Education: Johnstown Flood Museum

Johnstown Area Heritage Association
Primary source: Survivor stories

Survivors describe the Flood

Mr. Morrell Swank

Mr. Morrell Swank tells of the thrilling and terrible experience of himself and family on that ever-memorable Friday evening, as follows:

When the great flood struck my residence at No. 312 Main Street I was on the second floor with my wife and two children and servant girl. My house was crushed like an egg shell right over our heads. My little son Roy was crushed to death in my arms. Just when I thought my last moment had come, the water raised the house and pushed us upward through the ceiling.

In a few moments we were carried down a considerable distance below the Kernville bridge. My wife and I were only about four feet from each other, and she had the baby in her arms. I succeeded in getting loose, and took the baby from my wife and put it on a house-roof that was floating alongside of us. I then reached over to help my wife on the roof. Just then the water commenced to back up from the stone bridge, and I was whirled around out of reach of my wife, who drifted away, and she was drowned right before my eyes.

Imagine my feelings when floating on the water about fifty feet deep, and houses crushing all around me loaded with human freight, the city under water, the Catholic church burning, and the rain coming down in torrents. The baby and I were finally rescued about a quarter of a mile up the Stony Creek. My servant girl, wife, son, parents, one brother and a sister were drowned, and only three of their bodies have been recovered.

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

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