HotFreeBooks.com
The Johnstown Horror
by James Herbert Walker
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8
Home - Random Browse

'I Thought You Were Dead.'

"Turn this corner. Now, will you look at that? There is a house with the back all knocked out. The furniture has disappeared, but on the wall you see a picture hanging, and as I am alive it is a picture of a flood. What did I tell you a little while ago? Here is a house with its walls nearly intact. Next it is nothing but a heap of rubbish. Here is nothing but a cellar full of debris. Next it is a wooden dwelling. A man sits on the piazza with his clothing hung about him for an airing. And so it goes right here in the neighborhood of the main street, but if we pull out a bit from this place we shall see that the damage is a great deal greater. Through this break you can see the Presbyterian church. It is about ruined, but it still stands. If you go up stairs, what do you think you will see in that cold, dark, damp room? Stretched upon the tops of the pews are long boards, and stretched upon the boards are corpses. They have been embalmed, and are awaiting identification. But we won't go in there. All the morgues are alike, and we shall find another before long.

"Hark! There are two women greeting each other. Let's hear what they say.

"'Why, Eliza, I thought you were dead. How's all the folks? Are they all saved?'

"'Yes; they are all saved—all but sister and her little girl.'

"Well, that was cool, wasn't it? But you hear that on every corner. As I told you, in the presence of so much death the sensibilities are blunted. People do not yet realize their great grief.

"There, we are safely by the main street with its dangers of pestilence, for you noticed that it was reeking with filth and bad smells, and safely by the falling walls, for the workmen are tearing down everything shaky. Look out, there, or you will get scorched by that huge bonfire. They are burning all over town. Everything that the men can lift is dragged to these fires and burned. This is the plan for clearing the town. You noticed it at the bridge and you notice it here. Men with axes and saws are cutting timbers too big to be moved, and men with ropes and horses and even stationary engines are pressed into service to tug at the ruins. Slowly the debris is yielding to the flames.

An Awful Sepulchre.

"Ha! now we are getting over by the hills into what is known as the Fourth Ward. Here it is on our map—No. 7. What a sight! Most of the bodies are taken from the ruins here. As far as you can see there is nothing but wreckage—yes, wreckage, from which the foulest odors are continually rising and in the midst of which countless big fires are burning. Are you not almost discouraged at the idea of clearing so many acres up? Well, it does look like an endless task.

"There, you see that brick building? It is called the Fourth Ward School House. Do you want to go in? Piled up at one side are coffins—little coffins, medium sized coffins, large coffins—coffins for children, women and men. Oh! what a gloomy, horrible place. Stretched on these boards in this dismal room—what do you see? Corpses dragged from the river and from the debris. See how distorted and swollen are the faces. They are beyond recognition. Some have great bruises. Some are covered with blood. Some are black. Turn your head away. Such a sight you never saw before and pray God that you may never see it again. Nearly 250 bodies have been handled in this school house. Outside once more for a breath of air! Oh! the delightful change. But you are not yet away from the horrors. There is a tent in the school yard. What do you see? More coffins. Yes, and each one has a victim. Each is ready for shipment or burial.

20,000 to be Fed.

"Let's hurry along. Here on this corner is the temporary post-office. Over there is a supply station. There are eleven such departments now under the new management, and people are given not only provisions but clothing. You ought to see the women coming down from the hills in the morning for the supplies. Think of it! There are at least twenty thousand people in the flooded district to be fed for many weeks to come. You know there has been some comment because in the past all the money has not been used for food. I think it is a mistake. Where is charity to cease? In my opinion, the thing to do is to clean this town up, and give the business men and mills a chance to start up again. When this is done people can earn their own living, and charity ceases. I am backed up in this statement by Irwin Hurrell, who is a burgess of Johnstown, and knows everybody. Let me read you something from my note book that he said to me:

"'The people up in the hills have never had a better time. They won't work. They go around and get all the clothing they can and fill their houses with provisions.'

Thieves and Idlers.

"The burgess speaks the exact truth. Some of these houses are packed with flour and potatoes. The Hungarians and colored men and the 'tin' deputies, now out of a job, have been the real thieves. They pulled trunks from the river, cut the locks and rifled them. There have been no professional thieves here. The thieves live here. Most of the respectable people were swept away by the flood, but nearly all the 'toughs' were left. Now if I had my way I would make the survivors work. Some one said the other day: 'Why talk of sufferers? there are no sufferers. They are all dead.' This is true in a great measure. It is not charity to keep in idleness people who have lost nothing and won't work. I'd hunt them out and put them at it.

"Well, we will pass this supply depot, strike the Baltimore and Ohio track, and go up Stony Creek a bit. Notice the long lines of freight cars loaded with supplies. On our right runs the little river. On our left is Ward 7. I will note it as No. 8 on the map. You see there is a little stretch of plateau and then the ground rises rapidly. See what ravages the flood made on the plateau. The houses are wrecked and filled with mud. The local name of this place is Hornertown. One man here had $60,000 in his house. It was wrecked. He dug away at the ruins and found $20,000. If we followed the stream up a mile or so we would come to the Stonyvale Cemetery. It is covered with logs and wrecks of houses. It was in one of these houses that the body of a woman was found last Saturday. She was sitting at a table. The house had floated here on the back water from down the river.

Red Cross Tents.

"There, I guess we have walked far enough. Here are the tents of the Red Cross Society, and by the side of them are those of the United States engineers. The engineers have thrown a pontoon bridge over the river, you see, to a place called Kernville. Here you are, No. 9 on our little map. Let us cross. By George! there is an old man on the bridge I have seen before. He lost his wife and two children in the flood, but he isn't crying for them. What bothers him most is the loss of a clock, but in the clock was $1,600.

"You see there is nothing new in Kernville. It is the same old story. Many lives have been lost here and the wreckage is something awful. The houses that remain are filled with mud and the ceilings still drip with water. People seem to have lost their senses. They are apparently paralyzed by their troubles. They sit around waiting for some one to come and clear the wreckage away.

"Well, it is a terrible sight and we will hurry through the place and cross to Johnstown flat, over another pontoon bridge further down. It brings us out, as you see, near the main street again. Hello! there is a man; there is his name on the sign—Kramer, isn't it? who is getting his grocery store open, the first in town. He was flooded, but carried some of his goods to an upper floor and saved them. Lucky Kramer! Here is a man selling photographs on the porch of a doctor's office. Dr. Brinkey. Oh, yes, he was drowned. His body was found last Monday.

"Well, we'll hurry by and get up to headquarters once more. It is 6 o'clock. See, the workmen are knocking off and are going to the river to wash up. Now, out comes the baseball, for recreation always follows work here.

"Once more on the platform of the freight station. Dusk settles down over the valley. An engine near by begins to throb and electric lights spring up here and there. All over the town the flames of the great bonfires leap out of the gloom. From the camps of the workmen come ribald songs and jests, The presence of death has no effect on the living.

"The songs gradually die away and the singers drop off into a deep sleep. The town becomes as silent as the graveyards which have been filled with its victims. Not a sound is heard save the crackling of the flames and the challenges of the sentries to some belated newspaper man or straggler.

"And thus another day draws to a close in ill-fated Johnstown."



CHAPTER XIX.

A Day of Work and Worship

Governor Beaver has assumed the command. He arrived in Johnstown yesterday, the 8th, and will take personal charge of the work of clearing the town and river. For that purpose $1,000,000 from the State Treasury will be made available immediately. This action means that the State will clear and clean the town.

It was a day of prayer but not a day of rest in Johnstown. Faith and works went hand in hand. The flood-smitten people of the Conemaugh, though they met in the very path of the torrent that swept their homes and families into ruin, offered up their prayers to Almighty God and besought His divine mercy. But all through the ruin-choked city the sound of the pick and the shovel mingled with the voice of prayer, and the challenge of the sentinel rang out above the voice of supplication. There was no cessation in the great task the flood has left them with its legacy of woe. Four charges of dynamite last night completed the wreck of the Catholic Church of St. John, which had been left by the flood in a worthless but dangerous condition.

The thousands of laborers continued their work just as on any week day, except that there was no dynamite used on the gorge and that the Cambria Iron Works were closed. There was the usual reward of the gleaners in the harvest-field of death, fifty eight bodies having been recovered. The most of those have been in Stony Creek, up which they were carried by the back rush of the current after the bridge broke the first wave.

Roman Catholic services were held in the open air.

Father Smith's Exhortation.

When the mass was over and Father Troutwine, who conducted it, had retired, Father Smith stood before them. "We have had enough of death lately," he said in a voice full of sympathy, "the calamity that has visited us is the greatest in the history of the United States. You must not be discouraged. Other places have been visited by disaster at times, yet we know that they have risen again. You must not look on the fearful past. The lives of the lost cannot be restored."

Here he paused because they were weeping around him, and his own voice was broken, but continuing with an effort, he told them to reflect for consolation upon the manner in which their friends had gone to death. They had looked to God, he said, and wafted in prayers and acts of contrition, their souls had left their bodies and appeared at the throne in heaven. "Surely never such prayers fell save from the lips of saints, and the lost of the valley are saints to-day while you mourn for them. God, who measures the acts of men by their opportunities, had pardoned their sins. You who are left living must go to work with a will. Be men, be women. The eyes of the world are upon you, the eyes of all civilized nature. They listen, they wait to see what you are going to do."

Father Smith closed by telling them that the coming fast days of this week need not be observed in the midst of such destitution as this, and they might eat without sinning any food that would give them life and strength. When the father had finished the congregation filed slowly out past the high pile of coffins, for St. Columba's was a morgue in the days just passed.

The Protestant Services.

Chaplain Maguire held service in the camp of the 14th to-day. His pulpit was a drygoods box with the lid missing. It had been emptied of its freight into the wide lap of suffering. Before him stood the blue-coated guardsmen in a deep half circle. There was a shed at his back and a group of flood survivors, some in old clothing of their own, some in the new garments of charity. They were for the most part members of the Methodist congregation of Johnstown to which he had preached for three years.

"I hunted a long time yesterday for the foundations of my little home," he said, "but they were swept away, like the dear faces of the friends who used to gather around my table. But God doesn't own this side alone; He owns the other side too, and all is well whether we are on this side or the other. Are your dear ones saved or lost? The only answer to that question is found in whether they trusted in God or not. Trust in the Lord and verily ye shall dwell in the land and be fed."

It was not a sermon. Nobody had words or voice for preaching. Others spoke briefly and prayed. They sang, "Jesus, Lover of My Soul."

A Song in the Waters.

The shrill treble of the weeping women in the shed was almost lost in the strong bass of the soldiers. "Cora Moses, who used to sing in our church choir, sang that beautiful hymn as she drifted away to her death amid the wreck," said the chaplain. "She died singing it. There was only the crash of buildings between the interruption of the song of earth and its continuation in heaven."

Dr. Beale's Address.

Dr. Beale, whose own Presbyterian Church was one of the first morgues opened and who has lived among dead bodies ever since is the cheeriest man in Johnstown. He made a prayer and an address. It was all straight-from-the-shoulder kind of talk, garbed in homely phrase.

In the address he said: "I have been asked to say something about this disaster and its magnitude, but I haven't the heart. Besides I haven't the words. If I was the biggest truth teller in the world I could not tell the tale."

Then the preacher went hammer and tongs at the practical teachings of the flood. "That night in Alma Hall when we thought we would all die I heard men call on God in prayer and pledge themselves to lead better lives if life was given them. Since then I heard those same men cursing and swearing in these streets. Brethren, there was no real prayer in any of those petitions put up by those of godless lives that night. They were merely crying out to a higher power for protection. They were like the death-bed fears of the infidel, for I have seen seventeen infidels die and everyone showed the white feather. Nay, those prayers were unsanctified by the spirit, but let us who are here now living, dedicate ourselves to the service of Almighty God. There were those who were to be dedicated that night. I know one who, when it came, sent his family up the staircase, and taking up his Bible from his parlor table, opened at the 46th Psalm, first verse, and, following them, read, and the waters followed him closely. And through the flood he read the word of God and there was peace in that house while terror was all around it."

Mothering the Orphans.

Dr. Beale announced that Miss Walk wanted twenty-five children for the Northern Home and then began shaking hands with his congregation and pressing on them the lessons of his sermon. "Ah, old friend," he said, to a sandy moustached man in the grand army uniform, "You came safe out of the flood, now give that big heart of yours to Jesus."

The Baptist congregation also held an open-air service. The unfortunate Episcopal congregation is quite disorganized by the loss of their church and rector. They held no service, yet in a hundred temporary houses of the homeless the beautiful old litany of the faith was read by the devout churchmen.

The Soldiers' Sunday.

Sunday brought to the soldiers of the 14th no rest from the guard and police work which makes the Johnstown tour of duty everything but holiday soldiering. Even those who were in camp fared no better than those who were mounted guards over banks, stores and supply trains, or driving unwilling Italians to work down at Cambria City. There was no shade nor a blade of grass in sight. The wreck of the city was all their scenery, and the sun beat down upon their tents till they were like ovens. They policed the camp thoroughly, sweeping the bare ground until it was as clean as a Dutch kitchen. The boys had heard that Chaplain Maguire was to preach and they didn't leave a straw or a chip in his way.

A Young Guardsman's Suicide.

A sun-browned young soldier of C Company, 14th Regiment, sat on the river bank in front of the camp this afternoon and watched across the valley the fire-scarred tower of the Catholic Church, blown to complete ruin under the force of dynamite. After the front had sunk into a brick heap, he arose, looked down once at the sunny river and the groups of many soldiers doing there week's washing at the foot of the bank, and then strode slowly to his tent. A moment later there seemed to be a lingering echo of the fall of the tower in C Company's street. Captain Nesbitt, dozing in his quarters, heard the sound, and running in the direction of it found that Private William B. Young, aged 28, of Oakdale, had placed the muzzle of his rifle against his left temple and gone to swell by one the interminable list of the Conemaugh Valley's dead.



Despondency, caused by a slight illness and doubtless intensified by a night's guard duty among the gloomy ruins, is the only known cause of the soldier's act. He had been somewhat blue for a day, but there seemed to be no special weight upon his mind. His brother-in-law, private Stimmler, of the same company, said that he was always despondent when ill, but had never threatened or attempted his life. He was a farmhand, and leaves a wife and two children.

The Dinner "Shad" Jones Cooked.

The Sunday dinner was a great success. The bill of fare was vegetable soup, cold ham, beans, canned corn, pickled tripe and black coffee. It is worthy of note that the table in the officers' quarters did not have a delicacy upon it which was not shared by the men. The commissary ran short and had to borrow from the workmen's supplies. The dinner to-day was cooked by "Shad" Jones, a colored man known to every traveling man who has ever stopped at Johnstown for his ability to hold four eggs in his mouth and swallow a drink of water without cracking a shell. He lost his wife in the flood and the 14th has adopted him.

On this, the ninth day, the waters began to give up their dead. Stony Creek first showed their white faces and lifeless bodies floating on the surface, and men in skiffs went after them with their grappling rods. Several of them were taken ashore during the afternoon and carried to the Presbyterian Church morgue, which was the nearest. Then, too, the dead among the wreckage on shore came to light just the same as on other days. Their exhumation excites no notice here now. Dr. Beale, keeper of the records of morgues, counted the numbers on his finger tips and said there were more than fifty found to-day in Johnstown alone.

In one dead man's pocket was $3,133.62. He was Christopher Kimble, an undertaker and finisher, who, when he saw the water coming, rushed down stairs to the safe to save his gold and there he was lost. Several bodies were taken from the human raft burned beyond all recognition.

The body of Miss Bessie Bryan, the young Philadelphian, was identified to-day as it lay in a coffin by a grave from which it had been exhumed in Grand View Cemetery. "Returning home from a wedding in Pittsburgh with her friend, Miss Paulsen, caught by the flood on the day express, found dead and buried twice," will be the brief record of her wild sad fate.

Whiskey and Rioting.

Lieutenant Wright, Company I, with a detail of ninety-eight men, was called to the banks of Stony Creek over the raft to-night, to protect the employees of the Philadelphia Gas Company. There they found a gang of rioters. The rioters this afternoon found a barrel of whiskey in the field of debris, and before the militia could destroy it they had managed to take a large quantity of it up on the mountain. To-night they came down to the camp intoxicated, attacked the cook, cleared the supper table and were managing things with a high hand when a messenger was despatched for the guard. Before Lieutenant Wright's men reached there they had escaped. The Beaver Falls gang was surprised this afternoon by the militia, and gallons of whiskey, which they had hidden, were destroyed. A dozen saloons were swept into the creek at the bridge, and it is supposed that a hundred or more barrels are buried beneath the raft.

Among the most interesting relics of the flood is a small gold locket found in the ruins of the Hurlbut house yesterday. The locket contains a small coil of dark brown hair, and has engraved on the inside the following remarkable lines: "Lock of George Washington's hair, cut in Philadelphia while on his way to Yorktown, 1781." Mr. Benford, one of the proprietors of the house, states that the locket was the property of his sister, who was lost in the flood, and was presented to her by an old lady in Philadelphia, whose mother and herself cut the hair from the head of the "Father of His Country."



CHAPTER XX.

Millions of Money for Johnstown.

Never before in our country has there been such a magnificent exhibition of public sympathy and practical charity. As the occasion was the most urgent ever known, so the response has been the greatest. All classes have come to the rescue with a generosity, a thoughtfulness and heartfelt pity sufficient to convince the most stubborn misanthrope that religion is not dead and charity has not, like the fabled gods of Greece, forsaken the earth.

The following lines, cut from one of our popular journals, aptly represents the public feeling, and the warm sympathy that moved every heart:

I.

I stood with a mournful throng On the brink of a gloomy grave, In a valley where grief had found relief On the breast of an angry wave! I heard a tearful song That told of an orphan's love— 'Twas a song of woe from the valley below, To the Father of Heaven above!

II.

'Twas the wail of two lonely waifs— Two children who prayed for bread! 'Twas a pitiful cry—a mournful sigh— From the home of the silent dead! 'Twas a sad and soulful strain; It made the teardrops start; 'Twas an echo of pain—a weird refrain— And a song that touched my heart.

III.

Poor, fatherless, motherless waifs, Come, dry your tearful eyes! Not in vain, not in vain, have ye sung your refrain; It's echo has pierced the skies! The angels are watching you there, For your "home" is now above, And your Father is He who forever shall be A Father of infinite love!

IV.

Blest be the noble throng, With generous impulse stirred, Who are bringing relief to the Valley of Grief, Where the orphan's song was heard! Peace to them while they live, Peace when their souls depart, For a friend in need is a friend indeed And a friend that reaches my heart!

Among the first to start a fund for the sufferers was the New York Herald. The following is a specimen of the announcement made by that journal from day to day:

Great interest is being taken in the Herald fund for the Johnstown sufferers. In the city, employees of all sorts of business houses, and of railroad, steamboat and other companies, are striving to see who can collect the most money.

In the country, ministers, little girls, school children and busy workers are all collecting for the fund. It is being boomed by rich and poor, far and near.

With the checks for hundreds of dollars yesterday came this note, enclosing a dime:

"NEW YORK, June 8, 1889.

"MR. EDITOR:

"I am a little orphan girl. I saved ten cents, it is all I have, but I should like to send it to the sufferers of the flood.

"ANNIE ABEL."

Another letter written in a lady's hand read this way:

"BROOKYN.

"DEAR HERALD:—

"Enclosed please find $1.17 left by little Hame Buckler in his purse when he died last September. Also twenty-five cents from Albert Buckler and twenty-five cents from Paul D. Buckler. Hoping their mites will help to feed or clothe some little ones, I am, with sympathy for the sufferers,

"S.A.B."

Felix Simonson, a twelve-year-old schoolboy, took it into his head on Friday to go among his friends and get help for the sufferers. Here is what he wrote on the top of his subscription paper:

"I am very sorry for the poor people who have lost everything by the flood, and I am trying to collect some money to send to them. Would you like to give something to help them?"

How Felix succeded is shown by a collection of $30.15 the first day.

A large amount of clothing for men, women and children is being sent to the Herald office, as well as liberal contributions of money.

The same story was, in effect, repeated from day to day. It only indicated what was going on throughout the country; in fact, throughout the world. London, Paris, and other European towns, were only a few hours behind our American cities in starting funds for relief. The enthusiasm with which these responses were made is indicated by the following from one of the New York dailies:

Charity Running Rampant.

Everybody's business seems to be raising funds for Pennsylvania. The Mayor's office has been transformed into a counting room. More than a dozen clerks are employed in acknowledging the receipt of money for the Pennsylvania sufferers. A large number, many of them of the poorer class, bring their own contributions. Up to noon $145,257.18 had been subscribed. This does not include sums subscribed but not paid in. All the city departments are expected to respond nobly.

The Executive Committee of the Conemaugh Valley Relief Association met in the Governor's room at the City Hall yesterday, with General W.T. Sherman in the chair. Treasurer J. Edward Simmons announced that the fund in the Fourth National Bank amounted to $145,000 and that Governor Beaver's draft for $50,000 had been honored. John T. Crimmins reported that more than $70,000 had been received at the Mayor's office during the morning. He also reported that the Leake and Watts Orphan Asylum had offered, through the Rev. Dr. Morgan Dix, to take twenty-five of Johnstown's orphans, between the ages of five and twelve, and care for them until they were sixteen and then provide them with homes. H.C. Miner reported that many packages of clothing had been sent to Johnstown and that the theatrical guild was arranging for benefit performances.

Under date of Paris, June 5th, the following despatch conveyed intelligence of the gratifying response of Americans in that city:

Duty Nobly Done.

A meeting of Americans was held to-day at the United States Legation on a call in the morning papers by Mr. Whitelaw Reid, the United States Minister, to express the sympathy of the Americans in Paris with the sufferers by the Johnstown calamity. In spite of the short notice the rooms of the Legation were densely packed, and many went away unable to gain admittance. Mr. Reid was called to the chair and Mr. Ernest Lambert was appointed secretary. The following resolutions were offered by Mr. Andrew Carnegie and seconded by Mr. James N. Otis:

A Sympathetic Message.

"Resolved, That we send across the Atlantic to our brethren overwhelmed by the appalling disaster at Johnstown our most profound and heartfelt sympathy. Over their lost ones we mourn with them, and in every pang of all their misery we have our part.

"Resolved, That as American citizens we congratulate them upon and thank them for the numerous acts of noble heroism displayed under circumstances calculated to unnerve the bravest. Especially do we honor and admire them for the capacity shown for local self-government upon which the stability of republican institutions depends, the military organizations sent from distant points to preserve order during the chaos that supervened having been returned to their homes as no longer required within forty-eight hours of the calamity. In these few hours the civil power recreated and asserted itself and resumed sway without the aid of counsel from distant authorities, but solely by and from the inherent power which remains in the people of Johnstown themselves."

Brief and touching speeches were made by General Layton, late United States Minister to Austria; Mr. Abram S. Hewitt, General Meredith Read and others.

A Flow of Dollars.

The resolutions were then unanimously adopted and a committee was appointed to receive subscriptions. About 40,000f. were subscribed on the spot. The American bankers all agreed to open subscriptions the next day at their banking houses. "Buffalo Bill" subscribed the entire receipts of one entertainment to be given under the auspices of the committee.

As a sequel to the foregoing the following will be of interest to the reader:

NEW YORK, June 17.—John Monroe & Co. have received cable instructions from United States Minister Reid, at Paris, to pay Messrs. Drexel & Co., of Philadelphia, an additional sum of $2,266, received from the Treasurer of the Paris Johnstown Relief Committee. Of this sum $1066 are the proceeds of a special performance by the Wild West show, and with the previous contribution from Paris makes a total of $14,166.

The pathetic story of sympathy and generous aid from every town and hamlet in the land can never be told; there is too much of it.

Philadelphia alone contributed over a million dollars, and New York showed equal generosity. In Philadelphia it was not uncommon to see glass jars in front of stores and at other places to receive contributions from passers-by. In one of these an unknown man deposited $500 one day; this is indicative of the feeling pervading the whole community that stricken Johnstown must not suffer for houses, clothing, nor bread.



So rapidly did gifts pour in that within eight days after the disaster the following statement was made from Harrisburg:

The Governor's fund for the relief of the survivors of the flood in the Conemaugh Valley and other portions of the State is assuming large proportions and the disposition to contribute appears to be on the increase. To-day letters and telegrams were received requesting the Governor to draw for $68,000 additional, swelling the aggregate sum at his disposal to about $3,000,000. Many of the remittances are accompanied with statements that more may be expected. Governor Beaver telegraphed as follows from Johnstown:

"The situation is simply indescribable. The people have turned in with courage and heroism unparalleled. A decided impression has been made on the debris. The next week will do more, as they have many points opened for work. Everything is very quiet. People are returning to work again and gaining courage and hope as they return. There need be no fear of too much being contributed for the relief of the people. There is a long, steady pull ahead requiring every effort and determination on the part of the people here, which is already assured, and the continued systematic support and benefactions of this generous people."

Feeding the Hungry.

Three car loads of tents, enough to accommodate four thousand people, were sent to Johnstown to-day from the State arsenal at the request of General Hastings.

The following special dispatch bears date of June 5th:

Car loads of provisions and clothing are arriving hourly and being distributed. The cynic who said that charity and gratitude were articles seldom to be met with in Republics and among corporations would have had ample reason afforded him to-day to alter his warped philosophy several degrees had he been in this erstwhile town and seen train after train hourly rolling in, on both the Baltimore and Ohio and the Pennsylvania railroads, laden with clothing and provisions from every point of the compass. Each train bore messengers sent especially to distribute funds and provisions and clothing, volunteer physicians in large numbers, trained nurses and a corps of surgeons equipped with all needed instruments and medicines. Fortunately the latter are not needed.

Philadelphia's quota consists of clothes, boots, shoes, cotton sheeting, hard breads, salt fish, canned goods, etc., all of which will be gratefully received and supply the most pressing needs of the stricken people.

Relief Systematized.

The relief work has been so systematized that there is no danger of any confusion. At the several distributing depots hundreds assemble morning, noon and night, and, forming in line, are supplied with provisions. Men and women with families are given bread, butter, cheese, ham and canned meats, tea or coffee and sugar, and unmarried applicants sliced bread and butter or sandwiches.

The 900 army tents brought on by Adjutant-General Axline, of Ohio, have been divided, and two white-walled villages now afford shelter to nearly six thousand homeless people.

At the Main Commissary.

At the Johnstown station, on the east side of the river, everything is quiet, and considerable work is being done. This is the chief commissary station, and this morning by two o'clock 15,000 people were fed and about six hundred families were furnished with provisions. Five carloads of clothing were distributed, and now almost every one is provided with clothing.

The good work done by the relief committees in caring for the destitute can never be fully told. It was ready, generous and very successful.

The scenes at the distributing points through the week have been most interesting. Monday and Tuesday saw lines of men, women and children in the scantiest of clothing, blue with cold, unwashed and dishevelled, so pitifully destitute a company as one would wish to see. Since the clothing cars have come the people have assumed a more presentable appearance and food has brought life back to them and warmth, but their condition is still pitiful. The destitute ones are almost altogether from the well-to-do people of Johnstown, who have lost all and are as poor as the poorest.

Altoona to the Rescue.

Altoona has been so hemmed in by floods and the like, and her representatives have been so busy, that they had but little to say of the prompt action and excellent work done by open-handed citizens of that beautiful interior Pennsylvania city. Altoona first became alarmed by the non-arrival and reported loss of the day express east on the Pennsylvania Railroad Friday afternoon. Soon the station was thronged with an anxious crowd, and the excitement became intense as the scant news came slowly in. Saturday the anxiety was relieved by a telegram from Ebensburg, which a blundering telegraph operator made "three hundred lost," instead of "three thousand." That was soon corrected by later news, and the citizens immediately were called upon to meet for action. The Mayor presided, and at once $2,600 was subscribed and provisions offered. By three o'clock that afternoon a car had been loaded and started for Ebensburg, thirty-two miles away in charge of a committee. At Ebensburg that evening ten teams were secured after much trouble and the supplies sent overland seventeen miles to the desolated valley. The night was an awful one for the committee in charge. The roads were badly washed and all but impassible. The hours dragged on. At last, Sunday morning, the wagons drove into desolate Conemaugh. There were no cheers to greet them, no cries of pleasure. The wretched sufferers were too wretched, too dazed for that. They simply crowded around the wagons, pitifully begging for bread or anything to eat.

The committee report: "Impostors have not bothered us much, and, singular enough, the ones that have were chiefly women, though to-day we sent away a man who we thought came too frequently. On questioning he owned up to having fifteen sacks of flour and five hams in his house. On Tuesday we began to keep a record of those who received supplies, and we have given out supplies to fully 550 families, representing 2,500 homeless people. Our district is only for one side of the river. On the other is a commissary on Adams street, near the Baltimore and Ohio Railway station, another at Kernville, a third at Cambria City, a fourth at Morrellville and a fifth at Cambria. The people are very patient, though, of course, in their present condition they are apt to be querelous.

Wanted A Better Dress.

"One woman who came for a dress indignantly refused the one I offered her. 'I don't want that,' she said. 'I lost one that cost me $20, $15 for the cloth and $5 for making, and I want a $20 dress. You said you would make our losses good;' and she did not take the dress.

"A clergyman came to me and begged for anything in the shape of foot covering. I had nothing to give him. Men stand about ready to work, but barefooted. The clothing since the first day or two, when we got only worn stuff, fit only for bandages, has been good, and is now of excellent quality. Most of the children's garments are outgrown clothes, good for much service. Pittsburgh has sent from thirty to forty car loads of supplies, all of good quality and available, and in charge of local commissary men who had sense enough to go home when they turned over their supplies and did not stay and eat up the provisions they brought.

Ohio's Timely Work.

"But above all, I want to praise the supplies sent by the Ohio people in Cleveland and Columbus. These cities forwarded eight cars each. These were stocked with beautiful stuff, wisely chosen, and were in charge of Adjutant General Axline, sent by Governor Foraker, who worked like a wise man."

Grave Mental Conditions.

The mental condition of almost every former resident of Johnstown is one of the gravest character, and the reaction which will set in when the reality of the whole affair is fully comprehended can scarcely fail to produce many cases of permanent or temporary insanity. Most of the faces that one meets, both male and female, are those of the most profound melancholia, associated with an almost absolute disregard of the future. The nervous system shows the strain it has borne by a tremulousness of the hand and of the lip in man as well as in woman. This nervous state is further evidenced by a peculiar intonation of words, the persons speaking mechanically, while the voices of many rough looking men are changed into such tremulous notes of so high a pitch as to make one imagine that a child on the verge of tears is speaking. Crying is so rare that I saw not a tear on any face in Johnstown, but the women that are left are haggard, with pinched features and heavy, dark lines under their eyes. Indeed the evidence of systemic disturbance is so marked in almost every individual who was present at the time of the catastrophe that it is possible with the eye alone to separate the residents from those outside.

Everything required in the way of surgical appliances seem to be on hand, but medicines are scarce, and will probably be needed more in the next few days than heretofore.

A fact in favor of the controlling of any malady is to be found in the very general exodus of the town's people, who crowd the platforms of departing trains. There can be no doubt that this movement should be encouraged to the greatest possible extent, and it would be well if places away from Johnstown, at no too great distance, could be opened for the reception of those who, while not entirely disabled, are useless at home. The scarcity of pure spring water which is not tainted by dead animal matter is a pressing evil for consideration, but we doubt if this is as important a fact at Johnstown as it is further down the river, owing to the large amount of decomposing flesh in the water at this latter point. No disinfectant can reach such a cause of disease save the action of the large volume of water which dilutes all poisonous materials.

The Torch for Safety.

There is a strong movement on foot in favor of applying the torch to the wrecked buildings in Johnstown, and although the suggestion meets with strong opposition at this time, there is little doubt the ultimate solution of existing difficulties will be by this method. An army of men have been for two days employed in clearing up the wreck in the city proper, and although hundreds of bodies have been discovered, not one-fifth of the ground has yet been gone over. In many places the rubbish is piled twenty or thirty feet high, and not infrequently these great drifts cover an area of nearly an acre. Narrow passages have been cut through in every direction, but the herculean labor of removing the rubbish has yet hardly begun.

At a meeting of the Central Relief Committee this afternoon General Hastings suggested the advisability of drawing a cordon around the few houses that are not in ruins and applying the torch to the remaining great sea of waste. He explained briefly the great work yet to be accomplished if it were hoped to thoroughly overhaul every portion of the debris, and insisted that it would take 5,000 men to complete the task. Of the hundreds of bodies buried beneath the rubbish, sand and stones, the skeleton or putrid remains of many was all that could be hoped to be recovered.

A motion was made that after forty-eight hours' further search the debris of the city be consumed by fire, the engines to be on hand to play upon any valuable building that despite previous precautions, might become ignited by the general conflagration. This motion was debated pro and con for nearly half an hour. Those whose relatives or friends still rest beneath the wreck remonstrated strongly against any such summary action. They insisted that all the talk of threatened epidemic was only the sensation gossip of fertile brains and that the search for the bodies should only be abandoned as a last extremity. The physicians in attendance warned the committee that the further exposure of putrid bodies in the valley could have but one result—the typhus or some other epidemic equally fatal to its victims. It was a question whether the living should be sacrificed to the dead, or whether the sway of sentiment or the mandate of science should be the ruling impulse. Although the proposition to burn the wreck was defeated, it was evident that the movement was gaining many adherents, and the result will doubtless be that in a few days the torch will be applied, not only to the field of waste in Johnstown, but also to the avalanche of debris that chokes the stream above the Pennsylvania bridge.

THE END

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8
Home - Random Browse