Recollections of the 1889 Flood, TDN, March 22, 1947
RECOLLECTIONS OF THE 1889 FLOOD By Albert M. Rung Kid NORTH 18TH STREET, HARK IS BURG, PA. The devastating March flood of 1936 is fresh in our memory, while that of June, 1889, is recalled by our older citizens. There has been considerable debate as to which occasion- led the most damage, as well las the highest water; some lo- Icalities have claimed the '89 Iflood far exceeded the 1936 fin destruction, as well as in 'height of its crest. Other frommunities will dispute this ind produce records to prove he later disaster was the greater. We can all agree that both MR. RUNG "were calamities and sincerely hope their like will never visit us again. Unfortunately, floods will continue as a constant menace, and records of years long past will show how fortunate we have been in the past 75 years with the few which have swept through the Juniata Valley. Again we are indebted to the memory of J. Simpson Africa, who has given us a more thorough knowledge of events in days gone by than any other individual in this valley. Mr. Africa kept a book recording various transactions and events from January 1, 1851, to February 27, 1855. In this book—about the size of an ordinary ledger—were written local happenings, which now possess unusual interest, all appearing in neat penmanship for which the old historian was noted. In 1851 he has described the rapid rise of the Juniata and the ensuing damage, and recalls it as the third flood in his time; he was then only nineteen years old. Here is Mr. Africa's record: 1851 July 14th Monday, rained— 15th Tuesday, rained — at night it rained very hard—the water fell in perfect torrents, accompanied with very frequent flashes of vivid lightning and deafening thunder. 16th Wednesday morning I arose at about 5*o'clock and to my great astonishment, the Juniata river which, 12 hours before, was in a very low stage, had swollen to an unusual height and extended from the edoe of our town to the base of Piney Ridge opposite— It has ceased raining — The people in the upper and extreme lower end of Allerigheny Street, and in the neighboring hamlets of Portstown and Smithfield were compelled in the night to leave their habitations and fly to higher ground. Those that were at the river during the night, state that quite early in the morning the surface of the water was completely z covered with grain and hay boxes, boards and etc.—Vineyard and S. Stone Creek were very high—the latter entirely covered the meadow from the River to the 'bottom' almost to the road—many farmers along the large stream lost their entire crop of wheat —No estimate can be formed of the amount of damage done property destroyed etc. This is in my recollection three large floods which have destroyed property—but this one has done far greater damage and injury than any previous one—and we hope it may be many years before we are again visited with such a destructive flood—a more minute account may be found in the newspapers." With the passing of the flood in 1936, and t general estimate of damage having been obtained, curiosity was aroused as to its comparison with the flood of 1889. The late D. M. Stewart was a spectator of both calamities and wrote an account of the damage done in Huntingdon and vicinity, which was given in The Daily News on April 1, 1936. We will therefore give some hig'hlights from Mr. Stewart's well-written contribution of the earlier flood: Rain began falling about two o'clock on the afternoon of May 30 and continued for two days; "had never seen it rain so hard," V/as the unaminous opinion expressed. Reports soon came thick and fast: "Water all over Smithfield and the old fair grounds"; "Portstown in ruin"; "old toll bridge to Smithfield, as well as the Broad Top bridge, are gone"; "water nearing the bottom of the Fourth Street bridge." It was not believed the latter bridge could withstand the tremen- dous force of the rushing wateY, and yet it proved to be the only bridge left standing across the Juniata between Huntingdon and the Susquehanna river. The pressure from th« Raystown branch as it met the Frarikstown, at Ardenheim, turned tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad on edge until they resembled a picket fence. Just west of Mapleton had stood' the Robley home, but afterwards, its site could not be located, nor could the old well on the property be seen. Below Mapleton the railroad tracks at Jackstown were gone, as well as the old canal aqueduct at the sama location. Back in Huntingdon, Muddy Run was an open stream, flowing far beyond its bounds to the consternation of all, who had previously given it little thought. At Seventh and Penn streets, up to the present site of the culvert, waters of Muddy Run, as well as the mill-race, had backed up to an alarming extent. The millrace was used to operate the Fisher and Miller flour mills, which then stood on the site now occupied by the freight station. Unable to find sufficient outlet, the swirling waters were forced to run down Allegheny Street. This area gave an appearance of a a veritable lake, with the old mill standing in its midst as an island. Across^ the river, on what is known as the McMurtrie farm, lived the family of Joseph Logan, and it was here that one well-remembered tragedy occurred when Mrs. Logan lost her life in the swollen waters. Many acts of heroism have been recorded when flood waters swept through the Conemaugh Valley, one of America's greatest calamities, in 1889. On the eastern slope of the- Alleghenies, and down through the Juniata Valley, other deeds of heroism had also taken place which were lost to the outside world by the far-greater catastrophe in the former area. Some time last Summer, several clipp ; ngs were left at The Daily News office by Mr. Isaac Hawn, which were in reference to the late Stewart Lindsay, who had died as a result of being struck by an automobile; believed to have happened in 1931. The clippings tell of the unfortunate Logan family, and the heroism of Lindsay and Thomas Long, as will be noted by the following from Mr. Lindsay's obituary: "He will be remembered for his heroic work performed at the time of the June flood in 1 889. Many will recall how he, together with Thomas Long, risked their lives in saving several persons who were in the midst of the flood. Lindsay and * Long, in a flat-bottomed boat, with fence- palings as oars, rowed from the vicinity of the Stone Creek bridge across the deep, swift waters to what was then known as the Joseph Logan farm." The pair first rescued Mr. Logan from the rising waters after he had mounted a horst in an attempt to escape. Mrs. Logan, also attempted to escape in the same manner as her husband, but the horse she had mounted unfortunately was carried into a swifter moving current. In making valiant efforts to control the animal, she was thrown into the raging torrent when her dress became fastened in a barb-wire fence with resultant loss of her life. Three of the Logan children had taken refuga in their barn, and this was swept from its foundation and was being carried down the river. Again rhe daring rescuers went into action, and the closing paragraph of the obituary tells the result: "After the rescue of Joseph Logan, the two men again set out to overtake the barn in its down-stream course. At what is now known as Snyder's arch they took from the barn the three children and car- ' ried tRem safely to a farm house up Henderson's hollow. Again they braved the swift waters and went to the Womelsdorf farm, also surrounded by water. From this farm they removed Mr. Womelsdorf and his son, Harry, and took them to Henderson's hollow. Both men were highly praised by the citizenry for their bravery." Only those who have seen the Juniata in time of flood can fully realize the hazardous undertaking of the rescuers. Mr. Logan and his three children would have perished in the swollen wafers and the Womelsdorfs would undoubtedly have met a like fate. To accomplish this mission in a flat-bottomed boat, with fence-palings used as oars, would seem to make the daring deed of this brave pair rate of monumental stature. The writer does not recall either Mr. Lindsay or Mr. Long, nor being aware of their heroic action until reading the clipping. He does however, welcome the opportunity—belated as it may be—of recalling the brave deed to others; many of whom may likewise never have learned of the adventure.