Austin Flood Centennial Begins Tonight

PictureThe 100 anniversary of the Great Austin Flood will take place beginning this evening.

The following is from

September 30 – October 2, 2011
Join us in Austin, PA as we turn back the clock to 1911 and remember one of the most important events in Pennsylvania’s history – the Austin Flood of 1911


“We, who saw the 1911 flood, remember and do not want the coming generations to forget.” – Marie Kathern Nuschke

Austin was a booming town, home to nearly 3000 people. Immigrants of varying ethnicities came to “God’s Country” to capitalize on the plentiful lumber and work in the area’s many mills. In 1909, after experiencing several water shortages which halted production, the Bayless Pulp and Paper Company built a  giant 534 foot wide, 50 foot high concrete dam, to harness water from Freeman Run to power its mill, the town’s largest industry. To minimize costs, Bayless ignored recommendations by the engineer to ensure the dam’s safety. While the many citizens of Austin who worked at the mill were grateful for their jobs, others questioned the stability of the dam, and worried what would happen if it ever broke.

On September 30, 1911, Austin found out. Poor construction, coupled with torrential rain, resulted in the dam’s collapse. Almost 400 million gallons of water were released, destroying everything for eight miles. At least 78 people perished in the tragedy. News of the flood quickly spread worldwide. It was thesecond worst flood disaster in Pennsylvania’s history, and sixth worst dam failure in U.S. history. The tragedy sparked new legislation to improve dam safety, and the Austin Dam was placed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1987. The lessons of the delicate balance between mankind and nature, as well as corporate responsibility, are as relevant today as they were 100 years ago.

The flood is an important part of our region’s history. The town of Austin survived not only the famous flood of 1911, but several other fires, floods and natural tragedies over the years.

Today, Austin is home to around 600 people and the smallest school district in Pennsylvania. The strength of the community has helped Austin endure the many challenges mother nature has thrown its way, and made the Austin community the place it is today – a place of caring and compassion, with a tenacity that is unmatched. The people of Austin take great pride in the resilience of their community. Despite the many challenges it has faced, Austin lives on, and is well known as the town too tough to die.

From September 30 – October 2, 2011, Austin will remember this tragedy. A commemorative ceremony will be held to honor the flood victims. Then Austin will turn back the clock with food, fun and festivities 1911 style.

Please join us in remembering this most important event in Pennsylvania’s history. Our goal is to keep Austin’s history and spirit alive.

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One Comment

  1. essie says:

    Sounds like a wonderful event. Wish I could be there for it!

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