Robert Pitcairn's connection to Andrew Carnegie

December 15, 2014

 

There are plenty of twists and turns to the mysteries surrounding the Johnstown Flood and I’ve touched on many in this book, but I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention Robert Pitcairn’s (1836-1909) connections to Andrew Carnegie. Both men were born in Scotland and both of their families moved to the “Slabtown” section of Pittsburgh. They grew up as friends and worked together in the telegraph office. When Carnegie left the telegraph, he got Pitcairn a ticket agent job with the railroad and, for a while both worked as assistants to Tom Scott in Altoona. When Carnegie left the railroad in 1865, Pitcairn was appointed to the position Carnegie vacated, Superintendent of the Pittsburgh Division of the PRR, a position he held for the remainder of his life. With all this in mind, Pitcairn would have been aware of the canal reservoir dams from when the railroad first bought the properties or even earlier. He was aware of the dam when it supposedly failed in 1862, as well as each time the property was sold: when the state sold the property to the PRR, the Railroad to Congressman John Reilly, then Reilly to “the club”. As a member of the Fishing and Hunting Club, he also knew when the lake was refilled. Also, he held the superintendent position when the Eastern Reservoir was breached and drained by the railroad. I can find no motive for Pitcairn to have wanted the dam to fail, but he would have been in the perfect place to help facilitate a cover up.

 

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