Hawkesbury River Flood, 1867

A Letter from Mr Tuckerman to the Rev. H. N. Palmer 
“Rev. and Dear Sir,
It is with feelings of deep regret that I have to announce the total destruction of our little church, with its contents, excepting the surplice. The water rose so rapidly that I had not time to send up to the church till Friday afternoon. I directed my son to tie the harmonium to the beams, and secure the other things in like manner, which he did when he left, the property was beyond the reach of the water about eight feet, which was just then entering the church. The next morning it was totally carried away. It had to contend with a very strong current, arising from the river meeting the back water in that place. Therefore, no wooden building could sustain its position. The teacher’s residence is also destroyed, and the burial ground is a complete wreck, the tombstones are overturned, and much of the fencing swept away. After so many years perseverance to get the church built, and now to lose it so suddenly, is certainly painful in the extreme; the whole of my family feel very sorrowful for its loss. This locality has suffered severely from this flood, which is sixteen feet higher than that of 1864, a rise of water unprecedented in the history of the colony. Stephens’s house is washed away, with a good deal of household property, and Gardner’s has shared the same fate; the Wesleyan chapel is also gone, and also Chatterton’s schoolhouse and dwelling house, within which I am told was all his property. James Turnbull has lost his house, barn, &c; and Mr. George Turnbull Sen. has lost his dwelling house and barn, with all his corn, &c. I feel thankful that I have been more fortunate than some of my neighbours. The water did not enter my dwelling although within three inches of doing so. We had removed all our household goods, and took refuge in the granary, to which place we had to go in a boat, but, notwithstanding, I have sustained great loss. The water reached above the roof of my barn, and spoiled all my corn and hay. I also expect to lose an immense deal of fencing, &c. The inhabitants of the Hawkesbury will long remember the year 1867, for wide spread distress and destitution must prevail throughout the district for a long time to come, for dwelling houses and property of all descriptions along the river downward must have been destroyed to a considerable extent”. Sackville Reach, 26th June 1867

Since the last flood in the month of April last the farmers had gathered a great quantity of corn that had escaped immersion at that time, but the weather appeared to be rather unsettled occasionally, and it was generally expected that should we have another fall of rain another flood would be the result. The rain again set in on Tuesday, the 18th instant, and continued moderately till Wednesday morning and increased in violence till nightfall, it then came down in torrents till the following morning; the back waters had then accumulated to a great extent, and the river was rising at the rate of two and a half feet per hour in the afternoon it was bank high. The next morning, Friday, the cultivated lands were all inundated, and the rain still continuing to fall heavily, it was evident that a very high flood would result. In the afternoon the rain came down in a frightful manner, and also during the night. On Saturday morning the rain had ceased, with the exception of heavy showers occasionally. About 3 o’clock in the afternoon the waters had reached the mark of the great flood in 1864, still rising at the rate of fifteen inches per hour. At sundown the water slackened, and finally became stationary, at 5 o’clock a.m. on Sunday morning, and at 7 o’clock, it began to recede, having attained a height of fifteen feet above the mark of the great flood in 1864. During the rising of the waters on Friday night, Mr. C. Tuckerman rescued Mr Everingham’s family, ten in number, from their perilous position at the Stannix Park Estate; and, together with another family that had taken shelter at his residence attended to their wants during the flood. A few persons had also taken shelter at the residence of Mr. James Doyle, at Ulinbawn, and were hospitably entertained by that gentleman, and made as comfortable as circumstances would admit. Many other persons situated on different parts of the river bed had to take refuge on the mountains, and in many instances without food or bed clothing. On Tuesday morning the waters were rapidly subsiding, when the steamer Sir John Young appeared at Sackville Reach with a supply of flour, meat, and blankets, to afford temporary relief to those who were totally destitute, a portion of which was placed under the care of Mr. S. Tuckerman J.P , for distribution. Mr. T. lost no time in making it known to the sufferers in the locality, and in a short time had distributed 1500 lbs of flour to those who were most in need. This flood has reached dwellings and barns which were always considered out of reach of the highest floods that would probably over take place, consequently the destruction of buildings and farm produce is immense. The buildings on the very highest spots within view of the river escaped immersion by a few feet only. The wreck of buildings from Pitt Town to Wiseman’s Ferry is almost beyond description. Many houses have been totally carried away, and many others are in such a shattered condition that they cannot be repaired. At Sackville Reach the destruction of buildings was frightful to behold. The school-house used as a place of worship in connection with the Church of England is washed away. The Wesleyan chapel on the opposite side of the river has shared the same fate. Mr. Chatterton’s school-house has also disappeared, with a considerable amount of property, his dwelling is also a complete wreck. Messrs. Gardner, Stephens, and James Turnbull have also lost their dwelling houses and other buildings and nearly all their property. Such a scene of destruction was never before witnessed on the Hawkesbury, and consequently widespread distress must exist for many months. Many persons, having lost their all, must in some measure depend upon the charitable feeling of those who are able to alleviate the misery and distress of their fellow men. There is no doubt but that the Government will at once take action in seeking information as to the extent of this great calamity, with a view of affording some relief to the sufferers. As the waters subside the wreck of property becomes more apparent. Nearly all the maize is washed away or spoiled. No loss of life has yet been reported between Pitt Town and Wiseman’s Ferry. Sackville Reach, 27th June 1867