J Miller Statement

Q. On the last day of May, where were you employed?
A. I was employed by the Penna. Railroad Company.

Q. What were you doing?
A. I was a brakeman on second Day Express.

Q. When you arrived at Johnstown, what was the condition as to the height of the water in the town?
A. I should judge it was about five or six feet; it was up to the first story of the houses, and people were all in the second story all along the flat there below the station.

Q. How long had you been running on the road before this flood?
A. About four years.

Q. Had you ever seen any flood in the Conemaugh before anything like that one?
A. No, sir, nothing like the one we saw that day.

Q. Had you seen any flood there before?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. How did previous floods compare with this one?
A. This one was la rger [sic] than any I ever saw before.

Q. How much higher was the water than you had ever seen it?
A. I suppose about a foot and a half.

Q. Where did you go next?
A. To Conemaugh.

Q. Well, go on and tell us in your own way what was done with your train when you got to Conemaugh, if it was shifted, and to what place?
A. We arrived at Johnstown, and laid there on the main track, for some time, and then went on to Conemaugh and laid on the main track some 20 minutes, and then we got orders to side track there to let the work train by to go to a slide. Then we took the siding there, and laid ahead of the first section, and after we had been laying there for sometime, we got orders to pull over on the north track, and we went over there onto the extreme north track, and the first section pulled over onto the track next to us, and they laid there side by side. After we got our train in safety there, we started over to the tower, myslef [sic] and the balance of the crew.

Q. When you were about the tower, did you hear anything about the probability of the South Fork dam breaking?
A. No, sir, I heard nothing of it; I didn't hear anything until after the thing was over. There were several reports going around before that, but I hadn't heard anything about the dam breaking.

Q. At this point, tell me how high was the water there? Was it up to bank full?
A. It was up to bank full, running a very strong current.

Q. How far was your train away at its furthest point from the river?
A. It was in the neighborhood of fifty yards away from it.

Q. Now, when the flood came, and bursted over that land at Conemaugh, whe re [sic] were you?
A. I was on the rear car of the Mail train.

Q. Who was in the car with you?
A. Conductors Bell, Easton, Warthen, Brakemen McGuigan, Brady, and myself, and one passenger off of the first section of Day Express. After we saw the iron bridge go away, it was raining very hard, and it was very chilly, and we all started up to the Mail Train to build a fire and get our clothes dry. So we went up there, and McGuigan, I believe, started to build a fire, and the balance of us sat down, and got to talking about the river being so high, and had never been seen so high before; and there was a freight train laying right below the iron bridge, and we got to talking about that; that the train had just gotten away in the nick of time, as the banks had given away and washed the tracks away underneath it.

Q. Was that on the same track as the Mail Train?
A. No, sir, it was on the extreme south track, right along the river; the Mail train was laying in above the tower.

Q. When the flood came, what did you do?
A. When the flood came, we started for the hill-side.

Q. And how close was it to your when you started to run?
A. It was coming around the curve there above the coal tipple.

Q. How far away?
A. Well, I suppose that would be at least three hundred yards, as near as I could judge.

Q. Then you didn't go back to your train at all?
A. I crossed over to the train, and looked in the first sleeper and saw everybody was out, and everybody seemed to be running and of course, I followed them. On the road going over, I picked up that cripple, that young man Ross, who was lost, and I carried him some fifty yards, and dropped him. I had to drop him to save myself. I saw it was either lifer or death with me, and I dropped him, and went for the hill.

Q. He was lost, was he?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Where did he live?
A. He had formerly lived at Homewood. He was then making his home with his sisters in New Jersey, and was on his way there.

Q. What was his name?
A. John Ross

Q. Was he a single man?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. How old was he?
A. I couldn't say.

Q. Well, judging from appearances, what was his age?
A. About 33 or 34.

Q. As for as you could see at that time, was your train put in as safe a place as it could be put?
A. Yes, sir, it was.


Last updated: February 26, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

733 Lake Road
South Fork, PA 15956

Phone:

(814) 886-6170

Contact Us