Tower Operator Shade statement

Q. Where were you employed at the time of the big flood?
A. At "AO" tower, about a mile and a half east of Conemaugh.

Q. How Long had you been in the service as an operator?
A. Since March 1889.

Q. I wish you would state whether you received any message on Friday from any person, and from whom, in reference to the danger of the South Fork dam breaking.
A. The section foreman at Conemaugh carried a message from Mineral Point, dated [sic] "South Fork via Mineral Point"; he carried it down about 12.30, and I sent it about 1 o'clock. It was addresses to "R.P." at Pittsburgh, and J. C. Walkinshaw, Yard Master, Conemaugh. It was sent between 12 and 1 o'clock.

Q. Who did you send it to?
A. Operator Haak received it at Conemaugh; I don't remember just who received it at Pittsburgh.

Q. What was the name of the Division Foreman that brought it down to you?
A. L. L. Rusher.

Q. Where did he bring it from?
A. Mineral Point.

Q. Why did he bring it to you?
A. The wires were all broke between "AO" and"MP" [sic] and he could not send it by wire.

Q. What were the contents of that message?
A. The message read "The waters at South Fork dam are very high and it is liable to break at any moment; notify people of Johnstown and vicinity to prepare for the worst."

Q. By whom signed?
A. I don't remember the signature.

Q. Wasn't it the operator?
A. No, sir, it wasn't the operator. I think it was C. P. D. , the Agent at South Fork.

Q. When you sent that message, you knew it was received, did you at Conemaugh and Pittsburgh?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Now, did you get any other message that day?
A. Yes, sir, I got another message between 2 & 3 o'clock.

Q. Where did it come from?
A. From the same place. It was carried down by Mr Rusher. I couldn't rai se [sic] Pittsburgh on account of the wires being down west of there, and I sent it to the o erator [sic] at Conemaugh and told him to do his best with it, and about 3.15 or along there, I got Pittsburgh again and gave it to him.

Q. What was in that message?
A. "The waters at South Fork are now running over the breast of the dam, and it will break in a few minutes."

Q. Whose name was signed to that message?
A. I couldn't say; I don't remember the signature.

Q. What did you do with it after you got it?
A. I filed it after I sent it. I sent it to Conemaugh first when I found I couldn't get Pittsburgh, and in the course of half an hour or so, the wires got all right again, and I sent it to Pittsburgh. It was left on file in the office, and is gone now.

Q. Why is it gone now?
A. The tower was swept away. The tower was pulled over the bank and all the messages were gone.

Q. Were they gone, or just merely wet?
A. They were gone; torn up, and some (?)ay around wet.

Q. You never was able to recover them?
A. No, sir.

Q. Was there any other message than those two?
A. No, sir, those are the only two message I received.


By E. S. batchelor. [sic]

Q. In that last message, instead of saying the dam would break in a few minutes, didn't it say it was getting dangerous?
A. Well, it may probably have been that way; it was something to the effect that there was danger of the dam breaking in a short time.


Last updated: February 26, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

733 Lake Road
South Fork, PA 15956

Phone:

(814) 886-6170

Contact Us