The Year of the
Johnstown Flood

by Rodger Gessford

[This article appeared in the December, 1921 Sycamore Islander.]

A few Sundays ago there was an article in the magazine section of the Sunday STAR telling of the flood which occurred in the Potomac at the time of the flood in Johnstown Pennsylvania. In this article one of our local historians described the effects of the water in lower Washington, including Pennsylvania Avenue, and stated that nearly every house from Chain Bridge to Big Falls (Great falls, I presume) and between the canal and the river was swept away. "The only house left standing, according to reports made at the time, was the clubhouse on Sycamore Island, where the Germans at this period were holding their Sunday outings." But the STAR was incorrect, the Sycamore clubhouse was swept off its foundations in that flood.

Neither "Ole Man River" nor "River, Stay 'Way From My Door" had been written at the time of the Johnstown Flood so it's probable that "the Germans" who were perhaps standing on the river bank simply had to stand there and watch when the old clubhouse broke loose, though I suppose it's safe to conjecture that one of them sadly said "Vell, poys, dere goes das vorks!" But imagine their surprise and joy when the clubhouse merely floated down among the trees on the lower end of the Island and stuck there! How they must have yelled, "By Jove!"; "Nell's Bells!"; "Ach Himmel!" or "Name of a Pig!"; or whatever it is that Germans shout in moments of joy!

This apparently happened on the first or second of June of 1889 but the minutes of the Club meeting of June 6, 1889 entirely fail to mention the matter. Talkative lads, those Germans. On second thought, I guess they didn't exclaim anything when the clubhouse got caught in the trees.

But the minutes of the meeting of July 2nd of that year indicate that a meeting was held on June 19th and took some action about "moving and placing the house on the Island in its proper place" at a cost not to exceed $100--, So there's the advantage of not having a SYCAMORE ISLANDER -- we'd have wasted page after page on that story.

At any rate, that's this month's contribution to history and the manners and customs of the Germanic People.