June 1, 1889 Americans woke to the news that Johnstown, Pennsylvania had been
devastated by the worst flood in the nation’s history. Over 2,200 were
dead, with many more homeless. Johnstown in 1889 was a steel company town of
Germans and Welsh, with a population of 30,000, it was growing an industrious
community known for the quality of its steel. There was one small drawback to
Johnstown. Johnstown had been built on a flood plain at the fork of the Little
Conemaugh and Stony Creek rivers. Because the growing city had narrowed the
river banks to gain building space, the heavy yearly rains had caused more flooding.
In lives lost, the Johnstown, PA Flood was the worst civil disaster the United
States has ever suffered. Every state in the nation sent some type of relief,
and the people of sixteen foreign countries, including Russia, Turkey, France,
Britain, Australia, and Germany sent aid. For Clara Barton, the disaster was
the first big test for her newly organized American Red Cross.