Hawkesbury District Independent June 2017 #85 - Page 10

hawkesbury History with Michelle Nichols & Jonathan Auld 150th anniversary of the 1867 Flood Much has been written about the great flood which took place along the Hawkesbury Nepean River system in 1867. This month marks 150 years ago since the catastrophe occurred and therefore we deemed it important to remember the tragedy and the devastation it generated. Despite there being numerous floods during the 1790s and up to the 1820s, there were no major floods recorded in the Hawkesbury between 1830 to 1857. A major flood is greater than 9.5 metres or 31 feet on the old scale. In 1857 there were two floods, while in 1860, there were a number of inundations with the highest reaching over 11.2 metres and in 1864 consecutive inundations created havoc in the Hawkesbury district. The second flood was recorded at 14.64 metres and there was considerable damage. Inhabitants were accustomed to living along the Hawkesbury waterways where the occasional floods could create issues. However, nothing could have prepared them for what happened when the highest flood on record occurred in 1867. It began to rain on Monday, 17 June and continued through the week. By Thursday most of the Hawkesbury was covered with water and some residents required rescuing from the lowlands. The rain and wind continued and by Friday, 21 June, the water had surpassed the 1864 level. Additional boats were sent from Sydney on a special train to Windsor to assist rescuing inhabitants. The town of Windsor was “almost entirely submerged” with the surrounding countryside under water as far as the eye could see. Astonishing tales of escape and survival were being related everywhere and all the available boats were working to save those in danger. The boatmen worked extremely hard in poor conditions, rescuing life and property, at the peril of their own. The towns were filled with people who had been evacuated and many of these had lost everything. In Windsor, they were housed in various public buildings including the School of Arts and some of the churches. The train was stranded at Windsor as the water covered the viaduct at South Creek while Windsor was surrounded by rising water. Water covered large areas of George Street and as most shops were closed, business was suspended. The telegraph ceased to work after 6pm, as the lines were either under water or the poles washed away. Windsor town eventually became totally isolated, which would have been a terrifying experience for the inhabitants. One family affected by the rising waters was the Smith family of Cornwallis. The family began to make preparations when water encroached on their property. Their stock was moved to Richmond but their pigs were winched into their barn along with grain and equipment. Twenty members of the family were trying to escape the rising waters and fortunately all managed to survive. Mrs Smith recalle d: At this time the wind dashed the waves up against the house fearfully, hours later, the whole end of the house fell out, and the roof began to give way. That was an awful moment it struck terror in our hearts. We thought every moment would be our last: crushed to death beneath that fearful roof. Another Cornwallis The ruin of the Eathers’ house courtesy Illustrated Sydney family were not so lucky. News 16 August 1867 Night rescue scene courtesy Illustrated Sydney News 16 July 1867 Thomas and William Eather and their families, travelled to the house of their brother, George. By Friday the house was surrounded by rising water and George, his wife and their children, left by boat to Clarendon. The remaining two families consisting of William, his wife Catherine and five children, along with Thomas, his wife Emma, and five children took refuge on the roof of the house. In due course they were all swept off into the river with only William, Thomas and his son Charles, surviving. The water peaked at almost twenty metres at Windsor and by Sunday, the rain had stopped and the water began to recede, revealing the terrible devastation. The flood also affected Bathurst, Goulburn and the Hunter. But the Hawkesbury was, by far, the worst hit. The destruction was indescribable. Several churches down the river were damaged or washed away. A party of officials travelled by steamer on June 24, to the Colo and Macdonald Rivers, to ascertain the damage and delivering much needed supplies. One of the officials, Mr Hall stated, “destruction and desolation on both banks of the river were terrible to witness. Houses and buildings entirely gone, clothes and furniture washed away, and 0 $6 ire E r h V SA ou ff y o te r c En S0 : H e od 7 51 at bo /17 WHY HIRE AN EXPENSIVE PHOTOGRAPHER? alid . V orm g f in ok inhabitants camping in the hills or in caves.” The return journey to Windsor, took almost five hours. The newspapers of the day described the disaster in great detail with special reports and illustrations published. Journalists wrote descriptive narratives including lines such as: “Where the hopes of many hearts and the homes of many families rested, there is now only desolation.” Alfred Everingham reported that he would never forget the sight of Thomas Musgrove tying his boat to the balcony of the Doctor’s House. A committee was established for the relief of the sufferers and to distribute the assistance from the Government. The Hawkesbury Flood Relief Committee as well as the Benevolent Society were on hand to provide support. It was reported: “The loss is incalculable. The people are beggared ... Hundreds of men, women and children are houseless, homeless and hungry.” A public appeal was set up and thousands of dollars raised. For a number of years following, there were several notable floods which wreaked havoc on the environment along the river which caused irreparable damage. It wasn’t until almost 100 years later, in 1961, that a sizeable flood was seen again in the Hawkesbury. /12 t 1 o 3 Hire professional cameras Easy to use and quality photos Delivery and pickup services to your event Weddings, engagements, parties FUN, INTERACTIVE & AFFORDABLE 0478 777 111 www.diyphotographer.com.au Franchises available 10 ISSUE 85 // JUNE 2017 www.hdinews.com.au THE hawkesbury INDEPENDENT