At about 9:45 last night, just after many had retired to their beds and others were enjoying a rest after a very oppressive day, the town was startled with a hoarse revellie from the whistles of the collieries up the Lehigh Valley. The first thought, naturally, was of fire, and the firemen rushed to the hose houses. A few minutes later the cry passed along, "The dam has broke," and then ensued a panic of the most dreadful character.
With the fear of a repetition of the Johnstown disaster in their hearts, the people fairly went wild, and breaking from their beds and doors panic stricken, men, women and children rushed through the streets to the hills, the sides of which were black with the hurrying crowd. Many ran as far as Smith's farm on the one side, and the cemetery on the other, before recovering from their panic.
Standing on the bridge near Smith's livery the writer saw a wide-spreading stream come rushing down Main street, on which the rays of the electric light glittered and danced. The stream divided at the intersection of Main and Centre, and spread in three directions. A large part of the stream flowed along Main street, the water going as far as Mahanoy street. West Centre street became a roaring torrent, while at every side street the water passed oft in the direction of the creek. Borne on the breast of the flood was debris of all kinds, huge pieces of timber, store boxes, and all other riff - raff caught up by the torrent and carried along.
For full fifteen minutes the flood seemed to gain in volume, the black waters covering the streets, and finding their way into basements, and every nook and cranny. Then the waters began to rapidly subside, and in their place remained a covering of slime and mud in some places several inches deep, and all the indescribable debris and riff-raft of the flood.
It would be impossible to give at this hour anything like a detailed description of the effects of the remarkable flood. The extent of the damage in town can only be guessed at, but it will amount to a considerable figure. On Main street, especially, huge pieces of timber, fallen telegraph poles, were piled up in the street, against which all manner of debris piled up. The condition of things between the town and the water company's dam is simply frightful. Houses in the track of the flood have been torn from the foundations and toppled over, the water and debris swept into the workings of Schuylkill and North Mahanoy collieries, doing great damage, the full extent of which will not be known for several days.
Immense quantities of coal dirt were washed away by the stream, and at many points in the valley and around the collieries, immense masses of dirt, timber, and other riff-raff has been piled up over the railroads. Traffic on the railroad was suspended, and the late trains arriving here on the L V.R.R. could get no father than this point. A bridge near Schuylkill colliery was carried away.
The depth of the stream which rushed down North Main street, was fully two feet. As it came on it was accompanied by a rumble and noise that could be heard quite a distance away. All that section of town lying north of the railroad bridge and along the creek shows the most serious effects of the flood.
In Butcher's alley, buildings have been badly damaged and torn from their foundations and wagons and other property are dammed up in shapeless confusion near the side of the creek. The bridge on North Main street is partially destroyed. In the first ward cellars are submerged and a great deal of damage has been done in the lower section of town.
At this hour it is impossible to speak with any degree of certainty regarding the cause of the breaking of the dam, The reservoir which broke is the main one owned by the company, known as dam No.2. Almost the entire breast is carried away. lately the breast of this dam had been raised, and for several months it has contained about two inches more water than before. Yesterday workmen were engaged in the wing at one side of the dam, fixing the breast. and this accounts for the muddy condition of the water which was noticed yesterday. The dam was tapped also to lighten the pressure along the breast, but the probabilities are that the dam broke from below, the watchman having noticed a waste of water along the base of the breast. Almost the entire breast of the dam has gone down. Below the broken dam is dam No.1 -- near Craig's patch -- which fed the water mains. Into this the mass of earth and stone was carried and it was filled clean to the brim with the refuse deposited
The town is left absolutely without water and at the mercy of fire should it break out. Inquiries of the authorities of the Water Company this morning elicits the statement that they will go to work at once to repair the damage, but have no idea how soon the water will be running again. At several points the water pipes are washed away, and it is feared the pipes are so filled up with dirt that they will have to be taken up and relaid. The outlook is extremely gloomy.
It might have been worse. A bridge over the creek at Coles was carried away. Steckle's boiler shop, above the LV. depot. got the full force of the flood, and is a bad wreck. The terrors of the night were increased by the baseless rumors which were flying about loss of life. The terror and panic was simply frightful and some of the scenes were enough to cause the stoutest heart to quake. The effects of the flood down the valley were not as bad as expected. The stream had room to widen out, and its force and violence was broken.
The Water Company has a big job before them. A large force of men should be employed, night and day, so that the town shall be rescued from its terrible dilemma. Council lost no time in setting men to work at cleaning up the streets. The work cannot be pushed to rapidly, and the public health demands that it be done thoroughly.
At Robinson's Patch three houses occupied by families named Welsh, Ryan, and Mulvey were completely carried away, and destroyed by the flood. Rumors of loss of life at Robinson's are denied. The cellars of the Mansion House and Kelly's cafe were filled with water almost to the level of the street. The steamer of the Humane Fire Company was engaged during the night pumping the water out of the Mansion House cellar.
Homer Boyer's wheelwright and blacksmith shop received the force of the flood and the buildings are all broken and twisted out of shape. The houses near by owned by Edward Fogarty and others are also badiy damaged, with debris piled up all around them.
The town was left in complete darkness. About 1 o'clock the electric lights went out owing to the impossibility of securing water to feed the boilers. An hour afterward the gas expired also, by reason of breakages in the pipes caused by the flood, and the only iIIuminant left were the coal oil lamps, and where these were missing. the occupants of the houses were in total darkness. About one hundred yards of the branch of the L.V. R. R., connecting Park Place and Barry's Junction, has been swept away. The embankment of this railroad was the first stubborn obstruction the flood met, and it was due to this that a great deal of the force of the ftood was lost. Had the first fierce rush of the water not met this obstacle, the damage would doubtless have been greater.
The streets this morning present a scene of intense activity. The work which began upon the streets, under the direction of the street committee, was continued as soon as possible, in the darkness, and now scores of men are cleaning up the timber that is laying along the streets, and sweeping up and hauling away the slime and refuse. Pushing the work as rapidly as possible.
Out of the confused mass of false rumors and mis-statements connected with the flood, these facts appear to be properly verified. When the break in the dam occurred, Thomas Smith, watchman, was engaged in removing some carts from the breast of the wing of the dam, where the workmen had been engaged the previous day. He saw the dam was going and started to run down the valley, to warn the people below. Before. however, he had reached Craig's Patch he heard the cries of members of the Burke and Fry families, and the firing of guns. These two families live in houses just north of the L.V.R.R. branch road. When they heard the noise of the waters they ran out and set up a shrill shouting to alarm the people living in Robinson's Patch. The Frys got out their shot guns and fired several volleys in the air. The momentary halt of the flood as it reached the high railroad embankment, gave the people in Robinson's time to grasp the meaning of the shouting and firing and they rushed from their houses to the neighboring hill sides.
Some very narrow escapes were made. The flood as it rolled along almost totally demolished the houses on the west side of the Patch, occupied by the families of James Wright. Burt Keller, the McCullough boys, and Stephen Toner. It then swept round the sharp curve of the valley, scooping up the surface of the ground at some places to a depth of three to four feet.
The first flow of water reached Robinson's before some of the people had time to reach the high ground on either side, and some of the aged and infirm and children were removed from the track of the torrent just in time. It seems miraculous that no lives were lost. At Robinson's patch the first house to the north was that occupied by James Wright. It was the first to receive the blow. The waters picked it up, and deposited it in a badly wrecked condition about eighteen yards lower down. Mr. Wright lost all furniture in the first floor rooms, and $30 in cash. A chicken coop containing over 80 chickens was washed away.
Herestood a little clump of houses, surrounded by, gardens. The houses were occupied by the families of Patrick Mooney, Michael McCullough, John Elliot, Edward Grimes and Patrick Ryan. The house of Michael McCullough (son-in-law of Patrick Welsh) was completely washed away; no trace of it is left. Patrick Ryan's house was also swept away entirely. As the houses had no stone foundations beneath, it is difficult to tell where they stood. Mooney's house is an almost total wreck. Elliott's and Grimes are torn and twisted out of shape, but remain standing.
Below Robinson's the current divided, and while one part of the stream flowed to the east tearing away the trestling at Schuylkill colliery and the railroad bridge below, the other flowed between the dirt banks leading to Schuylkill Colliery, depositing a great deal of refuse against the dirt banks, tearing up the railroad tracks, pulling down a trestling and carrying away some of the supports of the breaker. The structure, however, remained standing.
Below the collieries the two currents were again compressed into a narrower channel, and the awful force of the flood is plainly evident here in the way it tore up the ground, and the embankments on either side. Big railroad gondolas were picked up like feathers, whirled on the top of waves, and dropped down in the swamp, east of Main street. The piles of wreckage in the swamp and along the railroad in that vicinity are immense. Everywhere the wreckage is piled up.
The waters coming down the swamp came in contact with the railroad embankment, and this again served to reduce the force of the torrent. The scenes which followed in town have already been described. The black torrent swept over that section of town north of the P .&R. railroad bridge, buildings were whirled around by the current and torn asunder. The waters then swept out Main street, going as far south as Mahanoy street. But the main body of water turned down Centre street, submerging cellars of stores, filled with valuable goods, on both sides of the street, clear down to the lower end of the town.
SOME OF THE LOSSES
Thomas Gorman, agent Rochester Brewing Co., $500 on stock. Jas. McGinty, hotel-keeper, $400 to $500 on house, furniture, . J. J. Kelly, $400 on restaurant stock, $200 on house furniture. Mansion House, furniture and stock, $400. David Graham, on stock, $600. Mrs. McHugh, house and furniture, $1,200. W. E. Jones, stationer, stock, $300. P. E. Coyle, hotel-keeper, on stock, $400. Messrs. Bailey and Haldeman, houses and furniture, $1,000. Geo. W. Dennis, on stock, $400. J. W. Snyder, on stock, $850. H. K. Smith, on stock, $500, H. Bachman, Derrick House, damage to hotel and stables, $1,000. W. W. Lewis, saloonkeeper, $180. G. F. Dipper, on stock, $200. Henry Gephart, $800, stock and properties on Main street and alley in rear. James Northey, $800. Edward Oldt, $400. Homer Boyer, $8,000, blacksmith and wheelwright shop. A new addition lately built was completely wrecked and most of contents washed away. Miss M. McHugh, $100, on valuable books. A. H. Egolf, on furniture and property. $600. Smith & Bro., on stock, $800. Brown & Adam, $800. D. K. Bright, $500 on stock. John C. Knapp, $300 damage to Railroad street property. The total losses in town will not fall below $20,000.
JOHN ELLIOT’S STORY
John Elliot, resided at Robinson's Patch, right in the track of the flood. He was an industrious market gardner, and the results of his work in the three-quarters of an acre surrounding his house, was made to yield by careful attention a remarkably large amount of produce, which he disposed of to David Graham, grocer, of town. He tells the following interesting story:
"I was returning from town where I had sold garden produce to Mr. Graham, when I met a friend of Mahanoy City, who had been up the dam fishing during the day. He hailed to me and said, "I would not live where you do tonight for any money," and then explained that the dam was leaking badly and showing all the indications of breaking away. I hurried home and told my wife to get the children around her and prepare to fly at any moment, saying that for the first time in my life I feared the dam would break. My wife had frequently expressed a fear that the dam would some day sweep our home away, but I always laughed at her fears. I had been but a few minutes in the house, when I heard the cry that the dam had burst.
Gathering up the children we fled to the top of the dirt bank of Park No. 1 colliery, a few hundred yards distant from the house. From this point I saw the first of the water come rolling down, strike the house and roll harmlessly aside, and an immense load of fear passed momentarily away. In the next instant, however, the air seemed to grow colder, there was a terrible, indescribable roar of waters, and then the crash of timber as the houses were caught up in the torrent, tom in pieces and dashed along on the crest of the flood. It is impossible to describe the scene, or the sensations I experienced. It seemed fully ten minutes. though probably not one third of that time, before the water had passed, and we ventured down to find the amount of damage sustained.
The main part of the house remained standing, but the kitchens were swept away. Not a vestige of my garden remained. The flood had taken off the surface of the earth to a depth of over a foot along with it, and the exposed rocks along a track about fifty yards wide told of the havoc wrought.
LOSSES AT BOWMAN'S AND ROBINSON'S.
Those who sustained, so far as reported. the severest losses in Robinson's and Bowman's patch were: Patrick Ryan, Bowman's, house swept clean away, and nothing remaining to show where it originally stood. Edward Grimes, Bowman's. house all wrenched apart. and all furniture on first floor destroyed. Mr. and Mrs. John Hoke, father and mother of Mrs. Grimes, lived with them and share the loss. Patrick Mooney's house was moved 18 yards from where it originally stood, one side was torn completely away, and nearly all the furniture of the first floor destroyed or swept away. The house occupied by James Mulvey and wife, an aged couple, and their daughter at Bowman's was swept completely away. Patrick Welsh, an aged man and wife, lived with his son-in-law, Michael McCullough, at Bowman's. They lost everything but the clothes which were on at the time. This is an extremely distressing case. The old people are utterly unable to care for themselves, and are dependent on their family.
FLOODLETS: THE STORY TOLD IN BRIEF BUT INTERESTING PARAGRAPHS.
The man with a camera was on the alert Saturday. The loss in town has been fixed by some as high as $20,000. Probably $15,000 would be nearer the mark. It is difficult to get anything like a full statement of losses and what are given may be wide of the mark, as the sufferers have not yet had time to figure closely on the damage sustained.
Lawyer Wells, of Pottsville, a big stockholder in the Water Company, was a visitor Saturday. He looked ruefully at the immense damage which the company's property had sustained.
Among The Record's visitors Saturday were Editor Major, of the Miner's Journal; Rob Zerbey, of the Daily Republican; Mr. Reed, of the Philadelphia Press; T. T. Williams and Mr. Wragg, of Shenandoah.
All trains on Lehigh Valley road began running on schedule time Sunday. The upper branch road has not yet been rebuilt where the flood burst through its embankment and all freight and coal trains pass through Mahanoy City.
The Water Company has about completed the pipe connections broken by the flood, and today will determine whether the pipes are so filled with earth that a new line of pipe must be laid before the regular supply of water is restored.
David Graham, the West Centre street grocer, says that he will, as soon as his loss is fully ascertained, make a claim against the Water Company, and if the claim is not paid, take the matter into the courts to decide the responsibility of Water Company.
One of the heavy losers by the flood was J, J. Kelly. In addition to the damage to the stock and fixtures of his saloon, corner of Main and Centre streets he sustained a heavy loss on the furniture and carpets of his home. Mr. Kelly resided in Edward Fogarty's house, back of Main street.
A great deal has been made out of Dr. Weber's adventure by the newspapers. The bare fact appears to be that the Dr. was driving up Main street on his way to Robinson's, when the cry came,''The dam has burst." He turned the head of the horse in the opposite direction, and the animal, frightened by the uproar, ran away, breaking a wheel off the carriage. The Dr. escaped with slight bruises.
Another alarm was spread yesterday which scared a great many people in town. It appears that miners working in one of the collieries up the valley, went down in the workings and caused a panic by spreading the rumor that a new break had appeared in the breast of Shoemakers dam, and another flood was imminent. Several miners threw down their tools and made their way out; others followed, and the bosses finding that it would be impossible to work the mine successfully ordered all the men out. The rumor was entirely false.
An exchange recommends the passage of a law creating a Board of Inspectors of dams, but it is very faulty in its knowledge of the directions of Friday night's flood when it says: ''The necessity of such a board has again been illustrated by the bursting of the dam at Mahanoy City. Fortunately no lives were lost on this occasion, but had the situation been different, there is no telling how many would have remained to tell the tale. Had the immense body of water continued on its eastward course it might have affected the large dams near East Mahanoy Junction. These dams are so situated that should they give way the water would have found its way to Tamaqua, and the damage would have been greater and no doubt many lives would have been lost."
One of the fears that were entertained immediately after the flood was for the safety of the men in the mines. The fear proved groundless. Within the mines, the damage was but slight. At North Mahanoy the waters found their way down through an air hole into the mammoth vein, causing some damage. On the surface, however, Schuylkill and North Mahanoy collieries suffered most.
The network of railroad tracks in the vicinity of the two collieries named were badly tom up, the steam and water pipes which intersect each other above and below the surface were laid bare, carried away or twisted out of shape. The heavy posts supporting the east end of North Mahanoy colliery were swept away, and it is a surprise that the structure remained standing. The trestlings crossing the valley at both collieries were swept away. The collieries, except Glendon, resumed work yesterday morning.
The Mahanoy City Water Company has a very valuable property. Well informed persons estimate its value at $250,000. It has been a good paying property, although the company has been constantly enlarging its dams and increasing the value of its plant. The company owns four dams. Two have been damaged by the flood. Their loss is variously estimated, but will probably not fall below $20,000. No.2 dam, which gave way, was the largest owned by the company. It averaged 35 feet in depth, 600 feet across and 1,000 feet in length, with a capacity of 3,000.000 gallons. The breast of the dam had recently been raised, and was not properly constructed to bear the additional weight of water. The late heavy rains had filled the dam to the rim of the breast. The town is now being supplied from the Shoemaker’s dam, but the force is so weak that only the lowest portions of town receive a limited supply.
Sunday was a lively day in town. All day long carriages and farm wagons from the neighboring country, filled with curious people, came in, all intent on seeing the effects of the flood. Fully, forty carriages were standing in front of Smith's livery at 12 o'clock Each incoming train brought its quota to swell the crowd. A steady stream of people tramped up the Lehigh Valley, over the course of the waters. The valley was the scene of bustling activity.
Railroad repair gangs were hauling the railroad cars out of the mud, relaying and ballasting tracks. At each of the collieries forces of men were at work rebuilding trestles and repairing broken steam and water pipe connections. At many points along their line of pipe the Water Company had gangs of men engaged in relaying their pipes. and pushing as vigorously as possible the work which is necessary to relieve Mahanoy City from its water famine. At every spot of interest groups of interested people stood, pointed out, and discussed objects of interest.
It will cost the borough authorities of Mahanoy City from three to five thousand dollars to clear up the town and free it of the rubbish and mud deposited by Friday night's flood in the streets, alleys and private premises. The borough officials are sizing up wonderfully well to the occasion. A special meeting of Council was held on Saturday, and this work was placed in the hands of the Sanitary Committee who were instructed to take such measures as they deem best to remove the accumulated nuisance and preserve the health of the town.
Chairman Cowley, of this committee has issued AN OFFICIAL PROCLAMATION to the citizens to remove from their cellars and premises all washings and offensive rubbish deposited by the flood, and if the same is placed in the streets near the gutter within the next three days it will be carted away at the borough's expense. It is also requested that all premises affected by the flood shall be liberally sprinkled with lime and the borough will furnish the same to those too poor to pay for it. The work of clearing away this rubbish was suspended in the town over Sunday in order to give the tired workers a chance to rest, but this laudable work was again started this morning and will be vigorously pushed until completed.
The full extent of the damage is only too plainly realized now, and it is safe to say that the immediate, direct damage and consequential losses that will follow, caused by the bursting of the Water Company's dam, may reach several hundred thousand dollars. Prominent citizens interviewed by REPUBLICAN representatives agree in placing Mahanoy City's loss at least at $50,000, whilst the Reading Railroad and the Reading Coal & Iron Company will be out of pocket $30,000 to $40,000 while the Lehigh Company's loss will approximate more than half this amount in addition.
The houses of working people along the route of the flood, outside of Mahanoy City, add $5,000 to $10,000 to the amount of the general damage fund.
THE WATER COMPANY must entirely rebuild the bursted dam. and very likely must thoroughly strengthen their other dams, or they will have some very costly litigation to contend with outside of the claims for reimbursement for damages sustained by the people of town and vicinity growing out of Friday night's occurence.
At least three score of houses must either be over-heised or entirely rebuilt while more than two hundred people are losers through damage to the contents of their buildings in amounts ranging from one dollar to $8,000. This latter sum is a fair estimate of the damage sustained by the Edward Fogarty properties on both sides of Main street. Wheelwright Boyer comes in with at least a third of this amount, and Brown & Adams claim a loss of $1,800 on their stock alone. Grocer Smith's loss will run up to four figures. The Mansion House people will have to payout $500 to get their cellar in as good condition as it had been. And so on through a long list of names could an estimate of losses sustained be given. But it is in "Slaughter House" town that the worst collection of havoc shows up. Here, Butcher Seifert has to replace a large two-story building and contents Butcher Quinn follows close behind and Wadlingers claim fully a thousand dollars approximated damage. Altogether five or six thousand dollars' worth of property was destroyed in that quarter alone. In clearing up the debris the borough is carting all rubbish and accumulated foreign matter out on the mountain side above Hill's breaker, where owners can hunt for and reclaim whatever they want and then the intention is to set fire to the balance and bum it up, as the health of the community will not warrant leaving the trash lying there exposed to the hot sun.
The Lehigh company succeeded on Sunday in opening its branch into Mahanoy City from Park Place, but it will be a week or more before the work on the new roadbed required will be finished. All day Sunday, they had a big gang at work putting up tresseling across the break in their main line where the waters first broke through. This road will not be ready for traffic before the middle of the week. The Reading railroad has several hundred men constantly at work rebuilding its coal branches into North Mahanoy and Schuylkill collieries.
At the North Mahanoy colliery the damage sustained is heavy, as right there the creek's course was changed and the flood made a short cut down past the breaker sweeping everything before it and clearing the bodies of a score of coal cars from the wheels as clean as any mechanic could have done, whilst further down toward town the cars and their contents were carried away from the tracks onto the mountain side. These two collieries with Elmwood, Knickerbocker and Ellangowan were flooded respectively from three to twenty feet. At Knickerbocker the mules had to be hoisted. Shipments will not be stopped at any of the collieries, notwithstanding North Mahanoy and Schuylkill will be compelled to use mine water, purified with lime, until the water company can again supply them.
The town is still without water supply and it will be some time before a reasonable service can be given. Meantime the people are getting along as well as they can from the mountain streams, springs and wells within a distance of several miles. The water company thought they could give the town a partial supply yesterday, from their other dams, but find that the mains are clogged with dirt, and this is being remedied as fast as possible.
The REPUBLICAN representatives went over the entire route of the flood yesterday and could write columns of interesting matter relating thereto, did space permit. We can only write briefly on the principal data obtained. An inspection of the bursted dam shows bad construction to say the least.
The original breast of the dam was fifteen feet high with a base of eighty feet and this was constructed mainly of stone, brush and gravel and it stands there today almost intact, but as a larger water supply became necessary loose earth and clay was dumped on top and faced with very rough "rip-rap" or loose stones and the height of the breast thus increased to thirty-five feet and the work still further increasing this height was in progress when the dam burst. Experts in dam construction tell us that for the height of such a dam the base should have been at least 150 feet with the foundation sunk down to bed soil.
The Mahanoy City Water Company is a CLOSE CORPORATION, there seldom, if ever, being any transfer of stock, which is held principally by Han. Edward S. Silliman, of Mahanoy City. the Misses Silliman of South Centre street and Wm. B. Wells, of Pottsville, and the Wigan Estate, of Philadelphia. The stock is said to return very good dividends. What the Water Company intend doing about the losses occasioned by the breaking away of their dam, of course, is not known. There is considerable talk of SUITS BEING ENTERED, but conservative people are advising against this at the present.
About five hundred dollars was collected within a few hours on Saturday amongst the people of Mahanoy City, and this is to be used to supply the pressing necessities of some of the deserving flood sufferers. There are stories afloat that one of the Robinson Patch families had over $1,000 laid away in a trunk, which was carried away in the flood, and that Mrs. Fogarty had $1,500 "planted" in her cellar, all of which is gone.