Cecil, PA Flooding Caused By Downpour, July 1896




Pittsburg, July 29. -- Eight persons were drowned in the flood Monday night. Seven of these met death at Cecil, a mining and oil hamlet in Washington county, the eighth victim going down at Carnegie.
The dead are:
MRS. SAMUEL McKINNEY, 50 years old.
MARGARET McKINNEY, 30 years old, daughter.
JAMES McKINNEY, 8 years old, son.
CLYDE BEATTY, 21 years old, oil well pumper of Sistersville, W. Va.
G. C. HIGGINS, 45 years old, oil well pumper of Bradford, Pa.
VINCENT WILKINSON, 25 years old, oil well employe of Vowinkle, Forest county, Pa.
JENNIE HOLMES, 18 years old, daughter of a Cecil coal miner.
JOHN WRIGHT (colored) 17, employe of a livery man at Carnegie.
SAMUEL McKINNEY kept a boardinghouse at Cecil for the accommodation of oil men and miners. The house was situated on the banks of Miller's run, a tributary of Chartier's creek. Ordinarily the run, which flows through a valley banked by high and steep hills, would scarcely float a chip; but this cloudburst filled it in its closely confined quarter to such an extent that everything along its banks was endangered.
There were 18 people in the McKINNEY house when the water commenced to rise at 9:30, but no serious danger was apprehended. The men busied themselves carrying the household goods to the second floor and the female portion of the household continued their dressing for the dance which was being held in a neighboring hall. Suddenly the house, a 2-story frame, was washed from its foundation into the seething waters and rapidly carried down stream. It was then too late for any one in the house to escape. Below the site of the house, about 200 yards, stands an old fashioned country bridge which spans the stream. The house crashed against this structure, the roof was torn off and the rest of the building was crushed like an eggshell in being forced under the bridge. HIGGINS and W. B. WHITNER were caught between the first and second floors. HIGGINS died there, but WHITNER made a most miraculous escape. Those on the second floor were badly injured. Just below the bridge the wreckage of the house stuck on a sandbar with those of the party who were still alive clinging to the pieces with scarcely a hope of being rescued.
THOMAS HAYES, VINCENT WILKINSON and others, formed a rescuing party. WHITNER was rescued while fast in the wreckage by WILKINSON, who also dragged the dead boby of HIGGINS from its lodgment. SAMUEL McKINNEY was also saved by WILKINSON. AFter assisting in other rescues WILKINSON heard a cry for help from the opposite side of the stream, and notwithstanding the extreme hazard attached to the attempt, the brave fellow made the effort to swim across with a rope. When about half way over a log struck him on the head and broke his neck. His body was found several hundred yards below lodged in a tree.
CLYDE BEATTY was another hero of the disaster who lost his life. He made strenuous efforts to save MARGARET McKINNEY and JENNIE HOLMES and had them lodged in a tree when a wave came along and swept all three to death. BEATTY had several opportunities to save himself but refused to leave his weaker companions.
Those of the unfortunate party who were rescued werer taken from the branches of trees and portions of the wrecked house. Those who lost their lives were either crushed in the wreckage or knocked insensible by rapidly floating logs, making them an easy prey for the raging torrent. The bodies have all been recovered.
WRIGHT, the colored liveryman, while attempting to drive across a bridge at Murray Hill was caught by the high water of Chartiers creek, near Carnegie, and drowned.

Other Flood Damages.
Dispatches from all points report heavy damages from the storm and many narrow escapes, but fortunately no more fatalities.
At Ellwood, Lawrence county, the pumping station was struck by lightning and CHARLES MITCHELL, the engineer paralyzed. His condition if critical.
At Turtle creek, a new house was struck by lightning and demolished.
Four children, who sought shelter in the house from the storm, escaped injury.
In Fayette county seven bridges were washed away between Connellsville and Uniontown.
At West Newton, the building of the West Newton Ground Cement and Lime company, were crushed like egg shells by falling debris from the overhanging cliffs. The loss will amount to several thousand dollars.
At Pennsylvania station a 2-story house belonging to JOHN DRIESTADT was completely demolished. The family was not hurt.
The greatest damage, however, was in Washington county, which was the scene of yesterday's cloudburst.
Hundreds of bridges have been washed away and traffic has been suspended on the Washington and Waynesburg railroad. In the oil fields an enormous amount of oil was lost through breaking of mains and scores of rigs were demolished.
At Claysville houses were unroofed, trees uprooted and many buildings are total wrecks. The United Presbyterian church and the Claysville high school building suffered the severest loss here, being struck by lightning and wrecked. Reports brought in from the surrounding country state that the storm has wrought great destruction for miles around. In some places houses were removed from their foundation, but no farther loss of life as yet reported.

The Daily Herald Delphos Ohio 1896-07-29