Education: Johnstown Flood Museum

Johnstown Area Heritage Association
Primary source: Survivor stories

Survivors describe the Flood

Mr. Edward Mayhew

For fourteen years prior to the disaster of May 31st, Mr. Edward Mayhew and his family lived happily in Woodvale, their home being on Maple Avenue, a short distance above the tannery.  At the time of the flood the household consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Mayhew and seven children.  When the rush of water came all the members of the family gathered in an up-stairs room.

As soon as the flood came against the house, the structure began to go to pieces.  Mr. and Mrs. Mayhew and one of the children – Edward, aged 14 years – climbed out of a window on the roof of the porch.  Before Mr. Mayhew had time to get his other children out, the house had been smashed in and swept away with them in it, and he and his wife and his son were borne on the deluge down the valley.

At the Gautier Works the current turned them southward, and they swept across Conemaugh Borough and out Jackson Street past St John’s Catholic church to the Stoney Creek, where they succeeded in getting into a house through a window.  Later they made their way across the debris to John Thomas’ building, where they remained until 9 o’clock Saturday morning.

The children who were swept away in Mr. Mayhew’s house were all lost.  One of them – Joseph, aged 16 years – was found a week after the flood and taken to the Fourth Ward morgue.  James, aged 22 months, was also found shortly after the flood.

The other four were all interred on Prospect, but it was only recently that Mr. Mayhew knew that their bodies had been recovered and where they were interred, these facts being learned by him upon a visit to the rooms of the Committee on Valuables.  There he found two rings belonging to Jennie – his eldest daughter, aged 18 – and a medal, some pictures, and an Agnus Dei belonging to Annie, his second eldest daughter, aged 12 years.  After receiving the articles from the Committee on Valuable, Mr. Mayhew had the graves on Prospect opened, and he fully identified the remains of his children.

Quoted in Rev. Dr. David Beale's book Through the Johnstown Flood, p. 355-356.

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