“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage.”–Alex Haley
By Betsy Cross Thorpe
On Saturday, August 20, 1927, in Yazoo County Mississippi, Miss Ruby Elizabeth Isaacs age sixteen, wed Mr. Henry David Roe age twenty. Those six facts are the sum of what I know about my grandparents wedding day. As far as I know neither one of them ever talked about their wedding. Not with me, not with my mother, not with my aunt.
At the time of their marriage Yazoo County was recovering from the Mississippi River Flood of April 1927. The Mississippi River Flood was the most destructive river flood in US history. It claimed the lives of more than one thousand people in Yazoo County alone.
For tenant farmers like my grandparents the aftermath of the flood was devastating. Tens of thousands were left homeless and jobless. Close to a million people were left without food and water. Times were harder than usual in the Mississippi Delta. Finally, toward the end of August the last of the floodwaters flowed into the Gulf , and the time for rebuilding the Delta arrived.
Was it by design that my grandparents chose to marry at that time? I choose to imagine that they did.
On that day the Isaacs and Roe lines joined . A new line was formed. Starting with seven children the Isaacs/Roe line now extends down through five generations.
“Every day holds the possibility of a miracle.” Anonymous
His name was Kenneth David Roe. I called him Uncle Bud. When he was a young boy, he almost drowned in some high water that flowed under a bridge near Chatham Mississippi. Some of my relatives say it was a stroke of luck that he was found alive, others say that it was a miracle that he survived.
I’ve only heard the story in bits and pieces. It seems that everyone who was there had their own vivid memory to share. Except Uncle Bud. To my knowledge he never spoke of the day.
I’ve not heard anyone say why he was in the water that day. Did he fall off the bridge? Did he jump in? Did someone push him? I really cant tell you.
My Uncle Frank said that he was pretty sure it happened in Lake Washington, a body of water that exists near the Ferguson Place where the family lived and worked.
As far as I know, my mother is the only person still living who witnessed the search and rescue. She recalls standing on the bridge. She says that the water was higher than usual that day, that it almost reached the bottom of the bridge.
Uncle Frank remembered seeing my grandmother run alongside the water and up on the bridge. He said “she was crying and hollering” while family, friends and neighbors poked the water with long sticks, trying to find her son.
My grandmother said that he was under water for a very long time before someone found him.
I never heard tell of who it was who rescued him. But someone found him and drug him out of the water.
My grandmother recalled that after he was pulled out of the water someone in the search party pushed on his chest to get the water out of his lungs.
Uncle Frank never forgot the sight of seeing his brother laying on his side while muddy water spewed out of his mouth.
No one alive today can say for sure what day, month or year that my uncle almost drowned. But the wonder of it all is that he lived to see another day and that the God-given outcome of was a good one.
His survival ensured the preservation of the Roe family unit. For if Uncle Bud had died in those dark muddy waters there would have always been an empty seat at my grandmother’s table and the course of the Roe family would have been changed forever.
Lake Washington is part of the Mississippi. It is a large bend in the river that is cut off on one side by land. It is a U shaped body of free standing water that resembles a lake.
The Ferguson Place was a cotton farm where my Henry David Roe, Ruby Isaacs Roe and their two oldest sons Eugen Roe and Kenneth David Roe, along with twins Herman Frank Roe, and Nannie Elizabeth Roe, lived and worked. They entire family worked in the fields. Even the twins who were about five or six years old at that time.