The Johnstown Flood was the first big disaster for the brand-new American Red Cross. They were in Johnstown for months running infirmaries like these pictured here, providing housing, and distributing supplies.
Events in Johnstown's Recovery June -December 1889
Friday, May 31
Flood hits Johnstown at roughly 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 1
3:00 Citizens Committee planning meeting at Adams Street Schoolhouse:
- A.J. Moxham elected chairman
- Committees set-up:
- Local distribution of supplies
- Teams and Messengers
- Information and Transportation: requested all citizens to report on those who survived and those lost
- Removing Dead Animals
- Morgues: Rev. Beale and Chapman
- Removal of Debris
- Time-keeping and Books
- Removal of Dangerous Buildings
- Police: Captain Hart deputized about 75 men
- Fire Department
- Sanitary Affairs
- First reporters reach Johnstown and set up headquarters
- Rafts built to cross rivers, and first rope bridge strung across Little Conemaugh to bring in initial supplies
- Morgues set up immediately but took one week to get organized system in place
Sunday, June 2
- First relief trains make it all the way to Johnstown – P.R.R. repairs track to Stone Bridge
- Rope bridge completed over Conemaugh
- First bodies buried on Prospect Hill
- Clearinghouse for survivors to register to help them find families
- First patients cared for in temporary hospital
- Post office set up, corner of Adams and Main St.
- By nightfall:
- About 1,000 out of town relief workers, etc... in town
- Fire at Stone Bridge nearly extinguished by Pittsburgh fire company
Monday, June 3
- Billy Flinn arrives from Pittsburgh with 280 teams of horses and 1,300 men from Booth and Flinn Construction Company.
Wednesday, June 5
- Clara Barton arrives with 50 doctors and nurses, begins relief work immediately
- Moxham steps down and authority is given to James B. Scott of Pittsburgh
- 14th National Guard regiment from Pittsburgh arrives
- Proctor, U.S. Secretary of War, authorizes the construction of two pontoon bridges across Stonycreek, kept until more permanent structures are completed on July 27th.
Friday, June 12
- State Board of Health determines Johnstown is “a nuisance dangerous to the public health”
- Board set up to take care of the problem.
Sunday, June 9
- First church service since flood
Wednesday, June 12
- James B. Scott turns authority over to General Hastings of PA National Guard, ordered in by PA Governor Beaver, to take control to head off any potential epidemics. The town was practically under martial law for a few weeks after Hastings took over.
- The town was organized into districts that were then cleared in divisions each with its own engineer and contractor.
Wednesday, June 19
- Road under Stone Bridge finally open for travel as final wreckage is removed.
Thursday, June 20
- Sub-committee of the finance committee set up to arrange for the construction of temporary “Oklahoma” houses, by 4:00 on the Friday the 21st, 200 applications for theses houses had been submitted.
- Arrangements made with Hoover, Hughes & Co. to erect row of storefronts and offices around the Public Square in order for businesses to resume operation.
Tuesday, June 25
- Newly appointed finance committee sends out this letter to Johnstown survivors (this was the first organized inquiry into the number of flood casualties):
- “The Finance Committee of Johnstown for the relief of sufferers in the Conemaugh Valley by the late flood, desires to distribute money to all of them, and for that purpose competent persons have been selected in each district to register such persons and make report… All sufferers are requested to appear before the Register in their proper district. The office of registering will be opened from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, June 27th and 28th. . .”
Thursday-Friday, June 27-28
- Survivors register with the Finance Committee for the first distribution of relief funds
- Cambria Iron has a portion of mills in operation.
- Local businessmen draw lots to determine who would occupy first spaces available for business around the Public Square.
- First relief money given to flood victims.
- Committee to determine property losses of citizens completes its inquiry and reports a total loss of $8,655,114.
- Cambria Iron's first pay day since the flood.
- All commissaries supplying food, clothing and furniture are closed except one at Pennsylvania Railroad station.
- Permanent bridges replace the two pontoon bridges across Stonycreek
- Clara Barton's Red Cross apartment house finished near the end of July
- Cambria Iron's entire mill is back in operation.
- Order completed for 200 temporary houses made by Hoover, Hughes and Company, these homes were larger than the “Oklahoma” houses. 200 more were in the process of construction.
- The Pennsylvania Railroad station commissary, the last supplying food, clothing, and furniture, finally closes its doors
- State Board of Health determines Johnstown no longer a threat to public health.
- Final relief fund money distributed except for a few cases under further investigation.
From History of Cambria County by Storey (1907) and The Johnstown Flood by McCullough