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Shadows of Despair

Another graphic account of the fearful calamity is furnished by an eye-witness: The dark disaster of the day with its attendant terrors thrilled the world and drew two continents closer together in the bonds of sympathy that bind humanity to man. The midnight terrors of Ashtabula and Chatsworth evoked tears of pity from every fireside in Christendom, but the true story of Johnstown, when all is known, will stand solitary and alone as the acme of man’s affliction by the potent forces to which humanity is ever subject. The menacing clouds still hover darkly over the valley of death, and the muttering thunder that ever and anon reverberates faintly in the distance seems the sardonic chuckle of the demon of destruction as he pursues his way to other lands and other homes. The Waters Receding But the modern deluge has done its worst for Johnstown. The waters are rapidly subsiding, but the angry torrents still eddy around Ararat, and the winged messenger of peace has not yet appeared to tell the pathetic tale of those who escaped the devastation. It is not a hackneyed utterance to say that no pen can adequately depict the horrors of this twin disaster–holocaust and deluge. The deep emotions that well from the heart of every spectator find most eloquent expression in silence–the silence that bespeaks recognition of man’s subserviency to the elements and impotence to avert catastrophe. The insignificance of human life is only fully realized by those who witness such scenes as Johnstown, Chatsworth and Ashtabula, and to those whose memory retains the picture of horror the dread experience cannot fail to...

The Awful Work of Death

The record of June 3rd continues as follows: The horror of the situation does not lessen. The latest estimate of the number of dead is an official one by Adjutant General Hastings, and it places the number between 12,000 and 15,000. The uncovering of hundreds of bodies by the recession of the waters has already filled the air with pestilential odors. The worst is feared for the surviving population, who must breathe this poisoned atmosphere. Sharp measures prompted by sheer necessity have resulted in an almost complete subsidence of cowardly efforts to profit by the results of the disaster. Thieves have slunk into places of darkness and are no longer to be seen at their unholy work. All thoughts are now fixed upon the hideous revelation that awaits the light of day, when the waters shall have entirely quitted the ruins that now lie beneath them, and shall have exposed the thousands upon thousands of corpses that are massed there. A sad and gloomy sky, almost as sad and gloomy as the human faces under it, shrouded Johnstown to-day. Rain fell all day and added to the miseries of the wretched people. The great plain where the best part of Johnstown used to stand was half covered with water. The few sidewalks in the part that escaped the flood were inches thick with black, sticky mud, through which tramped a steady procession of poor women who are left utterly destitute. The tents where the people are housed who cannot find other shelter were cold and cheerless. A Great Tomb The town seemed like a great tomb. The people of...

Multiplication of Terrors

The handsome brick High School Building is damaged to such an extent that it will have to be rebuilt. The water attained the height of the window sills of the second floor. Its upper stories formed a refuge for many persons. All Saturday afternoon two little girls could be seen at the windows frantically calling for aid. They had spent all night and the day in the building, cut off from all aid. Without food and drinking water their condition was lamentable. Late in the evening the children were removed to higher ground and properly cared for. A number of persons had been taken from this building earlier in the day, but in the excitement the children were forgotten. Their names could not be obtained. Death in Many Forms Morrell Institute, a beautiful building and the old homestead of the Morrell family, is totally ruined. The water has weakened the walls and foundations to such an extent that there is danger of its collapsing. Many families took refuge in this building and were saved. Now that the waters have receded there is danger from falling walls. All day long the crashing of walls could be heard across the river. Before daybreak this morning the sounds could not but make one shudder at the very thought of the horrible deaths that awaited many who had escaped the devastating flood. Library Hall was another of the fine buildings of the many in the city that is destroyed. Of the Episcopal church not a vestige remains. Where it once stood, there is now a placid lake. The parsonage is swept away, and...

The Horror Increases

During the night thirty-three bodies were brought to one house. As yet the relief force is not perfectly organized and bodies are lying around on boards and doors. Within twenty feet of where this was written the dead body of a colored woman lies. Provision has been made by the Relief Committee for the sufferers to send despatches to all parts of the country. The railroad company has a track through to the bridge. The first train arrived about half-past nine o’clock this morning. A man in a frail craft got caught in the rapids at the railroad bridge, and it looked as if he would increase the already terrible list of dead, but fortunately he caught on a rock, where he now is and is liable to remain all day. The question on every person’s lips is–Will the Cambria Iron Company rebuild? The wire mill is completely wrecked, but the walls of the rolling mill are still standing. If they do not resume it is a question whether the town will be rebuilt. The Hungarians were beginning to pillage the houses, and the arrival of police was most timely. Word had just been received that all the men employed by Peabody, the Pittsburgh contractor, have been saved. The worst part of this disaster has not been told. Indeed, the most graphic description that can be written will not tell half the tale. No pen can describe nor tongue tell the vastness of this devastation. I walked over the greater part of the wrecked town this morning, and one could not have pictured such a wreck, nor could one...

Death and Desolation

The terrible situation on the second day after the great disaster only intensifies the horror. As information becomes more full and accurate, it does not abate one tittle of the awful havoc. Rather it adds to it, and gives a thousand-fold terror to the dreadful calamity. Not only do the scenes which are described appear all the more dreadful, as is natural, the nearer they are brought to the imagination, but it seems only too probable that the final reckoning in loss of life and material wealth will prove far more stupendous than has even yet been supposed. The very greatness of the destruction prevents the possibility of an accurate estimate. Beneath the ghastly ruins of the once happy towns and villages along the pathway of the deluge, who shall say how many victims lie buried? Amid the rocks and woods that border the broad track of the waters, who shall say how many lie bruised and mangled and unrecognizable, wedged between boulders or massed amid débris and rubbish, or hidden beneath the heaped-up deposits of earth, and whether all of them shall ever be found and given the last touching rites? Already the air of the little valley, which four days ago was smiling with all the health of nature and the contentment of industrious man, is waxing pestiferous with the awful odor of decaying human bodies. Buzzards, invited by their disgusting instinct, gather for a promised feast, and sit and glower on neighboring perches or else circle round and round in the blue empyrean over the location of unfriended corpses, known only to their keen sense of...

The Appalling News

On the advent of Summer, June 1st, the country was horror-stricken by the announcement that a terrible calamity had overtaken the inhabitants of Johnstown, and the neighboring villages. Instantly the whole land was stirred by the startling news of this great disaster. Its appalling magnitude, its dreadful suddenness, its scenes of terror and agony, the fate of thousands swept to instant death by a flood as frightful as that of the cataract of Niagara, awakened the profoundest horror. No calamity in the history of modern times has so appalled the civilized world. The following graphic pen-picture will give the reader an accurate idea of the picturesque scene of the disaster: Away up in the misty crags of the Alleghanies some tiny rills trickle and gurgle from a cleft in the mossy rocks. The drippling waters, timid perhaps in the bleak and lonely fastness of the heights, hug and coddle one another until they flash into a limpid pool. A score of rivulets from all the mountain side babble hither over rocky beds to join their companions. Thence in rippling current they purl and tinkle down the gentle slopes, through bosky nooks sweet with the odors of fir tree and pine, over meads dappled with the scarlet snap-dragon and purple heath buds, now pausing for a moment to idle with a wood encircled lake, now tumbling in opalescent cascade over a mossy lurch, and then on again in cheerful, hurried course down the Appalachian valley. None stays their way. Here and there perhaps some thrifty Pennsylvania Dutchman coaxes the saucy stream to turn his mill-wheel and every league or so...

Portland Oregon Natural Disastors

Storms have occasionally interrupted business. The Oregonians pay no attention to rain and there is no diminution of traffic or travel or in the number of vehicles on the street, even for the most drenching showers. Cold, freezing weather, however, drives dray-men and hackmen to their quarters, and the finest, clearest days may pass with but the smallest possible work done. Snow sends every-one to shelter. The winter usually passes with but little of this. Some years, however, the fall has been considerable, and in 1883 it came so suddenly as to cause a genuine blockade. It fell on December 16, with east wind and a temperature of 19° above zero. The storm shifting, threw down a vast depth of eighteen inches from the southwest, mingled with rain and hail. The east wind finally getting the mastery, brought clear skies and a low temperature, converting the mass of slush into ice. Business and travel were impeded for six weeks. The walks and streets were unfavorable for ordinary vehicles; street car tracks were useless; railroad lines were blockaded east and west, north and south. The city hibernated. To an eastern man the sight was quite ridiculous, since this was nothing more than ordinary weather on the Atlantic coast. But the Portland people preferred to wait cosily in their homes and let the snow bank up at their front doors, expecting the south wind to come any night. Their expectations were finally fulfilled, and if another such a blockade should come, our people would go home, build up the fires, and wait again for the south wind. Occasionally the Willamette freezes...

1894 Hinckley Minnesota Forest Fire Deaths

The exact origin of the fire is somewhat indefinite; the one that visited Hinckley must have started in the region south of Mission Creek. Around this little village much of the pine had been cut. There was in the hamlet twenty-six houses, a schoolhouse, a small sawmill a general store, hotel and blacksmith shop. At the time of the fire there were seventy-three people living in, and adjacent to, this village; a great number of the population were away from home, having gone to Dakota for the harvest. The people had been fighting local fires for a month. At noon, on September 1, great clouds of smoke could be seen in the southwest. By two o’clock the wind became a hurricane, and at three o’clock it was almost as dark as night. The people flocked to the store, and asked the proprietor to telegraph for a train to take them away. By this time the whole village was on fire, and the people proceeded to a potato patch in the rear of the store. For two hours they laid with their faces to the ground until the worst was over, and that night were conveyed by a work train to Pine City. Everyone lost all they had, with the exception of a few who saved a little wearing apparel, which happened to be stored away in satchels. As early as July 16 forest fires were reported in Eastern Minnesota, section men in the employ of the railroads were set to work fighting the flames. Hundreds of tons of hay were destroyed. The fires were generally removed quite a distance...
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