FROM the VAULT – Texas and a flooding Severn River

Inspector William Harris, in Texas to inspect the new police station and arrange for it to be fenced, reported on flooding in the town to the Police Commissioner by letter dated 4th April 1890;

“On the 23rd [March] I arrived at Texas and the rain which commenced on the 22nd continued until the evening of the 25th when the Severn River and its tributaries were bankers [word unclear]. The 26th being fine the floods were receding fast and I arranged to leave on my return journey early on the 27th but at 1.00 that morning rain set in again and it came down in torrents all that day until about 5.00pm when the flood water from the river commenced to run over its banks above the township, known as the old township and by 7.30pm or thereabouts the water entered the hotel in which I was standing in the new township and continued rising until 3.00am on the 28th when all then at the hotel, 10 men, including myself were on the ceiling joists.  The water was then up to the wall plates of the hotel which was on blocks about 2ft from the ground and the plates being about 9ft from the floor.  I calculate the depth of the water to be 11ft and running strongly.

At this time I looked at my watch and saw it was 3.00 and felt the hotel moving noiselessly from its position.  All hands then made for the outside through openings which we had previously made in the gables and were riding on the ridge capping of the building which was floating down with the stream until it collided with a tremendous crash against a tree into which five [men], including myself jumped from the roof of the building, four escaped to the other trees and one a decent man named James Grain was knocked or fell off and was drowned.

At daylight on the morning of the 28th I saw nothing of the hotel which doubtless broke up after the collision but from my position in the tree I saw that a cottage and Iron [word unclear] Store and Post Office which were in line with the hotel had been carried away and the police station which was unoccupied had been carried down the stream about 200 yards and held fast by trees.

About 6.00 on the morning of the 29th the water had subsided sufficiently to enable us to leave the trees and wade to the verandah of a house about 200 yards distant and in the evening I went with others to the residence of Mr Myles, Sheep Inspector about a mile distant on high ground overlooking the township.  When signs of the flood were apparent Mr Myles invited all who wished to go to his place and 45 persons, men, women and children accepted his kind hospitality.”

A snippet of the report by Inspector Harris, dated 4 April 1890.
Scan courtesy of the Queensland Police Museum.           

The report to the Police Commissioner continued for another two pages.  Notable events included the location and burial of James Grain.  There were other deaths attributed to the flood; of both adults and children, plus the enormous loss of cattle and horses.  Tobacco crops were lost too with the Government and residents from Stanthorpe stepping up to offer rations and clothing.  Inspector Harris finished with information about the station buildings and town policing;

“With regard to the police station I may say one side was hanging outwards from the bottom and some of the partitions have been washed out.  But otherwise it did not appear to me to be seriously damaged.  The stable and closets have been washed away and I saw no sign of them about.  The station I was told could be removed and rebuilt on the Reserve I have mentioned for about £50 and I think it would be well to send ‘Police Carpenters’ up to remove it, until something is done with it.  Mr Myles promised to see it is not interfered with.  Constables have been despatched from Stanthorpe to preserve order and prevent as far as possible people taking what did not belong to them as I heard they had been doing.”

Inspector Harris only lost his ‘travelling necessaries – including hat and boots’ and returned home to Toowoomba on the 3rd April.

Architectual drawings of the Texas Police Station.
Plan courtesy of the Queensland Police Museum.


This report was written by Inspector William Harris to Police Commissioner David Thompson Seymour in 1890, the report available in its entirety with the Texas Police Station file.  The article was collated by Museum Assistant Georgia Grier.  The Police Museum is open 9am to 4pm Monday to Thursday and 10am to 3pm on the last Sunday of the month (Feb-Nov) and is located on the Ground Floor of Police Headquarters at 200 Roma Street, Brisbane. Contact: E: [email protected]

“FROM the VAULT – Texas and a flooding Severn River” by the Queensland Police Service is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (BY) 2.5 Australia Licence. Permissions may be available beyond the scope of this licence.


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