THE first thing that Johnstown people do in the morning is
to go to the relief stations and get something to eat. They go
carrying big baskets, and their endeavor is to get all they can.
There has been a new system every day about the manner of dispensing
the food and clothing to the sufferers. At first the supplies
were placed where people could help themselves. Then they were
placed in yards and banded to people over the fences. Then people
had to get orders for what they wanted from the Citizens Committee,
and their orders were filled at the different relief stations.
Now the whole matter of receiving and dispensing relief supplies
has been placed in the hands of the Grand Army of the Republic
men. Thomas A. Stewart, commander of the Department of Pennsylvania,
G. A. R., arrived with his staff and established his headquarters
in a tent near the headquarters of the Citizens Committee, and
opposite the temporary post-office. Over this tent floats Commander
Stewart's flag, with purple border, bearing the arms' of the State
of Pennsylvania. The members of his staff are: Quartermaster-General
Tobin Taylor and his assistant H. J. Williams, Chaplain John W.
Sayres, and W. V. Lawrence, quartermaster-general of the Ohio
Department. The Grand Army men have made the Adams Street relief
station a central relief station, and all the others, at Kernville,
the Pennsylvania depot, Cambria City, and Jackson and Somerset
Street, substations. The idea is to distribute supplies to the
substations from the central station, and thus avoid the jam of
crying and excited people at the committee's headquarters.
The Grand Army men have appointed a committee of women to assist
them in their work. The women go from house to house, ascertaining
the number of people quartered there, the number of people lost
from there in the flood, and the exact needs of the people. It
was found necessary to have some such committee as this, for there
were women actually starving, who were too proud to take their
places in line with the other women with bags and baskets. Some
of these people were rich before the flood. Now they are not worth
a dollar. A Sun reporter was told of one man who was reported
to be worth $100,000 before the flood, but who now is penniless,
and who has to take his place in the line along with others seeking
the necessaries of life.
Though the Adams Street station is now the central relief station,
the most imposing display of supplies is made at the Pennsylvania
Railroad freight and passenger depots. Here, on the platforms
and in the yards, are piled up barrels of flour in long rows,
three and four barrels high; biscuits in cans and boxes, where
car-loads of them have been dumped; crackers, under the railroad
sheds in bins; hams, by the hundred, strung on poles; boxes of
soap and candles, barrels of kerosene oil, stacks of canned goods,
and things to eat of all sorts and kinds. The same is visible
at the Baltimore and Ohio road, and there is now no fear of a
food famine in Johnstown, though of course everybody will have
to rough it for weeks. What is needed most in this line is cooking
utensils. Johnstown people want stoves, kettles, pans, knives,
and forks. All the things that have been sent so far have been
sent with the evident idea of supplying an instant need, and that
is right and proper, but it would be well now, if, instead of
some of the provisions that are sent, cooking utensils would arrive.
Fifty stoves arrived from Pittsburgh this morning, and it is said
that more are coming.
At both the depots where the supplies are received and stored
a big rope-line incloses them in an impromptu yard, so as to give
room to those having them in charge to walk around and see what
they have got. On the inside of this line, too, stalk back and
forth the soldiers, with their rifles on their shoulders, and,
beside the lines pressing against the ropes, there stands every
day, from daylight until dawn, a crowd of women with big baskets,
who make piteous appeals to the soldiers to give them food for
their children at once, before the order of the relief committee.
Those to whom supplies are dealt out at the stations have to approach
in a line, and this line is fringed with soldiers, Pittsburgh
policemen, and deputy sheriffs, who see that the children and
weak women are not crowded out of their places by the stronger
ones. The supplies are not given in large quantities, but the
applicants are told to come again in a day or so and more will
be given them. The women complain against this bitterly, and go
away with tears in their eyes, declaring that they have not been
given enough. Other women utter broken words of thankfulness and
go away, their faces wreathed in smiles.
One night something in the nature of a raid was made by Father
McTahney, one of the Catholic priests here, on the houses of some
people whom he suspected of having imposed upon the relief committee.
These persons represented that they were destitute, and sent their
children with baskets to the relief stations, each child getting
supplies for a different family. There are unquestionably many
such cases. Father McTahney found that his suspicions were correct
in a great many cases, and he brought back and made the wrong-doers
bring back the provisions which they had obtained under false
The side tracks at both the Pennsylvania and Baltimore and
Ohio Railroad depots are filled with cars sent from different
places, bearing relief supplies to Johnstown. The cars are nearly
all freight cars, and they contain the significant inscriptions
of the railroad officials: "This car is on time freight.
It is going to Johnstown, and must not be delayed under any circumstances."
Then, there are the ponderous labels of the towns and associations
sending the supplies. They read this way: "This car for Johnstown
with supplies for the sufferers." "Braddock relief for
Johnstown." "The contributions of Beaver Falls to Johnstown."
The cars from Pittsburgh had no inscriptions. Some cars had merely
the inscription, in great big black letters on a white strip of
cloth running the length of the car, "Johnstown." One
car reads on it: "Stations along the route fill this car
with supplies for Johnstown, and don't delay it."
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