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Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood

DigiTrad:
THE JAMESTOWN FLOOD


GUEST,spuddled@aol.com 06 Jun 00 - 11:32 PM
GUEST,Bruce O. 07 Jun 00 - 04:16 PM
GUEST,Mrbisok@aol 07 Jun 00 - 08:35 PM
Dani 07 Jun 00 - 10:21 PM
Pene Azul 07 Jun 00 - 10:39 PM
Sandy Paton 07 Jun 00 - 11:17 PM
Sandy Paton 08 Jun 00 - 12:46 AM
Wolfgang 08 Jun 00 - 06:59 AM
Dani 08 Jun 00 - 09:02 AM
Sandy Paton 08 Jun 00 - 01:59 PM
Sandy Paton 08 Jun 00 - 02:18 PM
GUEST,Mrr 08 Jun 00 - 02:22 PM
GUEST,eric@johansen.co.uk 08 Jun 00 - 03:06 PM
GUEST,spuddled@aol.com 08 Jun 00 - 04:15 PM
raredance 08 Jun 00 - 09:17 PM
GUEST,Bruce O. 09 Jun 00 - 12:54 AM
Wolfgang 09 Jun 00 - 03:58 AM
TheOldMole 09 Jun 00 - 03:45 PM
GUEST,Veggie_Annie@yahoo.com 09 Jun 01 - 09:05 PM
Pene Azul 09 Jun 01 - 09:30 PM
GUEST 04 May 02 - 09:43 AM
Sorcha 04 May 02 - 10:09 AM
Frank Maher (extra) 04 May 02 - 11:07 AM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 04 May 02 - 11:40 AM
masato sakurai 04 May 02 - 12:47 PM
Joe Offer 04 May 02 - 12:53 PM
raredance 05 May 02 - 12:52 AM
Jim Dixon 07 May 02 - 09:49 AM
GUEST,Jim White denorjim@aol.com 10 May 02 - 01:16 AM
Jim Dixon 10 May 02 - 01:36 AM
Joe Offer 10 May 02 - 04:26 AM
Joe Offer 16 May 02 - 06:33 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 16 May 02 - 08:26 PM
Joe Offer 16 May 02 - 11:51 PM
Joe Offer 29 Jul 06 - 03:12 AM
Joe Offer 29 Jul 06 - 03:34 AM
GUEST,Dmystix 26 Feb 07 - 01:29 AM
GUEST 12 Oct 08 - 09:55 PM
GUEST,axysdon 18 May 09 - 11:41 PM
Gweltas 19 May 09 - 01:32 AM
Jim Dixon 20 May 09 - 01:38 PM
fretless 20 May 09 - 03:44 PM
JJ 21 May 09 - 08:32 AM
GUEST 10 Apr 10 - 08:29 PM
GUEST,Scott Manginelli 20 Apr 10 - 12:51 PM
GUEST 13 Jul 10 - 08:43 PM
Joe Offer 13 Jul 10 - 09:07 PM
Joe Offer 13 Jul 10 - 10:29 PM
Bettynh 14 Jul 10 - 01:43 PM
Jim Dixon 21 Mar 13 - 12:12 AM
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Subject: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: GUEST,spuddled@aol.com
Date: 06 Jun 00 - 11:32 PM

Does anyone know the lyrics to The Night of the Johnstown Flood?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: GUEST,Bruce O.
Date: 07 Jun 00 - 04:16 PM

That of Laws' G14 in DT, where Johnstown is misnamed Jamestown?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: GUEST,Mrbisok@aol
Date: 07 Jun 00 - 08:35 PM

Others will give you more scholarly info. The Johnstown flood, mentioned in a Bruce Springsteen song, and the subject of folk songs I'd like to know about, occurred in Johnstown, Pa, in like the l940's. I'm not sure of this, and am outta info rite now.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: Dani
Date: 07 Jun 00 - 10:21 PM

I've never heard a song about the flood, though have read alot about it. I'm sure they must be out there, and I'd love to learn 'em too.

Which Bruce tune mentions it?

I think there must be a historical society of sorts in Johnston, and they might know of such. I'll check around.

Dani


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: Pene Azul
Date: 07 Jun 00 - 10:39 PM

The Johnstown (PA) flood was May 31, 1889 when the South Fork Dam broke likely because of the greed and/or negligence of the steel and railroad tycoons and their associates of the South Fork Fishing And Hunting Club. Over 2000 were killed. I read a great book about it, though I don't recall the author or title.

If I can find info on the book or the song, I'll post again.

PA


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 07 Jun 00 - 11:17 PM

There is a version of "The Johnstown Flood" on my CD of field recordings titled Brave Boys, New England Traditions in Folk Music, a project I did for New World Records some years ago. I collected this broadside ballad from Mack Moody, a farm laborer in Huntington, Vermont. The CD comes with fairly complete notes about the material. You can scope it out here: CLICK ON THIS BLICKY then scroll down a way on the page. Have patience, it'll turn up after awhile!

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 08 Jun 00 - 12:46 AM

If you'd like to check out some books about the flood, here's a listing from eBay's 6/8/2000 "history" section. CLICK HERE. This one may not work; I've never tried linking to something so complicated. One of these books is probably the one Pene Azul refered to above.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: Wolfgang
Date: 08 Jun 00 - 06:59 AM

Sandy,
is this (information from Bruce, above) the same song?

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: Dani
Date: 08 Jun 00 - 09:02 AM

Here:

http://www.ctcnet.net/jaha/pages/jfm/biblio.htm

is another list of books. The scale of the disaster is hard to believe. What's amazing is that there weren't dozens of songs written. Think there were, Sandy? Or any theories on why not?

Dani


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 08 Jun 00 - 01:59 PM

The ballad sung by Mack Moody referred to the same tragedy, but has few words in common with the Rickaby broadside text in the DT. Clearly, there were a number of songs about the flood, all lumped together under Laws G 14 in his index of American broadside ballads. Mack sang five verses. I'll put them in a separate LYR ADD thread for you, Wolfgang.

The story of the Johnstown Flood ought to be enough to radicalize the masses. The rich Pittsburgh sportsmen (Mellon, Carnegie, etc.) refused to breach their earthen dam to let the water building up behind it out a little at a time. Warned that the dam was going to give way, they still refused to sacrifice their private lake. As a result, thousands of lives were sacrificed when the dam broke and the wall of water swept down the valley. Read about it, folks.

Sandy


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Subject: add: THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD (sung by Mack Moody)^^
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 08 Jun 00 - 02:18 PM

THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD
as sung by Mack Moody, Huntington, Vermont, 1963

'Twas on a balmy day in May, and the sun shone far away,
And the birds were sweetly singing in the skies above.
There a city stood serene in a valley both rich and green,
Where thousands dwelt in happiness and love.

Now the scenes are changed, just like up on the range,
And the flood came rushing through that quiet town.
The wind it raved and shrieked, thunder rolled and the lightning streaked,
And the rain it poured an awful torrent down.

A cry of distress rose from east to the west;
Our dear old country now is plunged for woe.
Many people were burnt and drowned in the city of Johnstown,
And were lost in the great overflow.

Now, like a Paul Revere of old, came a rider both brave and bold,
On a big bay horse he's flyin' like a deer,
Giving warning shrills, "Quickly! Fly up to the hills!"
But the people smiled and showed no signs of fear.

Ears they were turned away. Both the rider and his bay,
And the many thousand lives he tried to save,
They had no time to spare, or to offer up a prayer,
But were hurled at once into a watery grave.

(Repeat third verse)

LAWS G 14
Included on Brave Boys, New England Traditions in Folk Music, New World Records CD; collected and edited by Sandy Paton. ^^


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: GUEST,Mrr
Date: 08 Jun 00 - 02:22 PM

Interesting. The only flood song I know of is Mighty Day, which is about (I think) a hurricane hitting Galveston, Texas, around the turn of the century. Moving ballad.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: GUEST,eric@johansen.co.uk
Date: 08 Jun 00 - 03:06 PM

John Stewart has a song clled "Mother Country" which refers to the flood. It gets discussed every now and again one his list "bloodlines". This is what one bloodliner said recently: There is a National Historical Site dedicated to the Johnstown Flood of 1889. Who would want to visit a museum dedicated to the dead? I did on two occasions. I was at the very site of the earthen dam 100 years to the day in 1989 in torrential rains similar to weather a century earlier. The foundation of the old earthen dam survived, but the V-like rupture in the center still exists. Water is channelled around the right-end spillway today, the very spillway that was clogged with floating logs and debris in 1889. It was a sobering moment in my life, as I imagined the event 100 years distant. As it was too early, the musuem was still closed. I missed a real tribute to the victims. I revisited the site when my son was six. We toured the museum. The old photographs abound. So too does a memorial naming every soul who perished in the waters.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: GUEST,spuddled@aol.com
Date: 08 Jun 00 - 04:15 PM

Hey, everyone, thanks for all the info. I've been interested in the Flood for a few years now but didn't know there was a ballad until I heard it mentioned in a Johnny Cash song....


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: raredance
Date: 08 Jun 00 - 09:17 PM

I have a copy of Rickaby's 1926 Ballads and Songs of the Shanty-Boy. Unfortunately the "Jamestown Flood" song in the DT and linked to above by Wolfgang is not in that Rickaby book. Although he kept extensive notebooks of songs he collected in different categories, I am unaware that he wrote any other books. Ballads and Songs of the Shanty-Boy, in fact, was published after his untimely death in 1925 at the age of 37. Although he got his Master's degree from Harvard and taught at the University of North Dakota and at Pomona College, I believe that most of his notebooks ended up at the University of Wisconsin because his widow remarried a many who later became president of U Wisconsin.

rich r


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Subject: Origins: Night of the Johnstown Flood^^
From: GUEST,Bruce O.
Date: 09 Jun 00 - 12:54 AM

"The Jamestown Flood" in DT is that in Louise Pound's 'American Ballads and Songs', 1922 (reprinted 1972). It was collected in Lincoln, Nebr., in 1917, but notes say nothing about a tune for it, and none is given.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Johnstown Flood
From: Wolfgang
Date: 09 Jun 00 - 03:58 AM

Thanks, Sandy, quite a different song and worth posting. I like them both (the other one is already in the DT) for the powerful pictures they evoke.
But it is interesting to see the liberties the writer took: If you read about the tragedy in the webpages devoted to it, you find that it actually was a dark and stormy day with heavy rain, and not 'balmy'. The warning from a rider, however, is historic fact and also that many warnings were not taken serious by the population:
"According to the statements of people who lived in Johnstown and other towns on the line of the river, ample time was given to the inhabitants of Johnstown by the railroad officials and by other gentlemen of standing and reputation. in hundreds of cases this warning was utterly disregarded, and those who heeded it early in the day were looked upon as cowards, and many jeers were uttered by lips that now are cold." (from a book on the web).
The rider "both brave and bold" was Collins Graves. (from the same source:) 'John Boyle O'Reilly has
commemorated in graceful verse the splendid achievement of Collins Graves
    "He draws no rein, but he shakes the street
    With a shout and a ring of the galloping feet,
    And this cry that he flings to the wind:
    To the hills for your lives! The flood is behind!"

    "In front of the roaring flood is heard
    The galloping horse and the warning word.
    Thank God! The brave man's life is spared!
    From Williamsburg town he nobly dared
    To race with the flood and take the road
    In front of the terrible swath it mowed.
    For miles it thundered and crashed behind,
    But he looked ahead with a steadfast mind:
    'They must be warned,' was all he said,
    As away on his terrible ride he sped."
Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: TheOldMole
Date: 09 Jun 00 - 03:45 PM

Other flood songs include Bessie Smith's "Backwater Blues" and Charley Patton's "High Water Everywhere," both about the same Delta flood.

Springsteen's magnificent "Highway Patrolman" has the line:

Me and Frankie dancin' with Marie While the band played "Night of the Johnstown Flood"

in other words, I have no pertinent information. I had always wondered about this song, too. Is it possibly an instrumental?


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Subject: ?? Lyrics 'Night of the Johnstown Flood'
From: GUEST,Veggie_Annie@yahoo.com
Date: 09 Jun 01 - 09:05 PM

I am looking for the lyrics for the song - The Night of the Johnstown Flood. I've tried lots of sights, any suggestions??

Thanks


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Subject: RE: ?? Lyrics 'Night of the Johnstown Flood'
From: Pene Azul
Date: 09 Jun 01 - 09:30 PM

There's an older thread about it here. In it, there is reference to the song THE JAMESTOWN FLOOD.

Jeff


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Subject: Night of the John's town flood?
From: GUEST
Date: 04 May 02 - 09:43 AM

I heard a Springsteen dp a song called Highway Patrolman, in it he mentions the band playin' "the John's town Flood". Can anyone tell me if such a song realy exists?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown flood
From: Sorcha
Date: 04 May 02 - 10:09 AM

Yes, it is a real song. There is information in this thread. Someone there offered to post a different set of lyrics than the one in the DT but I didn't find it anywhere. The one in the DT is called Jamestown Flood, but it is basically the same song. If you are searching it's your John's Town that is giving you fits. Look for Johnstown instead.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the John's town flood
From: Frank Maher (extra)
Date: 04 May 02 - 11:07 AM

I have a Song called the johnstown flood by Richard Bennett!!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the John's town flood
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 04 May 02 - 11:40 AM

The only songs I can find on the Johnston, PA flood are by Richard Bennett and Sandy Paton. No lyrics given.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD^^
From: masato sakurai
Date: 04 May 02 - 12:47 PM

This might be a popular piece of 1889 titled "The Johnstown Flood" of Joe Flynn (see The Traditional Ballad Index: Johnstown Flood).

THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD

On a balmy day in May, when all nature held full sway,
And the birds sang sweetly in the sky above;
Lovely city lay serene, in a valley deep and green,
Where thousands dwelt with happiness and love.
But soon the scene was changed;
It was like a thing deranged;
A storm came crashing through that quiet town.
How the winds did rave and shriek,
Thunder roared and lighting streaked,
And the rain did come in awful torrents down.

CHORUS
Then a cry of distress, sprang from east to west,
or our whole dear country now is plunged in woe;
There were thousands burned and drowned,
In that city of Johnstown,
All were lost in that great overflow,
Soon a rider, brave and bold; like the Paul Revere, of old;
With his big bay horse a flying like a deer;
With his voice so clear and shrill cried out, Fly up to the hills;
But the people laughed and showed no signs of fear.
Soon the houses piled up high,
Reaching far up to the sky, containing dead and living humans.
Father, Mother, Sister, Brother,
There was no one to avert their dreadful fate.
REPEAT CHORUS
Then a cry of distress sprang from the east to the west
For our whole dear country now is plunged in woe;
There were thousands burned and drowned,
In that great city of Johnstown,
All were lost in that great overflow,
Then a dreadful cry arose,
Those who heard, said, "blood it froze",
For that towering, sickening heap was now on fire;
As they poured out prayers to heaven,
They were burned as in an oven,
All were lost in that dreadful funeral pyre.
REPEAT CHORUS^^

(From HERE, where stanzaic divisions are not given)

"Dan Peyton's Ride" is also a Johnstown Flood song (Click here for the sheet music in the Levy Collection).

Title: Dan Peyton's Ride. A Song and Chorus.
Composer, Lyricist, Arranger: Words and Music by Allen Norton Leete.
Publication: Philadelphia: Wm. H. Boner & Co., 1102 Chestnut St., 1889.
Form of Composition: strophic with chorus
Instrumentation: piano and voice
First Line: At the warning of danger, Peyton on his horse, encounter'd the torrent
First Line of Chorus: The horse and rider doing mercy's work
Dedicatee: Dedicated to Hon. Edwin H. Fitler of Philadelphia.
Subject: Johnstown Flood
Subject: Heroes
Subject: Courage
Subject: Drownings
Subject: Disasters
Call No.: Box: 136 Item: 057

~Masato


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Subject: Origins: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: Joe Offer
Date: 04 May 02 - 12:53 PM

Here's Dan Peyton's Ride (click) at the Levy Sheet Music Collection - it's supposed to be another song about the Johnstown Flood. Anybody want to transcribe it?



The Jamestown Flood entry in the Digital Tradition apparently came from these two sources:

Franz Lee Rickaby: Ballads and Songs of the Shanty-Boy (1925? reprinted Clearfield Company, Baltimore 1993)

Louise Pound: American Ballads and Songs (1920 reprinted 1972, Charles
Scribner's sons, New York)

Anybody able to check these two sources to see if we have the city right?

-Joe Offer-
Here is the Traditional Ballad Index entry that is cited above.:

<b>Johnstown</b> <b>Flood</b>, The [Laws G14]

Johnstown Flood, The [Laws G14]

DESCRIPTION: A distraught father tells a stranger about his share of the Johnstown tragedy. He, his wife, and his children had sought shelter from the flood in the upper part of the house, but the waters tore them from his grasp. He was rescued, but his family died
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE:
KEYWORDS: flood death family
HISTORICAL REFERENCES:
May 31, 1889 - The Great Flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, kills about 2500 people
FOUND IN: US(MA,MW,NE)
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Laws G14, "The Johnstown Flood"
LPound-ABS, 61, pp. 135-138, "The Jamestown Flood" (1 text)
DT 825, JAMESFLD

Notes: Laws believes this to be too literary to be a purely folk composition; he suspects it of having been originally printed in a newspaper.
A popular piece of 1889 was "The Johnstown Flood" of Joe Flynn; I haven't seen a copy to compare. - RBW
File: LG14

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions

The Ballad Index Copyright 2002 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


The entry in the Ballad index is based on Laws, and on LPound-ABS -- Louise Pound, American Ballads and Songs (1922). Apparently, Pound also calls it the "Jamestown Flood." Any clarification?

In case anybody's puzzled, I consolidated the two threads on this song


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: raredance
Date: 05 May 02 - 12:52 AM

Joe, I refer you to my input in the middle of this thread concerning the Rickaby book.

rich r


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 07 May 02 - 09:49 AM

Joe, yeah I WAS puzzled. Now I know why 2 links in this thread link back to this thread!


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Subject: Johnstown flood
From: GUEST,Jim White denorjim@aol.com
Date: 10 May 02 - 01:16 AM

Hi,

I've just discovered this site, so I am not sure if this question has been asked:

In his song "Highway Patrolman" Bruce Springsteen refers to a song "Night of the Johnstown Flood." Does anyone know of such a song?


E-Mail sent. -Joe Offer-


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Subject: Lyr Add: DAN PEYTON'S RIDE^^
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 10 May 02 - 01:36 AM

Transcribed from the sheet music at the Levy Collection:

DAN PEYTON'S RIDE
(Allen Norton Leete, 1889)

At the warning of danger, Peyton on his horse encounter'd the torrent, once a tiny rill,.
Through water and mire he tore along the street shouting, "Run for your lives to the hill.
Run for your lives. Make haste while you may. The torrents from the dam on us fall."
But they laughed him to scorn, or else thought him mad. Not a score gave heed to his call.

CHORUS:
The horse and his rider doing mercy's work, saving human lives if they died,
But the flood overtook and o'erwhelm'd them on the bridge. They perished like heroes side by side.

But his work was to save. He kept upon his way, undaunted and fearless, shouting with a will,
Through street after street, beseeching not to stay, but to run for their lives to the hill.
"Run for your lives. Make haste while you may. The torrents from the dam on us fall."
But they laughed him to scorn, or else thought him mad. Not a score gave heed to his call. CHO.

But the deluge swept down. A wall of water came, relentless murd'rous, bent to drown and kill;
And Peyton with venom hunting as for prey, it decreed he should never reach the hill.
"Run for your lives," he ceased not to shout, the deluge coming swift as a gale.
'Mid the mist and foam, his heart continued stout in the shadow of death in the vale. CHO.

Up a bank's slipp'ry sides his snorting steed essayed to obtain a foothold, but alas in vain.
The deluge o'ertook them. Side by side they laid, immortal heroes 'mid the slain.
"Run for your lives!" the echo rang as the dead swept by on the flood.
And the theme pierced aloft while the angels sang of salvation through anguish and blood. CHO.^^


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: Joe Offer
Date: 10 May 02 - 04:26 AM

There are some great songs here, but I still kind of wonder if any of them are the "Night of the Johnstown Flood" that Springsteen refers to.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: Jamestown Flood / Johnstown Flood
From: Joe Offer
Date: 16 May 02 - 06:33 PM

As Bruce O says above, the source of the lyrics in the Digital Tradition is Louise Pound: American Ballads and Songs (1920 reprinted 1972, Charles Scribner's sons, New York).
According to Pound, the text was known to May B. Wimberly of Lincoln, Nebraska, 1917. The subject is plainly the Johnstown Flood of 1890 (sic), but the title as given by Mrs. Wimberly is retained.
I submitted a corrected version of the lyrics to the Digital Tradition. I can't figure out where the reference to Rickaby came from.
Here's the story, as told at the Website of the National Park Service:
There was no larger news story in the latter nineteenth century after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The story of the Johnstown Flood has everything to interest the modern mind: a wealthy resort, an intense storm, an unfortunate failure of a dam, the destruction of a working class city, and an inspiring relief effort.
The rain continued as men worked tirelessly to prevent the old South Fork Dam from breaking. Elias Unger, the president of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, was hoping that the people in Johnstown were heeding the telegraph warnings sent earlier, which said that the dam might go. When it finally happened, at 3:10 P.M., May 31, 1889, an era of the Conemaugh Valley's history ended, and another era started. Over 2,209 people died on that tragic Friday, and thousands more were injured in one of the worst disasters in our Nation's history.
Johnstown Flood National Memorial is located in southwestern Pennsylvania, about 10 miles northeast of Johnstown. The park contains nearly 165 acres and preserves the remains of the South Fork Dam and portions of the former Lake Conemaugh bed.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 16 May 02 - 08:26 PM

Out of curiosity, I went through a number of references to the "Jamestown Flood" and found that many people have used this name mistakenly for the Johnstown flood. Genealogical records especially have incorporated this mistake. Jamestown just seems to come to mind.

Several copies of Rickaby's book of Shanty-Boys ballads are listed by the book dealers, as low as $23, so it is not rare. Someone ought to be able to find it in their uinversity library, etc.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: Joe Offer
Date: 16 May 02 - 11:51 PM

OK, so we have two very different songs listed as Laws G 14. Can that be so?
Also, I see we have two names for the man who did the riding.
Curiously inaccurate, this folk music nonsense...
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: ADD Version: The Johnstown Flood
From: Joe Offer
Date: 29 Jul 06 - 03:12 AM

Masato posted a song above that he found on a Website with no origins information. This version starts out almost the same, but then it changes radically.

THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD

On a balmy day in May, when nature held full sway,
And the birds sang sweetly in the sky above;
A city lay serene, in a valley deep and green,
Where thousands dwelt in happiness and love.

Ah! but soon the scene was changed;
For just like a thing deranged,
A storm came crashing through the quiet town;
Now the wind it raved and shrieked,
Thunder rolled and lighting streaked;
But the rain it poured in awful torrents down.
    CHORUS
    Now the cry of distress rings from East to West,
    And our whole dear country now is plunged in woe;
    For the thousands burned and drowned,
    In the city of Johnstown,
    All were lost in that great overflow.

Like the Paul Revere of old came a rider, brave and bold;
On a big bay horse he was flying like a deer;
And he shouted warning shrill, "Quickly fly off to the hills."
But the people smiled and showed no signs of fear.
CHORUS

Ah! but ere he turned away - this brave rider and the bay
And the many thousand souls he tried to save;
But they had no time to spare nor to offer up a prayer,
Now they were hurried off into a watery grave.
CHORUS

Fathers, mothers, children all - both the young, old, great, and small -
They were thrown about like chaff before the wind;
When the tearful raging flood rushing where the city stood,
Leaving thousands dead and dying there behind.
CHORUS

Now the cry of fire arose like the screams of battling foes,
For that dreadful sickening pile was now on fire;
As they poured out prayers to heaven, they were burned as in an oven,
And that dreadful pile formed their funeral pyre.
CHORUS


From Korson, Pennsylvania Songs and Legends, 1949.
Text supplied by Edwin Hartz. Sung by Mrs. Clara Bell Delaney, 71, 1947. Notated by Miss Mary Means.

I'll post the tune later, if I remember.
-Joe-


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Subject: DT Correction: the Jamestown Flood
From: Joe Offer
Date: 29 Jul 06 - 03:34 AM

Here are corrections to the Digital Tradition text, No. 61 in Louise Pound's American Ballads and Songs (1922, 1972). Just a few OCR errors in the DT text, but the attribution in the DT is confusing.


THE JAMESTOWN FLOOD

Is it news you ask for, strangers, as you stand and gaze around
At those cold and lifeless bodies lying here upon the ground?
Do you see that lady yonder, with the little girl and boy?
That's my wife, my darling Minnie, once my household pride and joy.

Just an hour ago I brought them from the river's fatal tide,
Laid them here where now you see them, all together side by side.
Strangers, if you'll turn to listen to my story long and sad,
You'll confess it is no wonder that today I'm almost mad.

We were seated at the table chatting in a happy mood,
When we heard a mighty rushing like some great and awful flood,
Nearer! nearer! came the water, till at last it reached our home,
O the horror of the moment when we realized our doom!

Not one moment did we tarry, but with cheeks and brow aglow
Climbed we to the topmost chamber for how long I do not know,
Then I clasped my wife and children to my chilled and aching heart
For I saw that soon or later we would surely have to part.

Faster, faster rushed the waters; tighter, tighter grew my grasp
Til a wave of mud and fury tore both children from my clasp
Then my wife grew faint and trembly, cold and white her marble brow,
One low whisper, scarcely spoken; "You are all that's left me now.

"Let your ams enfold, me, husband, lay your head upon my breast,
O, our children, may he guide them to a place of peace and rest;
May he spare you to me, darling, to protect" -- But while she spoke
Downward rushed a mighty current and my deathlike grasp was broke.

Down she went, my last sweet darling, she my true and loving wife,
She had been my joy and comfort all along the path of life.
Just as in a dream I stood there till at last a shout I heard,
From some men who stood above me, "Grasp the rope, we'll help you out."

And before night's sable curtain spread across the angry wave
I was drawn above and rescued from a cold and watery grave,
But my darling wife and children floated on till one by one
They were found and carried to me, but their work on earth was done.

Sad and mournful as I stood there, saw no signs of life or breath;
O'er my heart fell deep dark shadows as I saw them cold in death.
And a flood of thought came o'er me, overwhelming mind and heart,
And my soul cried out within me, "O my loved ones, must we part?

Fare thee well, my wife and children, in my heart you'll ever be
Till I too shall cross the river where we will united be,
Then we'll have the joy of loving as we never loved before,
Where no hearts are chilled and broken, in the sweet forevermore."

Source: Louise Pound, American Ballads and Songs (1922 reprinted 1972, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York)

Pound's notes: Text known to May B. Wimberly of Lincoln (Nebraska), 1917. The subject is plainly the Johnstown flood of 1890, but the title as given by Mrs. Wimberly is retained.


DT #825
Laws G14
From Pound
filename[ JAMESFLD
SOF
apr97


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: GUEST,Dmystix
Date: 26 Feb 07 - 01:29 AM

In Springsteen's song "Highway Patrolman" it refers to "taking turns dancing with Maria, while the band plays The Night of the Johnstown Flood". Its seems to me that most of the songs about "The Flood" would have been narrative, descriptive ballads. Hardly something these guys,laughing and drinking, would be dancing with Maria to???
   I inclined to believe it all comes down to syllabic count;
"The Night of the Johnstown Flood", ie., it fits the verse, and flood rhymed with blood, as in " blood on blood".
   Most of those ballad type of songs you can't dance fast, or for that matter dance slow to!!! Hardly think someone the likes of Springsteen's Frankie would be dancing to some ballad type song.
   Purely lyrics to fit in the space and time of Bruce's song!!!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Oct 08 - 09:55 PM

Me and Frankie laughing and drinking
Nothing feels better than blood on blood
Taking turns dancing with Maria
While the band plays "The Night of the Johnstown Flood"...

The highway patrolman and Frankie would dance with Maria to whatever the band happened to be playing. In a redneck roadhouse, that could be just about anything. I think what he have here is Springsteen locating his characters in a very particular cultural milieu: Believable only if you are familiar with the people, time, and places that he was hoping to evoke. Otherwise it's just gibberish.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: GUEST,axysdon
Date: 18 May 09 - 11:41 PM

There are a few other things that are likely made up to fit the song. There is no Michigan County in Pennsylvania. Nor is there one in Ohio or in Michigan. Also there are limited places in that area where you can drive into Canada, most in big city areas (Detroit, Niagara Falls) and none in Pennsylvania.

I agree with the notion that he's creating a time and place that we all can relate to without actually existing.

But then there were other Johnstown floods, one as recently as 1977 so he could be referring to a song that refers to an all together different flood than the 1889 one.

axysdon


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: Gweltas
Date: 19 May 09 - 01:32 AM

The Cornish Singer/Songwriter, Tony Truscott, has also written a great song about that disasterous flood, called simply "Johnstown"


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Subject: Lyr Add: DANIEL PERITON'S RIDE (Albion W. Tourgee)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 20 May 09 - 01:38 PM

I'm sure there's a lot of poetry on the subject if anyone cares to seek it out.

From The New Popular Reciter and Book of Elocution by Frances Putnam Pogle (International Pub. Co., 1901):


DANIEL PERITON'S RIDE
(Albion W. Tourgee)

On the 31st day of May, 1889, one of the greatest disasters which ever happened in America was caused by the breaking of a dam in the Allegheny Mountains, throwing the waters of a large lake into the Conemaugh River causing a wall of water to rush down the valley sweeping everything in its course. The city of Johnstown, Pa., was literally washed away and a thousand of people drowned. The following poem describes the ride of a daring horseman to warn the fated city of its coming doom.

All day long the river flowed,
Down by the winding mountain road,
Leaping and roaring in angry mood,
At stubborn rocks in its way that stood;
Sullen the gleam of its rippled crest,
Dark was the foam on its yellow breast;
The dripping bank on either side
But half-imprisoned the turgid tide.
By farm and village it quickly sped,—
The weeping skies bent low overhead,—
Foaming and rushing and tumbling down
Into the streets of pent Johnstown,
Down through the valley of Conemaugh,
Down from the dam of shale and straw,
To the granite bridge, where its waters pour,
Through the arches wide, with a dismal roar.

All day long the pitiful tide,
Babbled of death on the mountain side;
And all day long with jest and sigh,
They who were doomed that day to die
Turned deafened ears to the warning roar
They had heard so oft and despised before.

Yet women trembled—the mother's eyes
Turned oft to the lowering, woeful skies—
And shuddered to think what might befall
Should the flood burst over the earthen wall.
So all day long they went up and down,
Heedless of peril in doomed Johnstown.

And all day long in the chilly gloom
Of a thrifty merchant's counting room,
O'er the ledger bent with anxious care
Old Periton's only son and heir.
A commonplace, plodding, industrious youth,
Counting debit and credit the highest truth,
And profit and loss a more honored game
Than searching for laurels or fighting for fame.
He saw the dark tide as it swept by the door,
But heeded it not till his task was o'er;
Then saddled his horse,—a black-pointed bay,
High-stepping, high-blooded, grandson of Dismay;
Raw-boned and deep-chested, his eyes full of fire;
The temper of Satan—Magog was his sire;
Arched fetlocks, strong quarters, low knees,
And lean, bony head—his dam gave him these;
The foal of a racer transformed to a cob
For the son of the merchant when out of a job.
"Now I'll see," said Dan Periton, mounting the bay,
"What danger there is of the dam giving way!"

A marvelous sight young Periton saw
When he rode up the valley of Conemaugh.
Seventy feet the water fell
With a roar like angry ocean's swell!
Seventy feet from the crumbling crest
To the rock on which the foundations rest!
Seventy feet fell the ceaseless flow
Into the boiling gulf below!

Dan Periton's cheek grew pale with fear,
As the echoes fell on his startled ear,
And he thought of the weight of the pent-up tide,
That hung on the rifted mountain-side,
Held by that heap of stone and straw
O'er the swarming valley of Conemaugh!
The raw-boned bay with quivering ears
Displayed a brute's instinctive fears,
Snorted and pawed with flashing eye,
Seized on the curb and turned to fly!

Dan Periton tightened his grip on the rein,
Sat close to the saddle, glanced backward again,
Touched the bay with the spur, then gave him his head,
And down the steep valley they clattering sped.
Then the horse showed his breeding—the close gripping knees
Felt the strong shoulders working with unflagging ease
As mile after mile, 'neath the high-blooded bay,
The steep mountain turnpike flew backward away,
While with outstretched neck he went galloping down
With the message of warning to periled Johnstown,
Past farmhouse and village, while shrilly outrang,
O'er the river's deep roar and the hoofs iron clang,
His gallant young rider's premonitant shout,
"Fly! Fly to the hills! The waters are out!"
Past Mineral Point there came such a roar
As never had shaken those mountains before!
Dan urged the good horse then with word and caress:
'Twould be his last race, what mattered distress?
A mile farther on and behind him he spied
The wreck-laden crest of the death-dealing tide!
Then he plied whip and spur and redoubled the shout,
"To the hills! To the hills! The waters are out!"
Thus horseman and flood-tide came racing it down
The cinder-paved streets of doomed Johnstown!

Daniel Periton knew that his doom was nigh,
Yet never once faltered his clarion cry;
The blood ran oft from his good steed's side
Over him hung the white crest of the tide;
His hair felt the touch of the eygre's breath;
The spray on his cheek was the cold kiss of death;
Beneath him the horse 'gan to tremble and droop—
He saw the pale rider who sat on the croup!
But clear over all rang his last warning shout,
"To the hills! To the hills! For the waters are out!"
Then the tide reared its head and leaped vengefully down
On the horse and his rider in fated Johnstown!

That horse was a hero, so poets still say,
That brought the good news of the treaty to Aix;
And the steed is immortal, which carried Revere
Through the echoing night with his message of fear;
And the one that bore Sheridan into the fray,
From Winchester town, "twenty miles away;"
But none of these merits a nobler lay
Than young Daniel Periton's raw-boned bay
That raced down the valley of Conemaugh,
With the tide that rushed through the dam of straw,
Roaring and rushing and tearing down
On the fated thousands in doomed Johnstown!
In the very track of the eygre's swoop,
With Dan in the saddle and Death on the croup,
The foam of his nostrils flew back on the wind,
And mixed with the foam of the billow behind.

A terrible vision the morrow saw
In the desolate valley of Conemaugh!
The river had shrunk to its narrow bed,
But its way was choked with heaped-up dead.
'Gainst the granite bridge with its arches four
Lay the wreck of a city that delves no more;
And under it all, so the searchers say,
Stood the sprawling limbs of the gallant bay,
Stiff-cased in the drift of the Conemaugh.
A goodlier statue man never saw,—
Dan's foot on the stirrup his hand on the rein!
So they shall live in white marble again;
And ages shall tell, as they gaze on the group,
Of the race that he ran while Death sat on the croup.


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Subject: Lyr Add: HIGHWAY PATROLMAN (Bruce Springsteen)
From: fretless
Date: 20 May 09 - 03:44 PM

With all the references above, it appears that no one has included the words to The Boss' ballad. So here's The Highway Patrol Man (filtched from an online source, so Im not guaranteeing Perrineville, etc.):

HIGHWAY PATROLMAN
(Bruce Springsteen)

My name is Joe Roberts I work for the state
I'm a sergeant out of Perrineville barracks number 8
I always done an honest job as honest as I could
I got a brother named Frankie and Frankie ain't no good

Now ever since we was young kids it's been the same come down
I get a call over the radio Frankie's in trouble downtown
Well if it was any other man, I'd put him straight away
But when it's your brother sometimes you look the other way

Yeah me and Frankie laughin' and drinkin'
Nothin' feels better than blood on blood
Takin' turns dancin' with Maria as the band
Played "Night of the Johnstown Flood"

I catch him when he's strayin' like any brother would
Man turns his back on his family well he just ain't no good

Well Frankie went in the army back in 1965
I got a farm deferment, settled down, took Maria for my wife
But them wheat prices kept on droppin' till it was like we were gettin' robbed
Frankie came home in `68, and me, I took this job

Yeah we're laughin' and drinkin'
Nothin' feels better than blood on blood
Takin' turns dancin' with Maria as the band
Played "Night of the Johnstown Flood"

I catch him when he's strayin' teach him how to walk that line
Man turns his back on his family he ain't no friend of mine

Well the night was like any other, I got a call `bout quarter to nine
There was trouble in a roadhouse out on the Michigan line
There was a kid lyin' on the floor lookin' bad bleedin' hard from his head
There was a girl cry'n' at a table and it was Frank, they said

Well I went out and I jumped in my car and I hit the lights
Well I musta done one hundred and ten through Michigan county that night
It was out at the crossroads, down `round Willow bank
Seen a Buick with Ohio plates. Behind the wheel was Frank

Well I chased him through them county roads
Till a sign said "Canadian border five miles from here"
I pulled over the side of the highway and watched his tail-lights disappear

Me and Frankie laughin' and drinkin'
Nothin' feels better than blood on blood
Takin' turns dancin' with Maria as the band
Played "Night of the Johnstown Flood"


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: JJ
Date: 21 May 09 - 08:32 AM

Albion W. Tourgee's poem is a wonderful piece of folk art, but alas, there is very little truth in it.

According to the Johnstown Flood Museum, no one has yet been able to find a Daniel Periton or Peyton in all the Conemaugh Valley, and there are no contemporary accounts of a ride by anyone at all.

The reason for this, according to the Rev.David Beale's 1890 book, THROUGH THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD, is that such a ride was impossible.

"The South Fork dam and lake are nine miles in a straight line from Johnstown, and over fourteen miles by the turnpike. This road is the only way by which it is possible to ride from the lake to the city. The greatest speed of a horse for that distance would not accomplish the ride in less than an hour. Then the ride through the streets of Johnstown, provided man and horse were not exhausted, would occupy fifteen minutes more. Now, after the dam broke, the flood traveled as fast as the horse could run. The time of its passage was about twenty-five minutes, and the entire destruction occupied not more than half an hour. But the streets of Johnstown, besides the greater part of the Valley road, were under water. During the hours when this famous hero is said to have galloped through them, there were from four to six feet of water in all our streets; and the housekeepers were engaged in removing carpets and furniture from their lower floors. The impossibility of a horse galloping through Johnstown between noon and 4 o'clock is at once apparent."

http://www.jaha.org/edu/flood/why/warning_system-paulrevere.html


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Apr 10 - 08:29 PM

Wikipedia has this to say in its entry on the Johnstown Flood:

Bruce Springsteen's song "Highway Patrolman", from the Nebraska album (1982), references the event. The narrator of the song and his brother take turns "dancing with Maria, as the band played 'Night of the Johnstown Flood'". (This is an anachronism, since in 1982 there was still no song in existence bearing the title "Night of the Johnstown Flood.") Johnny Cash made a cover of the song.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: GUEST,Scott Manginelli
Date: 20 Apr 10 - 12:51 PM

The song by Bruce was Highway Patrolman off his Nebraska cd.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Jul 10 - 08:43 PM

there is no such song springsteen made it up!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Jul 10 - 09:07 PM

The Traditional Ballad Index has an interesting entry on this song, quite a bit longer than the entry I posted above:

    Johnstown Flood, The [Laws G14]

    DESCRIPTION: A distraught father tells a stranger about his share of the Johnstown tragedy. He, his wife, and his children had sought shelter from the flood in the upper part of the house, but the waters tore them from his grasp. He was rescued, but his family died
    AUTHOR: unknown
    EARLIEST DATE:
    KEYWORDS: flood death family
    HISTORICAL REFERENCES:
    May 31, 1889 - The Great Flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, kills about 2500 people
    FOUND IN: US(MA,MW,NE)
    REFERENCES (3 citations):
    Laws G14, "The Johnstown Flood"
    LPound-ABS, 61, pp. 135-138, "The Jamestown Flood" (1 text)
    DT 825, JAMESFLD

    Roud #3254
    Notes: There have been many histories of the Johnstown Flood. One of the more recent is David G. McCullough's The Johnstown Flood (Simon and Schuster, 1968), one of the first works of this noteworthy historian.
    Johnstown is about 60 miles almost due east of Pittsburg, on the line of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Interestingly, it is not on one of Pennsylvania's major rivers; the stream which caused the flood was the Little Conemaugh River, which joins Stony Creek (or "the Stony Creek," as the locals called it) at Johnstown to become the Conemaugh River, which eventually becomes part of the Kiskiminetas River, which flows into the Allegheny. McCullough, p. 24, describes both the Little Conemaugh and Stony Creek as fast but not particularly large. Stony Creek, because it was deeper, was considered the more dangerous at the time.
    Johnstown was a fast-growing town; according to McCullough, p. 23, it had tripled in size in less than three decades. The reason was industrialization; Johnstown made steel and steel products such as plows and rails. It can't have been a very comfortable place to live, with all the pollution and the noise and the cheap company houses, but it was doing well. At least for the company bosses.
    What made it vulnerable was a man-made lake. A few miles above Johnstown on the Little Conemaugh was the hamlet of South Fork, where South Fork Creek joined the Little Conemaugh. A bit more than a mile above the town on South Fork Creek was a great dam, built some forty years before to create a lake variously called the Western Reservoir or the Old Reservoir or Lake Conemaugh. The dam itself, made of earth, was sometimes called Three Mile Dam -- which was not very accurate (it apparently was a reference to the size of the lake behind it, but exaggerated). Still, it was an impressive structure, some 72 feet high and 900 wide. And the water usually was within six or seven feet of the top (McCullough, pp. 39-41). The total area of the lake was about 450 acres. The surface level was some 450 feet above Johnstown.
    The building of the reservoir was one of those things that give government projects a bad name. The Pennsylvania legislature in 1836 had approved $30,000 to build a reservoir. The final cost, though, was $240,000. Worse, according to McCullough, p. 50, "two years after it was finished the whole thing would be obsolete and of no use whatsoever."
    The whole thing was a boondoggle. Pennsylvania was jealous of New York's Erie Canal and wanted its own water transport system, even though that meant running a canal across the mountains! The idea was to haul barges over the passes using railroads. It all worked, more or less, but it needed more water than was reliably available. So the Conemaugh was dammed to supply a steady flow of water in the summer (McCullough, p. 52).
    Unfortunately, the whole project was a money pit, and construction was halted at times because the state of Pennsylvania couldn't come up with the cash. And this even though the South Fork dam was built of earth rather than rock because it was cheap to hire people to move dirt. The thing was finally completed in 1852.
    Then the Pennsylvania Railroad finished laying track across the state. The big fancy canal system, which couldn't possibly compete on price with the railroads, instantly lost any purpose, and within two years, Pennsylvania was trying to sell it -- and found no buyers. Finally the Pennsylvania Railroad itself bought the canal -- not for the canal itself but for the land it rested on. They paid a low price -- and, naturally, stopped doing any work on the canals and on the useless (to them) dam maintaining the Western Reservoir (McCullough, p. 54).
    Not long after, on June 10, 1862, the dam failed for the first time (McCullough, p. 54). The surviving records aren't really good enough to indicate why, but that break was not repaired until 1879. The repairs were, however, rather casual; it appears that little work was done on the dam's foundations (which had been undermined by the first break), and the pipes which relieved pressure, which had failed, were not replaced. The goal, after all, was not to control water flow; it was simply to built a country club for rich men who wanted to fish and breath clear air (McCullough, pp. 56-57).
    The locals were somewhat worried -- even the regular spring runoff frequently caused water to fill some of the low-lying streets of Johnstown, and the floods were growing worse each year as the rivers were more tightly channeled and deforestation increased runoff (McCullough, pp. 64-65). But there were enough people who thought the town was safe to make it impossible for the worriers to do anything about a reservoir outside their jurisdiction. A manager of the local ironworks at one point sent an engineer to look things over, and he sent a dire report -- but the club owners refused to pay any attention (McCullough, pp. 73-74) even though the ironworks offered to help pay the costs (McCullough, p. 75).
    The dam, in fact, had been rendered even more vulnerable than the engineer had noticed: The top had been lowered to allow a two-lane road across the top, meaning that the spillway to relieve pressure on the dam were barely below the dam's new crest (and the great danger to an earth dam was that water would go over the top and erode the soil). The spillway itself had had bars installed to keep fish from escaping -- but which also meant that the spillway could easily be blocked by rubbish. It is also likely (though not certain), that the vulnerable center of the dam sagged below the edges. McCullough, p. 76, concludes that, at the center, the top of the dam was only four feet higher than the spillway.
    Conclusion: Any serious rise in the water level, unless water was released in an orderly way, would result in the overtopping and destruction of the dam. And, because the pipes at the bottom had been removed, there was no possible way to release water. Not only was the dam a disaster waiting to happen, it was a disaster that couldn't even be repaired, because the lake could not be lowered! (McCullough, p. 77).
    McCullough, p. 41, estimates the weight of the water at 20 million tons. That's 18 million cubic meters, or 18 thousand million litres, or 5 thousand million gallons.
    The flood was the result of a very major storm, first observed in Kansas and Nebraska on May 28, 1889. The next day, it dumped rain from Kansas to Michigan and Indiana. Then it arrived in Pennsylvania. The storm was described as the worst storm ever recorded in the western parts of that state. In the Johnstown area, rainfall totals were usually in the six to eight inch range, though Pittsburg suffered only an inch and a half of rain (McCullough, pp. 21-22). Johnstown was already starting to fill with water before the dam went out (McCullough, p. 79); by the second day of the downpour, the flood was higher than even the previous 1887 record (McCullough, p. 82). Some people left town, but others, with strong houses or on slightly higher ground, stayed behind. It appears that, at some point, a message was telegraphed to the townspeople saying the dam was in danger, but the text has been lost and it is not clear just what it said; in any case, it does not appear to have changed people's behavior much, perhaps because similar messages had been sent in the past (McCullough, p. 87). A rider also took a message, and there were attempts to telephone Johnstown, but many of the lines were down (McCullough, p. 93).
    The dam was now so full that it could not be ignored; workers were reportedly trying to cut a new spillway and to raise the central weak point (McCullough, p. 90). But there were too few, and it was too late. An attempt to clear the original spillway, now largely blocked by debris, also failed. By about noon, water started going over the top of the dam, and there were leaks lower down as well (McCullough, p. 95). At 1:52 on May 31, a message went out that water was going over the top of the dam. Word that the dam was in the process of failing reached Johnstown around 2:45 (McCullough, pp. 96-97). It appears that, by 3:00, workmen were refusing to do any more work on the dam itself and were simply trying to clear the spillways. Then, at 3:10, the whole thing crumbled (McCullough, p. 100).
    Estimates of how long it took the lake to drain ranged from about half an hour to forty-five minutes. This makes the total amount of water flowing at any given moment roughly equal to Niagara Falls (McCullough, p. 102).
    The first place to be affected by the flood was the town of South Fork, where the first casualties occurred (McCullough, p. 105). But the town was mostly on hillsides above the valley of South Fork Creek. It wrecked a bridge and a low-lying mill, but most of the town survived. Johnstown, nine miles away in a straight line but thirteen along the course of the river, would not fare so well, nor would the hamlets in between.
    Unfortunately, there was a great bend in the Little Conemaugh a couple of miles below South Fork, and a great railroad viaduct cutting across it. The wreck of this viaduct, plus the miscellaneous refuse picked up along the way, seem to have temporarily blocked the flow of the flood, allowing it to build up another big pressure head (McCullough, pp. 107-109). The village of Mineral Point was next to feel the flood; it was nearly destroyed, though only 16 people were reported killed (McCullough, p. 111). There was quite a tangle as trains in the area had to be halted or re-routed (and places had to be found to put them while the lines were repaired and trains diverted). McCullough, p. 122, says that at least 23 train occupants died, in part because the train's crews did little to warn the passengers that they might need to flee.
    Then it was the turn of the towns of East Conemaugh and Franklin, which were largely flooded and saw at least 28 people killed. Then the flood reached Woodvale, a relatively new town of about 1000 people. It had no warning at all, and was almost completely submerged. 250 houses were destroyed, and 314 people listed as killed (McCullough, p. 127). It was still only about an hour since the dam had broken.
    Finally the flood reached Johnstown. The best guess is that the crest arrived in the town at 4:07 p.m., and took ten minutes to pass through the town (McCullough, p. 147). Slowed slightly by the wash up the valley of Stony Creek, the flood built another dam of debris at a bridge below the town, which later caught fire (McCullough, p. 149). Hundreds of people were trapped in the debris pile, though it is estimated that only about 80 died in it (McCullough, p. 173). The debris would eventually have to be dynamited to clear the river (McCullough, pp. 227-228).
    But even once the fires died down and the waters ran downstream, the ordeal was not over. Probably in excess of 5000 people huddled on the hills above Johnstown (McCullough, p. 184), often ill or injured, with their homes destroyed in the valley below. And the weather at the time was bitterly cold (McCullough, p. 197).
    The locals eventually decided to hold a town meeting to appoint a "dictator" to try to manage emergency operations (McCullough, p. 189). At first, there wasn't even enough paper to take notes about the descriptions and properties of the dead bodies (McCullough, p. 192). Lurid initial newspaper reports claimed ten thousand dead (McCullough, p. 203). McCullough, p. 193, notes that there was never an exact count of the dead; he lists 2209 as the "official" total (and gives this full catalog in an appendix) -- though he notes (p. 196) that two bodies were not recovered until 1906; it was obviously impossible to come up with an absolutely correct count. Of the bodies recovered, 663 would never be identified (McCullough, p. 194), in some cases because of decapitation by debris or burns so severe that features could not be made out. Plus many bodies were not discovered until they decomposed beyond recognition.
    Nearly 400 children under age ten were killed, and 98 lost both parents. Hundreds more lost one parent (McCullough, p. 195).
    The total population of the Conemaugh valley was believed to be about 23,000, so a tenth of the population was killed. The rate for Johnstown itself was higher, though only slightly.
    Relief efforts began quickly, naturally enough, and often raised quite a bit of money (McCullough, p. 199; on p. 225, he notes contributions totalling over $3,700,000, and that's in 1889 dollars. The flip side is, Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia lists the damage at ten million dollars). But there was at the time no organization really devoted to emergency relief -- no FEMA, and while the Red Cross existed, it was still fairly new and didn't have standard procedures yet; Clara Barton herself would lead the trek to Johnstown. (It would be the largest operation in Red Cross history to this time; McCullough, p. 231). Often volunteers would just wander into the Conemaugh valley and, having no idea what to do, simply added to the burdens of those who were doing their best. It would be several days before the Pennsylvania militia showed up (McCullough, p. 202), and in the interim, there was a lot of crime and mismanagement.
    Fears of epidemics were felt as far away as Pittsburg (after all, the waters of the flood flowed into the Allegheny river); eventually men were assigned to try to clean up the river (McCullough, p. 209).
    In a small stroke of luck, the weather was cold and wet for more than a week after the disaster. It made everyone miserable, but it also helped prevent disease and decay (McCullough, p. 229).
    In the aftermath, attention naturally turned to the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, the maintainers of the dam. There were of course engineers who had publicly stated their concerns about its construction. The newspapers had a field day with this, though often exaggerating the engineers' reports (McCullough, pp. 242-249). Some members of the club did contribute to the relief funds -- the Carnegie Company gave $10,000, e.g. (McCullough, p. 255), but many club members did not give, and the club as a whole offered nothing. Lawsuits eventually began to be filed, but there was a limit on what this could yield -- after deducting a mortgage, the club had assets of only about $15,000 (McCullough, p. 257). The members had more, of course, but the whole principle of a corporation is limited stockholder liability.
    There are few records of the actual trials, since transcripts were not kept (McCullough, p. 258), but in the end the club was not held liable. McCullough
    speculates that the great wealth and power of the club's members helped them.
    Plus the great downpour was clearly natural. The only real fault was in the
    construction of the dam, and only a few officers would have known about that.
    McCullough seems to consider them guilty, and I would too, but they too got off. The people of Johnstown were apparently bitter (McCullough, p. 264), but they were helpless. Perhaps they derived some small consolation from the fact that the flood, while it didn't destroy the club (except for the dam and the lake), did cause it to shut down (McCullough, p. 264); there wasn't much point in a fishing club with nowhere to fish!
    Johnstown would begin rebuilding, and the iron mills came back; there were soon jobs for all the remaining workers. But its prosperity seems to have been damaged; the town has only about 30,000 residents now (more than in 1889, but not as much as its pre-flood population growth would suggest). There were fairly major floods there in 1936 and 1977, according to Merriam Webster's Geographical Dictionary, though none to compare with 1889.
    It is little surprise that the event produced songs; it was the biggest news of the day, and McCullough, p. 204, notes that a Pittsburg newspaper actually had to reduce the size of its pages to have enough paper to meet the demand. (Ironically, much of what they published was fiction, such as accounts of a messenger named Peyton who tried to warn people of the flood.) Laws believes this song to be too literary to be a purely folk composition; he suspects it of having been originally printed in a newspaper. McCullough, p. 221, mentions poems written about the event. A popular piece of 1889 was "The Johnstown Flood" of Joe Flynn; I haven't seen a copy to compare. - RBW
    File: LG14

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Jul 10 - 10:29 PM

Hmmm. Interesting.
"Highway Patrol" was on the 1982 Bruce Springsteen Nebraska album, which I think is the Springsteen album that is closest to the "folk" genre (excluding the recent Seeger tribute albums). "Highway Patrol" has this stanza:
    Me and Frankie laughin' and drinkin'
    Nothing feels better than blood on blood
    Takin' turns dancin' with Maria
    As the band played "Night of the Johnstown Flood"
There's a (very forgettable, IMHO) rock song called "Night of the Johnstown Flood" on a 1988 album called Cities We're Not From by a group called The State Lottery (click to hear).
There's another song, more of the bluegrass genre, called "Night of the Johnstown Flood" on a 2010 album called Simpler Times by the Rock Creek Jug Band of Chico, California (nice album, by the way).
So, we have TWO different songs titled "Night of the Johnstown Flood," recorded in 1988 and 2010 - but the Springsteen album that talks about a song called "Night of the Johnstown Flood" was issued in 1982.

So, was Springsteen talking about a real song, or did he make it up?

-Joe-


P.S. "Heart of My Heart" is a good example of a song about a song that may not exist. Is "Highway Patrol" another?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Night of the Johnstown Flood
From: Bettynh
Date: 14 Jul 10 - 01:43 PM

Master storyteller Syd Lieberman was commissioned to write and perform a telling of the Johnstown Flood, which can be downloaded here (scroll down to find it).


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Subject: Lyr Add: JOHNSTOWN FLOOD, 1888.
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 21 Mar 13 - 12:12 AM

Possibly this poem was never intended to be sung,

From Davis's Poems: Songs of the Age by Dudley H. Davis (Baltimore: John Cox's Sons, 1891), page 14:


JOHNSTOWN FLOOD, 1888.

They hurried to the garret ceiling,
Six children and a lovely mother,
But soon the deathly waves there stealing,
Filled space, 'till all began to smother,
And their doom was sealed; no ray of light,
But a foaming flood was passing by,
And darkness of that fearful night
Had cast its shades o'er moon and sky.

They bent their way to the window pane,
And the mother seized a floating board,
And one of the band admission gained;
A kiss, good-bye, and was heard no more.
Six times, as the floating timbers passed,
She placed them on, and a kiss, good-bye;
But worst of all was the dear one last—
A father's pet, with mischievous eye.

Just then a crash, and the building fell,
And was swept away 'mid clash of sound;
But she clung to the roof, which floated well,
And swift away from the floating town,
Out on the waves in the pitch of night,
'Mid shrieks and screams and dying groans,
And not a lamp, nor a glimmering light,
As buildings groaned with a hideous moan.

But away on the wings of the waves,
With the star of Hope forever set,
And just a span to the hissing grave,
Where wrath of the waves its victim met.
Down, down the wrathy current flying,
Grinding, surging, hissing and roaring,
Screaming, groaning, moaning and dying,
The angry waves 'mid forests pouring.

On the distant shore a signal light,
But the forest trees walked through the flood
With clutching fingers and arms of might,
Wrecking the crafts and the floating wood.
A voice was heard on the wave-washed shore,
And a signal light was gleaming bright,
And her craft rushed 'mid din and roar,
But was saved by men in pitch of night.


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