Laborer Fred Ehrenfeld Statement

Q. Please state what your age is now?
A. My age is 45.

Q. Where were you born and raised?
A. I was born in Germany, and I was raised on the mountain about Wilmore.

Q. How old were you when you came from Germany?
A. Seven years.

Q. You grew up then in the neighborhood of Wilmore?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. At what time did you first become acquainted with the South Fork dam, known as the reservoir; in other words, how old were you when you first saw it?
A. I can hardly tell. I judge about thirty years ago we used to go across there, when we were boys. They had a camp-meeting [sic] over there, and we used to go down there in bathing.

Q. You saw the reservoir then before it broke away in 1862?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. As you grew up, what employment did you get, and follow?
A. I went on the rilroad. [sic]

Q. On the Pennsylvania Railroad?
A. Yes, sir, In May 1862. [sic]

Q. In what capacity?
A. As track laborer.

Q. You did not see the water from the dam when it broke?
A. No, sir.

Q. Were you over there after it did break?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Now describe what sort of a rent was made in the face of the dam, if you can.
A. Well, the dam just runs across the ravine; stretched from one hill to the other, and it just took out a regular "V" shaped gap on the western side of the center.

Q. Did the bottom of the "V" reach to the bottom of the dam, or bed of the creek below?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. So that the dam went out clear and clean in 1862 as you state?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Now, when were you up there after the dam broke in 1862?
A. Indeed, I can't tell you that.

Q. Tell me whenit was your attention was called to it; what you did in relation to watching the dam, and who gave you the intructions.
A. I thing about 1880 (?) my attention was called to it by the Superintendent, Mr. Pitcairn, to watch it carefully, and he put me in mind of the flood when it had broke there, of the damage it did at South Fork at the bridge, and I think he stated that if it occurred again, it would quite likely do the same damage, and he told me to watch it carefully, and make a report from time to time to him.

Q. Pursuant to those instructions, what did you do?
A. I did that; made examinations; I went frequently to the dam myself, and I sent my assistant, who was an engineer---

Q. Who was your assistant?
A. Well, I had different assistants; Fred. Rosenburg was one, David Vaughn another, and just as they cam, I used to send them up, and in addition to that, I gave my foreman, who lives at South Fork, instructions to watch it well, and in case of a rain storm to go up, and he used to tell me of going up, and I know he did go up in the rain storms to see the dam, and he generally reported that everything was all right.

Q. What is his name?
A. A. H. Lytle.

Q. Where does he live now ?
A. He is still living at South Fork.

Q. How frequently did you go up, or have your assistant go up after 1880 to look at that dam?
A. I suppose between my foreman and assistant, 20 or 30 times a year.

Q. On any of these visits, did you find anything wrong with the dam, and if so, did you call anybody's attention to it connected with the South Fork Fishing Club, and if so, what was (done), if anything?
A. We found some small leaks down at the masonry at the bottom. I might say there was masonry built in there, and there were pipes put in by the State, with valves to let the water out to feed the canal; and there were always little leaks around that masonry where the earth connected with the masonry. We found some leaks there, which we reported to Mr. Pitcairn.

Q. Well, what was done towards remedying the leakage?
A. We didn't report direct to the Club. We reported to Mr. Pitcairn; but there was work done. I might state that Mr. Pitcairn, Mr. Unger, and Mr. Ruff and myself, all went up and examinend those leaks, and talked the matter over as to what would be the best plan to stop the leakage, and among other things, horse manure was suggested and so on; and I don't know what material they used, but they went to work, and they stopped the greater portion of the leaking, but aftr the work was done, we still found a few small leaks, which upon examining carefully, we came to the conclusion was the water from the springs which came out of the side of the hill, because it wasn't the water from the lake at all; it was sulphur water.

Q. Were the leaks repaired from time to time?
A. They were repaired with the exception of thoe two small leaks which we concluded didn't come from the lake, but that were from springs.

Q. In your visits there, how many feet was the water from the level or top of the breast of the embankment of the dam?
A. The highest I ever saw it was in the Spring when the snow water and flood came, when it was five feet from the top of the dam.

Q. What date was that?
A. Thatwas [sic] the fourth month and the seventh day of 1886; 4-7-86

Q. Was the water as high that time as ever you saw it?
A. I never saw it higher than that; five feet from the top.

Q. Would you consider that a pretty high stage of water for the reservoir?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. How much higher was it than you ever saw it?
A. By the spill-way, where it was very boisterous, and exceedingly high, I suppose it was a couple feet, perhaps, higher than I ever noticed it.

Q. Did you leave your position there, and if so, at what time?
A. I left the 26th day of December 1888.

Q. And where did you go?
A. To Greensburg, Westmoremand County.

Q. Up until that ti(m)e, did you follow out the instructions received from Mr. Pitcairn in relation to looking after the safety of that dam?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. And how did your foreman do?
A. He carried out my instructions up until the time I left, and I suppose up until the time of this last flood. The order was never countermanded.

Q. It was a standing order, was it?
A. yes, sir.

Q. Was he a faithful, efficient man?
A. Yes, sir, he is a very good man.

Q. In all the visits you made there up until the time you went away, did you ever see anything about that dam that would lead you to believe that there was a liability that it would be swept away?
A. I never did.

Q. What is your reason for that opinion?
A. It was such a strong structure, I thought it was simply impossible for the water to sweep it away. I believe I have expressed myself in letters to that effect.

Q. That was your honest conviction and judgement after examinations, in reports to Mr. Pitcairn?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. And you did report so?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. And that is you deliberate judgment now since the flood?
A. Yes, sir, I never thought it could or would break.

Q. And you think no ordinary flood would have effected it, and that it required an extraordinary and mighty flood to sweep it away?
A. It never would have gone away in an ordinary flood; it required something extraordinary undoubtedly, something entirely unlooked for, to sweep it away.

Q. How often did you see Col. Unger and Mr. Ruff up at the dam?
A. I saw Col. Unger quite frequently. I don't remember Col. Ruff very well. I only got acquainted with him that day, and I don't know whether I would know him if I were to see him again or not. But Col. Unger has been up there perhaps 50 times or 100 times; I have seen hime so often in the last ten years.

Q. Did he appear to be desirous of giving attention to the condition of the dam as to its safety?
A. Yes, sir; he seemed to be very anxious to have everything done well, and I believe, he was seeking after knowledge; he wanted to get "pointers as he called it, from men he thought better judges than himself.

Q. You weren't bout Johnstown, Conemaugh, or South Fork the day of the flood, so that you have no personal knowledge of it? A. No, sir. [sic]


Last updated: February 26, 2015

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