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The Mighty Mississippi

During Thanksgiving week, I spent almost every day on a deer stand a few hundred yards from the Mississippi River in our hunting club 20 miles west of Cleveland in the Delta. The gentle constant hum of the river boats going up and down the river, the beauty of the river and of the woods this time of the year, and the peacefulness of it all was a million miles away from my daily stressful routine.
Photo courtesy of www.tourist-destinations.com
Photo courtesy of www.tourist-destinations.com

As I sat there, it occurred to me that we in the Mississippi Delta probably don’t know as much about the history of this great river as we should.

Many might be surprised to know that that 42% of this country’s run-off water flows right down the Mississippi next to the Delta.
The Mississippi River starts in northern Minnesota and runs for 2,530 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi’s watershed drains all or parts of 31 US states and two Canadian provinces between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. The Mississippi ranks as the fourth longest and tenth largest river in the world.
Native Americans were the first to live on the river. Most were hunter-gatherers, but some, such as the Mound builders, formed prolific agricultural societies and today some of their artifacts can be found on the sandbars. Europeans were the next group to utilize the river sailing up and down the river settling in America. In fact, Hernando DeSoto’s body was dumped into the river somewhere north of Clarksdale after his death to illness.

The first settlers in my neck of the woods, Bolivar County, arrived on Concordia Landing, just north of Gunnison. These early pioneers settled up and down the river in our county between Gunnison and Benoit. The old town of Prentiss, one of the county’s first settlements was located on the river near present day Merigold Hunting Club. Prentiss was shelled during the Civil War and a few years after that the river changed courses cutting its path through Prentiss. The town was lost until the 1950s when the river was at an all time low and some of the Prentiss reappeared in the river banks.

During the Civil War the Mississippi River’s capture by Union forces marked a turning point in the conflict for the Union because of the river’s importance as a trade route and travel for the Confederacy.

The Mighty Mississippi River
The Mighty Mississippi River

Many great Americans have traveled on the river passing right by Bolivar County from Abraham Lincoln to Mark Twain, to US presidents, titans of industry and other notable Americans. In fact, Twain often stopped in Bolivar County when traveling on the river in order to visit Bolivar County historic figure, Charles Clark, at Clark’s old home located outside of Beulah.

But, perhaps the part of history pertaining to the river we in Bolivar County are most familiar is the Mississippi River Flood of 1927.  In May of 1927, flooding over-topped the levee at Mounds Landing near Winterville causing it to break. To give an example of the magnitude of this break, the water rushing in was more than double the water volume of Niagara Falls. The break flooded 27,000 square miles of the Delta and in our county the water stopped on the edge of Cleveland. The water flooded an area 50 miles wide and more than 99 miles long in the Delta.

There is much history in the Mississippi Delta and so much history connected to the Mississippi River.  A lot to think about and I sure did while waiting for that elusive buck to appear near my deer stand by the Mississippi during Thanksgiving week.

 – Scott Coopwood is the owner and publisher of Delta Business Journal, Delta Magazine and The Cleveland Current. He can be reached at scott@coopwood.net

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