the HUTT RIVER FLOOD of 1858 - Wellington, New Zealand
the HUTT RIVER flows through the southern North Island of New Zealand. It flows south-west from the southern Tararua Ranges for 56 km, forming a number of fertile floodplains, including Kaitoke, central Upper Hutt and Lower Hutt.
The river was named after Sir William Hutt, chairman of the New Zealand Company. One of the Maori names for the river was Heretaunga, which is also the name of an Upper Hutt suburb and secondary school.
It was along the banks of the Hutt River, south of White's Line, that the temporary huts of the first settlers were built.
Later permanent homes were erected higher up, showing that because of ease of water transport the population was drawn to the river banks. The Hutt river is notorious for its floods since the early 1850s
On Sunday night the 17th January 1858 in rained heavily and continued continually throughout the whole night. Around daylight on Monday the Hutt river began to rise and at 5o'clock it had swollen sufficiently to flood the valley from Mungaroa Hill to below the Hutt Bridge
Because it occurred at such an early hour when the whole population was in bed, the settlers were not able to make provision for their safely.
The ensuing flood claimed 14 lives including Mrs Hagan and the baby she had just given birth to and her nruse Mrs Price who had helped with the delivery
From the COLONIST 2 February 1858
- WELLINGTON - THE FLOODS AT THE HUTT
... FLOOD AT THE HUTT - In our last we gave such details of the disastrous flood which had occurred at the Hutt as had reahed us, we now furnish the followng particulars which we believe may be relied upon, as being substantially correct. The number of bodies at present actually recovered is nine, viz. - Mrs Stanway and two children, one four years od and the other six years; Mr Sollars, his wife and child; Mrs Hagan and infant, and Mrs Price; the oter persons known to be missing are the husband of Mrs Stanway, and three more of his children, who were all seen to be washed away together. The particular locality where this fearful loss of life occurred was near th "Barley Mow Inn," at the Upper Valley of the Hutt.
When the flood was at its highest (about 1 o'clock, a.m., Tuesday morning) the force of the water at this point is descrbed by an eye-witness as having been terrific.
... read more at the above link ...
A very small snippet of the disaster appeared in the OTAGO WITNESS 6 February 1858 which read:
... The establishment of a monthly steam communication between Australia and New Zealand is allded to; but the plan of the scheme as given would appear to be erroneous, as no mention is made of any communication with the southern parts of the colony. The news from the neighbouring Provinces contains nothing particularly exciting, excepting that there had been a great flood at the Hutt, in Wellington, which had done much damage, and fourteen lives were lost. Prices in the Australian grain markets are ...
From the TARANAKI HERALD 6 Fbruary 1858
FOURTEEN LIVES LOST
- this account mentions a few more names than the other publications:
... one family named STANNAWAY, consisting of the man, woman, and five children were thus lost, the only survvor of the family being a young girl, living with Mrs ROY in another part of the valley. ... Dr BUCK, the Coroner, proceeded to the spot on Tuesday afternoon, and we will shortly learn fuller particulars ... CORBETTs public houe is a complete wreck and has fallen into the river sideways ... the water is cut on the Petoni side as far as the bridge near to CUDBYs and on the other side has carred away the Waiwetu and Second River Bridges. ... The following are the names given of those that are drowned: Mr STANNNAWY, wife and five children; Mr Chas SILLARY, his wife and child; Mrs HAGAN and her new born infant, also Mrs PRICE the nurse; a person named HARTLEY succeeded in swimming to a tree and saved his life by hanging to the tree 1? hours. The bodies found are, Mr SILLARY, wife and child, Mrs HAGAN, Mrs PRICE, with the infant inher arms only born at six o'clock the same morning, and one of Mr STANNAWAY's little girls, aboutsix or seven years old, six og Mr STANNAWAY's family are not yet found. Four of the bodies are at BLADES's, the Traveller's rest and three at mr DEW's.
No lives were lost at the Lower Hutt, but considerable damage has been done to property. The Agliony Arms is tipped endways into the river and the river has found a new course near BUCKRIDGE's public house. The Hutt bridge stands but the Waiweta is carried from the piles and swept away
From the Hawkes Bay Herald 9 February 1858:
FLOOD AT THE HUTT
Flood at the Hutt. The late rains have caused a very heavy flood at the Hutt which, we are sorry to learn, has occasioned very serious damage and loss to persons living in the district. It commenced raining on Sunday evening, and continued without intermission until the following evening. The river rose to a greater height than has been known before, the water entering many houses above the level of the previous floods. Immense trees were brought down by the flood and left in different parts of the road, which is broken up in several places, and has become quite impassable. BUTLER's house is entirely washed away, and the river has broken through still further in that direction. CORBETT's, the Aglionby Arms is rendered uninhabitable, the river having swept away half of the houses and made a fresh course for itself, so as to leave the remainder of the building standing as an island in the middle of the stream. Mr. CORBETT had incurred an expense of £100 the week previous in driving piles and forming a breastwork to protect the house against, future freshes. With great difficulty he, contrived to save the furniture from the upper rooms.
The river has broken the bank away on both sides (of) the bridge, which is now impassable. When the flood was at its height it was level with the floor of the bridge, many of the iron fastenings and cross sleepers of which have been carried away. Heavy losses have been incurred in the valley by the destruction of fences and other property, and the loss of sheep and other valuable animals which have been drowned by the flood. The damage to the road at BUTLER's and the parts adjacent caused by the previous flood has been further increased by that of Monday. Very much of this, it is said might have been prevented if timely precautions had been taken by the Provincial Government, who never interfere in these matters until all the mischief is done. To the above account of losses and destruction of property caused by the flood, we are concerned to add that news has this morning been brought of lamentable loss of life; the bodies of seven persons have been recovered; several other persons are reported to be missing.
The unfortunate sufferers are it is said, mostly new-comers who have recently settled in the district. Further Particulars of the Flood. In our last (edition) we gave such details of the disastrous flood which had occurred at the Hutt as had reached us, we now furnish the following particulars which we believe may be relied upon, as being substantially correct. The number of bodies at present actually recovered is nine, namely. Mrs STANWAY and two children, one 4 years old and the other 6 years old; Mr SOLLERS, his wife and child; Mrs. HAGAN and infant, and Mrs PRICE; the other persons known to be missing are the husband of Mrs STANWAY, and three more of his children, who were all seen to be washed away together. The particular locality where this fearful loss of life occurred was near the "Barley Mow Inn," at the Upper Valley of the Hutt.
When the flood was at its highest (about 1 o'clock a. m., Tuesday morning) the force of the water at this point is described by an eye-witness as having been terrific. The water was seen rushing along like an immense wave, crashing and roaring, and carrying everything before it; huge trees, portions of buildings, timber, furniture, and debris of every description, were borne away by the force of the current. To witness the havoc and destruction which the flood has caused is most painful and baffles all description. Many acres of land which only a few hours before to all appearance promised a plentiful crop, are now covered with sand and shingle, and not a particle of vegetation remains. The quantities of drift timber, in many instances large solid trees, which have been deposited by the flood is perfectly incredible, and will take many months to remove.
The unfortunate persons who have lost their lives by this sad calamity are mostly late arrivals in the country.
Mrs HAGAN (a daughter of Mr DEW an old settler at the Hutt) was living in a small wooden building near the first gorge; Mrs PRICE and a man named Charles HARTLY were also residing in the house. Upon seeing the water rising so rapidly some fear was entertained for the safety of the building, and the survivor HARTLY proposed to go for a rope to secure the house; when he left the water was up to the window, and the house was actually shaking. He almost immediately lost his footing, and was swimming with the current for nearly half a-mile, until he succeeded in getting up a tree, where he remained for 14 hours, until rescued by some passers by on the following day. From the position which he occupied he could see everything around him: he states that he soon after saw the house borne away with the current; the inmates Mrs HAGAN (who was only confined that morning) and the nurse Mrs PRICE, were climbing on to the roof of the house; they passed close to where he was in the tree, and he describes the shrieks of the women as fearful; a minute after the house turned over, and nothing mere was seen of them. The bodies were recovered about a mile from the spot on Wednesday morning, the infant was found firmly locked in the dying grasp of its poor mother, the nurse was found close to her, the body was very much mangled. The bodies were removed to the house of Mr DEW, and an inquest held on them, when a verdict of accidentally drowned was returned. The husband of Mrs HAGAN is absent in the country and of course is ignorant of the desolation of his home. Mrs PRICE, who was much respected, and who arrived here by the Ann Wilson, leaves a family of young children behind her, her husband was absent from home at the time. The other family, Mr STANWAY, wife and five children were all seen together on the roof of their house, the water rose rapidly and submerged the whole of them, and they were seen to sink one after the other. The blacksmith SOLLERS with his wife and infant perished in a similar manner, they imagined themselves secure, but the house was borne away with the current, and he was heard by persons on the hills to say "good bye." The bodies were found mostly together, one completely buried in the sand. A man and his wife named SMITH living near to Mr DEW, were saved after remaining on the top of a building for many hours nearly all around them was borne away. To give any thing like a detailed account of the losses sustained by residents at the Hutt would be impossible, we may however state a few of the most important particulars of individual loss of which we have been informed: Mr. D (Daniel) RIDDIFORD has lost about 120 sheep; Mr BARTON has also lost a large number of sheep; Mr Thomas MASON a number of cattle; Mr ARNOTT, cattle and sheep; Mr John LEVERTON has lost entirely 50 acres of crops, and a large number of cattle; Mr C MABEY lost a number of sheep, and also a large quantity of fenced and cropped land; Mr BUCKRIDGE of the Albion Hotel, has had his crops destroyed and the river has taken a course completely through his property; at William TANDY's, the river now runs through his ground and has destroyed a large amount of property; Mrs SPEEDY's land is completely cut up in all directions by the different channels the rain has made, in many cases large fissures 12 feet deep have been formed; Mr STILL has lost a number of sheep, etc; Mr John RUSSELL 10 head of cattle; Mr DEW, an old settler, estimates his loss at not less than £500; a property which a week ago was worth many hundreds of pounds is now comparatively worthless, five acres of grass land having been completely swept away.
A large number of men had volunteered to assist in removing a shingle bed which had been thrown up, and which prevents the River from taking its old channel, and nearly all the residents at the Hutt were endeavouring to contribute either in labour or otherwise to this object The destruction of the roads between POAD's public house and the Taitai (Taita) is almost incredible, scarcely a vestige remains at some places of the original road, at one place (a bridge near McDONALD's creek) the river runs right through the road, making it very dangerous for passengers at night; the banks descend abruptly to the depth of 15 feet; other dangerous places occur along the whole line of road. The Waiwetu and Second River bridges have both been carried away. It is to be hoped that the Provincial authorities will lose no time in removing the large quantity of drift timber now lying on the road, and in making it again passable.
those that lost their lives in the flood:
PLEASE NOTE, many other sourcs believe that 9 people died, even as late as 1925 in a graphic article in the Evening Post about the 1858 flood it says that Mrs Stanway and 2 children were lost, this may be so ...
I have also seen a list of 12 people ...
another (draft) list assuming 14 lives were lost:
1 Mrs Charlotte HAGAN aged ?
2 male baby of Charlotte Hagan aged hours old
3 Sarah PRICE, Charlotte's nurse aged ?
4 Mrs SOLLERS, Charles the blacksmith
5 Mary Ann SOLLERS, wife of Charles
6 Charles Samuel James SOLLERS, their son
7 MR Thomas STANAWAY/Stannaway
8 Mrs Sarah STANAWAY
9 Richard STANAWAY aged 17
10 Janie STANAWAY aged ?
11 Fanny STANAWAY aged an ifant
12 Eliza STANAWAY
13 ??? STANAWAY, child