Memories of Floods in Greene County and Northeast Arkansas

If you have memories of any of the floods in Greene County or Northeast Arkansas or anything you would like to share on other topics , please email me .

tina@grnco.net

http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ar/county/greene/

Thank You !

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Memories below told by Jo Ann Whitworth

January 28, 2008

I think that is a great idea about the new addition for getting people to tell their stories or memories of the floodings. 

Well, maybe with your idea for the addition to your site, someone will remember the later flood.     In my first email, I mentioned that we lived on a farm owned by the Ralph Gipson family (we were tenent farmers).  Ralph and his wife lived near Jonesboro on another farm and they had a son: R.J. Gipson.  He was about 15 or 16 at the time we lived on the farm and for a while he and my oldest sister were sweethearts of a sort.  After we left the Black Oak area, R. J.'s mother kept in  touch with my oldest sister for several years by mail and wrote her when R.J. joined the Marines and then when he was shot in the head by the enemy in the Korea War and died in Japan where he was sent for treatment and his funeral was held at Jonesboro, she sent my sister the write-up from the newspaper. He was among the first GI from Arkansas to be killed in that war.  Died in August 1950, and we had been gone from the Black Oak area about 3 years by that time, so I do believe 1947 or no later than 1948 is the year of the flooding I remember.   

Anyway, we were living on the farm, and our back yard slopped down to the bank or leeve of what in my memory has always been Black River, but I am starting to wonder if it was not a deep channel dug to divert some of the water from the river (which may have been the St. Francis River, instead of Black River).  The farmhouse we lived in was only 10 to 20 feet from the leeve.  Across and about a mile on up the river or channel lived some more families, among whom was a man who made sorghum and my dad would find some way to get across and buy a gallon of it in a tin bucket.   Well,  that year (1947?) it started to rain and just keep on raining.  I remember it was before Spring plowing or planting had begin (in my memory, it has always been late January and cold).  Water covered the corn and cotton fields, and there were fish flopping around in the cornfields. 

My older brother found a big cast-off diesel fuel tank or drum from a diesel truck or tractor.  He turned it on it's side and after cuting out the other side, had himself a little tub of a boat.  He whittled two paddles for it and would climb in and and with his knees drawn up, go paddling all over the corn and cotton fields spearing fish with the Gar Fork that Mrs. Gipson had given him.  He had his heart set on fried fish, but Daddy wouldn't let him eat them, said that water had been through a lot of out-houses before it got to our fields and was full of fifth.  My brother put up an argument as we were down to eating canned tomatoes by that time, but Daddy was firm.    Even canned tomatoes don't last forever, specially with a large family such as ours. 

I remember Daddy and our mother taking the shotgun and go wading off through the cornfields.  The plan was to shoot a wild duck out of the sky, but Daddy was no hunter (the shotgun was just kept for protection) and soon they were back, with our mother laughing because Daddy had shot at a crane instead of a wild duck, so it was tomatoes again for supper.  

Shortly after that,Daddy and my older brother took apart the smokehouse one board at a time. And used the lumber to built a boat.  They made it big enough to hold our large family.  I don't know what they sealed the cracks with, maybe pine rosem.  Our mother took one look at that thing and said she wasn't getting in it, so she had to be sweet-talked for a while by my dad and wheedled by my brother.  Us kids thought it would be a great adventure to go floating down the water in that boat and could hardly wait to get in it.  We piled in and Daddy and older brother rowed us down the river (or channel) for about 5 miles until we came to our Willis Jeep that Daddy had to leave parked on top of another leeve because he couldn't get to the house with it due to the deep water covering the roads.  It was one of those jeeps with the plastic side and rear flaps you had to hook on and remove from the jeep by hand and they didn't do much to keep out the cold wind when the jeep was going more than 10 miles an hour.  I remember us kids really froze in the back of that jeep.  We drove down the top of that leeve for a long way before we could find a road dry enough to drive on.  I think we drove all the way to Logan or Sebastian County to my grandparent's house and got some money from them or from somewhere (I slept the whole trip so I really don't know where we went). 

On the way back, we stopped at a store somewhere and bought 10 to 25 pound bags of flour and sugar and a large box of oats and some bags of pinto beans and maybe a few other things that I don't remember.  Back at the leeve, Daddy decided the boat wasn't big enough for us and the groceries too, so he either waded through flooded fields or rowed the boat to a small community of people down near the leeve, and asked a man who lived with his wife right on the water for help.  The man had a small boat and he had Daddy put our mother and two or three of the smaller kids in it and row them on home while he put the rest of us and some of the groceries in our larger homemade boat and waited for Daddy to come back.  Daddy got back with the small boat, and put my older sister and our mother's newest baby in the boat with him along with some of the groceries and we all started off.  But suddenly when we got out in the middle of the channel or river, the small boat tilted and my older sister and the baby she was holding went to the bottom of the water.  I remember sitting in the other boat screaming my head off but Daddy and that man quickly drove to the bottom and come up holding my sister by the hair of her head, and miracles of miracles, she still had the baby in her arms, wrapped (head and all) in an adult blanket and neither the baby nor my older sister suffered any harm (except fright).  That man insisted we all go to his house where his young wife got Daddy and my oldest sister some dry clothes to put on until their's dried out by the fire.  She also fed us coffee or hot cocoa and biscuits.  As far as I know, those people were complete strangers to us, so I have always treasured up their kindness to us in my heart.   

Meanwhile, back at the house our mother got more and more frantic as time passed and there was no sign of the rest of us.  She was mighty relieved when we finally did come trudging through the back door, even though we had left part of the groceries at the bottom of the channel or river.     The water kept rising until it covered the pump out in the yard we used to pump water for drinking as well as clothes washing and I think we had to start boiling our water for drinking, although I can't remember for sure.  I do remember the water getting so high it lapped at the top step of our kitchen door.   We must have run very low on food again because Daddy piled us all in the homemade boat. 

Once again we rowed to our jeep on the leeve, but this time we drove down the leeve and then into a town that had a welfare office of some kind.   I cannot remember what town it was but the welfare office was a small building near the middle of the block on either the main or a side street.  The front of the office had a large plate glass window and we could see Daddy talking to a man at a desk inside.  That man started shaking his head, and then we saw Daddy get down on his knees and pled, but we "didn't live in that district," and the man just kept on shaking his head.  

Back home, Daddy somehow got our only cow into the boat and rowed her across the water to where the man lived that we bought sorghum from and tried to sell the cow to him for a few dollars, but the man said he couldn't even take the cow as a gift because he had no feed for her.  So back across the water came Daddy and the cow.  I think at this point Daddy just gave up.  At any rate it was shortly after this that he tied the cow and our one and only workhorse to a post in the barn, loaded us all in the boat again, rowed to the jeep and left that area.  The next spring or summer, Daddy and our mother made a trip back to the farm to try to salvage some of our household goods and while our mother rummaged around in the house, Daddy went out to the barn and found what must have been a ghastly sight:  The cow and the horse had starved to death.    In the more than 50 years since that time I have never gone back, except in memory, so here ends my story.

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Memories by Tina Easley

February 10, 2008

I was raised at Schugtown in Mainshore Township on a dead end road that went beside the Eight-Mile levee. At the bottom of the high side of the levee , lay my families farm where my Grandparents (Barney and Helen Morton ) and my parents and siblings lived . Our houses being about 200 yards apart.

The Eight-mile Ditch ran into Locust Creek at the end of our pasture on the levee . Just across the Locust levee was the St. Francis River all very flood prone in the spring and fall.

One spring , I think it was the year my oldest sister had just started school at Eastside Elementery , Mrs. Ginny was her teacher. The rains came and school was closed early because of all the rising water and flash floods. My Daddy worked on the Highway Department and my Grandpa worked for the County Road Department. I guess my Mom had heard on the radio about the school closing we didn't have a phone , but my grandparents did . So moma wrapped me up and we started walking up the road to Grandma's the water was already everywhere in the fields . We got to the back of Grandma's yard and the water was pretty swift in a small ditch that run through their yard between the house and Grandpa's shop . I fell either in a hole or something and Moma hung on to me , I remember thinking I was going to be washed away. We managed to get to Grandma's and Mama called to let Daddy or Grandpa know that someone had to get my sister. The school bus didn't come to our house , my sister would have to get off the bus on the low side of the Eight-mile levee and walk across the bridge to get home. I don't remember who got her . I just remember being really scared of the water and wanting everyone home.

When Daddy and Grandpa got home they let me and my sister walk up on the levee with them to see all the water . As far as I could see was nothing but water . All the rain water from the hills on the west of Paragould and the from the north seemed to be there all at once . I remember Daddy and Grandpa talking about the ditch still being on the rise. And I knew enough to know when they said it was on the rise it meant more brown-muddy water .

George and Rowena Hyde and Curtis and Ailene Fitzgerald lived across the Eight-mile on the low side of the levee , from us . They would keep there boats tied to their porches , they would paddle there boats up to the levee on the other side and talk to Daddy and Grandpa , yelling over the roar of the water .

George Hyde would always have big-fat cane poles with troutline cord hanging from the bridge when the water rose . Boy would he catch some dandy catfish , I think he would snag them on the hooks because I don't think a fish could set still long enough to bite in that fast moving water.

The following days we would go up on the levee again to look at the rising water everyday less bank showing on the levee . One day it was over part of the old swayed bridge that crossed the Eight-mile with just bits and parts of it showing . It had all sorts of trees and limbs and everything washed from peoples yards and from town , hung up in the big drift under the bridge. Later the drift washed the center of the bridge out, with just a few of the wooden post left where the bridge was . It seemed like it took month's for the bridge to get fixed . We would have to go the long way around to go to church at Mulberry . Which we could see across the field on top of the levee.

The water always roared when it came through you could hear the roar of the water and you knew it was bad . It was always moving so fast caring everything with it . I was scared to death thinking the levee would break , during the night while we were asleep and the water would drown us all. But I can't remember my Daddy and Grandpa ever acting like they were scared if they were they didn't let us know it.

Little did I know then , but this was the same flood that , made everyone evacute on the Eastside of Paragould , Lake Street and in that area in the late 60's or early 70's.

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Memories told to me by Mother-n-Law and Aunt. Tressie (Marsh )Easley and her sister Zephie (Marsh) Jones .

Both are deceased now , I wished I would of asked more questions .

Tina Easley

My mother -n- law and my father-n- law James (Snipe) Easley and Aunt Zephie and Uncle Euvene Jones and one of their dad brothers Joe Marsh lived at Black Oak , Ar. in the late 1930's . They were sharecroppers in that vicinity in the low farm land . What they called the overflow land . The sister's lived in a one room farm house beside each other , with a barn and other storage sheds and small farm houses on the farm place with some other sharecroppers and their children . Uncle Joe lived with Aunt Zephie and Uncle Euvene .

Not far from the river not sure what river they never said . The floods came that year , they had told me it was really cold . It had rained and rained for several days and nights and then the tempature dropped into the teens . The rain freezing on the trees , snow and sleet , knocking all the power out. The water rose , and just kept rising to the steps and then to the porch of their houses. Everywhere they looked was water . Knowing they had to do something and do it fast .

My mother-n-law was with child and either from the fright of the floods or it was just time she had gone into what she called early labor . Snipe, Joe and Uncle Euvene and some of the other neighbors went to their barn and made two make-shift boats from the lumber of the hayloft.

The men loaded the women and children and what few things they could take and left for higher ground . Uncle Joe stayed behind to help other families out of the flood waters. The two make shift boats paddled there way through the flood waters , passing other families screaming for help , Tressie told me it would just make your blood curl from the screams of terror , coming from the darkness of the black flood waters . But they knew there was no way they could hold anymore , the water was already laping over the edge of the boat from the weight of the families the two small boats carried. All they could do was pray for the families they had to pass up telling them they would send help .

They finally reached higher ground out of the flood waters and got a ride to Paragould , where they were taking in the flood victims . The sisters told me after the flood waters went down , weeks and weeks after . They went back to their sharecropper homes to have nothing , everything left had been washed away and ruined when the river levees broke . They had been told that Uncle Joe had been drowned and washed away in the rising flood waters trying to save others like so many others that had died during the flood .

Years later , they were at my home and we were watching the news . And they had something about a fellow dying by the name of Joe Marsh on the news . They showed a photo of him when he was younger and both of the sisters were crying , it is Uncle Joe , it's Uncle Joe . They found out when the funeral was and went , it was their Uncle Joe. All this time he had settled a couple of counties away . Some of his family had told the sisters , He had been told the same thing that all his family had drowned and didn't make it out of the flood waters.

It is amazing how all the horrible floods, tornadoes and disasters affected our families and seperated them. But even though they didn't know he was still alive all these years , it made my mother-n-law and Aunt Zephie rest more easy to know he didn't drown in that awful flood. I had read the Flood Diary that I have on the site to Aunt Zephie after my mother-n-law had passed away and she said that it was the same flood they survived . Here is the link to the Flood Diary if you haven't read it yet. It tells word by word how awful and frightening the floods were .

Flood Diary 1937  

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