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Polkafest 2024 Starts In:

The Johnstown Flood

Over 130 years ago… In the waning years of the nineteenth century, the steel barons from Pittsburgh enjoyed a private retreat in the mountains of Cambria County. Known as the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, the members included Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick. The club boasted a multi-acre lake, boathouses and cottages. A large clubhouse served as a hotel and restaurant for members and their guests. Life was easy along the lake until the rains came that day. The storm began on Memorial Day and continued through the night.

On May 31, 1889, rising water in the lake breached the South Fork Dam, sending twenty million tons of water roaring through the Conemaugh Valley. The massive wall of water destroyed everything in its path. Houses, railroad cars and other debris all became part of the deadly mix that crashed into Johnstown and literally swept the town away. When it was all over, 2,209 people were dead; but from the destruction rose a spirit of survival and commitment that is still alive in Johnstown.

Visiting the following sites and points of interest is an unforgettable journey through a poignant time in Johnstown’s history; here the lessons of the past still apply today.

Learn the shocking story of the Great Johnstown Flood of 1889 and Johnstown’s remarkable recovery.

Flood Facts:

  • 2,209 people lost their lives
  • The flood was the worst natural disaster of the 19th century
  • The flood was the first disaster relief effort of the American Red Cross
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