The Johnstown Flood
George Fearnley

George Fearnley, a wire drawer of Clifton, emigrated to America around 1881 and settle in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

He was a witness to the Johnstown Flood of 31st May 1889, when the South Fork Dam, upstream of the town of Johnstown, burst after several days of heavy rain.

On 12th June 1889, he wrote a letter to his siblings in Brighouse

Dear Brothers & Sisters,

I write to you a few lines at present to let you know that we are all safe. You will know a long time before you get this what a great calamity visited Johnstown on the last day of May. I should have let you know sooner, but I could get no writing paper. Pretty nearly all is swept away by flood. I never saw such a change in all the years I have lived as what I saw here in a few minutes. I send you a paper and that will tell you more than I can. Alice Mary had a marvellous escape. The house that she was in was washed away, and, in fact, all the streets were washed away on that side of the town. She was washed away about a quarter of a mile to the front of the doctor's house that withstood the flood, and she was pulled out of the water with one foot badly bruised and the other leg not so bad. Eliza I have not seen yet, but I know she is safe. Out home is standing, but is a wreck, though, in a way, we can live in it; but, my God! what a wreck all round and this side of the town is nothing to the other side. The two children at the house where Alice was are drowned. I will send you more when things get settled. So with these few lines I conclude.

From your affectionate brother, GEORGE FEARNLEY

Similar letters were sent by George Robinson from Brighouse, and Vincent Smith from Rastrick, who were living in Johnstown at the time of the catastrophe

© Malcolm Bull 2018
Revised 08:32 /5th March 2018 / mmf1317 / 4879

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