Memories of Rev. Will Walker
Submitted by Nancy Paine, Typed by Eileen Tims and Annotated by Joyce M. Tice
Note Watson Cemetery on left border above spire of church which burned long ago.
One reason for such a record as this is, I find it hard to control and make my hand do what I wish it to do, when writing with a pen. The typewriter is so easy to manipulate that I have gradually lost the art of writing well with a pen. My fingers and hand has become "muscle bound" I am not what you would call of a nervous temperament physically, yet when I take up a pen my hand writing control becomes jerky. I hope by this pen written record that as well as a pleasant pastime, I may regain the ease of writing.
I have titled this "Earliest Memories," You often hear people telling of things which happened during their early childhood, and no doubt you have been amused. You have said to yourself, "I don’t believe it possible for a grown person to recall what happened when they were at the age of two (2) years." Well what I am about to relate, as part of the things I recall in early childhood, happened before I was two years old.
In 1889, on May 31, there was a great flood at a town in Cambria Co., Pa., known as Johnstown. It is now referred to as the "Johnstown Flood." On May 31, 1889 this busy, thriving city of 20,000 was laid waste by the bursting of Conemaugh Lake and Reservoir, situated about 10 Mlles above the town. Houses, churches and factories, were driven by the flood into a mass of ruin, which was finally piled up against the railroad bridge at Johnstown, and its destruction completed by the outbreak of fire amid this piled up mass of houses and factories which contained living and dead human beings. Those who perished numbered about 2,000. This is a descriptive song entitled, "The Johnstown Flood". This narrates the happenings of that day and the awful destruction and horrors of that flood. As late as 1905, it was yet popular and often sang. I am tempted to write the words of the song as I remember them. The words will, by no means, be the correct original ones.
It is as follows------
"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.
Then a cry of distress, sprang from east to west,
For 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.
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.
I might add that the bodies of the fearless rider and horse, who came at breakneck speed ahead of the oncoming flood and dashed through the city streets, shouting warnings which some only laughed at, and others heeded, The bodies of both horse and rider was found nearly buried in washed sand, down the valley where he had rode to warn others, "What a hero for a story"!
I would also further direct you to a short story found in the book called "Heart Throbs," Titled "One Mother In The Johnstown Flood" I am Tempted to copy it here as follows:
A pretty, pale little woman told part of her sad story as she nervously clasped and unclasped her hands and cried in a heartbreaking way. Years ago in Virginia this sad little soul met and loved a hard working, intelligent engineer, named Fern. They were married and came to Johnstown and built a neat home. Fern made good wages, their seven children were always well clad, and their mother lived with her life concentrated upon them.
When the flood came, the mother gathered her children into the parlor and told them not to be afraid, as GOD was there and would guard them. Up came the current and they went to the second floor, and again the little mother bade them be of good cheer, for papa would soon come in a boat and take them away. "Up! Up! And Up! Rose the water, and now the family was forced to the top story. The rooms were very low, and soon the heads of the mother and children were beating against the rafters. "Mama"! said the eldest girl, "Wouldn’t it be better to go outside and die in the open air?" "Yes, dear," said the mother," We’ll make a raft and all go down together".
She fought their way to the window and opened it, caught a piece of plank, put on it the eldest child with a hasty kiss and a prayer. Then she let it float away into the roar of the waves. Six times she did this. The children were frightened, but obedience was part of their creed, and they made but little protest. Then came the turn of the last child, four-year-old Bessie.
There was scarce breathing space in the room now, and unless she hastened, death would come here at once. To a broad plank, Bessie was fastened securely and blessed as the others had been. "I loved them all", she said, but I had two kisses for Bessie, for she was Tom’s favorite and was such a good child. She put her arms around my neck and said; You said, GOD would take care of me always, Mama. Will he take care of me now? I told her he would, and then she was carried away. "I’m not afraid Mama", I heard her call. That’s all except that the roof was torn off, and I floated off with it, and some Italians saved me at Kernville, sixteen miles from here.
"And the children, Mrs. Fern. I hope they all escaped! "We’ve found two of them—dead—Bessie and George. There’s not a mark on Bessie’s face, and OK, I’m so tired! GOD has taken them all-eight of them, and I’m going home to Virginia after all these years, alone, to rest and try to think."
Only one mother of the hundreds in Johnstown, one out of a multitude.
You readily see, that in this record of "Earliest Memories", all sorts of things, pathetic, humorous, pranks, and deviltries are apt to creep in. This is the task I have set before me. So here goes. These happenings will by no means be set down in an orderly fashion, but only as a jumble. Haven’t you ever sat with a neighbor or close friend, spent the whole evening exchanging boyhood or girlhood happenings while your friend and listener was relating some early experience, you were planning your next account and at the same time you were trying to create on your narrator the impression that you were paying the strictest attention to his or her "yarn"?
What I intended to relate is a sort of one-sided yarn swapping affair. If you wish to tell me yours, well, corner me sometime and I’ll try and listen.
I began this account of pen written record with the "Johnstown Flood" to prove my claim to an early memory.
At the date of that flood, May 31, 1889, I was living with my Mother and Father in the town of Rutland, Tioga Co. Penna., and approximate distance of 200 miles from Johnstown.
Uncle Oliver Ide, (by the way his name will be mixed in this account later) came to our home, driving a horse hitched to a "top buggy". I followed mother out to the end of the walk by the road, when Uncle Oliver drove up. I remember very distinctly a part of their conversation. I stood beside Mother holding on to her dress or apron. Uncle Oliver was still in the "buggy", was leaning forward and telling Mother about a great big flood of water going down a valley; of people being drowned and burned at Johnstown. I became frightened and kept looking up the road expecting to see the water coming. (Oliver Ide was married to Charlotte Crumb, sister of Emma. He was blacksmith at Elk Run (Chandlersburg) JMT)
The date of my birth was June 18, 1887. If you do a little figuring you will see that at the date of the Johnstown flood, I lacked 18 days of being two years old. I afterwards verified this with my Mother; she remembered the visit of Uncle Oliver, and of his telling of the flood.
I also recall other happenings during the summer of 1889. Death visited the home of a family living in a town of Channelsburg, (Chandlersburg, an older name for Elk Run or Bungy in Sullivan Township. They lived on Gray Valley Road - now renamed Elk Run Road by Penn-DOT) about 8 miles from my home. Their names were "Mudge". Mr. Mudge’s wife and his son’s wife died almost the same day. All were living in one home. We were living with Henry French, who is the husband of my oldest sister "Mattie." Mr. Mudge and son needed someone to help them badly in their home. Mother took me with her, and for two months, lived at the Mudge home and did the house work. I recall the older Mr. Mudge very well. Instead of an express wagon to play with, I had what used to be the axle and wheels of an ancient express wagon, which I would play with by the hour in the front yard. What fun it was to lean over and grasp that axle, with a small wheel at each end, and run with it bending over. It was rather a ludicrous position at play, and I recall how Mr. Mudge would sit on the porch and enjoy many a hearty laugh at my doings. I recall company there one day and Mr. Mudge had me go out in the yard and show them my trick with the old axle and wheels. I was two years and two months old at the time. (Note from Joyce M. Tice: These two Mudge genetlemen are my great grandfather Menzo Mudge and his father Amos Mudge. Menzo's first wife, Stella Welch, died and he later married my great grandmother, Ruth Holly - making me possible. Ths little glimpse into their personalities is invaluable to me. The reference to the death of Amos' wife is questionable as his second wife, Caroline Squires, had died in 1880 long before this account. If he had a third wife, I do not know about it.)
I also recall another happening there at Mudge’s that summer. There was a black and white pig kept in a pen down back of the barn, and one day I must have spent an hour throwing stones at the poor pig. In fact the floor of the pen was near covered with stones the size of your hand. The younger Mr. Mudge discovered me at last, and picking me up, he carried me into the kitchen where Mother was. I don’t recall that he even told Mother of what he found me doing.
One other incident of that summer, my Uncle Ed. Crumb, Mother’s brother, lived near the Mudge home, on a road directly across the valley and through a woods. Mother went visiting at their home one day and left me with the younger Mudge. Along towards night Uncle Ed. Came over across the valley to get me, as Mother had decided to stay overnight at their home. Our journey, down across the fields, and up the hill side and through those woods, for it was almost dark, made a deep impression on me. As we neared the woods, we heard what I thought was a dog barking. I grew frightened and Uncle Ed., took me upon his back and carried me through the woods. As we were about to enter the woods, Uncle Ed. Said, "Look! There’s a fox," and then I saw his big yellow bushy tail. It was the fox that I had heard barking. I remember how glad I was when we arrived at where my Mother was.
The thing that puzzles me more than anything else is, while I recall so many happenings at two years of age, yet I do not remember of talking to anyone. My Mother has told me that I began to talk when I was a year and a half old, and kept up a running fire of chatter during my waking hours.
I also recall a walk taken with Mother, Uncle Ed. And Aunt Rene were along also. We proceeded along an old road; It grew nearly dark; We turned off the road into a field; The last rays of the sun from behind the hill were fading into the shades of night. We walked slowly around in that field, when suddenly, I don’t know how it happened, but I realized that I had wandered away from my Mother and was all alone. Then oncoming night, with deep shadows all about, and then the full realization of my plight struck me. Then suddenly I found my Mother. For years that memory would pang.