Education: Johnstown Flood Museum

Johnstown Area Heritage Association
Primary source: Report

Official Statement of the Flood Relief Commission

J. B. Kremer

Official Statement as to the Johnstown Flood and the General Relief Work Performed

Office of the Flood Relief Commission

Harrisburg, PA., July 12th, 1990

Dear Sir: - At a regular meeting of the Flood Relief Commission, held on July 9th, a committee of three members was appointed to prepare for the information of contributors to the fund a statement of the general relief work performed. The committee makes report as follows:

In round figures the expenditures to date for relief in the Conemaugh Valley, Johnstown and vicinity, aggregate one million seven hundred thousand dollars. This includes work of the Pittsburgh, Johnstown and Philadelphia committees and the Flood Commission; also disbursements of the State in the abatement of nuisances and payment of the military detailed to staff and police duty.

Various committees in the West have been working through the Pittsburgh and Johnstown committees, and in the East through the Philadelphia Committee and the Governor of the State. The Flood Commission has been formed to create a unit of administration. In the Commission of which the Governor of Pennsylvania is the Chairman, the committees of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and the State at large have representation. All the funds placed under the control of the Executive have been transferred to the Commission, and an implied understanding exists that the committees of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia will do the same. It is also desirable that all moneys now in the hands of other committees for this purpose be placed under the jurisdiction of the Governor and the Commission.

The Commission had held frequent meetings in various parts of the State. All its members, save one or two, prevented by uncontrollable causes, have made personal investigation of the several flooded districts of the State. Relief has been given in all needful directions with the greatest dispatch consistent with the best wisdom that could be brought to bear upon the case. Correspondence and conference have been freely invited for the information of the committees in the first instance, and the Governor and Commission subsequently.

The problem confronting the Commission in the Conemaugh Valley is of great magnitude, demanding the utmost celerity and the wisest and most delicate discrimination.

The number of persons to be fed have varied from a maximum of 31,950 to a present commissary roll of 7,000.

The number of district claims to be passed upon, many of them involving the interests of families or dependent relatives, aggregate nearly 4,000.

The Commission has sought to find the will of the donors of the great sums contributed for the relied of the sufferers, and believing that the following declaration of principals met the conditions, it was adopted and promulgated at a meeting held in Harrisburg on June 27th:

To the Public: - That the donors of the funds in the hands of the Flood Relief Commission may know how their generous gifts are to be disposed of, and that the expectant recipients of the same may not form erroneous views of any foster improper expectations for the same, it is now officially declared and announced that the following principles shall govern the distribution of relief:

  • That the said fund is in the nature of a charity to the needy, and not as a general indemnity for losses sustained.
  • That a distribution per capita would be manifestly unjust, as it would go alike to the rich and poor and alike to all sufferers, no matter what their needs or extent of their sufferings.
  • That a distribution by percentage on the amount of losses would be manifestly unjust, as it would result is giving the largest sum to the person having lost the most, without regard to the value of the remaining estate of such persons.
  • That this fund cannot be used for the benefit of any private or public corporation. That the fund must go only to the most needy sufferers from the flood in accordance with the spirit of the trust imposed upon it by the donors.

At the unanimous request of the Commission, Hon. Hugh H. Cummin was requested to proceed to Johnstown and remain there as the resident representation and executive officer of this Commission in the Conemaugh Valley.

In accordance with the foregoing, Judge Cummin has fixed his office in Johnstown as the resident executive of the Commission, and is working energetically in harmony with the local Relief Committee and the leading citizens.

Supplies of food, shoes and clothing will continue to be given to the needy as required. It is hoped to shortly discontinue this form of relief. Four hundred portable houses and two hundred to be built on the spot are already contracted for. They will be made ready for use rapidly, as the local committee will indicate the places for them. The number will be increased, and the rate at which they will be supplies need only be limited by the ability to find ground upon which to put them. They will be furnished for occupancy as completed. Relief in other forms is also being given.

At Cresson, July 9th, the Commission held conferences with committees from Chicago, Williamsport and Johnstown.

In view of the magnitude of the relief required and the immense detail involved in a just appointment of the funds in hand to the many curiously involved cases, the Commission, after hearing very fully and deliberately Messrs. McMillen, Elder, Moxham and Johnson, of the Johnstown Committee, resolved to appropriate five hundred thousand dollars, to be distributed among the verified claimants in the Conemaugh Valley, through its representative in Johnstown, Hon. H. H. Cummin, as soon as the checks for the payments can be prepared – the sums so paid to be considered as payments on account of a final adjustment to be made upon a carefully-devised system already approved by the Commission. The details are left to the judgement of Judge Cummin, but there is a tacit understanding that the distribution is to be upon registration and classification of claims already made with much care by the Johnstown Committee. This case will average considerably above $100 to each claimant and is in addition to cash already distributed by the Johnstown Committee. This, it will be remembered, is beside the general relief work constantly going forward.

It will thus be observed that the total relief already afforded the Conemaugh Valley sufferers is in round figures two million two hundred thousand dollars.

The Commission increased the sum to be devoted to relief in the nineteen other counties besides Cambria to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. The largest single sum will be required for the Williamsport district of Lycoming County – this in addition to various relief afforded by committees before the creation of the Flood Commission.

The sums required for the Johnstown district will cover all the moneys coming into the State from outside sources, with large amounts in addition. The appropriations for other localities are from general contributions made within the State of Pennsylvania.

It is the purpose of the Commission to gather and collate the accounts of all work done everywhere for the relief of the flood sufferers, and place the same in a complete and permanent form for public use.Very respectfully,

J. B. Kremer


From Through the Johnstown Flood, Rev. David Beale, pages 312-316

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