Education: Johnstown Flood Museum

Johnstown Area Heritage Association
Primary source: Survivor stories

Survivors describe the Flood

Alexander N. Hart, J. Fleming

Alexander N. Hart, says:

When the flood struck my house it began to tremble and move. I took my two little boys, ages respectively 2 and 8 years, by the hands and leaped with them from the second-story window upon a floating roof. My wife and sister followed us. After being whirled by the surging waters we were driven against Rev. Dr. Beale’s house, where the family were huddled in his attic story. He helped us into the room, which our addition made more crowded.

The fierceness of the flood and the sight of tumbling houses made us fear that our refuge would soon fall. We then determined, if possible, to escape over the floating and accumulating roofs and wreck to Alma Hall. Dr. Beale procured a rope, with which he let us down upon the roof of a floating house, which we secured to his residence. There were about twelve persons, women and children, besides Dr. Beale, Mr. Lloyd, and myself. Dr. Beale was the last to leave the attic, having secured our escape.

With great labor we made our way over the roofs and debris. Strewed upon and fastened in the wrecks were the dead and wounded and dying. It was a heartrending sight, and we did what we could on our way to help or comfort the sufferers. Among these I recognized Mrs. Young (since deceased), her daughter Rose and son-in-law, J. Fleming. We finally got into Alma Hall, where we spent the night amid scenes that are too sad to recall.

...One of the saddest things was the distressing cries of little children for water and food. The only water that could be obtained was the drippings from the roof of the adjoining bank, under which I held a pitcher.

In the morning we got out of the second-floor windows, and, clambering for three squares over wrecks of houses, railroad cars, locomotives, trees and every other imaginable things, with dead bodies al around us, we reached the ground, a sorrowful group indeed. Here I met with seventeen others, and we immediately appointed chief of police, with full powers to act. Without food for twenty-four hours, and with insufficient clothing, I organized a force of four hundred men and distributed them through the city, to protect property and the bodies of the dead from thieves, who had already begun to ply their nefarious vocation. I maintained this force until General Hastings arrived.

From Rev. Dr. David Beale's book Through the Johnstown Flood, pp. 344-348.

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