May 31, 2015

Flooding of the Mighty Mississippi, Part 7 - The Flood of 1945

Mississippi River at Natchez, Mississippi - 2015

Flooding of the Mighty Mississippi dealt another blow to the state of Louisiana during the early months of 1945.  Central portions of the state saw 7,488,000 acres of  rich farm land and stock raising areas under water.
Taylor Daily Press (TX) - 4/4/1945

The Bonnet Carre Spillway was opened on March 23 and remained open through May 18.  This was the second time the spillway had been opened since its completion in 1931 and the first time that all 350 bays were eventually opened; allowing 318,000 cubit feet of water per second to pass through.

While the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway saved the city of New Orleans, other parts of Louisiana were less fortunate.

Catahoula Parish was faced with the overflow from the Mississippi, Ouachita and Black rivers.  Jonesville was reported to have been surrounded by flood waters.  Harrisonburg became isolated and the Coast Guard was sent in to rescue people from roof tops.

An article published in the Monroe News Star on April 17 reported that the Ouachita River showed signs of dropping.  However, as the article goes on to state, Catahoula and Concordia parishes continued to face backwater flooding.

MNS - 4/17/1945

"The backwater, rising rapidly, has covered nearly the entire residential section of Ferriday, coming up as far as the post office in the business section of the city.  All of the mill section, colored quarters and the Interstate Natural Gas Company area have been under water for some time past."
"At the Red Cross headquarters a large crew is working to alleviate suffering and to take care of those moved out by the water.  Guards are still on duty at Jonesville, which has been isolated by floodwaters.  Around Harrisonburg, guardsmen are working with the Red Cross and families are tented along hills from Sicily Island to White Hall and Jena." 

The Port Arthur News of Port Arthur, Texas reported on April 25, that  an appeal had been made by local officials to U. S. Army engineers to open the Morganza floodway to help drain off flood waters which had covered the parishes of Concordia, Tensas and Catahoula.

Port Arthur News - 4/25/1945

Construction of the Morganza Spillway began in the late 1930s.  The control structure was not completed until 1954.  The flood control act of congress stated that waters were not to be diverted through the Atchafalaya floodway by the opening of the Morganza Spillway until all improvements had been completed in the Atchafalaya floodway.  Those improvements had not been completed at the time of the 1945 flood.

Despite the flood control act of congress, a congressional delegation toured the Morganza floodway and determined that the opening of the floodway would "bring little relief to already inundated areas and great harm to southern Louisiana."

Mary, Willie and Tim Cupit - Catahoula Parish, 1945 (courtesy of Pam Twiner Thompson)

*This post is part seven in a series of posts in which an attempt will be made to document the history of flooding in Catahoula Parish caused by the overflow of the Mighty Mississippi River.  Occurrences will be presented using maps, newspaper articles, photographs and reports from the State Library of Louisiana and other collections from the sources linked below each post. 

May 26, 2015

Giants in Catahoula Parish?

The following article was published in the June 22, 1933 edition of the Reno Evening Gazette in Reno, Nevada:

Reno Evening Gazette - 6/22/1933
"There were giants in the earth in those days," four thousand years or so ago in Palestine, according to the biblical account, and now comes the United States with skeletons of Indians to prove that Palestine had no monopoly in the giant business.  The sons of Anak may have been tall, but in Catahoula parish, Louisiana, two members of a Smithsonian Institute exploring party have uncovered from fifteen to twenty skeletons at Larto lake, all of which are said to be more than seven feet tall, which would be hard for Anakites to beat.
That this region was one of importance in the history of tribal migrations in America has long been maintained by investigators. At Natchez on the Mississippi side of the great river is the locale that is asserted by some students of anthropology to be the original home of the Aztecs, who, they believe, went from the lower Mississippi valley either by water or by land to Mexico and conquered, according to this theory, the original inhabitants of Mexican, gradually seizing the towns and fertile lands.
The most interesting feature of the discovery at Larto lake, however, is that very tall men actually did live in the southern part of the Mississippi region.  No legends of giants have survived among the Indians who remain in the territory, although among the Negroes there great stories are narrated about witches and demons and "ha'nts," by which they mean ghosts and devils.  It is such discoveries as this by the Smithsonian party that reveal how little is really known about the early history of North America before the white man came.
Larto Lake in southern Catahoula Parish - DOTD map

Larto Lake

Earlier posts on the Indians of Catahoula Parish can be found at the links below:

Jonesville - Community Life in the Early Years

Land of Beautiful Water

National Register of Historic Places - Ferry Plantation

Lovelace Plantation - Where the French Overcame the Natchez Indians in Louisiana

Tracing a Bygone Race in Catahoula Parish

May 24, 2015

Sunday's Obituary - Beatrice Peniston

Monroe News Star - 3/1/1934

Beatrice Munn

Born on January 28, 1892

Daughter of
John Munn and Ada Hair

Sister to
Annie, John, Gertrude, Roy and Marvin

Wife of
John Willard Peniston

Mother to

Died on February 27, 1934
Buried in the Old Pine Hill Cemetery
Sicily Island, Catahoula Parish, Louisiana

May 17, 2015

Enterprise News from December 1959

Catahoula News - 12/10/1959

Sunday's Obituary - Marion Francis Tolbert

Catahoula News Booster - 1965

Marion Francis Tolbert

Born on August 15, 1873

Son of
Francis M. and Eliza Tolbert

Husband of
Leona Perry

Father to
William Riley, Mellia Virginia, Chalmas Melton, Mildred Lenora "Millie",
Lela, Minnie Lee and Marilyn Alice

Died on April 21, 1965
Buried in Heard Cemetery
Manifest, Catahoula Parish, Louisiana

Tombstone photographs were taken by FindAGrave member, Karen Klemm Pinckard.

May 11, 2015

Flooding of the Mighty Mississippi, Part Six - The Great Flood of 1937

Mississippi River at Natchez, MS - 2014

Ten years after residents of Catahoula Parish experienced the horrific impact of the 1927 flood, they were faced with yet another great flood.

Officials in Catahoula Parish began their preparations as early as February 6 as seen in the article below from the Biloxi Daily Herald in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Biloxi Daily Herald - 2/6/1937

MNS - 2/14/1937
In an article appearing in the February 14, 1937 edition of the Monroe News Star, the following was reported about Catahoula Parish:
Across the river at Harrisonburg, Rhinehart, Ferriday, Vidalia, Jonesville and other places, the flood sufferers are also being afforded homes and food, medical attention, and should the need arise, concentration camps will be established at Natchez which can care for 10,000 persons, and at Rhinehart and Harrisonburg, in the hills of Catahoula parish, where thousands can be cared for in the event a major disaster takes place.  

From the Blytheville Courier News in Blytheville, Arkansas on February 18, 1937:
Blythevile Courier - 2/18/1937

The Red Cross reported here today that plans were being made to evacuate approximately 25,000 persons in Concordia parish-Catahoula parish, Louisiana areas due to a crevasse which has developed in the levee protecting the area from Mississippi river back waters.
Around 12,400 persons would be affected by the evacuation plans in the Concordia parish area and 12,200 in the Catahoula parish area, the Red Cross said.

The Biloxi Daily Herald reports the following on February 18, 1937:

Biloxi Daily Herald - 2/18/1937

Privies under construction by the Louisiana WPA at Rhinehart, Catahoula Parish - 1937

Refugee camps near Harrisonburg, Catahoula Parish - 1937

Boxcars where refugees lived in Rhinehart, Catahoula Parish - 1937

The Great Flood of 1937 tested the Bonnet Carre Spillway for the first time since its completion in 1931.
Bonnet Carre Spillway

The spillway was built following the flood of 1927.

Located in St. Charles Parish, the spillway is 5.7 miles in length and runs from the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain.  It is opened when the river gauge threatens to top twenty feet north of New Orleans near Carrollton.

Cranes lift the 8"x12" wooden beams within the bays which allows 250,000 cubic feet of water per second to pass through the spillway.
There are up to 7,000 wooden beams within the bays of the Bonnet Carre Spillway.

Of the 350 bays, 285 were opened for forty-eight days between February and March of 1937.

Flood waters began receding in areas of Catahoula Parish on March 25, 1937.

The Bonnet Carre Spillway has only been opened nine times since it was built.

The National Red Cross Report on the Relief Efforts during the flood of 1937:
In Louisiana alone in 1937, approximately twenty-five thousand (25,000) persons, driven from their homes by flood waters, were cared for by the National Red Cross.  The largest group of these refugees was in the Jonesville area, where some fifteen thousand (15,000) persons were registered and received relief.  Driven from their homes by rising backwaters, these people were mainly from the Parishes of Catahoula, Concordia, LaSalle and Rapides.
The work of evacuating refugees was in the main accomplished by CCC boys under the direction of Red Cross officials.  Where it was necessary to erect housing facilities, the work was done by Works Progress Administration workers, also under the direction of the Red Cross.
Throughout all its work of rehabilitating refugees in the southern area, the Red Cross has sought to keep the family intact.  In all refugee camps, therefore, families have been kept together; and housing facilities have been created with this object in mind.  
Moreover, in nearly all cases where refugees had been evacuated, the latters' household furnishings were taken out at the same time.  

*This post is part six in a series of posts in which an attempt will be made to document the history of flooding in Catahoula Parish caused by the overflow of the Mighty Mississippi River.  Occurrences will be presented using maps, newspaper articles, photographs and reports from the State Library of Louisiana and other collections from the sources linked below each post. 

May 9, 2015

Sicily Island Graduation - 1962

Monroe News Star - 5/22/1962

From the 1962 El Tigre yearbook:

Graduation program from 1962:

May 2, 2015

Flooding of the Mighty Mississippi, Part Five - The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927

1927 Flood Map

In an earlier post from November 17, 2012 I documented the impact of the flood of 1927 on Sicily Island.  

Other areas of Catahoula Parish and surrounding parishes were not as fortunate as Sicily Island during this disastrous flood.

1927 Flood Map

Louisiana Folklife contributor, Betty Jo Harris, wrote the following:
Jonesville, located in Catahoula Parish, suffered some of the worst water in the state. On 1 July, the Tensas Gazette reported, "The town of Jonesville, once the pride of Catahoula Parish and a thriving little metropolis has been stricken by the hand of the greatest river flood of all time in a manner that is truly unbelievable" (Tensas Gazette 1927b). The paper observed that the town was a veritable wreck due to the water which measured 15 feet in some areas.
From the Catahoula Parish History website we find a 1927 photograph contributed by Barbara Dener of mail being handed out an upstairs window of the Post Office/Ford House:

Jonesville, Catahoula Parish, Louisiana - 1927 Flood

From the Northeast Louisiana Historic Images Collection we find a 1927 photograph of St. Joe in nearby Tensas Parish:

St. Joe, Tensas Parish, Louisiana - 1927

GenDisasters has the following report about the 1927 flood's impact on Catahoula Parish and its neighboring parishes:

Thousands of people fled the flooded areas in search of higher ground.  Refugee camps were set up in the Catahoula communities of Harrisonburg, Rhinehart and Sicily Island.   In an article from the May 12, 1927 edition of the Miami News we learn of the outbreak of Smallpox in these camps.

Miami News - 5/12/1927

GenDisasters gives the following timeline and summary of the Flood of 1927:
The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States.
The flood began when heavy rains pounded the central basin of the Mississippi in the summer of 1926. By September, the Mississippi's tributaries in Kansas and Iowa were swollen to capacity. On New Year's Day of 1927, the Cumberland River at Nashville topped levees at 56.2 feet.
The Mississippi River broke out of its levee system in 145 places and flooded 27,000 square miles. The area was inundated up to a depth of 30 feet. The flood caused over $400 million in damages and killed 246 people in seven states.
The flood affected Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Arkansas was hardest hit, with 14% of its territory covered by floodwaters. By May 1927, the Mississippi River below Memphis, Tennessee, reached a width of 60 miles.
By August 1927, the flood subsided. During the disaster, 700,000 people were displaced, including 330,000 African-Americans who were moved to 154 relief camps.

*This post is part five in a series of posts in which an attempt will be made to document the history of flooding in Catahoula Parish caused by the overflow of the Mighty Mississippi River.  Occurrences will be presented using maps, newspaper articles, photographs and reports from the State Library of Louisiana and other collections from the sources linked below each post.