The Great Flood of 1927 – A Journalists’ Point of View

Here is a write up in the Monroe News-Star from May 16th, 1927, that gives a journalistic view of what the northern half of Richland Parish was like during the great flood.  The journalist writes about taking a trip from Monroe to Delhi, and of the unconventional mode of transportation to make the trip.

Hop, Skip & Jump Route to Delhi Includes Novel Means of Transportation

Making a first hand investigation of the so-called H.S & J route, the full name of which is the “Hop, Skip and Jump,” from Monroe to Delhi, a reporter for The News-Star, yesterday made voyage over they flood-popularized way leading out of Monroe to the east.

With Many of the woes and throes of transportation of a century ago, the formidable trip of possibly forty miles from Monroe to the Richland parish refuge camp is made.  The start was made shortly after 7 a.m. at the local Red Cross headquarters, and with the exception of three hours spent at Delhi camp, the time from the period of departure to 10:30 o’clock at night, was spent in either travel or waiting to travel in a series of vehicles and crafts that added charm to the trip through their novelty.  But with all the delays and near accidents, the “voyage” was one never to be forgotten.
Start By Taxi
The start of the day’s “voyage” was by taxicab from downtown Monroe to Thomas hill, about eight miles east of this city on the Dixie-Overland highway.  Arriving, there were found assembled a local physician, Reverend J. T. Walter, Baptist state missionary from Ruston, and a number of men and women all Delhi bound.
The party of twenty were given their first introduction to high-water “navigation” when a large cotton wagon with high board sides, and propelled by two mules, was produced into this the party quickly entered, standing together in compact mass, while the mules slowly wended their watery way through a route that became deeper and deeper with the great reddish tide.
The way was over the Dixie-Overland road but the highway was so inundated that a strong stretch of imagination was required to realize that this was, normally, one of the popular auto thoroughfares of the country.
“Engine Trouble”
Now and then, not a flat tire, but a tired pair of mules, caused slight pauses of the progress of the cotton wagon.  “Engine trouble,” suggested one of the voyagers, in explanation. Finally, a two-mile course in this primitive manner had been completed and the “Hop” – the first lap of the trip had been circumnavigated by the “muleobile.”
The second stage of the progressive game of travel was the “Skip,” which was realized when the party “skipped” to a home-made raft on which were placed the party of about twenty.  An outboard motor was the propelling power.  This second degree of the trip was taken at the “Triangle filling station.”  Now and then the outboard motor go “cranky” or a propeller pin became broken, but no serious accident marred the progress of this stage of the trip.  To be sure occasionally a log, driftwood from the woods or lumber camps, would for an instant threaten an upset, and several times barbed wire fences are encountered and the craft came perilously near an upset, but all these were incidental, almost trivial, the farther the course led.
Cattle Scattered
Great trees, uprooted by the storm of last week Monday, were seen felled and lay near the road.  On dry places, now and then discernible, cattle “refugees” no one knew from where were grazing quietly. 
The waters deepened as we progressed.  Then came the time when the depth was so great that a larger craft was needed.  Several were transferred, including the News-Star reporter, to the “Nabob,” a 20-foot open launch of the Texas company, of Port Arthur.  Once in this boat, which has a capacity for not more than a dozen persons, progress was faster and more sure.
Then the way led through the deep waters of the great uncharted “sea.”  Past houses that were half-filled to the eaves with water, we made our way. Some had but the roof peeping up over the great tide that had engulfed them.  The lap from the Triangle filling station to Start, said to be about 14 miles, was by far the most interesting of the trip.
Silent Sentinels.
Here and there a hay stack’s peak, showed perhaps ten inches out of the water which had reached in many places as much as 25 feet in depth, especially true in the Lafourche swamp region.  This latter was especially artistic even in the face of a great catastrophe.  Like silent sentinels the moss-clad giant trees lined the watery passageway.  Much skill was required to ascertain the route to be taken, the timber-line being the only guide to navigation.  
Now and then there appeared two white lines in the water’s surface.  They were the tops of bridges through the swamp.
Silence, broken only by the chug of the motor of the boat, and by the loud croaking of frogs, was the order of rings as the densest part of the timbered swamp was passed.
“Ouachita-Richland,” read a sign in the waters, that was just enough exposed above the surface to be legible, marking the fact that we were approaching the parish to the east.
Men in the boat called attention that near this point the gas line to Baton Rouge passes through the swamp.
Squirrels and many small birds sang morning carols and this wildlife seemed to have suffered no injury due to the flooded conditions. 
Gets Ducking
Barring a good sized “ducking,” when a levee near Crew Lake was passed over, and water in the bottom of the boat, near the bow, came in a geyser-like stream over the News-Star reporter, as a final baptism, Crew Lake was reached in safety.
Here transfer was made and a gasoline car on the Illinois Central was waiting for mail and passengers.  Just a mile farther up the track, at Start, there was in readiness a modern, honest-to-goodness twentieth century train of that line, with several coaches, and from then on the trip was without unusual events.
Rayville was found to be under water with exceptions of places like the court house, railroad station, and other high spots.  Here was recorded the tragedy of the high waters.  Rayville, like Monroe, put up a gallant fight to build protecting levees but man-power was not to be had in sufficient numbers.  Five hundred men toiled heroically for long hours each day, but the waters came faster than they could build fortifications, and the town became partially inundated.  
Water Fast Receding
Cows, horses, goats and other stock were to be seen in the higher spots of town, seeking refuge, but the water here as all along the H.S. & J route is fast receding, being now more than a foot, often 18 inches, lower than at high water levels.
A sight of interest was a horse, just east of Rayville, swimming up to the very crest of its head in the water in a gallant effort to reach dry land.
This last part of the trip is the “Jump,” part of the three-way passage from Monroe to Delhi.
The camp at Delhi is located on a high ridge, a mile west of that town, facing the railway.  All trains stop here and here the News-Star reporter “disembarked” at 12:30p.m., making the forty miles in just five hours.
The return was made, “when the train came.”  This is not as yet on a schedule, but as near to schedule as is possible.  In the case of yesterday, it left the camp at 3:00p.m.
The return “Hop, Skip and Jump” was made with success, except that the last lap nearly resulted in a “story.”  The “muleobile,” loaded with about 20 men, women and children, ran off a culvert a mile east of Thomas hill and was nary upset.  The spot was in the midst of deep water and the wagon “listed” at an angle of nearly 45 degrees.  Mules became restive and it seemed that a bad accident was almost imminent. 
Men jumped into the water, that reached almost to their waists, in an effort to right the wagon but in vain.  Finally, the wagon was abandoned and a second cotton wagon secured and transfer made of the passengers.  Monroe was reached, as the finale of a most eventful day of unusual transportation, at 10:30 p.m. 

Leave a Reply