Casterton in Flood 1906

Casterton in Flood, 1906, photograph by J. T. Somerville. Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Collection.

The first flood was recorded in 1847, just one year after the first building was erected, and they continued to occur regularly – 1893, 1906, 1946, 1950, 1975, 1983, 1991, 1992, 1996, 2008, 2010 and twice in 2011.

To say that the town of Casterton has had its fair share of floods is an understatement.

The usually serene Glenelg River snakes through the picturesque but low-lying town. But when heavy rain falls, Casterton is at its mercy.

 

Flooded road near Casterton 1946 JT Sommerville photo

A flooded road near Casterton March 1946, photograph by J. T. Somerville. Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Collection.

The very first flood recorded was in 1847 when it was noted in newspaper reports that the Glenelg River had been higher that winter than previously. It was thought heavy snow storms in the Grampians and Victoria mountains were most likely to blame for the river's swelling, which saw the McKinlay's Inn, situated on a ford on the river, flooded.

The inn was subsequently torn down due to the amount of damage caused. It was also reported that Henry Miller lost around 1400 ewes and lambs which were swept away by the sudden rise in the river.

Little did Casterton residents know that things would only get worse in coming years.

 

Glenelg River in Flood 1906 JT Sommerville photo

Casterton floods, March 1946. Looking from Blueberry Hill. Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Collection.

The floods of 1893 were at the time the highest flood recorded since Casterton was settled. But the 1906 flood surpassed that – four inches of rain was recorded on Saturday July 20 alone and the rain did not stop until Monday night. The flood peak was three to four feet higher than during the 1893 deluge.

But it is the 1946 event that to this day is remembered as "The Big Flood".

During that event, the Sandford and Casterton areas were pummelled with 628 points (221mm) of rain over four days between Friday March 16 and Monday March 19. The history books show that on the Saturday night, the Glenelg River was rising at the rate of one foot per hour leaving Major Mitchell's monument south of Casterton almost entirely covered.

As with most natural disasters, the townsfolk rallied to try to salvage what they could. Boats were rowed down inundated town streets to rescue people from their stranded homes and livestock was moved to higher ground.

 

Henty Street Underwater 1893

Flooding in Henty Street, Casterton August/September 1893. Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Collection.

But it was a daring rescue at Daley's farm at the junction of the Glenelg and Wannon Rivers that was the most dramatic event of the 1946 floods. Six men – James "Gus" Murray (first constable of police), Andrew Patterson (first constable of police), Victor Aldridge (truck driver), Charles Norris (farmer), Albert "Alby" Baugh (labourer) and Edward Osborne (merchant) were all subsequently awarded the Royal Humane Society's silver medal for bravery for their heroic deeds that day.

The 1846 event has been followed by a series of other floods that haven't come close until the events of 2011, a year that saw many parts of Victoria inundated with floodwaters during January that year and again in August.

 

Flood Marker Sculpture at Casterton by Phil Cousins 2011

Historic Flood Marker Sculpture by Phil Cousins, 2012.

Homes were again damaged and destroyed, livestock was lost, crops destroyed and a massive mess was left behind for residents and officials to clean up. But as with all the previous floods, Casterton residents banded together to rescue animals, save possessions, clean up homes and re-open businesses.

Angling Club

 

And residents still kept their sense of humour, as this photo {Casterton Angling Society surrounded by floodwaters} attests. At least angling club members didn't have far to go to drop a line in!

 

Casterton Map

What happened during the "daring rescue" at Daley's farm during the 1946 floods?

What was the damage bill from some of the more recent floods of Casterton, most notably the 2011 events where the town was inundated twice in 10 months?

How has the town of Casterton tried to mitigate flooding over the years?

To find the answers to all these questions and more, visit the Casterton and District Historical Society's website at http://www.swvic.org/castertonhistoricalsociety.htm or visit the Casterton Community Museum at the Old Railway Station (open by appointment - visit the website for more information). Visit the website for more details and the contact details of volunteers who will help you with your research needs.

 

You can also find the flood photography exhibition film Rising Waters on this web page.

 

Casterton and District Historical Society

PO Box 48, Casterton VIC 3311
Email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.