About Clermont

Clermont is a charming and substantial town on the gentle slopes above Sandy Creek and Hoods Lagoon. The town is located 106 km north of Emerald on the Gregory Highway and 760 km north of Brisbane.

Like so many of the townsites in the Central Highlands, Clermont's first European visitor was Ludwig Leichhardt who, in 1845, travelled through the area to the west of the town sighting the beautiful mountaintops of the Peak Range and naming them after members of his expedition.

In 1854 Charles and William Archer, members of the family who went on to establish the port at Rockhampton, explored the area. They recognised the potential of the district to support grazing and returned to claim large tracts of land in 1856-57. In the meantime Jeremiah Rolfe had become the first white settler. There is, in the park, a plaque honouring his memory.

In 1861 the town of Clermont achieved instant prominence when some shepherds found gold beside Hoods Lagoon. Overnight the area was inundated with prospectors. It became the first inland settlement north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Clermont was gazetted in 1864 and named after Clermont-Ferrand in France, the home of Oscar de Satge who at the time was the owner of Wolfang Downs.

In 1862 copper was discovered south of the town, leading to the establishment of Copperfield. By 1865 there were over 3500 people in the area. However, supplies of copper and gold were short-lived and by the 1870s the area was in decline. Nonetheless the combination of gold, copper and coal at Blair Athol, and the sheep and beef industries ensured that even during the most difficult times the town survived.

In the 1880s and 1890s the area seemed to be a barometer for the problems of the country. In the 1880s, when there were nearly 4000 Chinese working on the gold and copper fields, Clermont experienced some particularly ugly racial riots. The Chinese were removed from the fields in 1888. A few years later, in 1891, the Shearer's Strike spilled over into Clermont when 400 troops were called in to separate striking shearers and non-union labour.

The climate, particularly the summer cyclones, and the peculiar combination of Sandy Creek and the long Hoods Lagoon, made the area vulnerable to flooding. In 1870 fifteen people died during a major flood. There were five more floods between 1870 and1916.

The town's worst flood (and the second-worst in the country's history in terms of loss of life) occurred on the night of 28 December 1916 when cyclonic waters rushed through the town sweeping houses away, forcing people to clamber up trees to escape the torrent, and drowning at least 65 people.

At the town's entrance is a large cement 'tree' with a white mark far up its trunk which indicates the height of the floodwaters and the people who died in the disaster. The monument is located on what used to be the town's main street. The remains of the old bridge, which was largely washed away, can be seen at the bottom of Capella Street (now the town's main thoroughfare). Nearby, in Lime Street, is Centenary Park with its famous traction engine which helped to move the town from its original site onto higher ground.

After the flood the survivors decided to move to the higher ground on which the town now stands. The town's recovery from the flood was rapid and today it is a centre with a considerable number of attractive buildings.

Today, visitors can still see the remains of the original town site. The Piano in the Tree, in Capricorn Street, is a quirky reminder of the height of the floodwaters.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/news/Queensland/Clermont/2005/02/17/1108500202251.html