PIECE OF HISTORY: Michael Charteris in front of his Banana Street home which was used to house people after a devastating flood in the 1800s.
PIECE OF HISTORY: Michael Charteris in front of his Banana Street home which was used to house people after a devastating flood in the 1800s. Alistair Brightman

Flooded with history

SOME 125 years ago in the month of February 1893, the town of Maryborough and its surrounding suburbs endured what can only be described as the worst flood in living memory.

In what was then known as Maryborough East, or Granville, the effects of this natural disaster took a heavy toll on those who had attempted to carve out an existence in the village along the thriving Granville River Flat.

 

The Granville Sawmill on the Granville Flats in 1869.
The Granville Sawmill on the Granville Flats in 1869. contributed

Many floods have since ravaged this low lying area over the past 125 years, but still remnants can be found of the original settlement if you know where to look.

For even today in the dirt road that is Napier St, colourful chips of plates, cups, bottles and domestic glassware from the 1880s can be found by those with a sharp eye.

I have been fortunate enough to find along Napier St and the surrounding fields many a piece of pottery, blue and white plate, pieces of cups and saucers as well as half the face of a little girls porcelain doll.

 

Michael Charteris with a collection of broken crockery and a photo of the original owners.
Michael Charteris with a collection of broken crockery and a photo of the original owners. Alistair Brightman

Such is the history that lies before our very feet as we walk through this early Granville settlement.

The area divided by Napier Street that runs all the way around to Dundas St near the Granville slipway is quite tranquil today.

Sugar cane now dominates most of the ground that was once the thriving village of Granville Flat.

 

Michael Charteris at the site at Granville where a community was washed away in floods in the 1800's. He regularly finds old bits of glass and pottery in the area.
Michael Charteris at the site at Granville where a community was washed away in floods in the 1800's. He regularly finds old bits of glass and pottery in the area. Alistair Brightman

For as far back as the 1860s a small settlement endeavoured to carve out an existence here with the establishment of a Sawmill and other industry and domestic housing.

Today towering gum trees and camphor laurels fill the barb wired paddocks where once stood some 40 colonial cottages of the inhabitants.

A sentinel Moreton Bay fig tree reaches for the sky near the spot where once stood the Fig Tree Hotel.

Now they are all lost to history in one of the community's worst natural disasters to have struck the area since its settlement.

 

On a personal note, the house I live in on Banana St is in fact the one built by Richard Lowe back in 1885.

I discovered his life story as partly listed below where he described assisting those who were victims of the 1893 Flood.

As a consequence I feel a personal connection to these people who endured this great loss.

 

An old photo of the original owners.
An old photo of the original owners. Alistair Brightman

An excerpt from the Maryborough Chronicle on Thursday, December 28, 1939: In 1884 Mr and Mrs Richard Lowe removed to Granville. That suburb was mainly bush and swamp behind the houses on the river bank. Again they went into residence in a tent while Mr Lowe and a friend cut blocks and built a house. For 21 years he resided at Granville till 1907, and was there during the disastrous 1893 flood.

Mr Lowe stated in the interview: "Forty houses and the big Granville Hotel at the Ferry Landing were washed away".

The couple remember the pitiful sight of houses floating down the river with cats and dogs sitting on the roofs. One house carried along by the flood smashed right against the brick chimney, the relic of Wilson, Hart and Co's old sawmill on the Granville side of the river.

Those people fortunate enough to be beyond the reach of the flood waters provided accommodation to the refugees, and at one time there were 19 in Mr & Mrs Lowe's house- four women, three men and 12 children.

It was just a matter of picking out the softest board in the house to sleep on said Mr Lowe. The flood lasted a fortnight and within a month another flood occurred but they did not get any refugees on the second occasion.

 

Overlooking Queens Park rotunda from the Post Office clock tower looking over the Mary River to Granville during the 1893 floods.
Overlooking Queens Park rotunda from the Post Office clock tower looking over the Mary River to Granville during the 1893 floods. contributed

In Part Two of this article I will look at the evidence two more eye witnesses who gave blow by blow accounts of the houses that were swept away during this terrible natural event.

Most historically these accounts list the names of those unfortunate people who lost everything during this disastrous flood.

Many of whom had to start again with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.

One wonders where these people went and what happened to them after such a life changing event. Where are their descendents today, and what memories do they have that were handed down from their pioneering 1890s generation.



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