Monday, June 2, 2014

The Great Johnstown Flood

 We headed out early on Saturday to attend a polkafest.  Once again we passed through lots of farm country and we saw these Texas Longhorns on our way.

 Look at those horns!   Click for a closer look.

 We passed lots of picturesque barns.

 Finally, we entered Johnstown. Now, I have heard about the Great Johnstown Flood since I was a little kid, it occurred in 1889.  I really never paid much attention to it though until this trip.  This is the Little Conemaugh River. Sitting high above this town is a reservoir called Lake Conemaugh. These concrete walls were not there when the flood came.  Interestingly, we were here on the 125th anniversary of the flood.

On May 31, 1889, this area received very heavy rains.

The dam on the reservoir broke and 20 million tons of water drained from the lake in 40 minutes.

As the water made it's way towards the city, it took out a factory that made barbed wire.  The wire from the factory was picked up by the water and acted like a net and collected debris along the way.

By the time it reached Johnstown, the wall of water and debris was 70 feet high.

You can see here how the river enters the town. People literally headed for the hills to avoid the tsunami-like event. Unfortunately, not many made it.

Over 2200 people died.  500 entire families were killed.  Over 350 children were orphaned. This was the first national disaster that the American Red Cross serviced.  Three days after the flood, Clara Barton arrived to help.

The flood did 17 million dollars in damage which would be roughly the equivalent of half a billion dollars today.  BTW, this is where the polkafest was to take place.  Pretty empty when we got there.  We were either really early or they were really late but we missed the polkafest.

We were very happy to visit this town though regardless of the missed festival.

Plus, we found this local hot dogs joint which made the drive worthwhile!  Texas Hots!

This shot is looking up the valley that the water flowed down. When we returned home I did some reading.  It seems that in the years just before the flood, the Carnegie's and the Frick's (wealthy steel men) bought the Lake area to build an exclusive summer resort for themselves and their friends.  They made changes to the lake to accommodate their development. These changes caused the dam on the reservoir to become unstable and the heavy rains caused the break.  Victims sued for damages but were never able to collect. After the suits were dropped, Carnegie built a library for the town and of course, put his name on it.  I've already ordered a book so I can read more about all of this.

It's still a scary area.

15 comments:

Patty Woodland said...

Amazing how the more things change the more things stay the same....

Julie Whitmore Pottery said...

Joyce what a fascinating post. Your pictures are so good; those stones in the buildings, the intense green , gosh its beautiful there.
Caught up on your posts too.
Your container garden is fab!

Laurie M said...

thats amazing!

Mary Ann said...

Many moons ago, I read a book about the Johnstown flood after seeing an excerpt in Reader's Digest condensed books.. remember those? I'm going to read it again... Amazon here I come!

thecottagebythecranelaketwo said...

Very interesting history! I'vce never heard about it before. It was very close that just the same thing had happened here around 30 years ago when our biggest dam started cracking, fortunately they saw it in time so they could empty enough water from the dam to repaire it.

Have a great day!
Christer.

Megs said...

I have always been fascinated with the Flood. David McCullough wrote a good book about it. For days before the flood, there was a leak in the dam- they had built a country club with golf course above the town. The book I read had a list of what they found on people. This list was used to try to identify bodies. Those evil barons!
Beautiful pictures.

Barb said...

Very interesting, I read a novel that included this flood many years ago. Can't remember the name of the novel!

Cottage Tails said...

Wonderful posts - I enjoyed learning some of the history - will see if I can get a book out of library. Wonder where the polkafest got to?

Debra She Who Seeks said...

What a terrible history. Once again, the rich got away with murder.

Nellie said...

You have certainly whetted our interest here! Off to do some research ourselves!

Guillaume said...

Very picturesque pictures. I experienced a flood myself, back in 1996.

Samplings from Spring Creek said...

David McCullough (one of my favorite authors) wrote a book about the Johnstown Flood

TARYTERRE said...

Thanks for refreshing my memory. It's been years since I was in Johnstown. Scary history, indeed.

sandra said...

wow,what a sad story!:[ interesting though and the pics are great!

Susan said...

What a fascinating account - I bet Wikipedia will be getting quite a hit after this.