Letter from Bundatha (the late floods)

12 July 1852 Empire (Sydney)

The following extracts from a letter recently received by Mr. H. Osborne, M.L.C, from a correspondent near Gundagai, disclose some further interesting particulars relative to the fearful loss of life and destruction of property occasioned by the late floods.

"Bundarha, July 1st, 1852. My dear Sir-

Your  letter of the 14th ultimo came to hand this day week, but the present is the first opportunity I have had of answering you.

Owing to the flooded state of the river I could not get to post. I must in the first place tell you something of this great flood.

The river had been rising gradually for several days, and in the evening of the 24th, it was at great flood height, but on the morning of the 25th it again commenced to rise and got up about thirty-five feet, in two and a half hours, which completely covered all the low ground on both sides of the river to the depth of ten or twelve feet.

lt came into this hut about an hour after sunrise.

We had been trying for some time to raise the things in the store off the ground, but the only thing I can say we got saved dry was the tea, all the other stores have been wetted, and are for the most part still wet.

When the flood went down they were found covered with three or four feet of mud. I do not however anticipate that there will be much loss of anything except sugar of which I had about three tons in store, and I think I will lose one-half.

When we had secured the place as well us we could, Johnny Jackson, " old Joe," and myself got three horse's and tried to swim across the paddock to the ranges, but the water was so excessively cold that, the horses would not swim, indeed I do not think they were able to swim in consequence of the cold. 

When we had gone about a third of the way we had to make a run for the hut, to take our chance with it, but when we turned neither Jackson's horse nor mine could carry us above the water, so we had to take to swimming ourselves.

I am extremely sorry to have to tell you that your faithful old servant, Jackson, was drowned.

His horse had carried him a consider- able way from me, and all my attention was taken up with Joe, who could not swim, but who got out by holding on to the horse's mane. I then looked for Jackson and saw him swimming but apparently very weak.

I kept towards him, encouraging him all I could, though very much exhausted myself, and rather fearing whether we could gain ground or not.

I kept calling to him to float more with the stream, and we would soon get bottom.

He answered me all the time with great confidence.

All at once he told me he could not make the bank, and he went down instantly.

I thought he was trying for bottom when I saw him go down first, and made towards him, knowing he could not make bottom where he was.

He came up but for an instant, and I saw no more of him.

Joe and I then got up on the hut, which fortunately the flood did not take away, but it was the next evening before we could come down, and since then we have been picking up as much of the wreck as possible.

o o o o o o

I had two horses of your's and my own pony and Jackson's here, but as yet I do not know whether   they are drowned or not.

They swam out of sight trying to cross the river; whether they got over or not I have not heard.

The woolshed and paddock fence are all swept away, and fully one-half of the trees on the banks on the river have been uprooted and swept away.

Fortunately there were   none of the sheep on the river bank at the time of the flood. The punt has been also swept away. 

The Tumut River was not very high, but the backwater out of the Murrumbidgee, went right over the hut. It did not, however, carry anything away.

The fences are still tight there, but it has wetted 200 bushels of threshed wheat, which was in the dairy.

One of the men came from that place today and told me that there was no chance of saving it, the weather was so damp, and everything about it so wet that it is growing, though they have been turning it night and day.

The stock are all safe there, but I assure you it would move the most unfeeling to see the very distressing state of this part of the country at present.

There is scarcely a hut left on this part of the river, and few but have had some persons drowned. Those who remain have nearly lost everything in the world but their miserable lives.

There were eighty-four drowned at Gundagai by last report, not including strangers, of whom there were a great many in the town at the time of the flood, and many of the townspeople are still missing. I do not know how they fared lower down, but I fear not well.

lt will be impossible to get the cattle in at present owing to the rottenness of the ground, but as soon as it is strong enough to carry us I hope to be   ready. I think of going to Yass to bring flour, there is not a grain of wheat or a pound of flour left on the river, and it will be very high soon.

You must get me a boat on the river here, for we cannot depend on those log canoes, for it is impossible to trust them in a flood."

Jackson, the person alluded to as having been drowned, had been in Mr. Osborne service ever since that gentleman's arrival in the colony, which was in 1829, or about thirty-three years ago. 

He never served any other master, and appears to have been altogether a very faithful and highly valued servant.

Bundarha is about thirty miles from Gundagai on the eastern side and within forty miles of Yass.

Wilgara the other station spoken of is six miles from Gundagai.

Bundarha is believed to be the property called Bundarbo today. Ed.