Friday, May 6, 2011

Floods and Impact

If you've been listening to the news coming out of Memphis, and other cities along the Mississippi and its tributaries, you know that flood waters are at an all time high.

The story of Memphis particularly interests me because of my family origins.  Back in the 1860's, just after the Civil War, life was very hard in Memphis for many people.  My 3rd great grandmother (as in great x 3) lived there.  Her name was Elizabeth Jane Petty Wright.  Her husband, Samuel Creed Wright, died in 1860.  Having lived through the deprivations of the war, Elizabeth Jane was doing fairly well by 1867. She had five children, owned a bit of property, and was both well educated for her day and frugal.  We have a letter in her hand that she wrote to one of her brothers that year.  It spoke of rising prices and many relatives. It was dated June 18, 1867. It is precious to us for many reasons, not the least of which she added a p.s. to her brother that said,  Let the children go to school as much as you can for it is the best riches they can have

Later that year, August 3, Mary Amanda Elizabeth Jane Petty Wright (her full name) died from either cholera or yellow fever.  In her Will, dictated when she knew she was dying, she named all of her children.  She did not realize that two of her daughters would join her in heaven within a few days of her death. The three children who survived, Roxie (my great-great grandmother), Thomas Jackson (TJ), and Samuella (Sammie) would stay very close to each other throughout their lives.

They lived in Shelby County, and later, Germantown.

Elizabeth Jane Petty
The point of this is that Memphis, back then, was an easy place to die from the effects of high water.  Mosquitoes carried yellow fever, and poor sanitation caused cholera.  Now there are vaccinations for yellow fever (although it is considered a re-emerging disease). Our sanitation systems are very advanced, and simple antibiotics can stop the ravage of cholera.

With the advancement of science and 24 hour journalism, it is no mystery where the floods are coming.  As the river floods, people have the ability to evacuate.  And they have the knowledge that having all that water hanging around is really bad for their health.

Looking at the aerial photos of the flood waters, so many of the shots show Germantown Parkway and Shelby County -- our family's old stompin' grounds.  Which right now, would splash back.

I-55 Bridge into Arkansas

1 comment:

The Bug said...

Wow that IS a lot of water! It's pretty scary, but you're right that these days we mostly have the ability to avoid death & disease, if not loss of property.