Titusville and Oil City, PA Oil Creek Disaster, Jun 1892

One father is a maniac over the loss of his whole family, a wife and seven children, one a babe three days old. A brother was rescued from a burning building, where he was forced to leave a sister, her husband, and two children to perish.
Fully one-third of the business and residence portion of Titusville is in ruins. The terrible flood rushed through the streets. Brave men with ropes tied about their waists breasted the terrible current rescuing the unfortunates who patiently awaited their return. A little four year old boy, just brought to shore from the wreck of a handsome residence was placed in the hands of friends. When asked where his parents were he replied with a sob, "Papa and mamma both drowned."
Oil Creek was swollen to 500 times its natural size and reached from one hillside to the other, presenting an appalling picture. Floating swiftly by on its bosom were all sorts, manners, and kinds of animate and inanimate objects -- tanks, stills with the steam in them and blowing-off house, barns, horses, cows, chickens - everything almost being borne onward with a rush.
Clinging to various objects, such as driftwood, pieces of boards, timbers and any other object they could lay hands on, were scores of human beings, their white and terror stricken countenances, desperate struggles, and plaintive soul piercing cries for aid all combined to create impressions in the minds of the beholders never to be forgotten.
The undertaking establishments of Davidson and McNitt have been turned into temporary morgues. With the exception of the bodies of seven Hebrews and two children, all the bodies were taken there as fast as they were brought from the water.
Most of the bodies bear evidence of having met death from burning oil, many of them burned almost beyond recognition and several of them in such a terrible manner as to leave the bodies nothing but blackened crisps, entirely without the least semblance of the human form.
One woman, with a babe closely clasped to her breast, was burnt to a crisp. Another woman found burned had a prematurely-born babe by her side.

No sooner was the true state of affairs apparent to the citizens than a meeting was called and over $2,500 in cash contributed for the immediate relief of the sufferers. Committees were formed and the Rouse Armory turned into a vast hospital and sleeping and eating house. No less than 100 homeless people were cared for.
The loss in the country by washouts and loss of bridges will be enormous. There is not a county or township bridge for many miles that is not washed away, and the roads in every direction are nearly impassable.
The above harrowing scenes were repeated on an even more dreadful scale at Oil City, eighteen miles below Titusville, as told by the following dispatches from the ill-fated city: At 11:30 o'clock in the forenoon a large proportion of the population of the city was distributed along the banks and bridges of the Allegheny River and Oil Creek watching the rise of the flood in both streams, the chief cause of the rise of the latter being due to the cloudburst above Titusville, which resulted in the loss of many lives in that city.
At the time mentioned an ominous covering of oil made its appearance on the crest of the flood pouring down the Oil Creek Valley, and the dangerous foreboding waves of gas from distillate and benzine could be seen above the surface of the stream, which, at the bridge, is about 100 yards wide. People began slowly to fall back from the bridges and the creek.
Hardly had they began to do so when an explosion was heard up the stream, which was rapidly followed by two others, and quick as a flash of lightning the creek for a distance of two miles was filled with an awful mass of roaring flames and billows of smoke that rolled high above the creek and river hills.
Oil City if bounded on all sides by steep hills. Oil Creek comes down the valley from the north, and just before its junction here with the Allegheny is crossed by a bridge to the portion of the city embraced in the Third Ward, which lies along the west bank of the creek and the north bank of the river. Almost all that portion of the town was on fire within three minutes from the time of the explosion, and at the time this dispatch was sent no one knows how many of the inhabitants were lying dead in the ruins of their homes.

Continued