Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
Fox News Footage
St. Francis Dam Disaster | Newhall, California



Fox News footage showing the recovery of bodies in the aftermath of the St. Francis Dam Disaster of March 12-13, 1928.

Opens with scenes of floodwaters which appear to be near the Pacific Ocean but might actually be in San Francisquito Canyon; compare with this footage. We see people, a line of cars and the Edison Saugus substation along the Saugus-Ventura Road (roughly today's Magic Mountain Parkway and Highway 126) — but mostly we see the makeshift morgue in Newhall, i.e., the Hap-A-Lan dance hall, aka the Masonic Lodge, at the northwest corner of Railroad Avenue and Market Street in Newhall.

We get a rare moving-picture glimpse of the "Pastor of the Disaster," Rev. Wolcott Evans of the First Presbyterian Church of Newhall (only moving picture of him we've seen), and we see the ladies of the American Red Cross trying to put everyone in good cheer as they serve coffee to the men who've been loading bodies into the makershift morgue.

This film print donated by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation to the University of South Carolina. Used by permission. Filmed in March 1928 by cameraman Blaine Walker. 2 reels, 35mm nitrate film, BW negative, 960 feet.

Screenshots below appear in sequential order. Click each to enlarge.

Carrying a body into Hap-A-Lan Hall, Newhall.

Facing the camera, Rev. Wolcott Evans is at center.

Hap-A-Lan Hall, Newhall.

Carrying a casket into Hap-A-Lan Hall, Newhall.

Hap-A-Lan Hall, Newhall. It was most recently a nightclub called "El Dorado;" the faint lettering can be seen above the porch roof where it has been painted out.

Ambulance/wagon has just been unloaded. Hap-A-Lan Hall is to the cameraman's back.

Red Cross ladies serve coffee in Newhall. Not entirely certain of location.

Newhall; location uncertain. Billboard advertises Palmolive.

Red Cross ladies keep their composure as they serve coffee to men who've been recovering bodies.

Railroad Avenue side of Hap-A-Lan Hall.

Looking north (cars are driving south) on Spruce Street, now called Main Street. The large building is the Swall Hotel at the southwest corner of Market Street and Spruce (Main).

Construction on the 600-foot-long, 185-foot-high St. Francis Dam started in August 1924. With a 12.5-billion-gallon capacity, the reservoir began to fill with water on March 1, 1926. It was completed two months later.

At 11:57:30 p.m. on March 12, 1928, the dam failed, sending a 180-foot-high wall of water crashing down San Francisquito Canyon. An estimated 411 people lay dead by the time the floodwaters reached the Pacific Ocean south of Ventura 5½ hours later.

It was the second-worst disaster in California history, after the great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, in terms of lives lost — and America's worst civil engineering failure of the 20th Century.


• Memorial (Proposed)
• Claims & Claimants

Background: Forgotten Casualties (CSUN 2013)


• Memorialization and Memory
(Stansell 2014)

• Paper: Oral History (Licon 2014)

• News Story 8-6-2014

Story: Victims & Heroes


FILM: Body Recovery, Newhall Morgue


FILM: Nighttime Recovery of Bodies


Tony Harnischfeger


Lyman & Lillian Curtis


Marjorie & Mazie Curtis (Mult.)


San Francisquito School


Cecilia Small, Schoolteacher


Ruiz Family x7


Pete Rivera


Erratchuo 1928


1928 Mourners


Newhall Cowboys 1928 Marker x2


Newhall Morgue


Gottardi Family


Felda Pike Obituary


Saugus Community Club Members


Oral History: Thelma McCawley Shaw 2010


Oral History: Biz Basolo 2009

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