The Hicks Family Survive the Mighty Flood of the Hawkesbury in March 1806

Today my husband, David Christian, and I visited the Hawkesbury Regional Museum off Thompson Square in Windsor as part of a U3A day trip. At the Museum, we were looking for information on David’s Hibbs family in the Hawkesbury area.

David’s ancestor, Peter Hibbs, First Fleet Able Seaman, later Master of the “Norfolk”,  had received various land grants – in Mulgrave Place in 1803 & 1804,  another in the Colo River in 1804, (sold to Mary Reibey in 1812) and in 1823 at  Courangra – Marraamarra in what is now Spencer. He had taken up farming in the Hawkesbury area by 1806, when his daughter Sarah was born in February. A month later, in March 1806,  a terrible flood occurred in the Hawkesbury.  It is unclear precisely what the impact of the flood was on Peter Hibbs and his family, however presumably it was not good.

Hawkesbury River 8.5.2015

Hawkesbury River 8.5.2015

However, unexpectedly, in one of the books in the Hawkesbury museum, we found a miraculous story which seemed to point my own Hicks family’s possibly surviving that horrendous Hawkesbury River flood of March 1806, between Cornwallis, which is west of Windsor, and Wilberforce , north east of Windsor. This was confirmed in one of the newspapers of the day – and is  the earliest newspaper article I had been able to find of our Hicks family in the NSW colonies. …

“HAWKESBURY, April 4. 1806

(1806, April 6). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), p. 2. Retrieved May 8, 2015, from

Accounts were received on Thursday of the death of John Chapman Morris and William Green, the former , a settler, and the latter, a carpenter; who were drowned owing to a small boat upsetting in which they were rowing about the River in hopes of discerning some of their own and their neighbours’ lost property that might have sunk. Several persons who were spectators of their toil anxiously enquired if they could swim, as no confidence could be placed in their wretched vehicle, to which, in the event they owed their untimely dissolution.

The hand of Providence extended itself in many instances miraculously for the preservation of lives: —in the case of Leeson and his family, noticed slightly in last week’s Gazette, the interpretation of Divine kindness was truly conspicuous. The losses sustained by this single individual are extremely heavy; they consisting of 150 bushels of wheat and 100 of barley, 2 horses and about 70 pigs, amounting, agreeable to the general estimate to upwards of 350£.

Besides two houses and a barn being carried away; and aggregately comprising his whole dependence for the maintenance of his family. The barley- mow that became the instrument in saving his own life and the lives of his family, also afforded security to a settler of the name of (Richard) Hicks, with his wife (Margaret Howe) and child (Sarah Mary Herbert-Hurst nee Hicks), and to three labouring men; all of whom were floated as far as Mr. John Howorth’s farm, a distance of more than 6 miles (even 7 miles through churning waters in the dark to Wilberforce in some reports t), and had given themselves over for lost for some time before they were perceived and could be towed on shore (ie rescued by a Richard Wallis s indicated in another article).

1806 flood - Google Maps

1806 flood – Source : Google Maps


The wife of Robert Forrester, who had only lain in three days was providentially rescued by Mr. (Andrew) Thompson, when nearly up to the neck in water; from the height of which the house was at first concluded to have been abandoned, but upon a nearer approach the poor woman’s pitieous cries were heard supplicating compassion from that Power who graciously administered to her distresses at the very moment of expected dissolution.

Another poor woman, with new born twins, was also rescued from an apparently certain destiny, when floating rapidly down the River upon a heap of straw, which must shortly have separated, and consigned the whole to instantaneous death.

In the midst of the confusion that every where prevailed, still justice was alert in protecting the few fragments that remained to the unfortunate sufferers from violation; and several unprincipled vagabonds in a small boat were apprehended in attempting to pillage private property, and thereby convert to their own depraved inclinations the most dreadful as well as general disaster that ever befell this or any other to extensive settlement.

It has been said that “seven lives were lost in the flood of 1806, along 16 horses, 47 sheep, 296 goats, four cattle, and 3,563 pigs, 24,000 bushels of wheat was lost along with 4,000 bushels of barley. Three hundred and forty settlers suffered loss, as well as 454 labourers and convicts, 238 women and 461 children” (Macquarie’s Five Towns – Olaf Ruhen & Bruce Adams).

However it was possible that by a miracle, my Hicks ancestors, my great great great great grandparents and their eldest child Sarah Mary survived – four years later their son James Hicks was born in 1810 – my great great great grandfather. Subsequently James grew up, married Margaret Daley (Brain) and had 13 children, from whom so many of us are descended.

Postcript – another newspaper article of a court case confirmed that Richard Hicks, (father of James Hicks) was still a resident in the Windsor area in November 1808.

Note – The following references may give a clue to Richard Hicks’ whereabouts in the years following 1808 :

HICKS, Richard
1809 Apr, Jun Produce received from at the Hawkesbury Stores (Reel 6040; 9/2673 pp.33, 52)
HICKS, Richard. Of Airds
1813 Jul 1 Subscribed to fund for building a court house at Sydney (Reel 6043; 4/1728 p.134)
1816 Jan 16 On list of persons to receive grants of land in 1816; at Airds (Fiche 3266; 9/2652 p.26)
1816 Jun 22 On lists of persons to be issued with horned cattle from the Government Herds (Reel 6038, SZ759 p.213; Reel 6031, 4/7028A p.33)
1816 Jul 20 On return of horned cattle issued from the Government Herds between 8 May 1814 and 9 Jan 1819 (Reel 6048; 4/1742 p.50)
1819 Apr 30 On return of persons indebted to Government for cattle issued from the Government Herds, to be paid for in cash or grain (Reel 6048; 4/1742 p.252)
1820 Sep 18 On list of persons for whom grants of land have been handed over to the Surveyor General for delivery (Fiche 3266; 9/2652 p.58)
HICKS, Richard. Constable, Liverpool
1822 Oct 31 Dismissed for misconduct (Reel 6039; 4/424 p.112)
1823 Mar 4 Re date of nomination of (Reel 6010; 4/3507 p.392)
HICKS, Richard. Overseer, Western Road Gang
1825 Nov 22 Receipt for ox received from Rooty Hill Station (Reel 6031; 4/7028D p.273)

About Kerrie Anne Christian

Interests - Travel, Photography, Developing Websites, Social Media, Writing, Local History, Researcher, Genealogy
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4 Responses to The Hicks Family Survive the Mighty Flood of the Hawkesbury in March 1806

  1. Grant Joy says:

    I must have must this until you told me today KA – we have some connections to the early days of our country

  2. Lester Wayne Leslie says:

    Very interesting snippet Kerrie. He was my 3 x Great Grandfather 🙂

  3. Kay Thompson says:

    Great find and story Kerrie.

    Thanks for sharing it with “family”.


    • Tah Kay – it is a classic case that sometimes you find things by visiting a museum rather than relying on doing it all on-line – to be honest I am still very stunned by this story … surviving churning waters in the night – 6 or 7 miles downstream on whatever was a “barn mow” ??? Though it seems to be something like a hay shed or barn ?

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