Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mississippi Flood 1912

Mississippi Flood 1912

In April and May, 1912, the Mississippi reached a height never before equaled, and the great river went tearing through levee after levee on its resolute course to the sea. The river reached a maximum width of sixty miles, killed 1,000 persons, rendered 30,000 homeless, and caused damage to the amount of $50,000,000.

Government boats rescuing flood victims, Louisiana 1912

By April 2nd, Columbus, Missouri, was buried under fifteen feet of water, and in some parts of the town residences were wholly submerged. New Madrid was not much better off, and Hickman, Kentucky, looked like a small city of Venice. President Taft sent a hurry call to Congress for half a million dollars, and within fifteen minutes after his message was read, the lower house had passed an appropriation bill and sent it to the Senate, which laid everything else aside to give it right of way. By April 5th, the Reelfoot Lake district, covering 150 square miles of Kentucky farm land, was an inland lake and the river at Cairo, Illinois, had risen to nearly fifty-four feet, the average depth from St. Louis to New Orleans being301 ordinarily but nine feet.
Flooded small town 1912

Cairo was for days surrounded by the torrents from the Ohio and the Mississippi beating at the levees, while to the north of the city factory buildings were immersed to their roofs or even entirely covered. By April 7th, the levee in Arkansas, seven miles south of Memphis, had a gap a mile long and Lake County, Tennessee, had no ground above water but a strip six miles long by four wide. By the middle of the month, the levees at Panther Forest, Arkansas; Alsatia, Louisiana; and Roosevelt, Louisiana, had succumbed, and a thousand square miles of fertile plantations were from five to seven feet under water.


Mississippi River Flood 1912

Rain-storm after rain-storm caused the stream to swell, undermined dikes, and broke new crevasses all the way from Vicksburg to New Orleans. Hundred of farmers and their families, a majority of them negroes, were cut off and overwhelmed by the flood. For several weeks the people of New Orleans were under the fear that a large part of the city might be submerged and ruined. Near by vast sugar plantations were under water, while the prosperous town of Moreauville was inundated. Refugees’ camps were established and relief work began. Many vessels assisted the army. Pitiful stories of famished and suffering victims of the flood were told, and the miles and miles of desolated country struck horror to the heart. They have a pregnant saying down there: “Come hell and high water.” Some day, it is to be hoped, we are going to take the force out of that expression.302



  1. so many people need to know about this. All they know about is katrina. Especially people in Baton Rouge,LA. They seemed to look down on people from New Orleans who were displaced. It would be good to know that perhaps one of their ancestors had to experience similar or worse.

    1. Just discovered a note written by my mother describing the damage the flood of 1912 did to the Baton Rouge area. Her father was mayor of the City at that time so there are those who still remember.

  2. Thank you for visiting. The Mississippi River floods and the displacement of African Americans seems to be a reoccurring theme in US History.

    Some of the worst flooding from the Mississippi River were in 1897, 1903, 1912, 1913, 1927, 1936 1950, 1973, 1993 and 2001.

    It seems like we would learn from these disasters, yet our country's response is the classic definition of insanity.

    The same River floods over and over again, and we Americans are always "surprised" by the government's action and the massive human devastation.

    I try to show patterns along certain geographic strips in the USA, like the Mississippi River's Delta Region. The same poverty, the same government graft, the same ineffective response, the same treatment of African Americans as "other"...it doesn't matter if it is 1912 or 2005 ... If the survivors of the 1912 Mississippi River flood were to view the government response to Katrina (nearly 100 years hence) how does one honestly explain this treatment of US citizens by the US government.

    1. Interesting you would state the displacement of "African Americans"...guess African Americans were the only ones displaced. I realize this is written on US Slave, yet in all fairness, people of all races are displaced and damaged when disasters like this occur. You can change history by trying to rewrite it as if it was only "African Americans" who were hurt. In the future, at least get the facts straight in trying not to be so one-sided. You expect it from anyone that isn't "African American". If there were a site called "White Masta", it would not go over well if it were written all about the the displaced "Whites" never stating that all races were displaced. Disasters do not see color. Perhaps it would be best if there weren't a site called US Slave, as it is one sided in that it appears to someone reading it that the only ones affected by anything in history are "African American". It's simply in such TREMENDOUS POOR TASTE. Izs jus sayin....

    2. Wow, you seem a bit thin-skinned. Really? I mentioned "African Americans" exactly ONCE in my reply and you get all pissy pants.

      Yes, this is a US Slave Blog that discusses slavery and its aftermath for educational purposes. What are you pissing and moaning about anyway! Look, if you read the article post above it clearly states the level and magnitude of the Mississippi River Flood in 1912. In the LAST paragraph does the author even mention "negro" or in the vernacular of the 21st century "African Americans."

      I didn't CREATE HISTORY, I'm just focusing what happens to an enslaved group of people without a government. You can take 100 US History classes, from the elementary school to the post-graduate level and you will not find one word mentioned about the plethora of floods that occur on the Mississippi River, nor the victims.

      I'm not minimizing the pain and suffering that occurs with natural and man-made disasters. But, what happens to people who don't have a GOVERNMENT? In that, African Americans were completely disenfranchised in the former Confederate States until 1968 -- they couldn't vote, they couldn't hold office, they couldn't live anywhere except in ghettos, they were excluded from jobs, schools, heck they couldn't even get life insurance .... The state of Oregon didn't even lift its no negro policy until the 1920's.

      You just need to grow-up and read a bit more about American History. The USA extended slavery until WWII (read Douglas Blackmon's "Slavery By Another Name"), who do you think those stranded people were? They were most likely sharecroppers who were forced to live on the SAME PLANTATIONS that enslaved their grandfathers and grandmothers. When the crops are flooded, and that is their only means for labor or food (remember the USA had NO SAFETY NETS in 1912, NO FOOD STAMPS, NO HOUSING SUBSIDIES, NO AGRICULTURE INSURANCE....NOTHING!) What do you think happened to them? They didn't have any insurance, they weren't going to get any AID from the government. This isn't a feel good site, this is a reality site.

      --Ron Edwards, US Slave Blog

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