montgomery statement

Where were you employed on the last day of May last?
A. By the Pennsylvania Railroad at Conemaugh.

Q. In what capacity?
A. Telegraph operator.

Q. Were you one of the regular operators there?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. How long had you been there?
A. About one year.

Q. What hours were you on duty?
A. From four to twelve in the evening.

Q. You were on duty on Thursday night, May 30th?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Tell us whether there was a heavy rain that night.
A. Yes, sir, there was a heavy rain. I remember of it raining about as hard as I ever saw it rain. I know it came down very hard at times, and probably 15 or 20 minutes at a time; then it would let up for intervals of a while. Just before I went back home before 12 o'clock, it rained very hard, and I didnt [sic] have any umbrella to go home with, and I waited half an hour until it would probably slack up, but it didn't slack up any, and I went home without an umbrella, and I remember of getting very -- wet. [sic]

Q. On\ [sic] Friday, what time did you get back to the station?
A. I didn't go down in the forenoon at all, but I was around the station and telegraph office all afternoon mostly.

Q. Who was in the telegraph office at the time?
A. Charles Hawk and S. A. Cherry.

Q. Did you hear anything said about them getting a message about the condition of the South Fork dam?
A. Oh yes; they got a message that the dam was liable to break at any time.

Q. What time was the message received?
A. Some time after dinner.

Q. Was you there when it came?
A. No, sir.

Q. How do you know they get it?
A. The operator told me got it.

Q. What did he do after he got it? Bid he notify anybody?
A. Yes, sir he notified different persons?

Q. How do you know he did?
A. I know he told nearly everybody because I heard him/tell [sic] them

Q. What did he say?
A. He said the dam was in danger of breaking.

Q. That was about what time?
A. In the afternoon; I think it was about 1 o'clock.

Q. Do you know whether he got more than one message?
A. No, I don't know; I'm not positive whether he got more than one or not. I don't think they did.

Q. Was the fact that he got that message pretty generally known?
A. Oh yes, it was known, but of course, nobody paid any more attention ot [sic] it then it there hadn't been one at all. I know I didn't for one. It seemed like a rumor and they didn't take any belief in it.

Q. Can you give me any idea of how high the water was when you went there in the afternoon of Friday?
A. Well at 12 o' clock it was out of its banks at places, but just along the railroad it wasn't out of its banks there.

Q. Was it out of its banks up where these three trains were standing?
A. No, sir, it wasn't .

Q. How far were those trains, the two Day Express from the bank of the river?
A. Well, they were 400 feet anyhow.

Q. Did you consider them in a safe place?
A. Oh yes, I considered them perfectly safe. They were moved from the river siding up onto another siding where we considered them safe. They weren't safe when they first pulled up to Conemaugh, but afterwards they were moved by the Yard Master, and then we considered them safe.

Q. W here [sic] were you when the flood came from the dam?
A. I w as between the Day Expresses and the telegraph office.

Q. Now, state what appearance it had to you when you first saw i [sic] it. What did it look like?
A. Well, it was just a mountain of water coming down, full of trees, houses, and everything; and the water seemed to be rolling over and over, and just crushing everything in front of it. If it struck anything, you never saw it after that.

Q. How did you manage to escape?
A. Well, I heard that engine, 1134, coming around the curve, and the engineer was whistling, and it drawed my attention to it. I just though the dam must have broken by the way the engine whistled, because it was a very unusual whistle, and I saw a man motioning his hand, and I thought that was to run, and I ran. I started , and I didn't run more than three or four rods until I saw the water coming.

Q. Then you did run?
A. Yes, sir, then I did run, and I didn't take the streets either; through the alleys, lots, and everything else.


(Mr. Montgomery has left the service of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, and his future address will be "Pottsgrove, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania") 7-22-89


Last updated: February 26, 2015

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