Born of Tragedy. Defined by Heroes of a Community.
Conemaugh Health System, of Duke LifePoint Healthcare, is the largest healthcare provider in west central Pennsylvania, serving over a half-million patients each year through the Conemaugh Physician Group and Medical Staff, a network of hospitals, specialty clinics and patient focused programs. Conemaugh Health System employs over 3,000 clinical and non-clinical staff, and over 450 physicians committed to providing the ideal patient experience.
1889 Johnstown Flood
Conemaugh Health System was created after tragedy in the valley of Johnstown, PA. Founded in 1800 by Joseph Johns, Johnstown grew and thrived throughout the 19th century as a steel and coal powerhouse. The population grew as incoming European immigrants were drawn by economic opportunity. Rich culture and historic buildings in Johnstown were created by these individuals. In 1889, the Johnstown Flood destroyed much of the city.
Just 14 miles above the city, the South Fork dam held back Lake Conemaugh, the pleasure lake of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, a prestigious club which membership included famed entrepreneurs including Andrew Carneige and Henry Clay Frick. On the morning of May 31, 1889, the Conemaugh River Gourge rose to 20 feet. Officials there feared the dam would fail. Since midmorning, they'd worked to avoid this, because they feared the consequences. The lake was a little over two miles long, a little over a mile wide at its widest spot, and 60 feet deep at the dam itself.
Among the attempts were efforts to add height to the dam, then to dig a second spillway to relieve pressure from the breast, and finally to release the heavy screens placed on the overflows to keep the stocked fish from escaping into the streams below. By a little after 3 p.m., when most people in Johnstown were settling in to be marooned for the evening, club officials and the laborers they recruited, as well as a good sized audience from the little community of South Fork just below the dam, watched in horror as the dam "just moved away". Within the hour, a body of water which engineers at the time estimated moved into the valley with the force of Niagara Falls, rolled into Johnstown with 14 miles of accumulated debris, which included houses, barns, animals and people, dead and alive. The 1889 Johnstown Flood fatalities reached a total of 2,209.
Creation of Conemaugh Health System
Clara Barton, founder of The Red Cross, traveled to Johnstown to offer assistance by establishing tents as to help the injured and sick, beginning on June 2, 1889. Soon there was not enough room and the area needed to grow. The establishment was moved to the 8th Ward, the current site of Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center. The hospital expanded into the Joseph Friedhoff Orchard in Hornerstown in a wooden building where it stayed until January 21, 1892. The Conemaugh Valley Memorial Hospital was born after The Red Cross turned over its field hospital facilities. On November 8, 1889, the land in the 8th Ward was officially purchased for $5,800. In 1892, the state-of-the-art hospital building was complete. The original hospital of Conemaugh Health System had 60 beds in one main building with two wings, and a physician parking lot.
February 4, 1892 - Conemaugh Health System's official birthday
1915 - Hospital Medical Staff creates residency program
1916 - First campaign for more space needed
1920 - $140,000 raised to expand services
1923 - Additional $500,000 raised to build Franklin Street building, adding 175 beds to the hospital
1936 - Second Johnstown Flood
1977 - Third Johnstown Flood
The Story Continues
From the tragedy that started Conemaugh Health System, our history continues to grow. Our story is about the patients and families who trusted their lives and futures to our staff. Our history is grateful patients, families, volunteers, and employees who support the community and trust that their health is in good hands. Together we are providing excellent patient care, close to home.
Learn more about the Johnstown Flood at www.jaha.org.