The 1852 Flood Gundagai Washed Away.
25 May 1915 The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser
(Per favor of the Hon. J. Gormley)
When the flood of '52' occurred, there were only two brick buildings in the town of Gundagai.
One of these was Turnbull's store, a new structure substantially built, the other a brick kitchen, stood behind
Tom Lindley's hotel. Major Joseph Andrews resided in a new brick building, which stood just outside the town, not far from the racecourse.
This building was in a bend of the river and escaped much of the force of the current and withstood the flood.
The school teacher, Mackinna, his wife and five children, remained in their residence the school building, as it was raised so high over the ground level that it was thought to be quite safe from any flood.
Two young girls who were attending the school were residing in our house, and when the flood began to rise they both went to stay with the teacher's family, so that there were then nine people in the school building.
By midnight on June 25 the flood waters were a roaring, raging torrent fully a mile wide, and hundreds of horses and cattle were drifting past.
Many of these endeavoured to get a footing on the roofs and verandahs of the houses. Our family, seven in number, were then on the roof of our house.
Yarry, a blackfellow, who had been shepherding for my father at Nangus, came close to us in his bark canoe, arid we were able to exchange a few words with him as the current swept him past.
He was on his knees, crouched in the bottom of his frail canoe, which was liable to be upset by the current at any moment.
We knew that Yarry was willing to run any risk to give assistance, but that assistance then was impossible, as even in still water his canoe would only carry two light persons.
Notwithstanding the danger he incurred, Yarry did good work that day.
He rescued a large family named Reardon, whose house was in a very low situation, but not far from high land, and outside the strong current.
The father of this family was at Bendigo rush at the time. Soon after, he heard the town of Gundagai was washed away, and most of the residents drowned.
He then immediately started for Gundagai on foot. A couple of weeks after the flood I met him at Lower Tarcutta, and was the first to tell him that his wife and family were safe.
There were but two boats at Gundagai, and one of these, on 24th, was taken, away to remove cattle from a flooded paddock and was not brought back until the 26th.
In the afternoon of the 25th, the second boat, which was the property of Spencer, who had an hotel on the south side of the river, and likewise owned the punt, was rowed by three men across the river to the north side to rescue a family (seven in number) whose house was then nearly covered by the flood.
In getting back to the south side the boat was smashed against a tree, and all the Thatcher family drowned, as well as two of the boatmen.
This removed the last chance of escape for those perished on the tops of their houses.
As night approached the water began to rise faster than before, at the rate of about three feet an hour.
Many of the dwellings had only a foot or two of the tops over water, and as night was setting in the houses went down in rapid succession. Major Joseph Andrews erected the first home in Gundagai, and opened it as an hotel.
At that time the bullock drivers on the road were a rough lot, and Andrews would not supply them with liquor when they were drunk.
On one occasion one of those men threatened to hitch his team of bullocks to the verandah post and pull the house down, but considering how the old house with stood the flood it would have taken a strong team to shift it, when it was first erected.
When Major Andrews was about to go to reside on his Kimo Station, he sold the house and business to Charles Simpson, who many years after kept two different hotels in Wagga. Simpson sold to Lindley, who was usually known as Long Tom.
When the '52 flood occurred Lindley was away in Yass. A short time before he had erected a substantial brick kitchen, so when the water invaded the hotel, Mrs. Lindley, with her four children and twenty-one others, got on the loft and roof of the kitchen.
Included in these was Luff, from Gobarraloug, who was a strong man in the prime of life.
The kitchen was washed down, and of these 26 persons only one escaped, viz., John Clinch, the maul coach driver between Gundagai and Tarcutta.
When I last saw the old weatherboard hotel, just before night on the 25th, the water was within a foot of the top of the roof, and as the flood rose three or four feet after that the building must have been all sub merged.
Yet, when the flood went down, it stood as erect as ever before.
No class of building will stand a strong current as well as those constructed of weatherboards, as the water swells the timber and closes all the joints.