History of the United States
Rain and Flooding
Lakes and Rivers

How did human actions cause the Johnstown flood?

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May 12, 2007 4:44PM

In the years following the event, many people blamed the members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club for the tragedy. The club had bought and repaired the dam to turn the area into a holiday retreat in the mountains. However, they were accused of failing to properly maintain the dam, so that it was unable to contain the additional water of the unusually heavy rainfall. Despite the accusations and evidence, they were never held legally responsible for the disaster. Though a suit was filed, the court held the dam break an Act of God, and granted the survivors no legal compensation. Individual members of the club did contribute substantially to the relief efforts. Along with about half of the club members, Henry Clay Frick donated thousands of dollars to the relief effort in Johnstown. After the flood, Andrew Carnegie, one of the club's better known members, built the town a new library. In modern times, this former library is owned by the Johnstown Area Heritage Association, and houses the Flood Museum. Remnants of the dam are preserved as part of Johnstown Flood National Memorial, established in 1964.