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Question 1: What was said by the townspeople about Austin’s newly-build concrete Dam?

a. “That dam will stand when you all are dead.”

b. “If that dam should break, you would hardly get your feet wet on Main Street.”

c. “Great God, that dam is going out. We must drive back to Austin and warn the people.”

d. “If that concrete was set good and hard, it could not possibility break no matter how much pressure was behind it.”

e. All of the above theories were probably voiced about the concrete dam after it’s completion.

Question 2: What were Pig’s Ears?

a. A cheap saloon where liquor was sold, and gambling and other illicit activities were main attractions.

b. A pastry fancied by the wood hicks made of pie crust cut into circles and filled fruit or cheese.

c. Cured dog treats made of pork trimmings sold at the butcher shops.

d. A tin horn listening device used by the wood hicks to hear sounds at a distance.

e. None of these terms really applied to Austin at the time.

Question 3: Which of these are true about the day that the Austin Dam broke?

a.  It was on September 30, 1911 in the afternoon.

b. It was the Election Primary, also called Polling Day, in both Austin and Costello.

c. It was a warm sunny day, that had been preceded by a month of unusually wet and rainy weather.

d. Telephone workmen were repairing lines that morning which caused false fire whistle alarms to blow.

e. All of the above items describe that fateful day.

Question 4: Why did the Austin Dam fail?

a. The partial failure in January 1910 had weaken the structure. The dam had been hurriedly built, some during freezing weather, and was completed just six weeks before the maximum water pressure came upon it.  The concrete had not set hard enough to attain its ultimate strength at that time.

b. During its construction, the papermill owner instructed the workers to raise the crest of the dam to increase the storage capacity, without the dam designer’s knowledge.

c. In order to reduce costs, a minimal amount of iron rods were used to secure the dam to the foundation rock and the outlet pipe was not fitted with an outflow valve or gate.

d. In September 1911 heavy rains filled reservoir behind the dam and the papermill superintendent refused to open the outlet device to lower the reservoir level so as to optimize the mill’s productivity.

e. All of the above contributed to the dam breaking.  But in the end, the Austin Dam failed because water was able to get under the dam.

Question 5: At approximately 2 PM, who made the call to the Austin’s Bell Telephone switchboard to warn the townspeople that the Dam had broke?

a. Cora Brooks, who owned an illicit boarding house on the hillside close to the Dam is credited for calling. However, Harry Davis, a former Railroad Engineer, who was living at the home of Cora Brook, may have actually made to call.

b. An unidentified telephone workman who was repairing lines across from the Bayless Paper Mill.

c. F. N. Hamlin, the Superintendent of Bayless Paper Mill, who was on the highway directly below the dam driving to Coudersport.

d. A retired couple, Mr. and Mrs. Adam Broadt, from at their residence in the valley below the Dam.

e. The life saving call to the switchboard operators couldn’t be made because of broken telephone lines.

Question 6: Who was the first of the casualties when the Austin Dam broke into pieces?

a. A telephone workman who were busy repairing lines across from the Bayless Paper Mill.

b. William Nelson, the town’s grocer who was on Turner Street trying to reach his residence after he heard that the dam had broken.

c. F. N. Hamlin, the Superintendent of Bayless Paper Mill, and a friend, Joseph McKinney who were on the highway directly below the dam driving back to Austin to warn the people.

d. A retired couple, Mr. and Mrs. Adam Broadt, who were sitting on their front porch that faced down the valley below the dam.

e. Grace Baldwin Collins, who lived on upper Turner Street and was helping her elderly parents to the nearest hillside after she heard that the dam had broken.

Question 7: What was the fate of the Standard Wood Company on Foster Street when the flood water hit the Town of Austin?

a. The large wooden structure withstood the strain better than the Main Street buildings made of brick, and  the kindling factory barely had any damage occur as a result of the flood waters.

b. It was caught on fire by a burning house, that had been carried into the kindling factory by the flood waters, and it burned all night even through a heavy rain that started to fall in the late afternoon.

c. The Standard Wood Company plant was caught up in the flood waters and the large wooden building was carried a quarter of mile downstream and it landed in the “picnic grove” on the flats below Austin mostly entirely intact.

d.  The Standard Wood Company along with the Goodyear Lumber Company, and the many rows of lumber and loading docks disintegrated into a thousand pieces when the flood water carrying huge piles of pulp wood stuck that section of the town .

e. The Standard Wood Company and Goodyear Lumber Company had went out of business, and the buildings in that section of the town had already been torn down before Austin’s Flood of 1911.

Question 8: What was voted unanimously by the quickly-formed Relief Committee as the most important work to be done just after the flood had passed through the town?

a. Hand out candles and kerosene oil lamps to everyone who had escaped to the homes that were not totally destroyed.

b. Put out the fires raging fiercely in the debris using bucket brigades and water left behind in the holes and ditches.

c. Try and raise relief money as quickly as possible by selling souvenirs from the ruins of the Nuschke Store.

d. Prevent the looting of valuable jewelry and other goods from the destroyed businesses on Austin’s Main Street.

e. Start clearing the flat and trying to find the dead.

Question 9: What attire did undertaker Herman Gabe wear at the funeral for John Baldwin, Senator Baldwin’s father?

a. A fine black funeral suit and high silk hat.

b. A blue cape coat and Army clothing donated by the National Guard.

c. An torn sweater, unwashed trousers, rubber boots and derby hat two-sizes too big.

d. Gum sole shoes, gloves, and winter clothing donated by the Red Cross Relief Association.

e. There was no funeral service. Senator Baldwin’s father’s body was never found.

Question 10: After all was said and done, who was to blame?

a. The Bayless Pulp and Paper Company blamed T. Chalkley Hatton, the Engineer who designed it.

b. The Engineer blamed the Baylesses for not repairing the dam properly after it bowed in 1910.

c. Many blamed the State of Pennsylvania because it paid no attention to the dam when it was built.

d. An Engineering Expert was sent to investigate and found that it was so ill built that it was unfit for its purpose.

e. It was soon clear to all that it was to be very difficult to put the blame for the breaking of the dam on any one person.

ASDSO Case Study Austin Dam (Pennsylvania, 1911)

Many visitors may wish for a more academic explanation of the Dam Failure, such as students and construction specialists, and teachers in STEM.  We suggest reading the Austin Dam Case Study on the website of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.

Our shared goal is to promote education of dam safety.

Open to the public.

Please, stay off the Austin Dam ruins. This is a historical landmark. You are visiting a historic landmark, a place where a great tragedy occurred a century ago. This is a place of historical significance, and we expect that you will respect it as such. Stay away from the Bayless Pulp and Papermill ruins and view only from a safe distance.

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