Education: Johnstown Flood Museum

Johnstown Area Heritage Association
Primary source: Survivor stories

Survivors describe the Flood

Mary M. Butler

Resided before the flood at 112 Morris Street, Kernville

Brother John had been running all the morning between our house and his sister’s, Mrs. Long, who resided on Vine Street in Johnstown.

At dinner time brother John said to mother, ‘You will have to get some warm clothes on and get ready to go upstairs, as the water is rising and may come into the first floor.’ Somewhere about 4 o’clock my sister happened to go to the window, and she heard a man passing, saying that the reservoir was broken. Then she said that we must take mother upstairs. So, we at once carried her upstairs and put her on the bed, which was a roped bedstead. I had barely time to rush downstairs to save something off the bed, which I succeeded in getting, that I could rescue from the rising water. Having secured those things, sister came downstairs and hurried me, grabbing hold of my hands, when the rising waters pushed me up, and I had barely time to get on the bed, when, pushed by the waters, the bed arose, bearing us with it within some eighteen inches of the ceiling.

We all stayed in that condition all night; and although our house had been moved about a square from its foundation, we did not discover that fact until some time during the night. During the night the chimney, which had been for some time tottering and threatening to fall upon us, eventually took a sudden start and fell through the lower roof, crushing the bedstead on which my mother had lain; and thus we also escaped that danger. During the night some neighbors called to us and asked if we were all there; and then they asked us if we knew where we were; and not till that time did we know that our house had been moved from its foundations, and was now in the middle of the street.

About 4 o’clock in the morning my brother Nathaniel found us, and after getting on the roof broke it in, and about 7 o’clock, with the aid of others, he succeeded in getting mother down through the large chimney-hole and bore her to a neighbor’s house on Sherman Street. My sister and myself then succeeded in getting down through the same chimney-hole, and we then joined our mother.

My brother John who had gone to town was never again heard of by us, nor has his body been recognized amongst the many that have been discovered and buried.

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

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