The 1866 Flood

The Northern Champion    Saturday 16th February 1929


Up till last weekend the big flood of 1866 was quoted by old Inhabitants as the worst on record in the Manning, so our readers will be interested to learn some of the details of that deluge.

It is said that this flood reached a height of 15ft 6 inches at Taree and Mr. P. G. Stiles estimates that last week’s rise al Taree was 15 feet.

The following details of the 1866 Flood are taken from the ‘.Manning River News,’ published  at Tinonee by the late Horace Dean: —

The outside form of this paper was printed before the flood, ‘and the ‘News’ would have appeared as usual last Saturday (for most of the types were in readiness), but for the fact that everything was so covered with mud at that time that the machine could not be worked.

Several days of hard work were required to remove the debris, so that it was physically

impossible to bring out the paper before Thursday. Seeing this, we determined to await our  usual publication day, and then to issue an extra page in the form of a supplement.

We shall not even say we hope our readers will be satisfied with this arrangement, because any man who expected a newspaper to be printed last Saturday is so very unreasonable that he deserves neither explanation nor apology. We ought indeed to be thankful that after the fearful losses we have just sustained the means of bringing out the ”News’ at all, remain to us.

We hope to go on more regularly hereafter — but the paper must always be stopped when it pleases Heaven to send such calamities as we have recently been afflicted with.

The Flood of Friday

It has pleased the Almighty Disposer of human events to visit the Manning with the most fearful display of His power it has even been our lot to witness.

A week ago people spoke of the great flood of 1857 as a calamity altogether without parallel in the history of the Manning — but on Friday, 13th the river rose eight feet above the level of that flood. Most of our readers will be able to form some idea of its height at Tinonee  when we tell them that the stores formerly occupied by Dean & Co., were under water to the wall-plate; and that a two storied warehouse on the same, premises was carried away with its entire contents.

The Ferry Inn, too, was entirely submerged, the family having barely time to escape with their lives. I and Mr. Poole’s mill, which is situated upon rather lower ground, was filled with water to within a foot of the roof. From everywhere down the river we have heard one unvarying story of desolation and ruin. In scores of cases, probably hundreds, families are left without a roof to shelter their heads, crops, cattle, furniture, everything destroyed.

Fortunately, so far as we have heard, there has been no loss of life, although there were some very narrow escapes. In attempting to get out of his business premises, the proprietor of this journal was swept from his feet by the force of the current, and would have inevitably been drowned but for the heroic exertions of Mr. James Birch, to whom he is unquestionably indebted, under Providence, for the preservation of his life.

We mention this circumstance only as an act of justice to a brave man, who was willing to imperil his own existence to save the life of another.

We hear too, that Mr. Thurlow was very nearly drowned in attempting to cross Brown’s creek, but, although this fact is given upon unquestionable authority, the particulars have not reached, us in a sufficiently reliable form to justify their publication.

We have already mentioned that the losses by this flood are fearful in the aggregate. The public punt at Tinonee has gone, and also the puntman’s house, with its entire contents.

One storekeeper at Tinonee has lost not less than £2000.

The Post Office has been deprived of all its records, stores and supplies; nothing was saved but the registered letters, and these were secured at the peril of life.

The ‘News’ is loser about £150, including an excellent library of reference, recently purchased, a considerable quantity of printing paper, and stationery, which had just been taken into stock. Besides this money loss we have also been subjected to serious inconvenience by the deposit, of mud left upon our presses, types, and other material when the waters subsided. Even the sheet now in the reader’s hands had been six feet under water since its first and fourth pages were printed, as certain stains about it all sufficiently show.

Mr. Poole has lost all the wheat in his mill. Mr. Murray will find it necessary to replace some of his furniture and to renovate his house throughout. Mr. Hansford’s house is level with the ground.

The Taree farmers have in many cases lost all.

At Mondrook several barns, and houses were swept away, together with cattle and other property. Mr. Pollock lost some of his land.

The Woolla farmers have suffered terribly, and as news comes in we shall no doubt hear that within 12 short hours, at least a hundred and fifty thousand pounds worth of property was swept away, or rendered comparatively useless. Such a, blow the Manning has never received before. Its rapid progress is again checked, and we are destined to drink once more from the cup of adversity,

The loss sustained by most of the inhabitants arose not more from the height of the flood than from the suddenness of its incursion, which left very little time to save anything.

On Wednesday night it certainly rained fearfully, but on Thursday morning the river had only risen four feet, and it remained stationary all day. When the inhabitants went to bed that night, nobody dreamed of a flood. but they arose next morning to find that in nine hours the water had come up twenty feet.

Considering that the most rapid rise of which we have ever been a witness did not exceed six inches an hour, and that when it has been so much, no one thought of going to sleep, our distant readers may imagine the consternation of the inhabitants at so fearfully rapid an influx of the waters.

In hundreds of instances the people were obliged to fly at once for their lives, and in others, two or three short hours were all that could be secured for the preservation of their property.

With one remark to our Manning River readers we shall close this sad story. We are all in trouble together.

Perhaps no one person on the river has lost so much as the proprietor of the ‘News,’ but we have all, editor and readers, been severe sufferers.

The first reflection is. this loss has not been occasioned by any fault or negligence on our part. It was the will of Providence that the fruit of much toil should be taken from us — and it has gone.

Complaining will not bring back what we have lost neither will a feeling of despondency and despair. But renewed energy, prudence, and economy, will carry us all through this trouble, as it has carried us through many a one before.

We are bruised, but not broken; bowed down, but not disconsolate. We trust, our friends will, instead of repining at their loss, go to work in earnest to retrieve it.

Those who are so fortunate as to have escaped altogether, or have got off lightly, will, we are sure, be inclined to contribute to the necessities of such as are extreme sufferers — and everywhere we turn we shall hear of a self-reliant spirit of a determination to make renewed and earnest efforts to escape the consequences of what seems at present to be a crushing calamity.

If so, all is not lost yet. Whilst his energies remain — whilst a man resolves to do his whole duty, and leave the issue in the hands of Him who knows, far better than we do, what is best for us, he is safe even though floods may severely try him.

We still have unshaken faith in the Manning It will prosper— not so rapidly just now as it seemed to do a week ago, but it will prosper, in spite of all this, if, as we have every reason to believe, the people are worthy of their fathers, and have brought with them to New South Wales the patience and perseverance for which Englishmen are everywhere remarkable.

Further Particulars of 1866 Flood

Since the foregoing was in type, we have obtained the additional information now subjoined.

First of all we may mention a dreadful week, which occurred near the Old Bar.

The vessel lost is believed to be the Eclipse, but this Is not certainly known. The bodies of eleven of the crew have been washed ashore, and a considerable number of cattle, but neither vessel nor survivor is believed to be in existence. In fact the coast is strewed with portions of the wreck for many miles.

The name is guessed at from portions of the wreck, and the character of the cargo, as well as from the ensign which is believed to be that of the vessel we have named.

Beginning ‘at the head of the river, we hear of no losses of anything but fencing, until we reach Kimbriki. Here the farmers suffered some,’ but not a serious, loss of maize. Most of them had gathered their crops, and placed the proceeds of their labor in barns beyond the reach of the water.

A little lower, down, however, the settlers were less fortunate. We hear that All George Murray, Mr. William Martin, and several others, have sustained considerable loss. At Wingham, or rather in its neighbourhood, Captain Creagh was obliged to abandon his house in a boat, and some other settlers did the same.

At the Woolla, one family was taken from the roof of their dwelling, and lost everything. We also understand several; other farmers sustained severe losses. A little lower down, at Mondrook, Mr. James Murray was a severe sufferer. We are also sorry to hear that all the other settlers on this estate sustained more or less loss.

Next we reach Tinonee, in reference to which it is only necessary to say that a portion of the property belonging to the Post Office has been recovered, but in a much damaged state; that the punt has been heard of down the river; that Mr. Henry Thiele lost his boxes and about one hundred pounds in money the poor man’s all; and that the Ferry Inn is again occupied, but will require a good deal of renovation.

We have no reason to change the opinion already expressed relative to the loss on Taree Estate. ‘ Except two or three, we understand, all or nearly all, the tenants are injured more or less some most seriously. The fencing, too, is nearly all swept away, and the road left in a very bad state.

At Taree township, the flood entered seven houses, reaching the level of Mr. Crofton’s counter, and doing him, as well as Mr. Charles McDonell, Mr. Gofton, and some others, considerable damage.

The steamer’s wharf was washed away, and the store filled with water even in the second storey. Of course, its entire contents were destroyed. We are told the water came up to the street in front, of Mr. Steel’s public house, but did not enter that building.

On Cundle Plains there was a sea of water and of course there are some sufferers, but we have not heard of any unusually severe losses. Of Redbank the same remark may be made’

Some fencing was destroyed, some corn lost, and some injury done to the growing crop of wheat, but there was no special sufferers to a ruinous extent.

The mailman hence to Port Macquarie lost two out of three horses from a paddock, the third  escaping only by swimming. We have not heard the extent of the mischief at Cundletown, but will probably do so in time to subjoin the particulars in the ‘Latest News’ column.

Dumaresque Island, and indeed, all the other islands to the foot of the river, were more or less submerged, and no doubt very serious damage was done on all; out here again we are without reliable and accurate information.

Summing all this together, we believe the loss to be fully as great as we have stated, but it is shared by a larger number than we believed when writing our first article — so that probably the river as a whole has not been so seriously checked as we thought. Two years hence will perhaps find most of the settlers again comfortable, and those of us who are alive at that time will then see the Manning more prosperous than ever.

Let no man despond. The heavy cloud that has just burst over his head will soon be succeeded by sunshine and calm.

Only two years of industry and economy! It is a short time, and will soon pass away.

The Flood — Still Later

A few more particulars of this disastrous visitation have reached us.

At the Upper Manning, we understand Mr. Robert Bryant was obliged to leave his house with his wife and children on a raft, and was in the bush, floating about nearly two days before, he was landed.

We also hear that a person living in Mr. Drew’s old house suffered very considerably.

On the Dingo, we hear that Mr. John Herkes lost most of his land — it having nearly all been washed away or covered with stones and sand. Several others also sustained considerable loss, the particulars of which have not yet come to hand.

Mr. John Sinclair was a great sufferer. It is said that almost everything he had was lost, and that the farm is very much Injured.

At Taree, we hear that Mr. Avery, Mr. Crofton, Mr. C. McDonell,’ and Mr. Gofton are the principal sufferers.

The ‘Pacific,’ moored near Taree, got away and floated down the river, but she has been secured and brought back.

The Old Bar has broken out again. But for this the havoc in the South Arm would have been dreadful.

It is feared, from the quantity of timber scattered for miles along the coast, that several other wrecks have occurred. 1f so, no clue can be obtained as to their names or destination.

A rumor has reached us that the ‘West Hartley’ is lost, but there is no proof of anything of the kind.

And Yet Later

News continues to pour in on us from every quarter, but it is all of the same melancholy character.

The ‘Woodpecker’ is known to have been lost, and the captain drowned.

The Lydia has also been wrecked.

The Pilot at Manning Heads writes us as follows: ‘The ketch Lydia’ is a total wreck in Crowdy Bay . There are also portions of a wreck, on the South Spit, opposite the bar, evidently a large vessel. The stern of the boat I picked up has ‘Eclipse, Port Albert,’ upon it. The crew of the ‘Lydia’ are all saved. Nothing seen of the crew of the other.

I picked up, the Tinonee Ferry board at the bar.

A correspondent, at Redbank tells us that besides’ the eight bodies spoken of before, two others that had come ashore were washed away again on Sunday night, and another has

since been recovered and buried. He says 60 dead bullocks were also seen.

From the Lower Manning, in addition to Mr. Caffrey’s letter, we have news that the flood was about a foot deep in Mr. Longworth’s public house; but our informant says there was nothing particularly disastrous in that vicinity. There were the usual, ‘losses,’ but nothing more.

The Tinonee punt is at Cundletown in a damaged state, and must be repaired before it can be moved.

We have no news yet from the Macleay or the Hunter.

At the Sugar Loaf, we learn from Mr. Patrick Barney that no serious loss was sustained. ‘No houses or barns were swept away, .and no corn was lost. The water was, not more than eighteen inches deep in any house. That district escaped wonderfully.

From Sergeant Coady, who has gone over the district, we learn, that the principal loss has been sustained at the Woolla, Taree, and Tinonee. We are glad to hear that although severe losses have been sustained elsewhere, the farmers will soon be able to recover from any inconvenience to which they are , temporarily subjected (Sergeant Coady, who died in Sydney some years ago. was father of Rev. J. J. Coady, now of Maitland).

We are informed that Mr. Richardson, of Wyoming lost all his flourishing sugar plantation in the flood.