Mo & Terry Smedley


horizontal rule

Appalachian Autumn (2008) Tour

Part 3:  Johnstown, Bedford

We started the morning with a trip up the Johnstown Incline, and then toured the Johnstown Flood Museum.  

I have no pictures of the Museum, but here's a quick history refresher:  in 1889, a massive flood surged 14 miles down the South Fork Conemaugh River, annihilating most of downtown Johnstown and killing 2,209 people.   It remains the most lethal flood in US history.   Photographs of the devastation are hard to fully comprehend.   The disaster was the first major relief effort for the fledgling American Red Cross.  Clara Barton remained in Johnstown for five months supervising the Red Cross work.  Perhaps the most impressive story from the flood is the dogged determination of the community to quickly rebuild.

There's also a compelling back story to the flood.  The dam that failed on Lake Conemaugh was owned by the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, a group of the uber-rich from Pittsburgh, including the likes of Andrew Carnegie.  There's ample room for speculation about whether this group acted responsibly with regard to maintaining the dam, and whether the care (or lack thereof) that was shown may have been a reflection of their consideration of the likes of millworkers in Johnstown.

It's also a story of missed opportunities, "perfect storm" coincidences, and heroic actions:  Three messages sent by telegraph from Lake Conemaugh to Johnstown may have been dismissed or delayed, a telephone system in Johnstown that was not scheduled to be operational until a few days after the flood hit, a locomotive engineer who sent his train in reverse with the whistle blowing to warn townspeople of the coming flood.

Check out the museum web site for interesting photos and descriptions of the flood, or explore their links for further reading.

After touring the Johnstown Flood Museum, our bus took us to Cumberland, Maryland via interesting sites in Bedford, Pennsylvania.

Early morning bright sun highlights the colors on the hillside by the inclined plane.   The trip on the inclined plane was free for all but three of us on the tour.  Go figure. Looking up the inclined plane.
Fog and smoke obscure Johnstown, but if you try hard, you can make out what used to be the Bethlehem Steel melt shop and rolling mill(s). An "old timer" running the inclined plane told us that this mill (which was another part of the Bethlehem plant) is now operated by a company that manufactures the armor plate for HumVees.   The fog cleared a little for this slightly better view of the Bethlehem plant.  We were told that the rolling mill is now operating as a specialty mill, rolling custom sizes and shapes.  Raw steel is brought in as billets to a reheat facility.
After leaving Johnstown, we drove to Bedford (Pennsylvania) where we enjoyed lunch at the Jean Bonnet Tavern.    This tavern dates to the late 1700s, and played a key role in the Whiskey Rebellion (check out the sign). After lunch, we headed to Old Bedford Village to view authentic recreations of Colonial-era buildings and crafts.   Most of the buildings are "real" Colonial structures that were disassembled then relocated here from various spots around the county. Here's the "Whitesmith Shop", where tin was worked. Old Bedford Village
In the stocks at Old Bedford Village Several different styles of house construction are displayed on the grounds. The Village was preparing its trebuchet (catapult) for a pumpkin launching competition that we will unfortunately miss!  If you're not sure what this might look like, check out YouTube - I found 229 videos matching "trebuchet pumpkin". A short drive from Bedford brought us to Cumberland, Maryland.  On a brief walkabout after arrival, we saw several examples church construction like this one.  We'll do more exploring of Cumberland tomorrow.  Our hotel is right across the street from the Amtrak station and CSX mainline, so we'll "enjoy" the sounds of trains all night.
Halloween in Cumberland .... at the local bakery Another Halloween cake at the local bakery Cool glasses at a local shop Not quite spelled right, but it seemed to be right in line with the Halloween theme.