United States. Inland Waterways Commission.

Preliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report online

. (page 25 of 83)
Online LibraryUnited States. Inland Waterways CommissionPreliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report → online text (page 25 of 83)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

knowTi as the "Father of Ohio canals," corresponded with De Witt
Clinton, of Erie Canal fame, on the subject of canals. BroAvn was
elected governor of Ohio in 1818, and in his inaugural address de-
clared that "to increase industry and develop our resources, inter-
nal communications • must be improved to provide for the surplus
products of our State a cheaper way to market." ^

After several years of discussion, messages by the governor, and
resolutions of the legislature, an act was parsed in 1822 providing for
the appointment of commissioners to cause surveys and estimates to
be made. This commission employed James Geddes, who had been
employed on the New York canal, who made examinations and sur-
veys of the following five routes: 1, Mahoning and Grand River route;
2, Cuyahoga and Muskingum; 3, Black and Muskingum; 4, Scioto
and Sandusky; 5, Maumee and Great Miami.

The legislature on February 4, 1825, passed its notable law which
marks the beginning of the construction period of Ohio canals.
This act was entitled "An act to provide for the internal improve-
ment of the State of Ohio by navigable canals." It reorganized the
canal commission, making it a board of 7 commissioners, 3 of whom
were to be acting commissioners. The commissioners of the canal
fund consisted of 3 members. This act also authorized the canal
commission to begin and to prosecute 2 canals, the ]\Iiami Canal,
following the valley of the Great Miami River from Dayton to Cin-

o Annual Report, Board of Public Works, 1905, p. 153.
& Senate Journal, Ohio, 1818, p. 84.


cinnati, and the Ohio and Erie Canal, following the old Scioto and
Muskingum route from Cleveland to Portsmouth. This choice of
routes was due to the desire to secure the greatest development of
the State."

Construction was begun July 4, 1825, at Licking Summit, Licking
County, and was the occasion of great rejoicing. A loan of $400,000
had been placed by the commissioners and donations had been
received from citizens.

On July 4, 1827, the first boat arrived at Cleveland over the Ohio
Canal, having descended through 41 locks, passed over 3 aqueducts
and through 37 miles of canal. Navigation began on the Miami
Canal a little later, 3 boats leaving the basin, 6 miles north of Cincin-
nati, on November 28, 1827, and proceeding to Middletown.^

In 1825 the Ohio legislature memorialized Congress, asking for a
donation of land for canal purposes. Congress responded by act of
March 2, 1827, granting to the State of Indiana, to aid in the opening
of a canal to connect navigable points on the Wabash River with
Lake Erie, so far as same was in the State of Ohio, a quantity of land
equal to one half of five sections on each side of the canal. This was
granted by Indiana to the State of Ohio by joint resolution of the legis-
lature of the State of Indiana, approved February 1, 1834; the num-
ber of acres was 292,223.51. A second grant of Congress was by act
of May 24, 1828. Its object was to aid in extending the Miami Canal
from Dayton to the Maumee River. Its extent was a quantity of land
equal to one-half of five sections on each side of the canal. The
grantee was the State of Ohio and the acreage amounted to 438,301 .32.
A third grant by Congress was dated May 24, 1828, ' ' To aid in the con-
struction of canals in Ohio." The extent was 500,000 acres to be
selected from land subject to private entry. The actual grant
amounted to 439,999.12 acres; thus the total acreage granted to the
State by the Government amounted to 1,230,521.95 acres. On the
22d of December, 1828, the legislature of Ohio passed an act accepting
the above grants and provisions. From the sale of these lands the
State resized the sum of $2,257,487.32, and a small portion valued
at about $100,000 still remains unsold. In addition to these grants
the State received from individuals and corporations along the dift'er-
ent canals donations of lands and rights of way and money.'^

The canals were constructed, and the traffic built up the population
of towns and counties through which the canals passed. The Ohio
and Erie Canal was completed in 1833, and the Miami and Erie
Canal in 1845.

Between 1825 and 1835 five short lateral canals were constructed
l)y private corporations, which at that time were created only by
special act and were not compelled to make reports to the State;
hence the impossibility of securing information regarding these
private canals. Some of them were aided by the State to the extent
of $450,000. These canals were soon abandoned and some were
never operated, either on account of lack of sufficient water or lack of
business, and the last of them ceased to operate in 1872.

"History of Ohio Canals, pp. 18-21.

fc History of Ohio Canals, p. 30.

cAnnual Report Board of Public Works of Ohio, 1905, p. 151 .


As a result of railroad building in the fifties the canal traffic declined
in spite of the continual lowering of tolls on the canals. Beginning in
1856, and continuing until the outbreak of the civil war, the canals
were operated at an annual loss.*^

The w^ar caused a still further declme in canal traffic, and in 1861,
by act of the legislature, passed Ma}^ 9th, the State leased her public
works (canals) to private parties for an annual rental of $20,075.
This lease was forfeited on December 21, 1877, and the supreme court
of Montgomery county appointed a receiver until May, 1878, at -svhich
time the State, board again took possession of the public works of
Ohio. The amount received as rental from the lessees durmg the 16^
years was $331,237.50, and during the six months subsequent to the
"forfeiture $69,765.59, making a total amount received by the State of
$401,003.09. The expenditures by the board of public works for
"superintendence" and "repairs" ceased with the transfer of the
canals to lessees. All expenditures made during that time were for
the settlement of prior claims and awards of damages and expenses
incurred in the appraisement of personal property sold to the lessees
and the payment of outstanding indebtedness, provided for by the
act making appropriations for the maintenance of public works,
passed May 13, 1861. On the forfeiture of the lease the State too': up
the canals, but, owing to the bad condition in which they were returned
and the lack of adequate appropriations to put and keep them in good
condition, they have since been maintained at an annual loss. The
only portion of the canals that has made any regular net returns in
recent years has been that part of the Miami and Erie extending from
Dayton to Cincinnati.

On March 26, 1901, the board of public works entered into a con-
tract with Thomas N. Fordyce and others known as the Miami and
Erie Canal Transportation Company by which the company was to
operate a canal boat traction plant on the canal. This was popularly
known as the "Electric Mule Company," and began propelling canal
boats, but soon went into the hands of a receiver.^

The grant of the franchise to the Miami and Erie Canal Transpor-
tation Co. brought forth much protest from the friends of canal
transportation. The company laid a standard-gauge track along the
berme bank of the canal, ostensibly for the purpose of running motor
cars to tow the canal boats. This track was of heavy material, con-
siderably more than enough to meet any possible requirements for
towing canal boats, and the copper wire strung by them was much
larger than any other used in the State of Ohio for any railroad pur-
pose. Most of the track and wire was put in between Dayton and
Cincinnati, and all the canal boats that were on the canal (some 30
or 40) were bought by the Miami and Erie Canal Transportation Co.
Before the project got down to a working basis, however, foreclosure

Eroceedings were brought by trustees for the bondholders on whose
oldings no payment of interest had been made for some time prior
to the proceedings. These proceedings were begun in the superior
court of Hamilton County, but on its appearing that the jurisdiction
of that court did not extend outside that county, the action was
transferred to the common pleas court, the jurisdiction of which ran
throughout the State. Two receivers were appointed by the court,

a History of Ohio Canals, p. 43.

& History of Ohio Canals, pp. 49 ami 50.


Mr. C. C. Richardson of Lockland, Ohio, and an official of the Cleve-
land Traction Company. Both of these receivers had been interested
in the original organization of the company. The present receivers
(June, 1907) are Mr. Richardson and Mr. W. C. Shepherd, a lawyer
of Hamilton, Ohio. The receivers were directed to sell the property
of the company, which they have been doing, selling the wire, machin-
ery of the substations, etc., and some of the track itself, most of
wtich has been removed. At last accounts they still retained some
of the property, the motors, the canal boats, etc., which they were
trying to sell.

'a suit has been filed by the State of Ohio, at Columbus, to deter-
mine whether the franchise has been forfeited. This suit is still

Another suit in the United States court for the southern district of
Ohio by the bondholders against the original stockholders and the
promoters is pending, but to this latter suit the company itself is
not a party. The plaintiffs in this case claim bad faith in the defend-

It is estimated that the canal property remaining, even after all the
encroachments and abandonments, is worth $15,000,000. For a long
time there has been a sentiment against the abandonment of the
canals. While they are not in a condition to dictate freight rates,
yet they would become competitors with railroads running north and
south if they were put on a practical basis. They were originally
intended for boats of 80 tons burden, but the structures, locks, etc.,
are such that the canal could be improved to a depth of five feet by
building new structures, which would involve a cost of not more

The canal debt was wiped out in 1903.

There has been a general awakening among the people of Ohio in
recent years as to the importance of preserving the canals of the
State, and, as a result, a more thorough understanding of the true
value of the property. The seventy-second General Asembly author-
ized the appointment of a legislative commission to investigate the
canal system of Ohio, and another commission was appointed in
1902 by the seventy-fifth General Assembly. The latter commission
earnestly advised the retention and improvement of the canals, and
in view of the great possibilities and the direct and indirect advan-
tages of the canals they did not consider that an expenditure of a sum
not to exceed $1,500,000 would be excessive.

Through the solicitations of large business interests and memorials
of corporate bodies the Government has taken up the subject of im-
proving the Ohio canals. The Fifty-third Congress passed an act
which resulted in the appointment of the Poe Commission by the
Secretary of War under the provisions of the river and harbor act of
August 17, 1894. This commission considered the feasibiUty of con-
structing a continuous canal to connect the waters of Lake Erie with
the Ohio River, and reported, after a careful consideration of the
subject, that it would not be advisable for the Government to
build such a waterway, unless it were of sufficient dimensions to
meet the present demands of interstate commerce. The commission
reported in favor of the construction of a canal of 10 feet draft and
declared the project to be one of undoubted practicability at a cost

« History of Ohio Canals, p. 138.



not prohibitory, and added: "If carried out the canals, so built, will
form an important part of an inland system of navigation, which,
%vith Lake Erie as a commercial base of operation, win embrace the
Great Lakes, St. La^v^ence, Mssissippi, and Ohio Rivers, and Atlantic
seaboard in its mercantile and national benefits. ' ' The commission
was confined by the act of Congress to the consideration of the
questions involved as affecting the general government.

The Ohio board of public works, in its report of 1897, page 32,
says: "The real problem affecting the canals as a future public
auxiliar}^ in the carriage of commerce, whether of national, interstate,
or local significance, is that larger dimensions and capacities are de-
manded than are now offered to enable them to meet, if not to control,
traffic competition."

Finances and traffic. — The following is the financial statement
regarding the Ohid canals from 1827 to 1905, inclusive:

From 1827 to 1905, inclusive:

Gross receipts $16, 773, 524. 63

Total expenditures 12, 428, 318. 86

Net earnings 4, 345, 205. 79

This statement does not take into consideration the first cost of
building, which was $15,967,652.69, fully offset, in the opinion of the
board of public works, by present value of the property. JPrior to 1882
salaries of the members of the board, engineers, secretary, and
other general office expenses were paid from the canal fund and
charged in the expenditures as given. But since 1882 these amounts,
aggregating about S200,000, have been appropriated from the gen-
eral revenue fund and charged accordingly. In addition, certain
other sums for land, damages, etc., were appropriated directly to the
claimants and never passed through the hands of the board. Aside
from these sums, appropriations amounting to about $426,000 were
made by the General Assembly directly to the lessees during the time
when the canals w^ere operated by them.'^

The following table shows receipts and expenditures on the Miami
and Erie and the Ohio and Erie canals from 1890 through 1905:

Table 83 — Receipts and expenditures on Ohio State canals, 1890-1905

[Taken from History of Ohio Canals, pp. 169-171, up to 1903, and for 1904 and 1905 from Annual Reports
of Board of Public Works, 1904, 1905. There is a discrepancy between the reports of 1904 and 1905 of
the board of public works.]

Miami and Erie.

Ohio and Erie.





1890 ' $73, 788. 02

1891 63,876. 47

1892 86, 722. 96

1893 66, 211. 86

1894 74, 716. 75

1895 80,324. 41

1896 97,327. 12

1897 80, 293. 14

1898 57,433.64

1899 69, 151. 41

1900 ' 61, 896. 70

1901 ' 67,180.60

1902 1 63,148.23

1903 1 71,229.40

1904 60,985. 71

1905,. I 64, 138. 49

S79, 137. 41

80, 583. 84






22, 716. 35
26, 132. 17
20, 223. 42
24, 314. 96
35, 776. 56

89, 773. 15
83, 333. 61

105, 490. 39
64, 685. 36
85, 532. 60
90, 139. 76
78, 526. 43
70, 315. 96
70, 364. 15

a Annual report. Board of Public Works, 1905, p. 187.

246 KEPOET OF THE i:xla]s:d watebways commission

The northern branch of the Ohio and Erie Canal passes through
an almost unlimited coal field for 60 or 70 miles. The city of Cleve-
land is rapidly extending up the Cuyahoga River, with which this
canal connects During the year ending November 15, 1905,
4,973,950 pounds of coal arrived at Cleveland and 4,875,720 pounds
were cleared. The clearance of coal at Canal Dover amounted to
27,904,000 pomids. During the same period on the Mami and Ohio
Canal, at Cincinnati, 64,090,000 pounds of sand, 8,442,000 pounds
of ice, and 2,286,999 pounds of paper arrived, and 3,475,275 pounds
of rags and paper stock were cleared. At Lockland were cleared
3,498,000 pounds of ice and 3,219,207 pounds of paper, while 2,695,867
pounds of rags and paper stock arrived. Other traffic on these canals
consists of iron, farm produce, lime and cement, lumber and other

The State of Ohio has appropriated some $250,000 for the improve-
ment of the locks and dams in the Miami and Erie Canal between
Dayton and Cincinnati, and for the deepening of this portion of the
canal to a depth of 5 feet. The canal is considerably run down. Mr.
Richardson, the receiver (who is also auditor of Hamilton County),
stated that in places it was almost possible for a person to step across
the canal, ^ork under the appropriation is going forward between
Lockland and Dayton. The only portion near Cincinnati in wliich
there is any traffic is between Cincinnati and Lockland, although
the upper part between Defiance and Toledo is said to be in fair
condition, bemg 100 feet wide at places and having a depth of 6
feet. Between Cincimiati and Lockland, the Ohio Boat Company,
composed chiefly of paper manufacturers of Lockland, operate 7
boats, having in 1907 1 boat in idleness at Dayton shut off by the
work of improvement then being done. The boats of the Ohio Boat
Company handle chiefly paper from the mills at Lockland, which
they carry to Cincinnati, and they take rags back to the mills together
with sucli freight as may offer. The company pays the regular toll
charges to the State. Air. George B. Fox, president of the Fox Paper
Company at Lockland, is treasurer of the Ohio Boat Compaii}'. The
boats of the Ohio Boat Company are propelled by gasoline. The
Clifton Springs Distilling Company has 2 canal boats, which they
operate between their distillery at Cumminsville and Cincinnati,
sending a boat to Cincinnati everyday and a second boat two or three
times a week. Four boats bring sand into Cincinnati from the sand
banks adjacent to the canal between Cincinnati and Lockland.
Both the whisky and the sand boats are towed by animal power.

The traffic on this end of the canal is seen to be unimportant. The
Bureau has no definite information of the movement between Dayton
and Toledo, nor between Dayton and Defiance, except that it was
stated that the latter section had no traffic movement of any account
at all.

The whole situation on the canal seems chaotic. As Mr. George B.
Fox, treasurer of the Ohio Boat Company, said, ''Nobody seems to
know anything about it." Mr. Fox is probably as well informed on
the subject of the canal, at least as far as the southern end of it is
concerned, as anybody.

« Annual Report of the Board of Public Works, Ohio, 1905, pp. 43 to 50.



This canal extends from a point on the Chicago River about 5
miles from its mouth in the city of Chicago to La Salle, a distance
of about 96 miles. Lockport, Joliet, and Ottawa are the principal
places between its termini. At La Salle the canal connects with the
Illinois River through what is known as "Steamboat Channel," a
cut about half a mile in length. Through this connection with the
Illinois River traffic can pass from Chicago to the Mississippi River
at Grafton and thence to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
There are 16 locks on the canal. The one at Bridgeport is 220 feet
long and 20 feet wide. The other 15 are of uniform size, admitting
boats 105 feet long and 17.5 feet beam. The lift of the locks ranges
from 1 foot to 13 feet. The canal channel will admit boats drawing
4 feet 8 inches.

The histor}^ of the Illinois and Michigan Canal begms in 1822,
when Congress authorized the State of Illinois to open a canal
through the public lands to connect the Illinois River with Lake
Michigan. In 182.3 the State created a commission to explore a
route for the canal and in 1824 this commission made a report and
prepared a map of the proposed route. This map was made by
Justus Post and Rene Paul, civil engineers employed by the com-
missioners, and is known as the Post and Paul map. In 1825 the
general assembly incorporated the Illinois and Michigan Canal Com-
pany with a capital of $1,000,000, but as this company failed to
perform the work provided for in the act of incorporation its charter
was repealed in 1826. This repealing act made it the duty of the
governor to ascertain the best terms on which loans could be secured
for the purpose of constructing the canal and to report to the general
assembly at its next session. A few days prior to the passage of this
repealing act Congress was memorialized and requested to grant
lands to aid in constructing the canal, which request was complied
with by a grant of 325,000 acres in 1827. The next general assembly,
on January 22, 1829, passed the act providing for the construction of
the canal and directed the governor to appoint three commissioners
charged with the duty of making a survey and beginning the con-
struction. In December, 1830, the commissioners reported the sur-
veys made in considerable detail and outlined proposed improvements
estimated to cost in round numbers $1,700,000. They reported sales
of canal lands amounting to $13,500 and expenditures amounting to
nearly $5,500. During the years 1831 and 1832 the commissioners
continued to make surveys and estimates, but their work was seem-
ingly not satisfactory to the legislature, for on March 1, 1833, the
commission was abolished, and was directed to turn over its affairs
to the State treasurer. Between 1831 and 1835 an unsuccessful effort
was made to secure the construction of a railroad instead of a canal.

In February, 1835, an act was passed for the construction of the Illi-
nois and Michigan Canal, authorizing the governor to borrow $500,000
to be expended on the work. Under this act the governor appointed
a board of canal commissioners, but the law was defective, and this
commission accomplished nothing. By acts of Congress in 1827


and 1833 the time limit for commencing the canal was extended to
1837 and the time for its completion to 1852. After the faDure of the
commission of 1835 to begin work it was evident that the canal rights
given by Congress would be lost and the lands granted would revert
to the United States unless prompt measures were taken to begin the
construction of the canal and push it to completion. Under these
circumstances the governor called the general assembly to meet in
extra session on December 7, 1835. Accordingly, on January 9, 1836,
an act was passed directing the governor to appoint "the board of
commissioners of the Illinois and Michigan Canal " and empowering
him to negotiate a loan of $500,000 to aid in the construction of the
canal. Under the administration of this new board rapid progress
was made, and it may be said that the year 1836 marks the real begin-
ning of the building of the canal. In their first annual report for the
year 1836 the board gives in detail the plans of the improvements
contemplated, the estimated cost of the same, together with a report
of the actual work done. The dimensions of the canal were some-
what larger than had been previously planned. It was to be 6 feet
deep, 60 feet wide at the surface, and 36 feet wide at the bottom,
with locks 110 feet by 18 feet.

At the end of 1837 the board reported 52 miles imder contract,
which at the contract prices would cost $3,244,234.97. By the end
of 1840 the board had expended nearly $4,000,000, and at the end of
the 3^ear 1842 the work completed and under contract had cost
$6,751,006.21, and it was estimated that about $1,250,000 more would
be necessary to complete the work.

At this time the credit of the State was prostrated and many people
were disheartened with the canal undertaking. The chief engineer
of the canal board in a report undertook to show the advantages
that would come to the State through the completion of the canal,
and pleaded for means to prosecute the work to a finish. In Feb-
ruary, 1843, the general assembly authorized the governor to bor-
row $1,600,000 on the pledge of the canal property and tolls.
This act provided for a board to be known as the "board of trustees
of the Illinois' and Michigan Canal," one of which trustees to be
appointed by the governor and the other two to be elected or appointed
by the subscribers to the canal loan or the holders of certificates of
indebtedness. This act provided that the property and assets of the
canal should vest in this board of trustees and that when the trust
created should be executed the canal and canal property should
revert to the State. Under the trustees, who were first selected in
1845, the work was pushed to completion, and on April 24, 1848, the

Online LibraryUnited States. Inland Waterways CommissionPreliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report → online text (page 25 of 83)