Online Encyclopedia

JOHNSTOWN

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V15, Page 475 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JOHNSTOWN, a city of Cambria county, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., at the confluence of the Conemaugh river and Stony creek, about 75 M. E. by S. of Pittsburg. Pop. (1890), 21,805; (1900), 35,936, of whom 7318 were foreign-born, 2017 being Hungarians, 1663 Germans, and 923 Austrians; (1910 census) 55,482. It is served by the Pennsylvania and the Baltimore & Ohio railways. The city lies about 1170 ft. above the sea, on level ground extending for some distance along the river, and nearly enclosed by high and precipitous hills. Among the public buildings and institutions are the Cambria free library (containing about 14,000 volumes in 1908), the city hall, a fine high school, and the Conemaugh Valley memorial hospital. Roxbury Park, about 3 M. from the city, is reached by electric lines. Coal, iron ore, fire clay and limestone abound in the vicinity, and the city has large plants for the manufacture of iron and steel. The total value of the factory product in 1905 was $28,891,806, an increase of 35.2% since 1900. A settlement was established here in 1791 by Joseph Jahns, in whose honour it was named, and the place was soon laid out as a town, but it was not incorporated as a city until 1889, the year of the disastrous Johnstown flood. In 1852 a dam (700 ft. long and loo ft. high), intended to provide a storage reservoir for the Pennsylvania canal, had been built across the South Fork, a branch of the Conemaugh river, 12 M. above the city, but the Pennsylvania canal was subsequently abandoned, and in 1888 the dam was bought and repaired by the South Fork hunting and fishing club, and Conemaugh lake was formed. On the 31st of May 1889, during a heavy rainfall, the dam gave way and a mass of water 20 ft. or more in height at its head swept over Johnstown at a speed of about 20 M. an hour, almost completely destroying the city. The Pennsylvania railroad bridge withstood the strain, and against it the flood piled up a mass of wreckage many feet in height and several acres in area. On or in this confused mass many of the inhabitants were saved from drowning, only to be burned alive when it caught fire. Seven other towns and villages in the valley were also swept away, and the total loss of lives was 2000 or more. A relief fund of nearly $3,000,000 was raised, and the city was quickly rebuilt.
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