Charles Smart Masterton (1850-1928)

Charles Smart Masterton (1850-1928)

Australian Emigrant

Charles Masterton and his family were almost all killed during a flash flood in Port Douglas, Queensland, in 1895 in which he lost his nine year old son, Charles Junior. The lives of early Australian pioneers could include the severest of trials. 14 years earlier, in 1881, Charles lost his business premises in a fire.

Genealogy

Charles Smart Masterton was the third child and second son of William Masterton, blacksmith, and Jean Smart, who had married in 1837 in Larbert, Stirling, Scotland. Charles emigrated some time after 1871 and married Elizabeth Simpson in 1884 in Queensland. He is part of the large Masterton family from Culross for which details can be found at this link.


The Brisbane Courier

Rockhampton.
[FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.]
January 15.

The Leichhardt Stores, occupied by Mr. Charles Masterton, were destroyed by fire on Saturday night. The building was insured for 300 in the Royal Fire and Life Insurance Company, and the stock for 300 in the City Mutual. The fire was caused by the bursting of a gaspipe in the window.

The Brisbane Courier
Queensland
Monday 17th January 1881


Morning Bulletin, Rockhampton

PORT DOUGLAS, April 8.

News has been brought by the Daintree mailman of the loss of six lives on Friday night. The river rose during the night eight feet higher than the highest flood ever known, and a cottage, containing three people, named Mrs. Reynolds, Gertie Reynolds, and Leslie Fischer, was swept clean away and smashed up. All three persons were drowned. Another family, Charles Masterton, Mrs. Masterton, and family went down the river on the top of a house until it was smashed, when a boy was killed and Masterton had his leg broken. Mr. and Mrs. Masterton and their baby were twenty-four hours in the trees before they were found. Almost all the men from Upper Daintree were at the Post Office when the floods rose. They endeavoured to get up to their families, but were unable to do so. The persons drowned are Mrs. Bridget Reynolds, Gertrude Reynolds, Frederick King, Junr., Leslie Fischer, Charles Masterton, Junr., and a black gin. Most of the people living near the river lost their houses.

The Customs boat leaves with provisions, and a party is making a search for the unrecovered bodies - namely those of Mrs. Reynolds and Gertrude Reynolds, Fischer, and Masterton.

Floods also occurred at Mossman River, and great damage was done to the crops. Several houses were washed away.

Morning Bulletin
Rockhampton, Queensland
Tuesday 9th April, 1895


The Brisbane Courier

THE DAINTREE FLOODS.
LOSS OF SIX LIVES.
A NIGHT OF TERROR.
BRAVE WOMEN AND THEIR CHILDREN.
TWENTY-FOUR HOURS' EXPOSURE.

(FROM A CORRESPONDENT.)

Friday, The 5th April, 1895, will long be remembered by the residents of the Daintree River. On the night of that date a south-easterly gale of almost hurricane force, accompanied by a perfect deluge of rain, swept across the district. The river rose to a height far above any hitherto known, and began to subside next day, leaving death and devastation in its path. The first building to feel the tremendous force of the flood was a cottage owned by Mr. H. Fischer, in which were resident at the time Mrs. Reynolds, Miss Gertrude Reynolds, and a little boy, the son of Mr. H. Fischer. During the night the house was swept across the cleared paddock and dashed into the standing scrub, where in the darkness of that awful storm, unseen by any human eye, amid the rending of timber, the crash of falling trees, and the roar of the remorseless river, the three helpless ones were hurried into eternity. The grief of the bereaved relatives when at dawn of day they discovered their loss may be imagined but not described. A search was commenced, and on Sunday morning the body of the younger lady was found by Mr. Fischer lying as if in calm repose, the hands clasped as though in supplication. The body of Mrs. Reynolds was recovered and interred on Monday evening, but the child has not been found.

The next to be alarmed by the encroaching waters was Mrs. F. King, who, unaided (Mr. King being absent at the time), had to care for five helpless little children. Escape from the house being impossible, she piled up the furniture and climbed on to it ; but the flood rose with such rapidity that that refuge became untenable, and the distracted mother, while saving one little boy, underwent the anguish of seeing another drown at her feet while powerless to aid him. Then driven right up under the roof, the rising water at the very lips of the terrified wailing children, Mrs. King, with an energy born of despair, dashed out some of the gable boards with her bare hands and succeeded in placing herself and the surviving children on the ridge-cap of the house which the flood just submerged. Clinging to this place of refuge, benumbed with terror, cold, and exhaustion, they remained through the long hours of darkness till the morning. The house being comparatively sheltered from the rush of the torrent remained firm, and the survivors were rescued soon after daylight.

As terrible an experience was that of Mr. Charles Masterton, who, with his wife, two children, and a little aboriginal girl, who had been reared from a baby as one of their own, was swept down the river on the roof of hs house, although he had taken every precaution which prudence and foresight could suggest to avert such a catastrophe. Built on an elevated site, his house had two boats moored beside it by strong wire lines : but such was the resistless force of the raging current that boats and house were swept away like straws. Forcing off some sheets of iron, Mr. Masterton placed his wife and children upon the roof, strapping the youngest child, a girl of 3 years of age, across his shoulders. Down the river raced the doomed building at a speed of over ten miles an hour, until it reached the post office on the reserve. Here the flood waters break across a low point clothed with dense high-standing scrub, and straight for this gigantic barrier, then a perfect maelstrom of surging logs, spouting water, and foam, broken tree-tops and tangled vines, Mr. Masterton and his helpless companions were hurried. Deeming destruction inevitable, he and Mrs. Masterton took a tender farewell of each other, and the next instant were precipitated against a tree with a violence that smashed the house into fragments and hurled the occupants amidst the debris. Mrs. Masterton, on coming to the surface, caught a vine and a tree and clung there choking and sobbing, the cruel, turbid waters beating and bruising her and striving to tear her from her hold. Mr. Masterton was struck upon the head and partially stunned, then crushed between a log and a tree, and had his thigh broken. Feeling almost hopeless, but still with heart and hand nerved afresh by feeling his little daughter struggling round his neck, he made a desperate effort, freed himself from the encumbering branches, and, being provided with a stirrup leather, strapped himself and the child to a tree. His son, a bright little lovable fellow 9 years of age, was killed instantly, having his head and hips crushed. The little aboriginal was heard crying for a while, and must then have slipped away and been drowned, as her body was found close to the spot, otherwise uninjured. Owing to no boats being available, the survivors remained in their precarious position for over twenty-four hours, famished, wet, cold, and tormented almost to madness by pain and the stings of insects. They were at length taken across the river, and received with warm hospitality by Mrs. Stewart, of Allanton. Mr. T. Kllkeary's residence was destroyed, and its contents scattered far and wide. Its owner, luckily, was paying a visit to Mr. H. Fischer, and so escaped. The other settlers, unhurt personally, have seen the fruits of their labours swept away in a single night. Banana groves have been levelled with the earth or torn up by the roots ; buildings, crops, and implements destroyed, and horses and cattle whirled away and drowned in one common and widespread ruin.

The Brisbane Courier
Queensland
Tuesday, 23rd April 1895


The Queenslander

MASTERTON.-On the 6th April, at daybreak, on the flooded Daintree, Charlie F.G. Masterton met death with firm lip and steady eye, a brave little Queenslander, aged 9 years and 8 months.

The Queenslander
Brisbane, Queensland
Saturday, 4th May 1895


DAINTREE RIVER, February 25.

The Daintree community sustains a decided loss in the departure from the district of Mr. Charles Masterton, one of the pioneer settlers of the river. Mr. Masterton, by sheer energy and perseverance, had carved out of the wilderness a most comfortable and prosperous home when the disastrous flood of '95 devastated his farm, swept away his house, and so injured Mr. Masterton himself that he has never recovered properly to the present time. He leaves accompanied by the best wishes of all the residents of the river.

The Queenslander
Brisbane, Queensland
Saturday 13th March, 1897


The Brisbane Courier

MASTERTON - On January 1st, at Ingarfield Private Hospital, Charles Masterton, late of Townsville, dearly beloved husband of Mrs. E. S. Masterton, and father of F. E. Masterton, Brisbane. At rest.

The Brisbane Courier
Queensland
Thursday, 12th January 1928