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And burst the curb, and bounded
Rejoicing to be free,
And, whirling down in mad career,
Battlement and plank and pier,
Rushed headlong to the sea!”

    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. The people of Johnstown also had a special warning in the fact that the dam in Stony Creek, just above the town, broke about noon, and thousands of feet of lumber passed down the river. Yet they hesitated, and even when the wall of water, almost forty feet high, was at their doors, one man is said by a survivor to have told his family that the stream would not rise very high.
    How sudden the calamity is illustrated by an incident which Mr. Bender, the night chief operator of the Western Union in Pittsburgh, relates: “At 3 o'clock that Friday afternoon,” said he, “the girl operator at Johnstown was cheerfully ticking away that she had to abandon the office on the first floor, because the water was three feet deep

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Last Updated: 30 Mar 2008
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Lynne Canterbury and Diann Olsen