In 1880, William DeFrehn opened a chair factory in a warehouse at the mouth of the Conococheague Creek. At the height of operations, they produced 125 dozen chairs per month, available in 35 different styles. The factory employed about 50 local men.
On Memorial Day 1889, 68 miles north of Cumberland, MD, the South Fork Dam burst. Twenty million tons of water surged into the river at Johnstown. More than 2,200 people died there in one of the greatest disasters in American History.
It's over two hours by Interstate highway to cover the 100 miles from Williamsport, MD, to Johnstown, PA. In 1889, the only communication was telegraph lines or limited telephone.
As the Potomac River and Conococheague Creek began to rise at Williamsport, men anxiously waited by the lines for word from Cumberland about conditions. The only report from the Queen City was that it was raining. While true, it was an understatement.
It was June 2 before the Potomac River crested at 40.2 feet, a record that would stand until St. Patrick's Day 1932, when the river crested at 48.6 feet.
The largest casualty of the flood at Williamsport was the chair factory. Defrehn closed his operations at Williamsport after the flood and, interestingly enough, reopened in Johnstown, Pa., later moving to Hornerstown, Pa. They closed for good in the 1970s.