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MOVING SALE EVERYTHING MUST GO RAIN OR SHINE- LOTS OF HOUSEHOLD ITEMS AND FURNITURE FOR SALE July 9, 10, 11- We will follow the CDC recommendations for safe distancing. Please do not attend if you are sick. Masks are recommended 68 Watson Farm Road Austin pa 16720 8:30 am to 5:30 pm Follow the signs from the intersection of Rt 6 and Rt 872


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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Austin Dam Failure Caused 80 Deaths In 1911

The lonely, crumbling ruins of the former Bayless Pulp and Paper Company dam, along Rt. 872 north of Austin, serve as a quiet memorial to upwards of 80 people who lost their lives in the flood of Sept. 30, 1911.
Ashley Thompson Photo (c) 2008

A construction engineer who toured the site this summer revealed how the contractor took obvious short cuts to save time and money, including the placement of large, jagged rocks in the dam that compromised the strength of the concrete.

Experts attribute the dam's failure to poor engineering and construction, including an insufficient base that was anchored in an unstable sandstone formation.

When the dam failed, the lake that had built up behind it gushed southward toward Austin and Costello, destroying much of the former and causing considerable damage to the latter.
Ashley Thompson Photo--(c) 2008

Today, the Austin Dam Memorial Association (ADMA) manages a community park at the dam ruins with a pavilion, picnic tables, electric service, historical markers, campsites and other features. ADMA plans to spearhead a major observance to mark the centennial of the tragic flood in 2011.

Meanwhile, the E. O. Austin Historical Society operates a museum in the town of Austin that includes memorabilia from the flood and a broad range of other exhibits.

Discussions continue over a long-range plan to link the Austin Dam Memorial Park with the town and the museum through a trail that could be used by bicyclists and hikers.

Financial assistance is being pursued from as many as three separate state agencies, with the ADMA, Potter County Commissioners, Austin Borough Council, Potter County Visitors Association and Potter County Redevelopment Authority teaming together.

The archival photo is from the Potter County Historical Society collection. It shows the dam, intact, from the winter of 1910-11, with the ice-covered lake to the north at right.

Some people believe this photo may show the "bowing" that was beginning to occur at the brim of the dam, near the midsection, although that feature may be more a product of the camera angle.

There are other photos in the Historical Society collection that do clearly show a bowing of the dam that caused alarm among a handful of citizens and portended the structure's failure.


Anonymous said...

Very nice photographs of the dam ruins by Ashley Thompson. Good luck to the community in developing the park and the trail into town. It's very fascinating to see the old-time photo with the dam intact and the frozen lake.

Anonymous said...

The park is also awesome to view and photograph with the leaves changing colors's really a scenic and peaceful park to visit.

Anonymous said...

The residents of Austin have done a fine job with the memorial park and the E.O. Austin House Museum. Kudos to the fine folks who have worked so hard to preserve the most historical aspect of Potter County.

Anonymous said...

Please get involved with the Austin Dam Memorial Association. Contact us at or check out our website at Read our newsletter online and become a member in support of the park ($5/year). For questions or to get involved, please contact Tracie at 814-647-3318