Statement of William Adams

Q. Where do you reside, sir?
A. Conemaugh.

Q. How long have you lived there?
A. About 28 years.

Q. Have you seen freshets or floods in the Conemaugh there?
A. Yes, sir, never one as big as this one though.

Q. Before the present flood which you have alluded to, when was there a flood prior to it that approached it to any degree?
A. Oh, I can't recollect.

Q. Wasn't there one in June two years ago?
A. Yes, I think there was.

Q. How much higher do you think this last flood was before the dam broke, then anyone you ev(e)r [sic] saw in the Conemaugh?
A. Well, it must have been three or four feet higher.

Q. You never saw such high water as that?
A. Yes, sir; I know it never came around my house before, or near it.

Q. Where is your house with reference to the station house?
A. My house is right at the bridge that went across in the yard; we were right in the flat there on the Franklin side of the river, opposite from the station.

Q. What was you employed in on that day of the flood?
A. I have been running on that road for a long time; since '55 (?); I was coupled on ahead of the first section of No. 8 to help her up the hill.

Q. What was your position?
A. Engineer.

Q. What was the number of your engine?
A. 437.

Q. What, if anything, do you know about any warning or telegram being received as to the condition of the South Fork dam?
A. I don't know anything at all, for my part. I was on the engine all day from the time the first section of Day express came up until the water came. We were laying down below the crossing or bridge, and they pulled the train up on the back track up to the station. I went over to Capstick, the Round House Foreman, to get some one to watch my engine until I went over to get my wife out. We got Tom. Sheridan to come out and take the engine until I got my wife on the hill. Just after I went over, the flood fell a little. We had taken up the carpet on the parlor floor and got the furniture upstairs, and I went out to see where the water was and where we would go. My wife is a cripple, and we had to carry her out. She was walking on crutches. Well, I went to the river, and just as I got to the river, I heard an engine whistling up above the round house, and I thought there might be some danger. I ran to my house and told my wife to get out as quick as she could; I said "Get on my back, and I'll carry you", and just then Joe Schry, an engineer, came along, and grabbed her and ran out on the street with her, and we got a chair and put her in it, and carried her away as quick as we could. We just got over the old Portage Railroad when the houses were all going.

Q. You know Mr. Walkinshaw very well, don't you?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Considering the ehight [sic] of the water, and the way the track was torn up west of Conemaugh, and obstructed and torn up east of it , do you think he could have put those trains in any safer place than he did?
A. I don't think he could; I don't know what his orders were.

Q. Suppose there were no orders?
A. Well, he couldn't have put them in any better position than where he had them. He moved all the trains to a place where he thought they would be safe. I was there, and seen him doing that.

Q. And you think as a prudent, careful man, he did all with those trains any man could do?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Did you see the flood coming?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. What did it look like?
A. It just looked like a great body of high water, as high as a house, 30 feet, full of timber, logs, trees, and everything.

Q. What became of your train?
A. The engine that we had, we had cut loose to let a passge [sic] into the station house; and it was washed down near the furnace, about a quarter of a mile, and the other engine was washed off the track, and the train staid there, because the coal scaffold was knocked down and made a big drift right above the trains. The first and second No. 8's were laying together side by side, and No. 12 was laying over on the south side. Second No. 8, I believe, took fire that night some way or another.

Q. Now, except for this extraordinary burst of water from the dam breaking, don't you think those trains were in a perfectly safe place?
A. I would think they were. If I had been on the engien [sic] any other place or any other time---I [sic] wasn't on the engien [sic] at that time when it was coming,---if [sic] I had been on the engine, you couldn't have got me off it. I wouldn't have ever dreamed of anything of that kind taking the engine away.

Q. What did your engine weigh?
A. 50 tons, I think they count them; 114,000 pounds, I think.

Q. It carried it a quarter of a mile?
A. Oh yes.

Q. How many engines we re [sic] there in the round house?
A. Some say 33 and some say 23. They were all scattered around; and there was no engine left on the track at all.

Q. Did the water that swept over these trains pass over into the town of Conemaugh?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. And swept the houses out?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. How many people were drowned living in Conemaugh?
A. There was 18 drowned in Franklin Borough and I think they counted eight in East Conemaugh, besides the passengers; there were some of them lost.

Q. Do you remember of the dam brea king [sic] in 1862?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Where wre [sic] you living when the dam broke in 1862?
A. Just where I do now.

Q. What effect had the breaking of the dam on the yard at Conemaugh? Had it any effect at all? How much of a swell did it make?
A. Oh it made the water pretty high; just a regular high water.

Q. Was it out of its banks?
A. It was bank full, but it didn't do any damage at all.

Q. You recollect the fact that the dam did break in 1862?
A. Yes, sir, I recollect it well; I was working for the Company then the same as I am now.

Q. What time of the year did the dam break?
A. Well, now, I could hardly tell that.

Q. Was it in the Spring, Fall, or Summer?
A. It appears to me it was in the Fall, but I wouldn't be certain about that.

Q. So far as you know, did the water from the dam breaking do any damage above Conemaugh and about South Fork?
A. Not that I know of, no, sir.

Q. Didn't it take any bridges away or anything of that kind?
A. No, sir.

Last updated: February 14, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

733 Lake Road
South Fork, PA 15956


(814) 886-6170

Contact Us