Historic Names and Places on the Lower Mississippi River
1977, Mississippi River Commission
by Marion Bragg
A mile-by-mile description of the history behind the names and places and islands of the lower Mississippi. An excellent reference for any river-goer, from the tugboat pilot to the canoeist, with descriptions like:
WATERPROOF, LOUISIANA. Mile 381.0 AHP, Map 37. Left Bank, descending. During one of the Mississippi's devastating floods, the people of one flooded rural community read a newspaper report that told them that everything in their whole region was under water except one waterproof knoll. When the flood subsided, the community moved itself to the knoll, and the town acquired the name of Waterproof. It was a name that gave the hapless reporter of another newspaper some embarrassing moments a few years later when he reported a local tragedy under the headline that read: FOUR WATERPROOF PEOPLE DROWN.
Includes descriptions of the old channel, and how it became the new, through cut-offs, crevasses and other man made & natural occurrences. My only criticism: too much of it revolves around the Civil War.
Barry, John M.
Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America
1997, Simon & Schuster
The Mississippi Flood of 1927 was the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. It killed more than 1,000 people and left almost a million homeless from Cairo, Illinois to New Orleans, and had a far-reaching impact on American Society, as revealed in Mr. Barry's gripping grassroots epic, redolent with gothic passions of the Old South. RISING TIDE is an extraordinary tale of greed, power, politics, racial conflict and bureaucratic incompetence. It begins in the 1870s as two influential engineers - James Eads, who built a Mississippi-spanning bridge in St. Louis, and Army surveyor Andrew Humphreys - battle over how to control the wild, erratic river. The focus then shifts to Mississippi's powerful Percy family - to railroad magnate W.A. Percy, pioneer of the sharecropping system; to his son LeRoy, banker, planter, senator who protected blacks against demagogues and the Klu Klux Klan; to poet and lawyer Will (LeRoy's son), to novelist Walker Percy, Will's blood cousin and adopted son. A cast of power-hungry villains and crusading reformist heroes rounds out this momentous chronicle, which revisits the shaping of the Mississippi Delta, and its great art form, the Delta Blues, and modern America.
The Narrative of the Expedition of Hernando de Soto
by the Gentleman of Elva
Translated by Buckingham Smith
The expedition of De Soto was the first extensive exploration of at what became at least six of the Southern states, and contain the earliest written descriptions of the nations of the Choctaws, the Cherokees, the Creeks, and the Seminoles; these narratives also describe the discovery of the Mississippi River and the story of the first voyage upon it by the Europeans. These narratives were drawn up by one of the Portuguese gentleman who joined it from the town of Elvas, which lies just across the boundary from the Spanish city of Badajos, where De Soto was well known. Nothing more is known about this gentleman, not even his name, but his account is recognized by historians as the most trustworthy detailed account of the expedition.
When De Soto left Quiz-Quiz (site now occupied by Clarksdale, Mississippi), he reached the great River (referred to as El Rio Grande), and put his men to work building boats to cross it. He went to look at the river, and saw near it there was much timber of which the piraguas might be made, and a good situation in which the camp might be placed. It took thirty days to build four piragauas. The current was so stiff that they found it necessary to go up along the side of the river a quarter of a league, and in passing they were carried down, so as to land opposite the camp... By the time the sun was up two hours high, De Soto's men had become the first white men to cross the Mississippi, and Elvas made the first observations about its nature:
The distance [across the river] was near half a league: a man could not be told, whether he were a man or something else, from the other side. The stream was swift and very deep; the water, always flowing turbidly, brought along from above many trees and much timber, driven onward by its force. There were fish of several sorts, the greater part differing from those of the fresh waters of Spain, as will be told hereafter...