The year 1870 was wet across Australia. In January, summer storms brought flooding to Ballarat and Bendigo. Then for several months floods plagued NSW and Queensland. Winter came and the Western District received more than its share of rain.
The rain continued into spring and the Hamilton Spectator reported on 10 September 1870, “The present extraordinary season, according to many of the oldest inhabitants has not been equalled in the Western District of Victoria for the last eighteen years.” That came after 1½ inches fell across 4 and 5 September causing the Grange Burn at Hamilton to swell. Mail to the town was blocked for two days with creeks along the route on the rise.
The Hopkins River was up and water lapped the back door of the Hexham Hotel. Mail couldn’t get through to Warrnambool from Melbourne and at Allansford, not only the old bridge washed away but also new bridge under construction.
The Wannon River (below) was raging and there were reports of trees going over the Wannon Falls. Further downstream, the road from Sandford to Casterton was cut and a bridge at Sandford was washed away.
Streatham saw the largest flood the inhabitants could remember with families evacuated and the telegraph office flooded. At Skipton, the rise of Mount Emu Creek soon saw the streets flooded.
At Coleraine, settled on the banks of Bryan Creek,* the water rose rapidly.
The Hamilton Spectator‘s Coleraine correspondent summed up the town’s experience during the rains of September 1870, pointing to the rapid rise of the water and the plight of the McCaskill family. He offered a grim assessment…”if the stream had not suddenly fallen, that a coroner’s inquest in the locality would have taken place.”
A horse was struck by lightning at Streatham and at Colac, the heaviest ran in years fell. Murray Street was like a river and Lake Colac was rising.
At Ballarat, the rain brought the worst flood in memory.
There were cries of “Not October storms again” as people recalled the floods in the town the year prior. Then Bridge Street was a river (below) but in 1870, the water level exceeded that high mark.
COLERAINE’S FLOOD HISTORY
The people of Coleraine have been no strangers to flooding over the years. For example, there was 1893, 1906, 1983, and more recently 2016, the worst flooding since 1946 the year of ‘The Big Flood‘ across the Western District. Even earlier this month while writing this account, two days of almost constant rain saw the Bryan Creek once again rise resulting in some minor flooding.
The flood of October 1870 was disastrous and possibly the worst in the town’s history but as there weren’t official records kept for rainfall and the creek levels, it is difficult to compare. The only comparison can be made with the number of fatalities and fortunately, there has never been a repeat of the loss of life seen in 1870.
You can find more about the history of flooding at Coleraine from the following video prepared for the Southern Grampians Shire Council investigation into the 2016 Coleraine floods. You can read the full report on the link – Coleraine Flood Investigation
* Bryan Creek – While researching the 1870 floods, I came across several variations of the name of the creek which passes by Coleraine, Bryan Creek, Bryan’s Creek, Bryants Creek, Koroite Creek, and Koroite Rivulet. The use of Koroite comes from the Koroite run. The homestead stood on the northern bank of the creek just west of the township once known as Bryan’s Creek from the name of the run taken up by John Bryan in 1837 and later his brother Samuel. In 1937, the Portland Guardian claimed Samuel Pratt Winter said in the Hamilton Spectator in 1878, also the year of his death, that somewhere along the line someone had added a”t”.
However, going back to 1849 and a description of the boundaries of the Koroite run, both Bryan’s Creek (possibly the aforementioned pastoral run) and Bryant’s Creek are referred to.
I chose to use Bryan Creek, the name used by local and state government agencies.
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