By Chronofus - 6/12/2001
This is an extract from the Western Stars of the time describing what went on. My additional notes are in [square brackets]
The steady rain which set in a couple of hours before daylight on Saturday, and still continues, culminated in th ebiggest flood ever seen in Roma since the founding of the town. This was on Monday last, and when it is stated that the flood waters of the creek extended tot eh fence of the Post Office, at theintersection of McDowall street and Wyndham street, and even up the water channel to the front of the town hall [current Telstra building adjacent to the post office], people who has resided in Roma will know that the flood was no ordinary affair. The stream of water flowed across the abovenamed intersection rihgt over McDowall street down which it found its way to the other flood waters lower down. The water was upto the step of Mr Bassett's store, also of the Bank of Australasia, while the Bank of New South Wales had a stream running through it fully a foot deep, if not more. That building could not be approached except by wading to the knees.
GREAT FLOOD IN ROMA
The steady rain which set in a couple of hours before daylight on Saturday, and still continues, culminated in the biggest flood ever seen in Roma since the foundation of the town [in 1864, Council formed 1867, so not even 30 years of occupation]. This was on Monday last and when it is stated that the floodwaters of the creek attended to the fence of the Post Office, at the intersection of McDowall & Wyndham St, and even up the water channel to the front of the Town Hall, people who have resided in Roma will know that the flood was no ordinary affair. The stream of water flowed across the above named intersection right over McDowall St down which it found its way to the other flood waters lower down.
The water was up to Mr Bassett's Store [on the corner of Wyndham and McDowall St where the shoe store is adjacent to the ANZ bank], also the Bank of Australia [where the ANZ bank is now], while the Bank Of NSW had a stream of water running through it fully a foot deep, if not more. That building could not be approached except by wading to the knees. The roadways in Charles and Gregory St were covered, and all out premises and yards were under water. The Town Clerk thought it prudent to remove his family to a place of greater safety. The water was nearly a foot deep in the residence of his worship the Mayor (Mr F Bourne occupying one of the houses at 61-63 Charles St just south of the Bungil St intersection. In recorded history the water has never since risen higher than the Bungil St intersection)
McEwen's Hotel fared no better (at 67-69 Charles St), while all beyond to the north and east was a huge sheet of water extending from the railway station yards all over Chinatown (Bungil St east of the Bungil Ck crossing) down beyond Bungil bridge. [Bridge not known. Possible bridges are Victoria Bridge or the eastern highway bridge across the Bungil east of town. I do not know which bridges existed anywhere at this point in history-starting to though...]. The waters over the creek bed extended in width from a mile and a half to two miles [2.4 - 3.2kms. It is more likely the reporter should have meant one to one and a half miles 1.6km-2.4km. It is hard to see the channel ever being any wider than this due to the slope rises on both sides of the Bungil flood plain]
The view of waters from any little elevation, the Court House for instance, was most imposing. Far as the eye could reach to the northward, a large expanse of country on each side of the creek was covered with water which was coming down in a strong current, farms were covered, houses wholly or partly submerged, and the municipal council's boat together with several hastily constructed punts were to be seen crossing the waters to rescue families from dwellings that had been rendered temporarily dangerous for occupation. No shutters were taken down from business places on the main street [ie no shops were open], although business was transacted to a certain extent, the proprietors or assistants being engaged in actively helping the rescue parties or attending to the needs of women and children brought across from the eastern and northern suburbs.
The rain, which set in about 4 o'clock on Saturday morning, continued all day through Saturday with but slight cessation. By 9AM 1.62 inches had fallen, which set a strong current running down the water channels in McDowall St. [Which it has done since, until the major drainage was installed in McDowall St in the 1990's.] The cloudy sky and steady easterly wind indicated a continuance of wet weather, and as the soil had been saturated by previous continuous rains it was anticipated that there would be a rise in the creek [Brisbane and coastal regions had sustained major flooding in February previous with only rainstorms in Roma] By noon the corporation boat was got out and made ready for service. In the meantime the steady rain had caused a strong stream of water to flow over the by wash at the dam [Railway Dam], and the new channel was filled almost to the brim. So heavy had been the rainfall on the watershed above the dam that the by-wash [weir] was not sufficiently capacious to permit a sufficient overflow, and the water found its way round the northern end of the embankment [Mayne St end], then down Bowen St, where it joined the already the already swollen current down the channel from the bywash. The two streams filled the old channel to the creek and at the old culvert in Arthur St [location not know but expected to be at Bowen St] which is not sufficiently elevated to permit a body of water like that to pass, the stream was banked up. It found a way over the roadway and spread itself in a stream along Arthur St to McDowall St. [The water still does this today, but is far more pronounced in Wyndham St] Another similar stream was formed in Wyndham St, only deeper and stronger [We have good photos of this phenomenon in action] which covered the allotments to Charles St, and in a short time all the lower part of McDowall St was under water from Bassett's store.
[Basically it has jumped what is now the gutter in Wyndham from Bowen to
McDowall and spread probably from Lamberts to ANZ in a wide sheet of overland
flow.] This flood water gradually found its way to the creek, and by sundown
had all but disappeared. [Which it has historically always done since. Remember
also the Railway dam has essentially retained it's shape though the walls have
been raised and thickened, and a new wall added at the south west back side.
On a number of high intensity rainfall occasions the dam has threatened to cut
it's banks by overflowing , which is why the weir was knocked lower in the past.
The dam still overflows and discharges the overflow down to Mayne/Quintin St
corner where it overloads and pressurises the Bowen St drainage which can't
cope with the deluge. The water still follows the paths as described above]
The rain, however, continued all afternoon and through Saturday night. No
one unless compelled went out that night. The stores were lighted up as usual
on Saturdays but nobody expected to transact business. During the night strong
squalls of wind, with occasional very heavy showers prevailed. The municipal
officers, seeing the threatening weather, had made preparations for keeping
the boat running until late, and a man was placed with lanterns at the crossing
place below the Bowen Hotel. [44-46 Gregory St where the Milk Depot is now]
It was known that if heavy rain had fallen at the head of the creek, beyond
Euthella and about Gubberamunda, the creek would rise before daylight: and so
it did, but still there was no cause for immediate uneasiness. The rainfall
during the 24 hours ending 9AM on Sunday was 4.55 inches, or a total of 6.17
inches since the rain set in Saturday morning [after a previously wet February].
Few persons ventured out to Church on Sunday because of the steady drizzly rain.
Towards evening it was realised that a flood of no ordinary description was
Sergeant Kidney, with several constables, went across the creek and advised the residents in Chinatown to seek places of safety on higher ground in town, but scarcely anyone acted on this advice. [As still happens]. There was nothing for it but to return, but constables were told off to watch the creek and give whatever assistance to the municipal officers that might be required. These constables report that at 11 o'clock on Sunday night the water began to rise rapidly, and in a couple of hours guns began to be fired in several places as signals for help. The waters continued to rise rapidly, and the signals became more frequent and from more places. Scarcely anything but the rushing waters could be discerned in the blackness of the night, but shouting and cries of distress were heard. By 3 o'clock the boat was again manned, Constable Brett going over to Chinatown. Now the people were eager to cross the rising waters and boatload after boatload of women and children were brought over with the utmost difficulty, at infinite labour, and attended with no little danger to both rescued and rescuers. Very few trips were made before dawn, the water still rising, and driving the residents of china town out of their houses or perch on tables if they remained within. [This gives a level roughly 298.2m AHD, or for water to go floor level of existing historic houses as was the level of the 1997 flood. Anecdotal evidence suggests water rose to above window sill heights in the houses. This being the case, the level rose to approximately 299.0m AHD, or about 750mm above the 1997 flood, which is the expected value based on other flood points noted in the text. Doing some quick jiggery pokery based on known flooding behaviour, this would probably equate to a water level 300mm higher than the bitumen level on the high part of Madison Tce or 700mm higher than the kerb on the bend in Borland St. Of course, the creek was more open , deeper, and there was no highway acting as a weir at this point either.]
The women and children were removed to the upper story of the old brewery [probably the block behind where Brother Edwards lives in 4 Lewis St, between him and the creek, being 2 Lewis St], Constable Brett, a tall strong young man, giving valuable help in transferring the people from the dwellings. Some of the men took to roosting on stock yard fences determined to watch their property and await the subsidence of the waters. At daylight the flood had developed into the biggest ever known, being some 20 inches higher than the previous most terrible rise of 1864, and about 4 feet higher than the one of 1880. The boat shed was not to be seen, and Mr Gatehouses dwelling was surrounded, the water being halfway up the walls of the old house. [NE cnr Charles & Bungil where the Shady's Lagoon sign stands now. The 1937 air photo shows a dwelling on the highpoint of the block where the sign is now as well.] A strong stream was running parallel with the channel of the creek, through Mr Hawk's orchard (suspected to be the land between northern Borland St and Edwardes St, past Kadel's and the [east or west - not clear] side of Bassetts Vineyards. It was surmised that the water of the creek had got over the banks near Mr Alex Robinson's farm - Orange Grove [at Orange Hill I guess], swamping a large extent of country, particularly the Euthella Road. From this direction guns were fired all the morning. The rainfall at 9AM on Monday was 5.20 inches for the previous 24 hours or a total of 11.37 inches.
This was the position of affairs at daylight on Monday. The Mayor, (Mr F Bourne) and several residents had a consultation and instructions were at once given to Mr Hoffman [carpenter, cabinet maker, undertaker, probably lived in house adjacent to Ladbrook's butchery in Arthur St] to build a boat. Assisted by Mr Edwards [who lived where the church is now adjacent to Elders in Arthur St], Mr Hoffman turned out a good serviceable punt in an hour and a half [!], which was immediately put to use. Another punt was made by Mr Lilley [who lived in the north east suburbs somewhere!], contractor for the Primary School, and one was also made at the railway station to be sent up to Cattle Creek. Subsequently two more were constructed, one of them for the Divisional Board [who would be ?]. By sundown all the people had been transferred from Chinatown to Roma proper, including those who had previously refused to leave, and those roosting on the fences. It was known that a white man named Roberts had taken refuge in one of the trees near the strong current of the creek [James Roberts who owned the now vacant piece of land at 2 Major St owned by the Council. He was employed as a labourer and nightman and rented the land to a Chinaman], and a black fellow, in trying to swim over to the town had been compelled to climb another. These men called hastily for help at intervals during the day. Messr. Maybury [publican and storekeeper] and Michael Shanahan (carpenter) [Michael Shanahan was presented with a fob watch by the townspeaople. The inscription reads "Presented to Michael Shanahan by the inhabitants of Roma in recognition of his heroic conduct during the floods in the Roma district February 1890], who had worked hard and done good service during the day, again took out the boat, carrying a captive cask which was intended to be used in counteracting the strength of the current at the trees, again started out, their course down the stream being watched by a large crowd of persons assembled at and around the Bowen Hotel. After some little delay, they rescued both the young man Roberts and the blackfellow, and brought them safely ashore. The water by this time had fallen about 14 inches, and as the rain had become lighter it was hoped the worst of the flood had been experienced.
The persons who found their way or were brought in for shelter were housed and carefully attended at the various hotels, the hosts providing every comfort in clothing and food at command. We have heard of instances of payment offered being declined on the ground that in periods of distress like that just experienced it is the duty of all good citizens to afford most willing help. Such help was afforded by several persons, one firm of well known storekeepers doing great good in a quiet way. A number of people had taken refuge in the Salvation Army barracks [where Black Toyota office is now possibly], some of them not in any way associated with that institution, shelter was willingly granted by the captain, Miss Ellis. The wants of these people were attended to, several Good Samaritans sending food and clothing. Those refugees at the Court house were attended to at by the Police authorities, and fared very well. Blankets were supplied to them, and some sent to various places in town for the use of the sufferers. So far as we can learn the people rescued have done very well; theyhave been made comfortable in the shelter provided for them and some of those in the hotels are defraying, or are prepared to defray the cost of maintenance.
The rain on Monday night was, fortunately, not very heavy and by 9AM yesterday the water had fallen by about 3 feet, at which time the rainfall for the previous 24 hours was 2.15 inches, making a grand total of 13.32 inches since the rain set in on Saturday morning. The work of rescue was yesterday extended to distant places.
Now as to the actual damage done. There is no doubt the losses are very serious for a place like Roma, and that in the aggregate a considerable sum of money, if taken as represented by crops, horses, cattle, and other live stock and goods, is completely gone. But as to actual destitution it is hoped relief will be in the power of people here to grant. A public meeting is being convened by his worship the Mayor to be held this [Wednesday] morning at 11 o'clock to take feature of the position of affairs into consideration. Amongst the heaviest losers are Mr F Bourne, whose farm was swept through by the flood, a magnificent crop of standing corn, nearly ripe, being laid to the ground, the soaking of the crop of wheat just put into bags, the partial submersion of hay stacks, and other serious losses. Mr Bassett has sustained losses by the flood waters invading his wine cellars and also injuring the building. Mr Alex Robinson's house has been shifted by the current which swept through it, and other damage is reported. Mr Thomas Bradley's dwelling is also lifted off some of the blocks, and so much injured that it will have to be rebuilt. [Probably where the house now stands opposite the soccer grounds entrance known now as 1B Bungil st, but could also be the houses behind this in George St, assuming of course they rebuilt the house in the same place]. Mr Page's residence, on the Northern Rd [not identified] was partly submerged, the residents having to take shelter on a raised platform improvised in the emergency.
Many other places in and out of town are damaged more or less seriously. Mr Keiseker's house was deserted on Saturday, his three daughters taking shelter in a neighbour's place. [Probably at the north end of Edwardes St on the eastern side of the road.] They were brought into town yesterday, having suffered great privations in the mean time. Messrs Kadel [where Campbell's are now on the SW cnr of Edwardes & Bassett - house burnt down years ago] & Gabbat [not known] are found to be alright, having together with Mr Quinlivan [location not known] and his family found shelter in the premises of Mr James Spencer [house where Howard/Taylor St exist now, so the others may have been directly across the highway in the farm land there] whose house is on high ground, Cattle are reported to have been lost from various homesteads up the creek. One great inconvenience felt was the want of food, and the boats yesterday took out supplies to several places most in need.
Mr Lister, we hear, killed a bullock and distributed the meat amongst his neighbours. Mssrs Auchter, Knayer, Paul Beck and others up the creek are reported to be alright.
From further down the creek we learn that Mr Salisbury and some others are alright. The only one about whose safety there is some doubt is Mr Goggs, who has a farm some seven miles down, but a party of men went out on horseback on Monday and it is hoped that Mr Goggs and his family are alright. Reports received from Cattle Creek on Sunday stated that the floods were very high , and that nightMessrs Michael Shanahan and John Sparks were taken, together with a small punt, up the line on a trolley to a place over Bungeworgorai creeek. Although it was 10 o'clock at night, and intensely dark, young Shanahan went out in the punt to Murray's residence on Clarke's creek. He found the family surrounded by a flood, but being comparatively safe, he decided to await daylight. He then safely removed the Murrays to a place of shelter, and, having lost his punt, returned to Roma on Monday, where he immediately took an active part in the rescue of people here., working until he was compelled to desist from exhaustion. In the meantime the boat made for the Divisional Board was taken out to Cattle Creek, where it was manned and several places visited. The Laycocks were found to be all right. The boat was then taken to Mr Barat's place at Mount Abundance vineyard. He and his family were safely sheltered in the upper storey of the wine cellar building. Plenty of willing hands here were found ready to take part in the work of rescue, and the men laboured hard, ignoring fatigue, in taking the distressed to shelter. There can be no doubt many lives were saved through the promptitude displayed, and every credit is due to the mayor and those who acted with him for the measures adopted in this tgreat extremity. It is somewhat difficult to select the names of the volunteers who came forward and did good service. All agree, however, that Michael Shanahan is worthy of all praise. There were others who worked well and did good service at great personal risk also, amongst them may be mentioned Messrs T.A. Spencer, Constables Brett and Ball, Maybury, Miscamble, Searle, Emile Tardent, and Johnson Milne the boatman, who seemed never to tire) [does this mean he was the designated council boat man? The rates call him a labourer].
Early on Monday morning, Mr Faithfull, the manager of the Queensland National Bank, was waited upon by Mr T Enright with a buggy containing several of Mr Faithfull's intimate friends and as the flood waters were up to the back verandah and running in a strong current, Mrs Faithfull and the children were taken to the Royal Hotel for safety. [2-4 Wyndham St, just back from the Lovell St intersection]
Only a slight drizzle fell occassionally throughout yesterday, and hopes are now entertained that, although the rain yet continues, the worst part of the flood is now over. Last night the sky was black with clouds, with every indication of more rain.
Considerable damage has been done to the railway east and west of Roma. The mail train arrived to time on Saturday night frm Brisbane, and passed on to Charleville. It should have returned by 5AM Monday, but failed to put in an appearance. It was ascertained that it had arrived to time at Muckadilla, and left on its way to roma, but on coming to Bungeworgorai creek the country was so much flooded, the water breaking over the line on this side of the bridge, that the driver properly decided not to risk the passage. An engine and a couple vans were sent up, when the country about Cattle Creek was found to be in high flood water, the water being in Mr Wieneke's hotel, and a trolley was sent forward to reconnoitre. The water was upto the roof of the lodge at the gates leading to Mount Abundance head station, and it was found that the ballast had been washed away from under the rail at this place. Eventually the mails were got over in the trolley. In the meantime, the manager of Mount Abundance had sent down vehicles and had the passengers taken tot eh station,where they were well taken care of, and the train sent back to Muckadilla.Mr Lee, the line inspector, was on the train, and he came on to Roma. Yesterday the passengers were brought down by train from Bungeworgorai, they having to wade nearly to the middle of the water. Two ladies were carried over in stretchers by lengthsmen [who are ?]. A party of men collected from various lengths on this side of Mitchell, came down also to assist in making repairs to the line. No train has left for the west since Saturday night.
To the eastward it was found that the line had been washed away in three places this side of Bungil bridge, being approaches to culverts. At Blythedale, twenty five chains have been similarly injured. No train to the eastward has left Roma since Saturday morning last. Heavy floods are reported at Blythedale, Mr O'Sullivan being compelled to remove his family from his residence at the wool scouring establishment to the railway station, which was accomplished with great difficulty and at considerable risk. From Yeulba intelligence comes of the line being impassable there; also breaks at Rocky, Dulaccca and this side of Miles. Monday's mail train was forced to stop at miles, and no mails came to hand last night. The Toowoomba ballast engine is there with gangs of workmen for repairing the line from Miles in this direction, and the one here is to work towards Yeulba. It will take some time before communication is restored., but no doubt efforts will be made to get up the mails. In the meantime stocks are becoming exhausted here, the damage done that caused the interruption of the ten days since not having enabled our merchants to replenish their stores. The telegraph line was interrupted in the early part of yesterday, and as we write no late message had come to hand from Brisbane.
Intelligence received from Surat is to the effect that on Monday the Balonne river was 30 feet over the new bridge at that place, and it is feared the townspeople would be compelled to move out on to higher ground.
Our correspondent in Mitchell wires of 6.29 inches of rain had fallen there since Saturday, causing the Maranoa river to come down in heavy flood. The waters were, however, yesterday receding.
From Charleville we learn that there has been incessant rain, and a high flood is probable.
No intelligence is obtainable from other districts around, but the waters are out about Hope's Creek, and to the south there can be little doubt. It is feared the loss of stock will be considerable.
General notes under heading of :
By omission of part of a sentence in the article on floods and damage to
railways in last issue an error was made. The repairs were then represented
as likely to cost a million sterling. It should have been a quarter of a million.
The estimate is that of an Ipswich alderman, and must of course be correct.
In consequence of interruptions to telegraphic communications with Brisbane, no late messages - no messages of any kind, in fact - have come to hand. The telegraphic line is said to be down at or near Miles, where floods have again been high.
The flood appears to have left no room for local news of a miscellaneous nature, there is no police court case to report, nor anything else of public interest.
His worship the mayor has convened a public meeting to be held at 11 o'clock this morning, at the Town hall. The object is to raise a fund to help those persons who cannot help themselves and who have suffered by the recent flood. There is sure to be a large attendance, and no doubt the proper steps will be taken to carry out the object in view.
In consequence of the wet weather, the final meeting of the committee of the Hibernian sports did not take place on Monday. It is to be held on Monday evening next, at Mr King's Court House Hotel [current Empire Hotel, corner McDowall and Quintin St]
The quarterly meeting of the Protestant Alliance Friendly society was held on the 21st instant, when a large body of members answered th eroll call. The secretary reported substantial progress for the quarter, nine new members having joined, and two left by clearance. £45 was paid as contributions during the evening, and accounts passed for payment amounting to £48 11s; £23 being voted to the trustees during the quarter to invest on behalf of the lodge.
Since the account of the floods was written, reports come in of misfortune in various directions. A man named Darcy [Patrick Darcy, labourer], who has a farm near the Bungil bridge [currently number 122 Two Mile Road, being between Two Mile road and Bungil Ck where Forbes now live], we learn, was flooded out, and everything he possessed washed away. He was brought into town last night, being prostrated through exposure, having been in the water for several hours before he could get to a place of safety. It is probable that further cases of severe distress will be met with.
Second extract of information relating to the same floods in the same paper, but written at a later time to the first entry.
GREAT FLOOD IN ROMA
The flood waters continued to subside all through Tuesday, and on Wednesday morning the strong current in the creek had almost ceased. There was still a current all through the day, but the waters had fallen by that evening to a level of fully 20 feet below the highest attained. The quantity of mud about the banks and all over the place was something to remember. In Chinatown, lines of fences had been prostrated, while those left standing were covered with festoons of debris. The wire and paling fence adjoining the Bowen Hotel was prostrated all around, the corporation boathouse, which was built in this enclosure, having been carried bodily down the creek and deposited a broken ruin some distance away. Over in Chinatown the aspect of affair was something deplorable. At the old brewery, signs of devastation were many. The scour of water had washed away the earth from the supporting posts of the main building, so as to render it dangerous; the cellar was full of water. Scores of casks stored about the premises have been carried down stream. The damage done to buildings is considerable, portions of houses being washed away. (probably down stairs laundries) But worse than that is the damage done to gardens. William Auchter's land was swept bare of all crops; the same may be said if Ulrich's place [Where Harold Rose lives now on the NE cnr of Bungil & Ashburn Rd], where a fine orchard had been formed at the expenditure of years of toil. The flood took away many valuable orange and fruit trees. The vegetable gardens so diligently by the industrious and ever patient Chinese are simply ruined for the time being. All the people had to leave their property to the mercy of the relentless waters. Devastation all over reigns supreme in this eastern suburbs of Roma, and some years must elapse before the gardens can be brought to the high state of cultivation attained before the flood.
Down the creek there are two or three settlers who live by cultivation, amongst whom is Mr Charles Pring, who has recently given up his business in town as a carrier to earn a living on his farm, half a mile from Roma [quite possibly where Cities Football club is now situated on Warrego Hwy]. The favourable season last year induced Mr Pring to go on his farm, feeling sure he could better support his family on the land than by remaining in town [he remained on the farm for many years after]. His farm is denuded of all crop - corn, potato, and all other produce having been swept away. The flood waters covered the whole of his lands [as also happened in 1997, but nowhere near as deeply]. All he could do was save his wife and children, the horses, cows and other livestock had to take care of themselves, and no one knows where they are by this time. At Darcey's farm [probably where Forbes live now on the Two Mile Road], opposite Mr Atkin's paddocks, the water was 4' in the house (in 1997 this land did not appear to go under water at all - protected probably by the highway acting as a weir, and the lesser water volume coming down the creek). He had swept away 40 bags wheat, 30 bags maize [or corn], and two large stacks of hay. All the fences are gone. All the young crops in the ground, consisting of corn and potato, are washed out, together with the ground itself, and nothing is left but deep holes filled with water. Lower down, Mr Salisbury took his family onto a piece of high ground while that could be done, and there they have been compelled to camp. [outside of town boundary I suspect]. Mr Goggs [aged 75! He died 2 years later, his wife moving into town after that] and his family are safe, but they have suffered terribly from hunger, not having had time to carry provisions with them to higher ground on which they took refuge. Here they were situated from Sunday night to Wednesday morning, not entirely without food, but with very little, entirely surrounded by deep water. On Wednesday morning Messrs Michael Shanahan and Andy Callaghan took horses and rode down, Shanahan swimming to the distressed people with whatever provisions he could carry. In this way he made two trips from the land, and as the waters have since subsided it is hoped the Goggs family have been enabled to return to their home. All the farms in this direction, even those a mile distance from the bed of the creek, have suffered, principally by losses to stock, fences and damage to houses.
Out on the Northern Rd, the devastation has been great. Bassett's place is well within the municipality. His vineyard is none the worse for the inundation a portion of it received, but the prostrate fences are lying on the lines on which they were erected in all directions. The out premises of the homestead have received considerable damage, hundreds of casks, cases, and other moveable property having been carried away. The wine cellar was filed with water, and some part of the building will require to be almost rebuilt. Mr Clarke's dairy [where the airport is now from the Vets at McPhie St north to the major gully crossing before Boughen's] has suffered considerably, the place with its standing crops and stacks being covered with water to a considerable depth. [Water did not back up here too far in 1997, remembering in 1890 it rained locally at very high intensity]. All along this line the current was strong, and of course the fences were laid down. Mr Hanlin's homestead sustained no great damage [possibly where Boughen's are now, or more likely further north before Orange Hill], although the waters injured his property very much, the house was high and dry. His crops suffered however, some tons of excellent pumpkins being washed away. The fruit trees there also were injured, some being thrown down, others washed out of the ground. There was a deep stream between his house and his neighbours further on. Mr Allen Clelland and his sons did good service in the flood [suspected to also be in Bungil Shire]They constructed a raft, then a punt, and made their way over the stream to Page's where they found the family placed high on a staging erected in the house and close to the roof. Hartley's house was found to be high and dry [also in Bungil Shire] Mrs O'Brien had previously found shelter in the school house, but the land about the house was covered with water. Lister's residence was dry. The lower portion of the cultivated land was covered with water. The vines have not suffered. Over the creek from the place Paul Beck was found to be all right. The water approached the house but Beck's have a good means of reaching the high land at the back. It was at John Auchter's and Knayer's that the worst havoc was met in this direction. [The area of land skirting the northern border of town where Short St intersects Knayers road and then going east along the line of Chinaman Ck.] These two farms are small and all devoted to cultivation. The soil is a rich loam, every yard of which is like a garden. All the maize, potatoes, and standing crops are washed away. Even the rich surface soil has gone, and big holes are left by the strong current all over the place. A most serious loss is in the vineyards which have been destroyed as far as it is possible for a stream to destroy them. Big holes have been scoured out, and the vine roots are laid bare. The dwellings have also been all but demolished, holes eight and nine feet deep having being left by the flood. The destruction here is the most disheartening. These men have been ten years on these patches of ground, perhaps 40 acres each, a labour of love, as is generally the case with Germans. They had not only their vineyards, but a collection of fine fruit trees. All these results of their labour and care are washed away. It was here the full force of the current had uncontrolled sway. They are now stripped of everything, and will have to begin again. These hard working deserving people merit every help it is possible to render them. It is pitiable to see such terrible destruction. Auchter's house, it is said, was only saved from being swept away entirely by the accidental circumstance that a gate and a plough were left close by the end of the building. The debris collected against the gate and plough, thereby breaking the force of the current. Further away, Mr Leach's farm did not escape. [Not known, possibly in Bungil Shire] All the land covered with vines and fruit trees was untouched; also a large quantity of maize now on the ground where the big wheat crop had stood, all that is safe; but seventeen acres in another part of the farm, on which was a crop of maize nearly ready for gathering, this had been flooded, and the maize carried away.
Returning towards town by the lower road, on this side of the creek is Mr Alex Robinson's farm Orange Grove. Mr Robinson is a French man from Britteny, and has been settled in this district for many years. [Where Knayers live now, from Bungil Ck at the northern boundary east to Knayer's block at the time] He has a goodly portion of land on both sides of the creek, the house and cultivation are being on the town side. Over the creek are paddocks for stock. On this side, on a high bank of the creek is the house around which is his orangery, fruit trees, and grape vines. The house has been above any previous flood, but on this occasion it was reached, and the danger was so apparent that aid was sought in town, but could not be rendered. The damage is considerable in the way that damage has been done to other properties, but here there is no actual distress as at Auchters and Knayers. Kiesekers is lower down and on a bank of the creek and not so elevated as at Robinson's, and the flood waters presented a threatening aspect while things were considered safe at other places. [SW cnr McPhie & Edwardes St where Mrs Fleming lives now, including a block further south]. Mrs Kieseker and her three daughters remained as long as they could in the house in the hope that the waters would not rise to the level of the dwelling, but they at length realised that the flood was no ordinary one and as stated in last issue they sought shelter at a neighbours place, and two days afterward were brought into town. The flood swept all over the opposite bank [east side] and from near the sit eof the butts [original gun range] used by the Defence Forces swept to the foot of the ridge and extended far away along the course of the creek for miles. The low lying ground at the back of Bassett's vineyard was covered, fences being leveled in all directions. On the creek side of the lower road the flood spread all around Mr James Spencer's farm. The house and vineyard are situated on a knoll well above any flood, high and dry even in the recent one, but all around was sea [being the land from Bassett Lane south, west of the highway, and south to Taylor St and west to include Roy Harms paddock]. The whole of Mr Bournes farm was covered [current Overlander Motel location on the eastern highway], a strong current having passed over the vineyard and orchard. This farm, the house on which can plainly be seen from the Court House, was formed by Mr Hertzberg, a former resident of Roma. No expense was spared in laying out the grounds; the fruit trees just now coming into full bearing, having been selected as the choicest and regardless of cost. Here it is that the olive trees are the largest, indeed nearly the only ones in bearing in this part of the country, while the famous parsimmons, or Japan date plums, guavas, loquats, oranges, lemons, and other description of rare plants were to be found. The crop of wheat had just been threshed and bagged, a large area was under maize, a splendid crop nearly ready for gathering. The vines and fruit trees are in a deplorable state, the maize is washed away or laid by the current so that it will never be worth anything, and the whole farm is a wreck. Fences have of course been swept away clean. The water came into the house and Mr Quinlivan and family were compelled to get away as best as they could. By good luck they reached Mr Spencer's place before it was too late. It is here that the greatest loss ahs been experienced. Probably not 1000pounds worth, perhaps not nearly double that sum, would repair the damage done. Mr Bourne has been singularly unfortunate as egards hi sfarm. Droughts with him denied the satisfactory returns the labour was intended to secure, and now when the crops are perhaps the heaviest of any in the district they are gone in one fell swoop.
From Mr Bourne's to town is one short distance which on Monday was a sea of flood water. Stein's place on the flat formerly Pages, was covered several feet deep. Mr Clarks garden, formerly Downes, was under water, even the house was flooded. [Southern end of airport lot] and the poor feeble old mans crop of corn and everything else was completely destroyed. He and his aged wife stuck to their bit of property as long as they could. They were nearly drowned in the rising waters, and among the last of the residents on the 'ridge over the gully', to be rescued. The persons rescued were sheltered at the various hotels, at the Salvation Army Barracks, the Court House, and some of the residences of friends in the town.
By Tuesday night the waters had subsided several feet, and by Wednesday night the gully could have been crossed by the hand bridge had the hand bridge not been carried away. On Thursday morning many of the people had returned to their dwellings and were washing and brushing away the mud which had accumulated around their houses and furniture.
That same day however, between noon and one o'clock a thunderstorm passed over Roma, during which the rain fell in torrents. Probably the highest fall extended from 20 minutes to half an hour, but in the meantime the shower sent down rain which gauged 2.20 inches, the total for the day being 2.55 inches. This again quickly rose the waters in the creek, in Roma at the rate of 7 inches in 5 minutes, and by yesterday morning the waters were again in Chinatown. Some of the people who had returned to their homes again took alarm and again came to the higher ground on which Roma proper was built. The flat between the railways line below the station and the creek was flooded, but fortunately the rain ceased with Thursdays shower, and last night the waters had again subsided, but were still above the creek banks. The rain clouds, however, continue to hover overhead. Indeed, it is many days since a patch of blue sky was seen, and of course until a strong westerly breeze clears the clouds we cannot say the rain has ceased. It is hoped the worst of the flood is over, and that now attention may be paid to repairing damages.
The rain storm of Thursday was more sever up the creek, where another flood also occurred. At the farms the creek rose 22 feet in an hour and ten minutes. The people had returned to their homes, and again the rescue parties were out. Mr Clelland and his sons and young Kadel did good service; the Pages were taken from their house, the experience of Monday having shown them the prudence of going away before their dwelling got swamped. They were taken to Mr Smith's place, where they remained for the night, Mrs Page herself being taken to Hartley's house as Mrs Hartley was unwell. Auchter and Knayer also sought refuge in the house of Paul Beck. Misses L & E Hanlin yesterday forenoon crossed the creek, and sent food to Auchter and Knayer, all the stores they had in the dwelling having been washed away. The creek yesterday afternoon began to fall slowly, but by sunset last night the fall in town was slight, the bridge in Charles St over the gully being completely under water, posts and handrail not being visible.
Mr TA Spencer, who was one of the flood committee went out to Auchter's and Knayer's place has kindly furnished us with the following information as to the damage done upto Thursday morning before the thunderstorm came which again flooded the places :- "These farms are situated about two and a half miles north of Roma, and consist of black loam flats. A strong current of water passed over these farms from 6 to 10 feet deep, washing out all crops, top spoil, vines, and trees. The land is almost almost [really twice] destroyed for cultivation. Large holes are washed out, and heaps of useless sand deposited in several places. The land was formerly a nice level. It now presents a miserable appearance, being all holes with heaps of sand. The families passed a miserable time from Sunday night till Tuesday morning. All the farms along the creek flats have suffered heavily, all the crops, fences &c having been washed away."
There is yet no railway communication to the east or west. It is intended to start a train to Miles this morning, taking down mails, and returning with any letters that may have reached that township, using trollies to cross the portions of the roadway yet under repair. But it is not likely this will be attempted. Twenty chains of the line having been washed away at Yeulba, some time will be required to repair a gap like that particularly as all available men have been brought to this part. Some days must elapse before communication even of a temporary nature can be reestablished.
Extra detail follows as to events past the flood.
Flood levels recorded at the back of the current Bassett's Winery, Northern Rd, Roma
Flood levels marked on building [7/3/1197 299.128AHD], [6/83 299.047 AHD], [7/50 298.925 AHD], [28/5/53 299.018AHD]