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A Boy's Heroic Deeds.
May 31st, 1889, is a day that will long be remembered with horror by the people in the beautiful valley of the Conemaugh, in Pennsylvania. On that date occurred the terrible disaster which is known to the world and will be named in history as the "Johnstown Flood."

For many days previous to that date it had been raining hard, and great floods extended over a vast region of country in Pennsylvania, New York and the District of Columbia. Never before had there been such a fall of rain in that region within the memory of the oldest inhabitant. The waters in the river and creeks of that beautiful valley rose rapidly and overflowed their banks, while the people looked on in wonder, but seemingly not in fear. Suddenly there appeared to their wondering gaze a great bay horse galloping at break-neck speed and bearing a rider who waved his hands to them and cried: "South Fork dam will burst. To the hills for your lives." Only a few heeded his words of warning, while many mocked and jeered. On dashed the rider to warn still others of the impending danger, and, alas, to be himself and horse dashed to death by the massive timbers of a falling bridge. South Fork dam did break, and the mighty waters of Conemaugh Lake were hurled with resistless force upon the doomed people of that beautiful valley. The terrible details of the appalling disaster would fill several volumes larger than this. On rushed the mighty waters, sweeping onward in their flood dwellings, churches and buildings of every description, whether of wood, brick or stone, until Johnstown was reached and destroyed. The town was literally lifted from its foundations. Thousands of men, women and[Pg 30][Pg 29] children were caught up and swirled away in the pitiless flood, and their agonizing but vain appeals for help could be heard amidst the mighty roar of the waters. Many acts of heroism were performed by brave men and women—yes, and boys—in rescuing victims of the flood. Only one of them concerns us here. Charles Hepenthal, a schoolboy, seventeen years of age, who was on his way to Bellefonte from his home at East Liberty, Pa., on the evening of the flood, stood quietly among the passengers on the express train, as they crowded to view the terrible havoc done by the flood. As the flood reached the train, at Sang Hollow, a small frame house came pitching down the mad tide, an eddy floated it in, near to the train, so close that the wailing cries of an infant were heard, piercing their way through the roar. Charles Hepenthal's heart was touched and his courage was equal to the emergency. He determined to rescue that little wailing waif from a watery grave. Strong men urged him to desist, insisting that he would only sacrifice his own life for nothing—that it was impossible for any one to survive in the surging waters. But the boy was resolved. He cut the bell cord from the cars, tied it fast to his body, and out into the whirling gulf he went; he gained the house, secured the infant and returned through the maddened waters with the rescued babe in his arms. A shout went up from the passengers on the train. "Wait!" he cried; "there is still another in the house, I must save her!" and, seizing a plank to use as a support, he plunged again into the surging waters. Ah! his struggle this time was harder, for his precious load was heavy. In the floating house on his first visit he found a little girl, apparently ten years old, disrobed and kneeling beside her bed, on which lay the screaming infant, praying to her Father in heaven to save her and her baby brother from the fury of the flood. "God has heard my prayer," she cried, as Charles entered the door. "Oh, save the baby, quick," and then fainted away on the floor. When Charles had landed the babe[Pg 31] in safety and returned again for the girl, he found her still unconscious on the floor, and the water was fast flowing in at the door. In another minute she would have been drowned. But the brave boy's manly arms were soon around her, and with his precious load the young hero fought his way back to land and was given three times three cheers and a "tiger" by the passengers of the day express.


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