Education: Johnstown Flood Museum

Johnstown Area Heritage Association
Primary source: Survivor stories

Survivors describe the Flood

Colonel John P. Linton

Shortly before 4 o’clock we heard the loud and doleful whistling of the engines at the mill, which surely betokens a fire, and which we at the time supposed to be such an alarm. I have been informed since that this was intended to warn people that the South Fork dam had burst, and to prepare for the consequences. To us, even if we had understood the purpose of the alarm, it could have been of no avail, as an impassable flood of water already isolated our house, and we could not have fled to any place of refuge.

An indescribable sound of rushing waters, crashing buildings and shrieking people was borne to our ears, and we rushed to the third story of the house. From the window in this story I saw the advancing torrent, many feet high and bearing before it with terrific fury logs and broken buildings and crashing machinery, and preceded by what appeared to us as a cloud of smoke. The first wave seemed to follow the general source of the Conemaugh; the second, which followed in rapid succession, swept over Millville Borough, carrying everything before it, and the next, with scarcely a perceptible interval, swept along the Johnstown shore of the Conemaugh, tearing down and sweeping sway all obstructions.

The High School building, about a block away from our house, and which still towered aloft apparently uninjured, the only edifice in our immediate neighborhood which stood on its foundation. All others had been swept away, leaving in their place a tangled mass of timber, broken planks, roofs and other debris.

From Rev. Dr. David Beale's book Through the Johnstown Flood.

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