Today in History, February 11, 1808:

Judge Jesse Fell of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania is the first to successfully burn anthracite coal, on a grate so it had a vent source underneath, in his fireplace to heat his home. Soon the coal industry in America would take off, heating homes and being used for commercial applications, fueling the Industrial Revolution.

The Johnstown Flood

Today in History, May 31, 1889:

The Johnstown Flood. The area east of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania had received record rainfall; it was already a miserable day. But it would get increasing worse.

14 miles above Johnstown was an earthen dam which had come into disrepair. The dam was owned and maintained by a hunting and fishing club made up of wealthy investors, including Andrew Carnegie.

With the heavy rainfall, the South Fork Dam collapsed and 3.8 BILLION gallons of water rushed down the valley. Amongst all of the debris gathered by the torrent were 33 train engines. The 30,000 people of Johnstown had no warning when the water and debris reached them. Over 2200 men, women and children perished as the town was virtually washed away.

The combination of trains, trees, houses and steel from a factory slammed into a bridge and a temporary dam was created….which caught fire. Many who had survived the raging waters burned to death before the bridge finally broke.

There are so many more fascinating, heart-wrenching details in this story. If you would like to learn more, I suggest one of the first books by one of my favorite Historians…David McCullough.