Sheet Music Published by The S. Brainard's Sons Co., 1889


The Avalanche of Death


The Johnstown Horror


Words by David Fletcher Hunton.   Music by John T. Hiler


When that lake at Conemaugh,

Burst its banks of mud and straw,

And came thund’ring down the valley in its wrath;

How the people held their breath

When that avalanche of death

Crush’d out every town and hamlet in its path.

O, what sorrow and despair,

Filled the hearts of thousands there,

When they saw their homes swept down the mountain side;

How they trembled when they saw

In maelstrom’s deadly maw

Men and women struggling vainly in the tide.




Oh those strain’d and tearful eyes! 

O, those frenzied, pleading cries!

How they battled there in vain to reach the shore.

O’ the faces pale with fright

That were sinking out of sight!

O’ the pray’rs from lips that never pray’d before.


When that juggernaut of death.

Leap’t with unabated breath,

Down the valley of that rapid mountain stream;

How it tossed and tore in shreds

Blocks of buildings, stores and sheds

And o’er all that desolation reigned supreme.

How those mills and churches grand,

Crashed like eggshells in the hand,

And were thrown like chaff and straw into the flow;

‘Till the gath’ring shades of night,

O’er that weird and ghastly sight

Closed in slowly on that awful scenes of woe.




Oh! that carnival of flame.

When those helpless victims came,

Clinging fast to floating wrecks upon the wave;

O’ the thousands that were lost

In that midnight holocaust.

Where no human hand could rescue, none could save.

O’ that mother’s wild despair

On the burning wreckage there,

How she strove to save her darling at the breast,

But the red flames at the piers

All unmoved by woman’s tears

Caught and flung them down to perish with the rest.




Yet that desolated town,

By the deluge trampled down,

Will not stop to brood in silence o’er her woe;

For beneath her mud and dust

There are seeds of hope and trust,

Which were planted there a hundred years ago.

There are signs in yonder skies

That this mountain queen will rise

Phoenix like, above the ashes of defeat;

That her desolate domain,

Will yet bud and bloom again,

And her triumph will be certain and complete.






 Hunton Poem Page

Sheet Music of The Avalanche of Death
from the John Hopkins University website

Next Poem