Mineral Point in Cambria County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
The Path of the Flood
Trail hours are from sunrise to sunset.
Unauthorized motorized vehicles prohibited.
No horses permitted.
Bicyclists 12 years old and under must wear a safety helmet.
Camping and campfires prohibited.
Alcoholic beverages prohibited.
Keep right, pass on left, after providing a verbal signal.
Leash and control your pet, remove pet waste and dispose of properly.
Report trail problems to Cambria County Conservation & Recreation Authority at 814-472-2110. For emergencies dial 911.
You are about to start a journey along one of the deadliest rivers in American history. On May 31, 1889, an earthen dam above the town of South Fork collapsed, unleashing a terrifying wall of water into the already flooded valley of the Little Conemaugh River. In less than an hour, entire communities were in complete ruin, 2,209 human lives were lost, and some 27,000 people were homeless.
Johnstown in 1889 was a steel company town of Germans and Welsh. With a population of 30,000, it was a community known for the quality of its steel. Founded in 1794, Johnstown began to prosper with the building of the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal in 1834 and the arrival of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Cambria Iron Company in the 1850s.
Fourteen miles up the Little Conemaugh from Johnstown, two-mile-long Lake Conemaugh was held on the side of a mountain-450 feet higher than Johnstown.
"...when one stands over, as I have done all this week, and sees the bodies of women and innocent little children recovered from the wreckage, frequently the children clasped in the arms of the mothers, and he or she will...break down under the strain...and wonder why it was."
-Charles S. Price, Survivor, June 9, 1889
-by the old South Fork Dam. The reservoir was originally built to supply water for the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal, but the canal system was made obsolete with the coming of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The railroad abandoned the dam and it deteriorated until 1879, when it was bought by the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club to use as a summer retreat. Many in the valley were concerned about the age and condition of the old dam.
Warnings about a possible flood reached the people of Johnstown three times in the hours before the dam broke on May 31st-but they had heard those kinds of warnings before. The South Fork Dam, one of the largest earthen dams in the world, had always held during high water.
When the dam broke at 3:15 p.m., 20 million tons of water took its natural course, traveling 14 miles, at times in a wall 70 to 75 feet high and reaching speeds of 40 miles per hour.
Telegraph lines were down, and Johnstown received no more warning messages. The wave engulfed the town just 57 minutes later.
The Johnstown Flood of 1889 is the story of human progress, human complacence, human error, a terrible rainstorm, and how all of these came together on that fateful day. Almost every family in this valley would be affected in some way by the events of May 31, 1889.
Erected by Federal Highway Administration, PA DCNR, National Park Service.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Disasters • Waterways & Vessels.
Location. 40° 22.584′ N, 78° 50.17′ W. Marker is in Mineral Point, Pennsylvania, in Cambria County. Located in Staple Bend Tunnel Park. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1189 Beech Hill Road, Mineral Point PA 15942, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Allegheny Portage Railroad (here, next to this marker); a different marker also named Allegheny Portage Railroad (here, next to this marker); Staple Bend Tunnel (approx. 1.6 miles away); Johnstown Flood (approx. 3.4 miles away); Sgt. Michael Strank (approx. 3.4 miles away); The South Fork Dam (approx. 3.7 miles away); The Unger House (approx. 3.9 miles away); The Dam Melts Away (approx. 3.9 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Mineral Point.
Credits. This page was last revised on December 28, 2020. It was originally submitted on December 28, 2020, by Mike Wintermantel of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 29 times since then and 6 times this year. Photo 1. submitted on December 28, 2020, by Mike Wintermantel of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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