Telegraph Operator Haak

Q. On the 31st of May last, you were telegraph operator at Conemaugh?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. What time did you go on duty that day?
A. 12 o'clock midnight on the 30th.

Q. What do you know about any messages received regarding the condition of the South Fork dam?
A. There was a message received; I wouldn't state the exact time; it was afetr [sic] 1 o'clock; from half past one to three o'clock, about the South Fork dam being in a critical condition, running over, and liable to break at any moment, and to notify the people at Johnstown.

Q. Do you remember where that message was from?
A. It was from Mineral Point, I think, but said it was brought there on foot.

Q. Could it have been from "AO"?
A. It might have been sent from "AO"; it was dated Mineral Point; in fact, I couldn't be positive whether it was Mineral Point or South Fork.

Q. W ho [sic] was it addressed to?
A. R. P. OD, and Yard Master, Conemaugh.

Q. Who was it sent by?
A. I think it was signed by Dougherty.

Q. The [sic]
Q. The Agent at South Fork?

A. I don't know.

Q. Do you know anything about any other message?
A. That is all I know of.

Q. What was done with that?
A. It was forwarded to the Yard Master in the room below, and he asked me to sent the message to the Agent at Johnstown, and I tried to raise Johnstown by wire, and the operator there refused me several times. By that time the other young man came around to the office---

Q. What other young man?
A. Mr. Cherry. And I gave it to him, and then attended to my own duties on the opposite side. In about ten minutes, I asked him if he got it off, and he said "Yes".

Q. Why did the operator at Johnsto wn [sic] refuse it?
A. I don't know. She didn't know what the message was. She didnt [sic] exactly refuse it, but said she would take it in a minute, or something of that kind.

Q. What do you know about the trains in the Conemaugh yard? Why were they held?
A. I suppose on account of the tracks being w ashed [sic] out at Lilly or Summerhill, above.

Q. What time did No. 12 get there?
A. I couldn't say, because I'm not working the train side; I don't run the block.

Q. Who did that?
A. Mr. Cherry.

Q. How was the rain at Conemaugh on that night?
A. It rained very hard.

Q. How was it during the day?
A. During the day it was raining hard at intervals.

Q. How was the w ater [sic] in the Conemaugh river when you went of duty?
A. I couldn't say, I didn't notice.

Q. W hen did you first notice the river?
A. Not until Day Break.

Q. How was it then?
A. It was half-way up to the top of the bank.

Q. Did it keep rising all day?
A. Yes, sir, itkept [sic] rising all day, and about 3 o'clock, or perhaps a little before or after, if w as [sic] at its highest. It was then just at as a stand still.

Q. Now, what time did the f lood come from the South Fork dam to Conemaugh?
A. It came at exactly ten minutes of four; because the operator was relieved about that time, and I looked around at the clock after he had gone out; I looked up at the clock, and the thought struck me that I would have to stay there ten minutes more until four. It w as [sic] just a few minutes after that that I heard the dam was coming [sic]
I heard the dam was coming. We heard the whistle and all hands jumped up, and we saw the water rising, and I remarked it we had a water mark, I said the w ater [sic] would come across the tracks now a foot, or something like that, and just then I saw Mrs. McKim and her house from just above go; and I saw all the men starting to run, and I started and got down on the tracks and was going to run around by the station and get across the boardw alk [sic] there, and I seen the water coming down the track---

Q. What did it look like?
A. It was just a sheet of water coming across the tracks.

Q. You didn't see the main body of w ater [sic] coming then?
A. Not until I got on the hill.

Q. Do you know anything about any warning given to the passeng(ers)
A. I know of them talking about the messages that had been received; that is, people coming in the tower, and wanting to know it was the truth.

Q. Were they passengers?
A. I don't know; they were strange people to me; some of them must have been passengers.

Q. In your opinion, they knew all about these w arnings? [sic]
A. I think they did know that there was a message sent that the dam was in poor condition.

Q. Did the passengers seem to be in the train or outt [sic] in the yard?
A. There were quite a number of them in the yard, w atching [sic] the river, andseeing [sic] what was going on all afternoon.

Q. You only saw the one message?
A. Yes, sir, that's all.

Q. And you didn't hear the other operator remark anything about it?
A. No, sir; of course, I might have, and not recollect anything about it. If I had thought of anything like this, I might have paid a little more attention to it.

Q. W hen [sic] you received that message, did you feel anyways alarmed about the condition of things?
A. I was a stranger there. I had only been there but eight months, and of course, I listened to other people around there, residents there, and there was talk about the dam breaking, and they said there had been rumors but it never came, and so I thought that w as [sic] how it would be this time.

Q. Who were any of these residents?
A. I couldn't say; I don't remember.

Q. Where had you been before you came to Conemaugh?
A. Atlantic City.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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