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Today is July 23, 2017

Mississippi Seen

1927 flood left behind more than memories

1927 flood left behind more than memories

Grenada, Sardis, Enid and Arkabutla lakes were all created because of a series of floods in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, capped 90 years ago by the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927. They not only hold back a lot of water that doesn't need to be in the Delta, but also offer some of the best fishing in the nation. Photo: Walt Grayson

How we managed to pick cold days on which to shoot video outdoors this year is beyond me. We only had a dozen really cold days this winter. Well, we shivered through half of them videoing the spring season of “Mississippi Roads” for Mississippi Public Broadcasting.

I wore my long, black heavy coat and gloves in the Vicksburg National Military Park. Looked all over for my gloves. They were in the pockets.

Coincidentally, the last time we shot in the park it was cold and I wore that same outfit. It even snowed a little on us that day. As I was leaving the house I told Miz Jo people would think the Vicksburg park was the coldest place in the South if all they had to go by was our “Mississippi Roads” shows.

We wrapped up shooting at Grenada. Thank goodness it had warmed up by then. As we were setting up in the park just below the Visitors Center and just above the swimming beach at Grenada Lake, I did a little calculating and realized this is the 90th anniversary year of the occasion that called for the creation of Grenada Dam, as well as the other flood control dams in north Mississippi. This is the 90th anniversary of the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927. Although not built until the 1950s, the lakes were proposed after the flood.

On April 21, 1927, the Mississippi River levee broke a few miles above Greenville at Stops Landing, near Scott.

As I read the accounts, 1926 into 1927 was a very wet year all over the nation. In spring of 1927 there were numerous breaks on the Mississippi River levees from one end of the river to the other. Some were due to the high water.  But other breaks were made by people who, attempting to relieve the pressure on their own levee, crossed the river and dynamited the levee on the opposite side.

I was born in Greenville just a couple of decades, plus a few years, after the flood. People were still talking about the 1927 flood well into my childhood. My uncle, who ran a dairy farm, was an endless source of stories about the flood, from having to park his car on the levee to my aunt coming downstairs and swimming in the living room of their house.

When I was a teenager, in an attempt to squeeze a little more space out of our house, Daddy recruited me to help him tear out a chimney no longer used. Behind the chimney, we found dried mud up to the 4- or 5-foot level inside the wall. Daddy was puzzled for a minute and then realized it was deposited there during the 1927 flood.

Great changes came to the federal government because of that flood. The magnitude of the disaster was so extensive, virtually over the entire length of the Mississippi River, that people for the first time turned to the federal government to fix things. From what I understand, President Coolidge didn’t do anything. Therefore, his head of flood relief operations, Herbert Hoover, won the White House in 1928.

The 1927 flood is credited with many things, from the beginning of the black migration out of the Delta to northern cities to the start of unchecked growth of big government.

One other thing it did was to give us some pretty lakes at the edge of the hills in north Mississippi—so my aunt would have a much better place than her living room to go swimming today.

Walt Grayson is the host of “Mississippi Roads” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting television, and the author of two “Looking Around Mississippi” books and “Oh! That Reminds Me: More Mississippi Homegrown Stories.” Contact Grayson at walt@waltgrayson.com.

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