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The Johnstown Horror., Issue 7976, 3 August 1889, Supplement
The Johnstown Horror.
The following are only a few of the hundreds of graphic incidents related by the American papers in regard to the Johnstown reservoir disaster:— A THRILLING ESCAPE. The most thrilling escape recorded serves to illustrate the awful suddenness of the deadly flood. A freight train was lying at the signal tower awaiting orders. A booming roar called attention to the advancing wave, then visible up the valley, two miles away. Shouting to the employes on the rear car, the engineer cut the locomotive loose from the train, pulled the throttle lever, and dashed away. Looking buck the engineer saw the signal tower, the cars, houses, trees, and his colleagues in one wild group dashing about in the water which almost caught his engine before it had acquired the desired momentum, Then the steam about held its own, until, upon dashing around the curve upon the bridge leading to high ground, the engineer saw that the track was blocked. Leaping from the engine, bo ran across the track and ascended the hill, whence he saw the bridge and the locomotive thundering down the stream together. THE FORCE OF THE CURRENT. Walking up towards Johnstown, a correspondent says “ The bodies seen were covered with mud. Slimy ooze to several inches in depth covered everything. On nearing Johnstown the wreckage became grand and had massi/e proportions. To show the force of the current, three miles below Johnstown I saw a grand piano lying on the bank, with not a board or a key broken. It must have been lifted on the crest of a wave and laid gently on the bank. In another place were two large iron boilers. They had evidently been treated by the torrent much the same as the piano. Probably 3,000 people were scattered in groups along the Pennsylvania railroad track, and every one of them had a relative lying dead either in the wreckage above, in the river below, or in the still burning furnace. A STRUGGLE FOR LIFE. A heartrending scene occurred near Bolivar bridge. A young man and two women were seen coming down the river on part of a floor. A rope was thrown to them for rescue from the waggon bridge, which soon afterwards was destroyed. The man was noticed to point towards the elder woman, who it is supposed was bis mother. He was then seen to instruct the woman hew to catch the rope, which was being lowered from the bridge. Down came the raft with a rush. The brave man stood with his arms around the two women. As they swept under the bridge he reached up and seized the rope. He was jerked violently away from the two women, who failed to get hold on the life-line. Seeing that they would not bo rescued, he dropped the rope, and fell back on the raft,' which floated down. The current then washed the raft towards the bank. The young man was enabled to seize hold of the branch of a tree. He aided the two women to get into tho tree, and held on with his hands, resting his foot on a pile of driftwood. A piece of floating debris struck the drift, sweeping it away. The man hung with his body immersed in the water. A pile of drift soon collected, and he was enabled to get another secure footing. Then up the river there was a sudden crash, and a section of the waggon bridge was swept away and floated down the stream, striking the tree and washing it away. All three were thrown into the water and drowned. a woman’s mental agony.
One woman stood by a muddy pool trying to find a trace of her loved ones. When a man stepped foiward offering help she clasped her hands in agony, crying out: “ They are all gone. My husband and my seven dear little children all swept away, and I am left alone.” She told her story of the calamity as follows:—“ We were driven by the awful flood into a garret; but the water followed us inch by inch. It kept rising until our heads were crushing against the roof. It would have been death to remain ; so 1 raised the window and placed my darlings, one by one, on some drift-wood, trusting them to Providence. As 1 liberated the last one, my little boy, he looked at mo and said : ‘ Mamma, you always told me that the Lord would care for me. Will He look after me now ?’ I saw him drift away with his loving face turned towards me, and in the midst of my prayers for his deliverance he passed from my sight for ever. The next moment the roof crashed in, and I floated outside, to be rescued fifteen hours later. If I could only find one of my darlings I could bow to the will of God; but they are all gone, I have lost everything on earth now but my life, and I shall return to my old Virginian home and lay me down for my last great sleep.” This poor woman’s plight is merely typical of hundreds of cases. in the swirling water, A beautiful girl came down on the roof of a building which was swung in near the shore. She screamed to the spectators to save her, and one big, brawny, brave fellow walked as far into the river as he could, and shouted to her to try to guide herself into the shore with a bit of plank. She was a plucky girl, and stood upon the frail support in evident obedience to the command. She made two or three hold strokes, and actually stopped the course of the raft for i an instant. Then it swerved, and went out from under her. She tried to swim ashore, but in a few seconds was lost in the swirling water. Something must have hit her, for she lay quietly on her back, with pallid and expressionless face. THE FRINGE OF TREES. Men and women in dozens, in pairs, and singly; children, boys big and little, and
small babies were there, among the awful confusion, in the water, drowning, grasping, straggling, and fighting desperately for life. Two men on a tiny raft shot into the swiftest part of the current, cowering down, and stolidly looking at the shores. Between them, dressed in white, and kneeling with face turned heavenward, was a girl of six or seven years old. She seemed stricken with paralysis until she came opposite to the observers. Then she turned her face to therm She was so close that one could see the big tears on her cheeks. The men on the shore shouted to her to keep up her courage, and she resumed her devout attitude, and disappeared under the trees which projected at a point a short distance below. “ Do you see that fringe of trees ?” said one in the crowd, pointing to the place where the little girl had gone out of sight; “ well, we saw scores of children swept in there. I believe, when the time oomea, they will find almost a hundred bodies among those bushes.” SAVED AT PRAYER. There is a convent attached to the Catholic Church at Johnstown, and it is alleged that the Mother Superior, happening to look out of the window, saw the raging torrent sweeping down the doomed valley. She at once summoned the nuns into the convent chapel, and there they knelt and prayed for the Divine protection. The torrent burst against the convent and shattered the entire building except the little chapel, in which the nuns knelt in prayer. Not one member of the little community, it is asserted, perished, and the chapel is still standing.
The Johnstown Horror., Issue 7976, 3 August 1889, Supplement
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