in a third attempt to reach the middle of the river by being struck by a huge log.
The most miraculous fact about the people who reached Bolivar alive was how they passed through the falls halfway between Lockport and Bolivar. The seething waters rushed through that barrier of rock with a noise which drowned that of all the passing trains. Heavy trees were whirled high in the air out of the water, and houses which reached there whole were dashed to splinters against the rocks.
A Tale of Horror.
On the floor of William Mancarro's house, groaning with pain and grief, lay Patrick Madden, a furnace man of the Cambria Iron Company. He told of his terrible experience in a voice broken with emotion. He said: "When the Cambria Iron Company's bridge gave way I was in the house of a neighbor, Edward Garvey. We were caught through our own neglect, like a great many others, and a few minutes before the houses were struck Garvey remarked that he was a good swimmer, and could get away no matter how high the water rose. Ten minutes later I saw him and his son-in-law drowned.
"No human being could swim in that terrible torrent of debris. After the South Fork reservoir broke I was flung out of the building and saw, when I rose to the surface of the water, my wife hanging upon a piece of scantling. She let it go and was drowned almost within reach of my arm and I could not help or save her. I caught a log and floated with it five or six miles, but it was knocked from under me when I went over the dam. I then caught a bale of hay and was taken out by Mr. Morenrow."
A despatch from Greensburg says the day express, which left Pittsburgh at eight o'clock on Friday morning was lying at Johnstown in the evening at the time the awful rush of waters came down the mountains. We have been informed by one who was there that the coach next to the baggage car was struck by the raging flood, and with its human freight cut loose from the rest of the train and carried down the stream. All on board, it is feared, perished. Of the passengers who were left on the track, fifteen or more who endeavored to flee to the mountains were caught, it is thought, by the flood, and likewise carried to destruction. Samuel Bell, of Latrobe, was conductor on the train, and he describes the scene as the most appalling and heartrending he ever witnessed.
A special despatch from Latrobe says:—"The special train which left the Union Station, Pittsburgh, at half-past one arrived at Nineveh Station, nine miles from Johnstown, last evening at five o'clock. The train was composed of four coaches and locomotive, and carried, at the lowest calculation, over nine hundred persons, including the members of the press. The passengers were packed in like sardines and many were compelled to hang out upon the platform. A large proportion of the passengers were curiosity seekers, while there was a large sprinkling of suspicious looking characters, who had every appearance of being crooks and wreckers, such as visit all like disasters for the sole purpose of plundering and committing kindred depredations."
When the train reached Nineveh the report spread through it that a number of bodies had been fished out of the water and were awaiting identification at a neighboring planing mill. I stopped off to investigate the rumor, while the balance of the party journeyed on toward Sang Hollow, the nearest approach to Johnstown by rail. I visited Mumaker's planing mills and found that the report was true.
All day long the rescuers had been at work, and at this writing (six o'clock) they have taken out seventy-eight dead bodies, the majority of whom are women and children. The bodies are horribly mutilated and covered with mud and blood. Fifteen of them are those of men. Their terribly mutilated condition makes identification for the present almost impossible. One of the bodies found was that of a woman, apparently about thirty-five years of age.
Every conveyance that could be used has been pressed into service. Latrobe is all agog with excitement over the great disaster. Almost every train takes out a load of roughs and thugs who are bent on mischief. They resemble the mob that came to Pittsburgh during the riots.
Measures of Relief.
Pittsburgh is in a wild state of excitement. A large mass meeting was held yesterday afternoon and in a short space of time $1,000 was subscribed for the sufferers.
The Pennsylvania company has been running trains every hour to the scene of the disaster or as near it as they can get. Provisions and a large volunteer relief corps have been sent up. The physicians have had an enthusiastic meeting at which one and all freely offered their services.
The latest project is to have the wounded and the survivors who fled to the hillsides from the angry rush of waters brought to Pittsburgh. The Exposition Society has offered the use of its splendid new building as a temporary hospital. All the hospitals in the city have also offered to care for the sufferers free of charge to the full limit of their capacity.
Word has been received at Allegheny Junction, twenty-two miles above Pittsburgh, from Leechburg that a woman and two children were seen floating past there at five o'clock yesterday morning on top of some wreckage. They were alive, and their pitiful cries for help drew the attention of the people on the shore. Some men got a boat and endeavored to reach the sufferers.
As they rowed out in the stream the woman could be heard calling to them to save the children first.
The men made a gallant effort. It was all without avail, as the strong current and floating masses of debris prevented them from reaching the victims, and the latter floated on down the stream until their despairing cries could no longer be heard.
Mrs. Chambers, of Apollo, was swept away when her house was wrecked during the night. She had gone to bed when the flood came and she had not time to dress. Fortunately she managed to secure a hold on some wreckage which was being carried past her. She kept her hold until her cries were heard by some men a short distance above Leechburg. They got out a boat and succeeded in reaching her, and took her to a house near the bank of the river. When they got her there it was found that she was badly bruised and all her clothing had been torn off by the debris with which she had come in contact, leaving her entirely naked. She was also rescued at Natrona.
A Lucky Change of Residence.
Mr. F.J. Moore, of the Western Union office in this city, is giving thanks to-day for the fortunate escape of his wife and two children from the devastated city. As if by some foreknowledge of the impending disaster, Mr. Moore had arranged to have his family move yesterday from Johnstown and join him in this city. Their household goods were shipped on Thursday, and yesterday just in time to save themselves, the little party departed in the single train which made the trip between Johnstown and Pittsburgh. I called on Mrs. Moore at her husband's apartments, No. 4 Webster avenue, and found her completely prostrated by the news of the final catastrophe, coupled with the dangerous experience through which she and her little ones had passed.
"Oh, it was terrible," she said. "The reservoir had broken, and before we got out of the house the water filled the cellar, and on the way to the depot it was up to the carriage bed. Our train left at a quarter to two P.M., and at that hour the flood had commenced to rise with terrible rapidity. Houses and sheds were carried away, and two men were drowned almost under our very eyes. People gathered on the roofs to take refuge from the water which poured into the lower rooms of their dwellings, and many families took fright and became scattered beyond hope of being reunited. Just as the train pulled out I saw a woman crying bitterly. Her house had been flooded and she had escaped, leaving her husband behind, and her fears for his safety made her almost crazy. Our house was in the lower part of the town, and it makes me shudder to think what would have happened had we remained in it an hour longer. So far as I know we were the only passengers from Johnstown on the train, and therefore I suppose we are the only persons who got away in time to escape the culminating disaster."
Mrs. Moore's little son told me how he had seen the rats driven out of their holes by the flood and running along the tops of the fences. Mr. Moore endeavored to get to Johnstown yesterday, but was prevented by the suspension of traffic and says he is very glad of it.
What the Eye Hath Seen.
The scenes at Heanemyer's planing mill at Nineveh, where the dead bodies are lying, are never to be forgotten. The torn, bruised and mutilated bodies of the victims are lying in a row on the floor of the planing mill which looks more like the field of Bull Run after that disasterous battle than a work shop. The majority of the bodies are nude, their clothing having been torn off. All along the river bits of clothing—a tiny shoe, a baby dress, a mother's evening wrapper, a father's coat, and in fact every article of wearing apparel imaginable may be seen hanging to stumps of trees and scattered on the bank.
One of the most pitiful sights of this terrible disaster came to my notice this afternoon when the body of a young lady was taken out of the Conemaugh river. The woman was apparently quite young, though her features were terribly disfigured. Nearly all the clothing excepting the shoes was torn off the body. The corpse was that of a mother, for although cold in death she clasped a young male babe, apparently not more than a year old, tightly in her arms. The little one was huddled close up to the face of the mother, who when she realized their terrible fate had evidently raised it to her lips to imprint upon its lips the last kiss it was to receive in this world. The sight forced many a stout heart to shed tears. The limp bodies, with matted hair, some with holes in their heads, eyes knocked out and all bespattered with blood were a ghastly spectacle.
Story of The First Fugitives.
The first survivors of the Johnstown wreck who arrived in the city last night were Joseph and Henry Lauffer and Lew Dalmeyer, three well known Pittsburghers. They endured considerable hardship and had several narrow escapes with their lives. Their story of the disaster can best be told in their own language. Joe, the youngest of the Lauffer brothers, said:—
"My brother and I left on Thursday for Johnstown. The night we arrived there it rained continually, and on Friday morning it began to flood. I started for the Cambria store at a quarter past eight on Friday, and in fifteen minutes afterward I had to get out of the store in a wagon, the water was running so rapidly. We then arrived at the station and took the day express and went as far as Conemaugh, where we had to stop. The limited, however got through, and just as we were about to start the bridge at South Fork gave way with a terrific crash, and we had to stay there. We then went to Johnstown. This was at a quarter to ten in the morning, when the flood was just beginning. The whole city of Johnstown was inundated and the people all moved up to the second floor.
Mountains of Water.
"Now this is where the trouble occurred. These poor unfortunates did not know the reservoir would burst, and there are no skiffs in Johnstown to escape in. When the South Fork basin gave way mountains of water twenty feet high came rushing down the Conemaugh River, carrying before them death and destruction. I shall never forget the harrowing scene. Just think of it! thousands of people, men, women and children, struggling and weeping and wailing as they were being carried suddenly away in the raging current. Houses were picked up as if they were but a feather, and their inmates were all carried away with them, while cries of 'God help me!' 'Save me!' 'I am drowning!' 'My child!' and the like were heard on all sides. Those who were lucky enough to escape went to the mountains, and there they beheld the poor unfortunates being crushed among the debris to death without any chance of being rescued. Here and there a body was seen to make a wild leap into the air and then sink to the bottom.
"At the stone bridge of the Pennsylvania company people were dashed to death against the piers. When the fire started there hundreds of bodies were burned. Many lookers-on up on the mountains, especially the women, fainted."
Mr. Lauffer's brother, Harry, then told his part of the tale, which was not less interesting. He said:—"We had the most narrow escapes of anybody, and I tell you we don't want to be around when anything of that kind occurs again.
"The scenes at Johnstown have not in the least been exaggerated, and indeed the worst is to be heard. When we got to Conemaugh and just as we were about to start the bridge gave way. This left the day express, the accommodation, a special train and a freight train at the station. Above was the South Fork water basin, and all of the trains were well filled. We were discussing the situation when suddenly, without any warning, the whistles of every engine began to shriek, and in the noise could be heard the warning of the first engineer, 'My God! Rush to the mountains, the reservoir has burst.' Then, with a thundering like peal came the mad rush of waters. No sooner had the cry been heard than those who could with a wild leap rushed from the train and up the mountains. To tell this story takes some time, but the moments in which the horrible scene was enacted were few. Then came the tornado of water, leaping and rushing with tremendous force. The waves had angry crests of white and their roar was something deafening. In one terrible swath they caught the four trains and lifted three of them right off the track, as if they were only a cork. There they floated in the river. Think of it, three large locomotives and finely varnished Pullmans floating around, and above all the hundreds of poor unfortunates who were unable to escape from the car swiftly drifting toward death. Just as we were about to leap from the car I saw a mother, with a smiling, blue eyed baby in her arms. I snatched it from her and leaped from the train just as it was lifted off of the track. The mother and child were saved, but if one more minute had elapsed we all would have perished."
Beyond the Power of Words.
During all of this time the waters kept rushing down the Conemaugh and through the beautiful town of Johnstown, picking up everything and sparing nothing.
The mountains by this time were black with people, and the moans and sighs from those below brought tears to the eyes of the most stony hearted. There in that terrible rampage were brothers, sisters, wives and husbands, and from the mountain could be seen the panic stricken marks in the faces of those who were struggling between life and death. I really am unable to do justice to the scene, and its details are almost beyond my power to relate. Then came the burning of the debris near the Pennsylvania Railroad bridge. The scene was too sickening to endure. We left the spot and journeyed across country and delivered many notes, letters, etc., that were intrusted to us.
We rode thirty-one miles in a buckboard, then walked six miles, reached Blairsville and journeyed again on foot to what is called the "Bow," and from thence we arrived home. On our way we met Mr. F. Thompson, a friend of ours, who resides in Nineveh, and he stated that rescuing parties were busy all day at Annom. One hundred and seventy-five bodies were recovered at that place. An old couple about sixty years of age were rescued from a tree, on which they came floating down the stream. They were clasped in each other's arms.
President Harrison's private secretary, Elijah Halford, and wife, were on the train which was swept away, but escaped and were in the mountains when I left.
Among the lost are Colonel John P. Linton and his wife and children. Colonel Linton was prominent in the Grand Army of the Republic and in the Knights of Pythias and other orders. He was formerly Auditor General of Pennsylvania.
Multiplication of Terrors.
The handsome brick High School Building is damaged to such an extent that it will have to be rebuilt. The water attained the height of the window sills of the second floor. Its upper stories formed a refuge for many persons. All Saturday afternoon two little girls could be seen at the windows frantically calling for aid. They had spent all night and the day in the building, cut off from all aid. Without food and drinking water their condition was lamentable. Late in the evening the children were removed to higher ground and properly cared for.
A number of persons had been taken from this building earlier in the day, but in the excitement the children were forgotten. Their names could not be obtained.
Death in Many Forms.
Morrell Institute, a beautiful building and the old homestead of the Morrell family, is totally ruined. The water has weakened the walls and foundations to such an extent that there is danger of its collapsing. Many families took refuge in this building and were saved. Now that the waters have receded there is danger from falling walls. All day long the crashing of walls could be heard across the river. Before daybreak this morning the sounds could not but make one shudder at the very thought of the horrible deaths that awaited many who had escaped the devastating flood.
Library Hall was another of the fine buildings of the many in the city that is destroyed. Of the Episcopal church not a vestige remains. Where it once stood, there is now a placid lake. The parsonage is swept away, and the rector of the church, Rev. Mr. Diller, was drowned.
Buried Under Falling Buildings.
The church was one of the first buildings to fall. It carried with it several of the surrounding houses. Many of them were occupied. The victims were swept into the comparatively still waters at the bridge, and there met death either by fire or water.
James M. Walters, an attorney, spent the night in Alma Hall and relates a thrilling story. One of the most curious occurrences of the whole disaster was how Mr. Walters got to the hall. He has his office on the second floor. His home is at No. 135 Walnut street. He says he was in the house with his family when the waters struck it. All was carried away. Mr. Walters' family drifted on a roof in another direction. He passed down several streets and alleys until he came to the hall. His dwelling struck that edifice and he was thrown into his own office.
Long, Dark Night of Terror.
About two hundred persons had taken refuge in the hall, and were on the second, third and fourth stories. The men held a meeting and drew up some rules, which all were bound to respect. Mr. Walters was chosen president. Rev. Mr. Beale was put in charge of the first floor, A.M. Hart of the second floor, Doctor Matthews of the fourth floor. No lights were allowed, and the whole night was spent in darkness. The sick were cared for. The weaker women and children had the best accommodations that could be had, while the others had to wait. The scenes were most agonizing. Heartrending shrieks, sobs and moans pierced the gloomy darkness. The crying of children mingled with the suppressed sobs of the women. Under the guardianship of the men all took more hope. No one slept during all the long dark night. Many knelt for hours in prayer, their supplications mingling with the roar of the waters and the shrieks of the dying in the surrounding houses. In all this misery two women gave premature birth to children.
Here is a Hero.
Dr. Matthews is a hero. Several of his ribs were crushed by a falling timber and his pains were most severe, yet through all he attended the sick. When two women in a house across the street shouted for help he with two other brave young men climbed across the drift and ministered to their wants. No one died during the night, but women and children surrendered their lives on the succeeding day as a result of terror and fatigue. Miss Rose Young, one of the young ladies in the hall, was frightfully cut and bruised. Mrs. Young had a leg broken. All of Mr. Walters' family were saved.
While the loss of property about Brookville, the lumber centre of Pennsylvania, by the great flood has been enormous, variously estimated at from $250,000 to $500,000, not a single life has been lost. At least there have been none reported so far, and I have travelled over the line from Red Bank, on the Valley road, to Dubois, on the low grade division. Every creek is swollen to many times its natural size. A great deal of the low-lying farm lands and roads in places have water enough over them to float an ordinary steamboat.
Leaving Pittsburgh Saturday morning on the valley road, we ran past millions and millions of feet of lumber. From the city to the junction opposite Freeport the river was almost choked with debris of broken and shattered houses. In places the river was fairly black with floating masses of lath, shingles, roofs, floors and other lumber that had formerly been houses. The sight was appalling and spoke louder than any pen can describe.
At Red Bank the river was filled with a different kind of lumber, including huge saw logs ready for cutting. From the estimates of an old lumber man who was on the train I was told that between the stations named we passed at least ten million feet of lumber, which means a loss of fully $100,000 to the owners. A big portion of this came out of the Clarion river, the estimated money loss from that section alone being anywhere from $500,000 to $750,000.
All along the Allegheny river were gathered people trying to catch the logs, risking their lives, for the logs swept down the river in a current that was running fully ten miles an hour. The work was very hazardous. The catchers are allowed by law six and a quarter cents for each log captured, and the river was almost lined with people trying to save the property.
At Red Bank, which we left at noon, there were at least six feet of water expected from Oil City, and with it, according to the reports from up the river, was an immense amount of lumber. Leaving the valley road at Red Bank we went up the low grade division to Bryant, where immense sawmills, the largest in the vicinity are located. The current was rushing along at a rate anywhere from twelve to fifteen miles an hour, tossing the huge logs around like so many toothpicks and carrying everything before them. So great was the current and mass of logs that the big iron bridge at Reynoldsville, sixteen miles above Brookville, was swept away, as were two wagon bridges and several small foot bridges.
Hundreds Homeless and Suffering.
Many houses here and there along Red Bank Creek were turned upside down, some of them floating clear away, while the more secure ones were flooded with water clear into the second floors. Many of the smaller cottages and shanties were covered, leaving only the peaks of the roofs sticking out to show the spots that families had but a few hours before called home. All along the railroad track was piled the few household effects, furniture, bedding, tables and clothes which the poor owners had saved before they were forced out on the high ground. These same people had gone to bed last evening thinking themselves safe from the high water, only to be wakened about midnight by the noise of the rushing floods and the huge saw logs bumping against their homes. The very narrow escapes that some of them made while getting their families into places of safety would fill many pages of this book.
Floating to Safety on Saw Logs.
One man had to mount the different members of his family on logs. The mother and children alike sat astride of them, and then, with the father on the other end, were poled across to the high ground.
Another man, whose house was in a worse place, swam ashore and, throwing a rope back to the mother, who was surrounded on the porch of the house by the children, yelled for her to tie one end to the little ones so he could pull them over the fast running water. This operation was continued until the entire family was rescued.
Willing workers from the neighborhood were not long in getting huge bonfires started, and with the aid of these and dry clothing brought in haste by people whose homes stood on higher ground the family were soon warmed.
The same willing hands hastily constructed sheds, and with immense bonfires the people were kept warm till daylight. Others, more fortunate, were able to save enough from their houses to make themselves comfortable for a short season of camping. One poor family I noticed had saved enough carpet to make a tent out of, and under this temporary shelter the mother was doing her best to prepare a meal and attend to her other household duties.
Sheltered by Friendly Neighbors.
In Brookville a great many houses were submerged, but no lives were lost. While the people were driven from their homes, they were more fortunate than the people of Bryants, because they could at once find shelter under the roofs of the neighbors' houses.
All of the saw mills, the chief industry of the town, were closed down. Some because the water was over the first floor, and others because their entire working force were on the creek trying to construct temporary booms, by which they expected to save at least a portion of the property from being swept away. One man rigged a boom with the aid of a cable 1,600 feet long and thick enough to hold the heaviest steamer. About fifty logs were chained together for further protection. This arrangement for a time checked the mass of logs, but just when everybody was thinking it would stop the output a small dam gave way, bringing down with it another half million feet of lumber. When this struck the temporary boom it parted, as if the huge cable was a piece of thread, and the logs shot past.
Just at Bryants, however, a gorge formed shortly after two o'clock Friday afternoon, and within a remarkably short time there was a pile of logs wedged in that stretched back fully a quarter of a mile and the top of which was more than ten feet high. This of course changed the course of the stream a little, but the natural gorge had saved enough logs to amount to more than $100,000 in money.
The following comments by one of our journals sum up the situation after receiving the dreadful news of the three preceding days:
The Great Calamity.
The appalling catastrophy which has spread such awful havoc through the teeming valley of the Conemaugh almost surpasses belief and fairly staggers imagination. Without yet measuring its dire extent, enough is known to rank it as the greatest calamity of the natural elements which this country has ever witnessed. Nothing in our history short of the deadly blight of battle has approached this frightful cataclysm, and no battle, though destroying more life, has ever left such a ghastly trail of horror and devastation. It seems more like one of those terrible convulsions of nature from which we have hitherto been happily spared, but which at rare intervals have swallowed up whole communities in remote South American or oriental lands.
Ingenious and masterful as the human intellect is in guiding and controlling the ordinary forces of nature, how impotent and insignificant it appears in the presence of such a transcendent disaster! It is well nigh inconceivable that a great section throbbing with populous towns, and resonant with the hum of industry, should be wiped out in the twinkling of an eye by a mighty, raging torrent, more consuming than fire and more violent than the earthquake. The suddenness of the blow and the impossibility of communicating with the scene add to the terror of the event. The sickening spectacle of ruin and death which will be revealed when the veil of darkness is lifted is left to conjecture. The imagination can scarcely picture the dread realities, and it would be difficult to overdraw the awful features of a calamity which has every element of horror.
The River and Lake.
Nature is so framed at the fated point for such a disaster that man was called upon for unceasing vigilance. The Conemaugh makes its channel through a narrow valley between high ranges. Numerous streams drain the surrounding mountains into its current. Along its course swarm frequent hamlets busy with the wealth dug from the seams of the earth. The chief of these towns, the seat of an immense industry, lies in a little basin where the gap broadens to take in a converging stream and then immediately narrows again, no outlet save the constricted waterway. High above stands a great lake which is held in check only by an artificial barrier, and which, if once unchained, must pour its resistless torrent through this narrow gorge like a besom of destruction overwhelming everything before it. There were all the elements of an unparalleled disaster. Years of immunity had given a feeling of security for all time without some extraordinary and unexpected occasion. But the occasion appeared when in unforseen force the rains descended and the floods came, and to-day desolation reigns.
A Direful Calamity.
It is impossible yet to measure the extent of the calamity. But the destruction of life and property must be something that it is appalling to think of, and the sorrow and suffering to follow are incalculable. A solemn obligation devolves upon the people of the whole country. We can not remedy the past but we can alleviate the present and the future. Thousands of families are homeless and destitute; thousands are without means of support; perchance, thousands are bereft of the strong arms upon which they have relied. There is an instant, earnest demand for help. Let there be immediate, energetic, generous action. Let us do our part to relieve the anguish and mitigate the suffering of a community upon whom has fallen the most terrible visitation in all our history.
An Historic Catastrophe.
When an American Charles Reade wishes in the future to weave into the woof of his novel the account of some great public calamity he will portray the misfortune which overwhelmed the towns and villages lying in the valley of the Conemaugh River. The bursting of a reservoir, and the ensuing scenes of death and destruction, which are so vividly described in "Put Yourself in His Place," were not the creatures of Mr. Reade's imagination, but actual occurrences. The novelist obtained facts and incidents for one of the most striking chapters in all of his works from the events which followed the breaking of the Dale Dyke embankment at Sheffield, England, in March, 1864, when 238 lives were lost and property valued at millions was destroyed.
It will need even more vivid and vigorous descriptive powers than Mr. Reade possessed to adequately delineate the scene of destruction and death now presented in Johnstown and the adjacent villages. The Sheffield calamity, disastrous as it proved to be, was a small affair when compared with this latest reservoir accident. The Mill River reservoir disaster of May, 1874, with its 200 lives lost and $1,500,000 of property destroyed, almost sinks into insignificance beside it. The only recorded calamity of the kind which anywhere approaches it occurred in Estrecho de Rientes, in Spain, in April, 1802, when a dam burst and drowned 600 persons and swept $7,000,000 worth of property away. But above all these calamities in sad pre-eminence will stand the Conemaugh disaster.
But dark as the picture is, it will doubtless be relieved by many acts of heroism. The world will wait to learn if there was not present at Conemaugh some Myron Day, whose ride on his bareback steed before the advancing wall of water that burst from Mill River Dam in 1874, shouting to the unsuspecting people as he rode: "The reservoir is breaking! The flood is coming! Fly! Fly for your lives," was the one mitigating circumstance in that scene of woe and destruction. When the full story of the Conemaugh calamity is told it will, doubtless, be found that there were many deeds of heroism performed, many noble sacrifices made and many an act as brave as any performed on the field of battle. Already we are told of husbands and mothers who preferred to share a watery grave with their wives and children sooner than accept safety alone.
Such a calamity, while it makes the heart sick with its story of death and suffering, always serves to bring out the better and higher qualities in men and women, and to illustrate how closely all mankind are bound together by ties of sympathy and compassion. This fact will be made evident now by the open-handed liberality which will quickly flow in to relieve the suffering, and, as far as possible, to repair the loss caused by this historic calamity.
The Awful Work of Death.
The record of June 3rd continues as follows: The horror of the situation does not lessen. The latest estimate of the number of dead is an official one by Adjutant General Hastings, and it places the number between 12,000 and 15,000.
The uncovering of hundreds of bodies by the recession of the waters has already filled the air with pestilential odors. The worst is feared for the surviving population, who must breathe this poisoned atmosphere. Sharp measures prompted by sheer necessity have resulted in an almost complete subsidence of cowardly efforts to profit by the results of the disaster. Thieves have slunk into places of darkness and are no longer to be seen at their unholy work.
All thoughts are now fixed upon the hideous revelation that awaits the light of day, when the waters shall have entirely quitted the ruins that now lie beneath them, and shall have exposed the thousands upon thousands of corpses that are massed there.
A sad and gloomy sky, almost as sad and gloomy as the human faces under it, shrouded Johnstown to-day. Rain fell all day and added to the miseries of the wretched people. The great plain where the best part of Johnstown used to stand was half covered with water. The few sidewalks in the part that escaped the flood were inches thick with black, sticky mud, through which tramped a steady procession of poor women who are left utterly destitute. The tents where the people are housed who cannot find other shelter were cold and cheerless.
A Great Tomb.
The town seemed like a great tomb. The people of Johnstown have supped so full of horrors that they go about in a sort of a daze and only half conscious of their griefs. Every hour, as one goes through the streets, he hears neighbors greeting each other and then inquiring without show of feeling how many each had lost in his family. To-day I heard a gray haired man hail another across the street with this question.
"I lost five; all are gone but Mary and I," was the reply.
"I am worse off than that," said the first old gentleman. "I have only my grandson left. Seven of us gone."
And so they passed on without apparent excitement. They and everyone else had heard so much of these melancholy conversations that somehow the calamity had lost its significance to them. They treat it exactly as if the dead persons had gone away and were coming back in a week.
The Ghastly Search.
The melancholy task of searching the ruins for more bodies went on to-day in the soaking rain. There were little crowds of morbid curiosity hunters around each knot of workingmen, but they were not residents of Johnstown. All their curiosity in that direction was satiated long ago. Even those who come in from neighboring towns with the idea of a day's strange and ghastly experiences did not care to be near after they had seen one body exhumed. There were hundreds and thousands of these visitors from the country to-day. The effect of the dreadful things they saw and heard was to drive most of them to drink. By noon the streets were beginning to be full of boisterous and noisy countrymen, who were trying to counteract the strain on their nerves with unnatural excitement. Then the chief of police, foreseeing the unseemly sights that were likely to disgrace the streets, drove out and kept out all the visitors who had not some good reason for their presence. After that and far into the evening all the country roads were filled with drunken stragglers, who were trying to forget what they had seen.
One thing that makes the work of searching for the bodies very slow is the strange way that great masses of objects were rolled into intricate masses of rubbish.
As the flood came down the valley of the South Fork it obliterated the suburb of Woodvale, where not a house was left, nor a trace of one. The material they had contained rolled on down the valley, over and over, grinding it up to pulp and finally leaving it against an unusually firm foundation or in the bed of an eddy. The masses contain human bodies, but it is slow work to pick them to pieces. In the side of one of them I saw the remnants of a carriage, the body of a harnessed horse, a baby cradle and a doll, a tress of woman's hair, a rocking horse, and a piece of beefsteak still hanging on a hook.
The city is now very much better patrolled than it has been at any time since the flood occurred. Many members of the police force of Pittsburgh came in and offered their services. One of them showed his spirit during the first hour by striking a man, whom he saw opening a trunk among the rubbish, a tremendous blow over the head which knocked him senseless. Several big trunks and safes lie in full sight on the desolate plain in the lower part of the town, but no one dared to touch them after that.
The German Catholic Church at Cambria City, a short distance west of Johnstown, is almost a complete wreck. Rather a singular coincidence in connection with the destruction of the above is that the Immaculate Conception, that stood in the northwest corner of the lecture rooms, stands just as it was when last seen. The figure, which is wax, was not even scratched, and the clothes, which are made of white silk and deep duchess lace, were spotless. This seems strange, when the raging water destroyed everything else in the building. Hundreds of persons visited the place during the day.
Ten Bodies an Hour.
Bodies are now being brought in at lower Cambria at the rate of ten per hour.
A man named Dougherty tells a thrilling story of a ride down the river on a log. When the waters struck the roof of the house on which he had taken shelter he jumped astride a telegraph pole, riding a distance of some twenty-three miles, from Johnstown to Bolivar, before he was rescued.
Many inquiries have been made as to why the militia did not respond when ordered out by Adjutant General Hastings. "In the first place it is beyond the General's authority to order troops to a scene of this kind unless the Governor first issues a proclamation, then it becomes his duty to issue orders." The General said he was notified that the Pittsburgh troops, consisting of the Fourteenth and Eighteenth regiments, had tendered their services, and no doubt would have been of great service. The General consulted with the Chief Burgess of Johnstown and Sheriff of Cambria county in regard to calling the troops to the scene, but both officials strenuously objected, as they claimed the people would object to anything of this kind. As a proof of this not a breach of peace was committed last night in Johnstown and vicinity.
It has not been generally believed that the district in the neighborhood of Kernville would be so extremely prolific of corpses as it has proven to be. I visited that part of the town where both the river and Stony Creek have done their worst. I found that within the past twenty-four hours almost one thousand bodies had been recovered or were in sight. The place is one great repository of the dead.
The Total May Never be Known.
The developments of every hour make it more and more apparent that the exact number of lives lost in the Johnstown horror will never be known. All estimates made to this time are conservative, and when all is known will doubtless be found to have been too small. Over one thousand bodies have been found since sunrise to-day, and the most skeptical concede that the remains of thousands more rest beneath the debris above the Johnstown bridge. The population of Johnstown, the surrounding towns and the portion of the valley affected by the flood is, or was, from 50,000 to 55,000. Numerous leading citizens of Johnstown, who survived the flood, have been interviewed, and the concensus of opinion was that fully thirty per cent of the residents of Johnstown and Cambria had been victims of the continued disasters of fire and water. If this be true, the total loss of life in the entire valley cannot be less than seven or eight thousand and possibly much greater. Of the thousands who were devoured by the flames and whose ashes rest beneath the smoking debris above Johnstown bridge, no definite information can ever be obtained.
Hundreds Carried Miles Away.
As little will be learned of hundreds that sank beneath the current and were borne swiftly down the Conemaugh only to be deposited hundreds of miles below on the banks and in the driftwood of the raging Ohio. Probably one-third of the dead will never be recovered, and it will take a list of the missing weeks hence to enable even a close estimate to be made of the number of lives that were lost. That this estimate can never be accurate will be understood when it is remembered that in many instances whole families and their relatives were swept away, and found a common grave beneath the wild waste of waters. The total destruction of the city leaves no data to even demonstrate that the names of these unfortunates ever found place on the pages of eternity's history.
"All indications point to the fact that the death list will reach over five thousand names, and in my opinion the missing will reach eight thousand in number," declared General D.H. Hastings to-night.
At present there are said to have been twenty-two hundred bodies recovered. The great difficulties experienced in getting a correct list is the great number of morgues. There is no central bureau of information, and to communicate with the different dead houses is the work of hours. The journey from the Pennsylvania Railroad morgue to the one in the Fourth ward school house in Johnstown occupies at least one hour. This renders it impossible to reach all of them in one day, particularly as some of the morgues are situated at points inaccessible from Johnstown. At six o'clock in the evening the 630th body had been recovered at the Cambria depository for corpses.
None Left to Care for the Dead.
Kernville is in a deplorable condition. The living are unable to take care of the dead. The majority of the inhabitants of the town were drowned. A lean-to of boards has been erected on the only street remaining in the town. This is the headquarters for the committee that controls the dead. As quickly as the dead are brought to this point they are placed in boxes and then taken to the cemetery and buried.
A supply store has opened in the town. A milkman who was overcharging for milk narrowly escaped lynching. The infuriated men appropriated all his milk and distributed it among the poor and then drove him out of the town. The body of the Hungarian who was lynched in an orchard was removed by his friends during the night.
There is but one street left in the town. About one hundred and fifty-five houses are standing where once there stood a thousand. None of the large buildings in what was once a thriving little borough have escaped. One thousand people is a low estimate of the number of lives lost from this town, but few of the bodies have been recovered. It is directly above the ruins and the bodies have floated down into them, where they burned. A walk through the town revealed a desolate sight. Only about twenty-five able-bodied men have survived and are able to render any assistance. Men and women can be seen with black eyes, bruised faces and cut heads.
Useless Calls for Help.
The appearance of some of the ladies is heartrending. They were injured in the flood, and since that have not slept. Their faces have turned a sickly yellow and dark rings surround the eyes. Many have succumbed to nervous prostration. For two days but little assistance could be rendered them. The wounded remained uncared for in some of the houses cut off by the water, and died from their injuries alone. Some were alive on Sunday, and their shouts could be heard by the people on the shore.
A man is now in a temporary jail in what is left of the town. He was caught stealing a gold watch. A shot was fired at him but he was not wounded. The only thing that saved him from lynching was the smallness of the crowd. His sentence will be the heaviest that can be given him.
Services in the chapel from which the bodies were buried consisted merely of a prayer by one of the survivors. No minister was present. Each coffin had a descriptive card on it, and on the graves a similar card was placed, so that bodies can be removed later by friends.
There are about thirty Catholic priests and nuns here. The sisters are devoting themselves to the cure of the sick and injured in the hospitals, while the priests are doing anything and everything and making themselves generally useful. Bishop Phelan, who reached here on Sunday evening, returned to Pittsburgh on the three o'clock train yesterday afternoon. He has organized the Catholic forces in this neighborhood, and all are devoting themselves to hard work assiduously.
Mr. Derlin, who heeded the warning as to the danger of the dam, had hurried his wife and two children to the hills, but returned himself to save some things from his house. While in the building the flood struck it and swept it away, jamming it among a lot of other houses and hurling them all around with a regular churning motion. Mr. Derlin was in a fix, but went to his top story, clambered to the roof and escaped from there to solid structures and then to the ground. His property was entirely ruined, but he thinks himself fortunate in saving his family.
Where Woodvale once stood there is now a sea of mud, broken but rarely by a pile of wreckage. I waded through mud and water up the valley to-day over the site of the former village. As has been often stated, nothing is standing but the old woollen mills. The place is swept bare of all other buildings but the ruins of the Gautier wire mill. The boilers of this great works were carried one hundred yards from their foundations. Pieces of engines, rolls and other machinery were swept far away from where they once stood. The wreck of a hose carriage is sticking up out of the mud. It belonged to the crack company of Johnstown. The engine house is swept away and the cellar is filled with mud, so that the site is obliterated.
A German watchman was on guard at the mill when the waters came. He ran for the hillside and succeeded in escaping. He tells a graphic story of the appearance of the water as it swept down the valley. He declares that the first wave was as high as the third story of a house.
The place is deserted. No effort is being made to clean off the streets. The mire has formed the grave for many a poor victim. Arms and legs are protruding from the mud and it makes the most sickening of pictures.
General Hastings' Report.
In answer to questions from Governor Beaver, Adjutant-General Hastings has telegraphed the following:
"Good order prevailed throughout the city and vicinity last night. Police arrangements are excellent. Not one arrest made. No need of sending troops. The Mayor of Johnstown and the Sheriff of Cambria county, with whom I am in constant communication, request that no troops be sent. I concur in their judgment. There is a great outside clamor for troops. Do not send tents. Have nine hundred here, which are sufficient. I advise you to make a call on the general public for money and other assistance.
"About two thousand bodies have been rescued and the work of embalming and burying the dead is going on with regularity. There is plenty of medical assistance. We have a bountiful supply of food and clothing to-day, and the fullest telegraphic facilities are afforded and all inquiries are promptly answered.
"Have you any instructions or inquiries? The most conservative estimates here place the number of lives lost at fully 5,000. The prevailing impression is that the loss will reach from 8,000 to 10,000. There are many widows and orphans and a great many wounded—impossible to give an estimate. Property destroyed will reach $25,000,000. The popular estimate will reach $40,000,000 to $50,000,000.
"I will issue a proclamation to-night to the people of the country and to all who sympathize with suffering to give aid to our deeply afflicted people. Tell them to be of good cheer, that the sympathies of all our people, irrespective of section, are with them, and wherever the news of their calamity has been carried responses of sympathy and aid are coming in. A single subscription from England just received is for $1,000."
Grand View Cemetery has three hundred buried in it. All met death in the flood. They have thirty-five men digging graves. Seven hundred dead bodies in the hospital on Bedford street, Conneaut. One hundred dead bodies in the school-house hospital, Adam street, Conneaut. Three hundred bodies found to-day in the sand banks along Stony Creek, vicinity of the Baltimore and Ohio; 182 bodies at Nineveh.
Shadows of Despair.
Another graphic account of the fearful calamity is furnished by an eye-witness: The dark disaster of the day with its attendant terrors thrilled the world and drew two continents closer together in the bonds of sympathy that bind humanity to man. The midnight terrors of Ashtabula and Chatsworth evoked tears of pity from every fireside in Christendom, but the true story of Johnstown, when all is known, will stand solitary and alone as the acme of man's affliction by the potent forces to which humanity is ever subject.
The menacing clouds still hover darkly over the valley of death, and the muttering thunder that ever and anon reverberates faintly in the distance seems the sardonic chuckle of the demon of destruction as he pursues his way to other lands and other homes.
The Waters Receding.
But the modern deluge has done its worst for Johnstown. The waters are rapidly subsiding, but the angry torrents still eddy around Ararat, and the winged messenger of peace has not yet appeared to tell the pathetic tale of those who escaped the devastation.
It is not a hackneyed utterance to say that no pen can adequately depict the horrors of this twin disaster—holocaust and deluge. The deep emotions that well from the heart of every spectator find most eloquent expression in silence—the silence that bespeaks recognition of man's subserviency to the elements and impotence to avert catastrophe. The insignificance of human life is only fully realized by those who witness such scenes as Johnstown, Chatsworth and Ashtabula, and to those whose memory retains the picture of horror the dread experience cannot fail to be a fitting lesson.
A Dreary Morning.
This morning opened dark and dreary. Great drops of rain fell occasionally and another storm seems imminent. Every one feels thankful though that the weather still remains cold, and that the gradual putrefaction of the hundreds of bodies that still line the streams and lie hidden under the miles of driftwood and debris is not unduly hastened.
The peculiar stench of decaying human flesh is plainly perceptible to the senses as one ascends the bank of Stony Creek for a half mile along the smouldering ruins of the wreck, and the most skeptical now conceive the worst and realize that hundreds—aye, perhaps thousands—of bodies lie charred and blackened beneath this great funeral pyre. Searchers wander wearily over this smoking mass, and as occasionally a sudden shout comes over the waters, the patient watchers on the hill realize that another ghastly discovery has been added to that long list of revelations that chill every heart and draw tears to the eyes of pessimists.
From the banks many charred remains of victims of flames and flood are plainly visible to the naked eye, as the retreating waters reluctantly give up their dead. Beneath almost every log or blackened beam a glistening skull or the blanched remnants of ribs or limbs mark all that remains of life's hopes and dreams.
Since ten o'clock last night the fire engines have been busy. Water has been constantly playing on the burning ruins. At times the fire seems almost extinguished, but fitful flames suddenly break out afresh in some new quarter, and again the water and flames wage fierce combat.
The Count is Still Lacking.
As yet there is no telling how many lives have been lost. Adjutant General Hastings, who has charge of everything, stated this morning that he supposed there were at least two thousand people under the burning debris, but the only way to find out how many lives were lost was to take a census of the people now living and subtract that from the census before the flood. Said he, "In my opinion there are any way from twelve thousand to fifteen thousand lost."
Up to this morning people living here who lost whole families or parts of families hardly seemed to realize what a dreadful calamity had befallen them. To-day, however, they are beginning to understand the situation. Agony is stamped on the faces of every one, and it is truly a city of mourning.
The point of observation is on the hillside, midway between the woolen mills of Woodvale and Johnstown proper, which I reached to-day after a journey through the portions of the city from which the waters, receding fast, are revealing scenes of unparalleled horror. From the point on the hillside referred to an excellent view of the site of the town can be obtained. Here it can be seen that from the line of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which winds along the base of Prospect Hill, to a point at which St. John's Catholic Church formerly stood, and from the stone bridge to Conemaugh, on the Conemaugh River, but twelve houses by actual count remain, and they are in such a condition as to be practically useless. To any one familiar with the geography of the iron city of Cambria county this will convey a vivid idea of a swarth averaging one-half mile in width and three miles in length. In all the length and breadth of the most peaceful and costly portion of Johnstown not a shingle remains except those adhering to the buildings mentioned.
Houses Upside Down.
But do not think for an instant that this comprehends in full the awfulness of the scene. What has just been mentioned is a large waste of territory swept as clean as if by a gigantic broom. In the other direction some few of the houses still remain, but they are upside down, piled on top of each other, and in many ways so torn asunder that not a single one of them is available for any purpose whatever. It is in this district that the loss of life has been heartrending. Bodies are being dug up in every direction.
On the main street, from which the waters have receded sufficiently to render access and work possible, bodies are being exhumed. They are as thick as potatoes in a field. Those in charge seem to have the utmost difficulty in securing the removal of bodies after they have been found.
The bodies are lying among the mass of wrecked buildings as thick as flies. The fire in the drift above the bridge is under control and is being rapidly smothered by the Pittsburgh firemen in charge of the work. About seven o'clock this morning a crowd of Battery B boys discovered a family of five people in the smoking and burned ruins above the bridge. They took out father, mother and three children, all terribly burned and mutilated. The little girl had an arm torn off.
Finding the Dead.
The work of rescuing the bodies from the mud and debris has only fairly begun, and yet each move in that direction reveals more fully the horrible extent of the calamity. It is estimated that already 1,800 corpses have been found in all parts of the valley and given some little attention. Many of them were so mangled as to be beyond identification.
A regularly organized force of men has been at work most of the day upon the mass of debris about the stone bridge. Early in the forenoon ten bodies were found close together. There was nothing to identify them, as they were burnt almost to a crisp. Several of them must have belonged to one household, as they were taken from under the blackened timbers of a single roof.
Soon after a man, woman and child were taken from the ruins. The child was clasped in the arms of the woman, and the trio were evidently husband, wife and child.
It is a most distressing sight to see the relatives of people supposed to be lost standing around and watching every body as it is pulled out, and acting more like maniacs than sensible people.
As the work progressed the number of the ghastly finds increased. The various parties of workmen turned out from ten to fifteen bodies and fragments of bodies an hour all day long.
Many of the corpses found had valuables still clasped in their hands. One woman taken from the mill this morning had several diamond rings and earrings, a roll of government bonds and some money clasped in her hands. She was a widow, and was very wealthy. Her body has been embalmed and is at the house of relatives.
Suicide Brought Relief.
From under the large brick school-house 124 bodies were taken last night and to-day, and in every corner and place the bodies are being found and buried as fast as possible. The necessity for speedy burial is becoming manifest, and the stench is sickening. A number of bodies have been found with a bullet hole in them, showing conclusively that in their maddening fright suicide was resorted to by many.
Work was commenced during the day on the south side of the town. It is supposed that five hundred or six hundred bodies will be found in that locality.
About twelve o'clock ten bodies were taken out of the wreck near the Cambria Library. On account of the bruised and mangled condition, some having faces crushed in, it was impossible to identify them. It is supposed they were guests at the Hurlbert House, which is completely demolished.
Eight bodies were recovered near the Methodist Church at eleven o'clock. It is said that fully one hundred and fifty bodies were found last evening in a sort of pocket below the Pennsylvania Railroad signal tower at Sang Hollow, where it was expected there would be a big find.
Kernville One Vast Morgue.
Over one thousand bodies have been taken from the river, dragged from the sluggish pools of mud or dug out of the sand about Kernville during the day. Three hundred of them were spread out upon the dry sand along the river's bank at one time this afternoon. The sight is one that cannot be described, and is one of the most distressing ever witnessed. A crowd of at least five hundred were gathered around, endeavoring to find the bodies of some friends or relatives. There were no coffins there at the time and the bodies had to be laid on the ground. However, five hundred coffins are on the way here, and the undertakers have sent for five hundred additional ones. Kernville from now on will be the place where most of the bodies will be found. The water has fallen so much that it is possible to get at the bodies. However, all the bodies have to be dug out of the sand, and it causes no end of work.
It is thought that most of the bodies that will be found at Kernville are under a large pile of debris, about an acre in length. This is where most of the buildings drifted, and it is natural to suppose that the bodies floated with them. A rain is now falling, but this does not interfere with the work. Most of the rescuing party have been up for two days, yet they work with a determination that is wonderful.
Nineveh, the City of the Dead.
Nineveh is literally a city of the dead. The entire place is filled with corpses. At the depot eighty-seven coffins were piled up and boxed. On the streets coffin boxes covered the sidewalks. Improvised undertaking shops have embalmed and placed in their shrouds 198 persons. The dead were strewn about the town in all conceivable places where their bodies would be protected from the thoughtless feet of the living.
Most of the bodies embalmed last night had been taken out of the river in the morning by the people at Nineveh, who worked incessantly night and day searching the river. The bodies when found were placed in a four-horse wagon, frequently twelve at a time, and driven away. Of the bodies taken out near Moorhead fully three-fourths are women and the rest children. But few men are found there. In one row at the planing mill to-day were eighteen children's bodies awaiting embalming. Next to them was a woman whose head had been crushed in so as to destroy her features. On her hand were three diamond rings.
Dr. Graff, of the State Board of Health, stationed at Nineveh, states that up till ten o'clock this morning they had embalmed about two hundred bodies, and by noon to-day would about double that number, as they were fishing bodies out of the river at this point at the rate of one every five minutes. In the driftwood and debris bodies are being exhumed, and an additional force of undertakers has been despatched to this place.
In a Charnel House.
At the public school-house the scene beggars description. Boards have been laid from desk to desk, and as fast as the hands of a large body of men and women can put the remains in recognizable shape they are laid out for possible identification and removed as quickly as possible. Seventy-five still remain, although many have been taken away, and they are being brought in every moment. It is something horrifying to see one portion of the huge school taken up by corpses, each with a clean white sheet covering it, and on the other side of the room a promiscuous heap of bodies in all sorts of shapes and conditions, looking for all the world like decaying tree trunks. Among the number identified are two beautiful young ladies named respectively Mrs. Richardson, who was a teacher in the kindergarten school, and Miss Lottie Yost, whose sister I afterwards noticed at one of the corners near by, weeping as if her very heart was broken. Not a single acquaintance did she count in all of the great throng who passed her by, although many tendered sincere sympathy, which was accentuated by their own losses.