Little is known about the flood of June, 1820 on Hunter's River, except that it was a big one.
Had there been a gauge at Maitland at the time, it probably would have recorded a level nearly as high as was seen in the great flood of 1955.
Long afterwards, in 1956, Professor Cyril Renwick of the Hunter Valley Research Foundation at the then Newcastle University College assessed the 1820 flood as having peaked at about 12 metres at the site of the Belmore Bridge, virtually the same as the height recorded there in 1955.
Naturally the two events were far from being equal in their human consequences.
In 1820 there were probably only 30-40 people on the site of today's Maitland including three soldiers whose job was to maintain law and order and provide security against escaped convicts and Aborigines in search of food.
By 1955, about 8000 people lived on the floodplain in the area of today's City of Maitland, and virtually all of them were affected by the big flood of that year.
The tiny population of 1820 was living on about 12 small holdings which had been granted two years before to "well-behaved" ex-convicts and to John Eckford, a free man aged about 17. Some of the settlers had wives and children.
Their holdings were 20-30 acres (8-12 hectares) in size and situated between today's Pitnacree and the CBD of Maitland. They were to be farms whose produce would help feed the growing population of the colony of NSW.
In the beginning they grew crops of wheat, corn and potatoes which were transported by river to Newcastle.
Their occupants also built a few substantial buildings and flimsy huts, and they saw two floods in 1819. One of them covered some of the farms in their entirety.
The damage done by the 1820 flood must have been significant, both to habitations and crops, and livestock may have been lost.
The only eye-witness account, by Eckford, had it nearly 40 years later that the water reached to the roof of one hut and the window sills of another.
Much of the track that was to become High Street was inundated, as was the area of today's Melbourne Street. None of the farms would have been unaffected.
There would have been no warning of the severity of the flood and little chance to protect farm equipment, livestock and personal belongings. But apparently, no settlers died.
Much of the floodplain was still forested, despite the attentions of the cedar-getters since about 1804. A more heavily vegetated floodplain would have seen the flood pushed higher and the rate of flood flow reduced by comparison with floods of similar volumes on the more cleared floodplain of later times.
The tiny settlement survived the flood and quickly grew into a town despite experiencing at least three more substantial floods by 1832.
All were smaller than the flood of 1820, but some inundated habitations and business premises which had dirt floors at natural ground level.
But despite the inconvenience and losses that resulted, life for the farmers went on.