Romey: Johnstown Flood Hero

Romey became famous in history for his heroic act during the deadliest disaster in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Kress with daughter and Romey

The people of Johnstown, Pennsylvania were accustomed to some flooding after heavy rains and fast-melting snow, as their city was built in a valley between two rivers. However, on May 31, 1889, the 25,000 inhabitants were unprepared when a dam at the foot of a mountain lake 14 miles above the city broke. Twenty million tons of water swept through the city killing over 2,200 people. Many corpses were found miles down the valley (one body was said to have been found more than 100 miles away in Steubenville, Ohio) and the bodies of some victims were not found until 20 years later.

Charles Kress, his wife, child and housemaid were among the survivors. They were able to escape the water by climbing to the rooftop of their home, but as the water churned around the house Mrs. Kress, her daughter and the housemaid fell into the water. The family dog, a Newfoundland named Romey, jumped into the water to rescue them. Newfoundlands are strong dogs that were bred to swim in rough waters. The women and child were able to latch on to Romey as he towed them back to the edge of the roof where Mr. Kress pulled them to safety.

The news of Romey's heroic act can be found in the archives of the Johnstown Flood Museum.

Rebuilding Johnstown took years. This was the first major peacetime relief effort for the American Red Cross.