The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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May 25, 2014

MEMORIAL EVENTS | Region ready to mark flood anniversary

TODAY

The public is welcome to attend a river blessing service at 9 a.m. beginning at St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Church, 427 First St., East Conemaugh.

A procession will begin at 10:15 to the Strank Bridge (Route 271), which spans the Little Conemaugh River between East Conemaugh and Franklin boroughs.

The blessing involves dropping a tethered cross into the river three times, along with prayers for deliverance from floods.

The public also is invited to a reception with food at the church following the service.

An Odd Fellows Memorial Service will be held at 1 p.m. at Grandview Cemetery.

The half-hour service is held at the IOOF monument, which is located directly across from the Plot of the Unknown.

Those who attend should bring a lawn chair.

THURSDAY

A dramatic reading of two previously unpublished letters giving a firsthand account of the 1889 Johnstown Flood will be held at 6 p.m. at Cambria County Library, 248 Main St., downtown Johnstown.

The reading of letters written by local businessman Charles S. Ruth shortly after the flood will be performed by Chris Smith and Robb Miller, members of the Band of Brothers Shakespeare Company.

The letters were written to a friend and business associate in Brooklyn, New York, vividly detailing how Ruth and his immediate family survived the flood.

The program will include a keyboard performance of “The Johnstown Flood: A Descriptive Fantasie” composed by Alberto Rivieri and performed by Johnstown resident and retired piano teacher, Harriet Miller.

This piece was published in 1889 and is reminiscent of the piano accompaniment for an old, silent film.

The work contains individual sections which illustrate the emotion the music is intended to invoke.  Popular music of the late Victorian era, whether for voice and piano or solo piano, was often highly melodramatic by today’s standards.

Ruth’s actual letters will be on display at the library during the month of May and will be donated to the Johnstown Area Heritage Association.

The display also will include items representative of the stock from the Ruth bindery and store, which opened for business on Clinton Street in 1867.

There also will be artifacts on loan from Johnstown Area Heritage Association, which were recovered after the 1889 flood, including a clock face, a silver serving tray, a pewter cup, a crocheted bootee and a plaster of paris cast of St. Joseph. 

The display also will include the Dibert Family Bible, marked with flood stains, which is on loan from the family.

Admission is free.

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