In memory of those who perished in the flooding on this day in 1927, I’m republishing this article from 23 September 2008.
Last week I indexed a batch of Louisiana Death certificates. Soon I was so drawn into these people's lives, that it took all week to get one batch done.
I started on the first certificate. Cause of death? Drowning. How sad. How old was this person? A ten year old boy. Wow; that is sad. Why did someone write "refugee" at the top?
Next certificate. Also "refugee" at the top. Cause of death? Also drowning!
Wait a minute. Duplicate certificate? No. This name was North Hudson. I see he’s only five years old. Next I see he is his father's name sake.
Same date? Yes, 8 July 1927. Both in Port Barre, St. Landry Parish; wow. Opelousas is crossed out and Porte Barre written in. Wonder what happened.
What did happen? It didn't take very long before Google uncovered the Great Flood of 1927. The Mississippi had overflowed her banks during the spring runoff.
The two photos, below, show Kerr's Drug Store in Port Barre early in the flooding and 13 days later.
Displaced "refugees" were evacuated to neighboring communities.
I'm still unclear of all the goings on, but the floodwaters seem to have lasted for months. On 8 July 1927 I think the levee protecting Port Barre failed. It fell to the medical examiner in Opelousas to perform the terrible last reuniting of lost family members. I found myself feeling awkward, standing in the back, an unbidden guest, witnessing this pervasively private moment.
Then I thought that perhaps, if caring members of these families ever come looking for them, my indexing will bring them to this very same spot, let them see what I am seeing. I will have quietly slipped out the back, letting loving family unite again across time. And grieve. And remember.