Statement of Emma Ehrenfeld

Q. Miss. Ehrenfeld, just commence now in your own way, and tell me where you were employed in May last, and by whom.
A. I was working at South Fork in the telegraph tower. I went on duty at 7 o'clock in the morning. It was raining very hard when I went down. I found orders there to hold all trains east for orders. No. 20 was there, and I got orders for them, and they went on east to Sonman. There was an A Extra, and I got orders for them also to go east. The 1167 was on South Fork middle siding, and the 1163 was just west of the tower on the Argyle siding, for orders. Limited came there at 8.46, ten minutes late. They were there, I judge until between 1.30 and 1.45 when they pulled over the bridge to the station. The conductor came to me, and said he though it best to go to the station on account of the water, and the danger of the bridge going out, and in case I got orders for them , they would be there. Of course, that was the last I saw of Limited, after they went to the station. Then, about noon, I judge it was, a man came in very much excited; he says "Notify Johnstown right away about the dam". He says, "Its raising very fast and there's danger of the reservoir breaking I said "Who told you all this?", and he says, "There's a man cmae [sic] from the lake, and he told me". We didn't have any wires then; our wires were all down, and I couldn't work with Johnstown direct.

Q. Who was that person?
A. I think his name was Wetzengreist, or something like that. I didn't know the man personally. He is a man that people generally don't have much confidence in, and for that reason, I scarcely knew what to do under the cirsumstances [sic]. Had it been person I knew very well, or if he had given me a message, it would have been different, but he just told me this in a very excited manner, and I scarcely knew what to do; but of course, I knew the water was high in the river, and thought I would do the best I could, so I called the operator at Mineral Point; he was the only one I could work with west; and I told him, and we fixed up a message, and I asked him to send it. He said he could send it west from there with one of the division men. So we fixed up a message; I don't know how it was worded, but anyway, that there was danger at the reservoir. It was directed to the agent at Johnstown and the Yard Master at Conemaugh. He was to send it by a man to the next office west, and they were to forward it to Conemaugh and Johnstown by wire. Whether it ever reached Johnstown, I am unable to say. About 1.30 or 1.45, the Agent cmae [sic] and he gave me a message addressed to Mr. Pitcairn here in Pittsburgh. I told him about the wires, and the only things I could do was to send it just as I did the other one.

Q. Have you that message?
A. No, sir, they were all taken away with the tower.

Q. It was swept away, was it?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. What were the contents of it, as near as you can recollect?
A. I really couldn't tell you. It was about the reservoir, about the water rising, and there was danger apprehended. I can't just give the exact words. I sent that at once on that wire; just a short signal wire: then Mr. Wilson came in between 2.20 and 2.25, and he have me one, something to the same effect. He told me Mr. Pitcairn had notified him that whenever the reservoir was in danger, he should let him know. I told him I would do what I could to send it, and I sent it just as I did the other ones.

Q. What was the name of the operator at Mineral Point?
A. Pickerel. About 3 o'clock or probably a minute or two after, as I was sitting there, of course we were waiting for it, and the engineer and the conductor of the 1165 were in the office at the time, and it seems were looking out of the window; I was sitting with my back to the window; and they said, [sic]
"Look at the people running! I wonder what's wrong." I looked up and went to the window, and just then, it seemed the cry arose that it was coming, and he looked out of the window and said something about the reservoir going, and he and the conductor started down stairs. I then went to the window and looked out and saw people running, and some were screaming, and some hollowed for me to come, and I looked out of the window on the side of the river, and saw it coming. Of course, I can't describe it to you---

Q. Well, as near as you can, what did it look like?
A. It just seemed like a mountain coming, and it seemed close; of course, I don't know just how close it was, but I knew I must go if I wanted to get out, and I started and ran down the stairs without waiting to get my hat or anything; and there is a coal tipple about opposite the office, and I ran down across the track, and up those steps. It was a very short time, not more than two minutes until the office was taken.

Q. That is the tower you were in?
A. Yes, sir, the telegraph office/ [sic]

Q. Was it taken clean away?
A. Well, as I remember it, the watch bow came down and struck it, and seemed to move it a little, and then I scarcely know how, it went, and was carried away by the water.

Q. And the messages you had sent were all in the office and destroyed?
A. Yes, sir.


Last updated: February 26, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

733 Lake Road
South Fork, PA 15956

Phone:

(814) 886-6170

Contact Us