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. 

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