United States. Inland Waterways Commission.

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

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on the canal are the Dismal Swamp Steam Packet Compan}^ and the
Virginia-Carolina Inland Steamship Companj^ (Le Roy Steamboat
Compan}^). The former concern hauls all kinds of freight and runs
between Elizabeth City and Norfolk, toucliing at intermediate
points. The line is said to be run in connection with the Norfolk
and Southern Railroad, and in open competition with independents.
The latter company is incorporated, having a capital stock of $100,000.
The company operates through the Albemarle and Chesapeake and
the Dismal Swamp canals and on various rivers and sounds of North

Regarding traffic and the transportation agencies on this canal, the
following statement is made by Mr. John Upshur, formerly clerk of
the Virginia State Corporation Commission:

The resources of the country through which the canal passes would not justify the
maintenance of the canal without through business, timber from the Swamp tributary ■
to the canal to a large extent having been cut out and railroads having been built
through the Swamp . The railroads seem to be a means of transportation for such timber
as is grown in the Swamp. The canal, however, furnishes a way to markets for large
rafts and barges of timber, principally logs from North Carolina. These logs are used
largely at Richmond, Va., by the cedar works, and some go to the eastern markets,
Philadelphia and Baltimore. The greatest tonnage through the canal is that toward
Norfolk, the boats from North Carolina returning empty for loads. The tonnage is
made up chiefly of forest products. Formerly a freight boat was operated between
Norfolk and Weldon, N. C, taking in Elizabeth City intermediate, but I believe this
line has been bought up by the railroads.

The owners of the canal, or the Canal Company, are in no sense common carriers, but
furnish a highway for commerce, and their waters are open to boats of suitable draft,
operated by anybody paying tolls. The Richmond Cedar Works own tugboats ancl
barges which are used to bring logs to Richmond to be manufactured by them into
wooden ware. They only carry for themselves in order to control their supplies.
There are various independent transportation companies operating barges, towed by
tugs, and are hired out for carnage of any freight that may offer. Small sailing vessels
operate through the canal between Norfolk and points in the Albemarle and Pamlico
sounds and the rivers of North Carolina.

Besides the packet lines mentioned above there are the various
agencies engaged in towing rafts and barges. All the local business
or towing thi'ough the canal is done by Hudson & Bros., of Norfolk,
who are the towing agents of the Lake Drummond Canal Company.
Hudson & Bros, occupy about the same relation to this company as
exists between the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal Towing Com-
pany and the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal Company. A shipper
at Newbern says:

No regular schedule freight lines operate through the canal, but the ship brokers at
Norfolk and other cities notify the captains and they put the boats in the place * * *
and we don't know whether the carrier is an individual, a corporation, or a partnership.
My idea is they are mostly individual owners of the boat, and often the captain
is part owner.

Competition on the canal. — Severe competition from railroads has
been encountered by the Virginia-Carolina Inland Steamship Com-
pany (Le Roy Steamboat Company). The character of this com-
petition and the methods adopted by the railroads to drive this line
out of business through the operation of the steamer Newton of the
Dismal Swamp Steam Packet Company, is indicated below. Mr. Le
Roy, president and general manager of the Virginia-Carolina Inland
Steamship Compan}^, states as the reason that his compan}^ has been
able to continue business that the owners of the line are wholesale
grocers and began the carrying business with one boat to carry their


own goods, many of the patrons being personal friends of the owners.
The Virginia-Carolina Inland Steamship Company has sought to
secure thi'ough shipping arrangements at Norfolk with the New
York, Philadelphia and Norfolk Railroad Company, the Baltimore
Steam Packet Company, and the Norfolk and Washington Steam-
boat Company. Such arrangements were refused by these com-
panies, and to compel their acquiescence complaint was made to the
Virginia State Corporation Commission. The defendant companies
demurred to this complaint, resting then- demurrer on the ground that
the State commission had no jurisdiction or authority in the case, since
the shipments in question were altogether interstate shipments; and
further, that the commission had no power nor authority to compel
the defendant companies to enter into a contract of the character
sought by the petitioners. This demurrer was sustained by the deci-
sion of the commission so far as interstate shipments were con-
cerned. The Virginia-Carolina Steamship Company then (in the
spring of 1906) instituted inquiry at the office of the Interstate Com-
merce Commission at Washington, and was advised that while the
Commission could give a ruling, yet it had no power to enforce any
order, and that a proceeding before it w^ould probably avail nothing.
Advantages of the Dismal Swamp Canal. — Several shippers over
this canal stated to an agent of the Bureau of Corporations in the
spring of 1906 its advantages and the extent to which persons living
on the route of the canal depended upon it. A coal dealer at New-
born, N. C, said:

We have been in the coal business here ten years, getting our supply from Phila-
delphia, Baltimore, and Norfolk through the canals. We probably get 2,500 tons
annually. There are times when we want it quick, and then it has to come by rail,
but we prefer the canals, and all coal comes that way under normal conditions. We
get a better rate via the canal and it is more convenient to reach our yard by water.
Bituminous coal is the only kind we get here by rail and there is not much difference
between the railroad and water rates. As to anthracite, the rail rates would be pro-
hibitory. We get our bituminous coal from the Pocahontas mines, Virginia, some-
times by rail, but nearly all times by rail to Norfolk, thence through the canal by
barge to our yard. Under ordinary conditions the water route is cheaper, but there
are times in winter when barges are much engaged in carrying fertilizers, and to get
water transportation at that time costs about as much as the railroad rate. The
published all- rail rate is $2.05 per short ton from the mines to this city. The water
rate from Norfolk to Newbern is 85 cents per long ton. The nature of tonnage
through the canals is fertilizers, hay, grain, salt, hardware, cotton bagging and ties,
coal, and general merchandise. A great deal of light freight comes through the canal,
and when the merchants are not in a hurry they prefer their supplies brought via canal
on account of less freight. There is no serious difficulty about slowness of transporta-
tion. It is surprising with what dispatch we can get our goods by water. The canals
need improving — that is, they should be made deeper and wider, which would be a
good thing for east North Carolina. This section is very dependent on canals. It
would amount to a calamity to our business men if the canals were closed. They
are our only outlet. The sand bars along the coast make the water so shallow that
there is absolutely no place of entrance and no way to get in here except via the
canals. We are here on deep water with large enterprises and plenty of business,
and we are cut off from the ocean by shallow water. If the canals were closed, we
would be at the mercy of the railroads, which is a fate we do not even wish to consider.

A dealer in corn, grain, etc., in Newbern, said to a representative
of the Bureau:

We ship large quantities of feed through the canals from Norfolk to this city, proba-
bly 200,000 bushels of corn and 18,000 or 20,000 bushels of oats. We pay on corn
3 cents per bushel, and for oats 2h cents, which includes toll and every other charge.
We have nothing to do with tolls and no special carrier. When we wish shipments to

31673— S. Doc. 325, 60-1 20


be made from Norfolk we notify ship brokers and they find the cai'rier to bring our
supply. We are very dependent on the canals, because steamers can not bring goods
in bulk, and we would have to go to the expense of having it sacked.

Evidence to the same effect was furnished by a kimber operator
of EHzabeth City, who said:

The opening of this waterway has had a decided tendency to keep railroad rates on a
level. I am afraid the new railroad syndicate will get control of it. It has been
thoroughly shown that it lowers railroad rates. Flour was 15 cents per l^arrel by
railroad, and when waterways were opened it went down to 8, and I think it is now 10.
We are on a basis of 4 cents per hundred by rail from here to Norfolk on manufactured
lumber, or about $1.25 per 1,000 feet. By water it would be $1.10. Barge loads of
manufactured lumber make more bulk than we usually sell, but when wholesale
dealers in Baltimore and Philadelphia want it in large quantities it goes by barge.

He stated that the pohcy of the Norfolk and Southern road has
been to drive out competition through the canal :

They have put many companies out of business and have worked hard to keep out
the J. H. Le Roy Company, and have followed him with boats. They have cut the
rates, but Le Roy has been able to hold out. The railroad would run boats at a loss,
so I understand, to destroy competition. It was cheaper to do this than to buy the
canal. The Norfolk and Southern some years ago brought cotton from some point on
the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad, say Kinston, to Newbem, shipped it on
their, boats to Elizabeth City, unloaded it here, and loaded it on cars and then took it
to Norfolk for $1 per bale. From other points on Albemarle Sound and tributary
rivers, when the distance was no more than half, but there was no competition, they
charged from $1.25 to $1.50 per bale.


Other canals of minor importance in North Carolina are the Fair-
field Canal and the Newbern and Beaufort Canal. The former is a
short canal, about 4 miles long, in Hyde County between Fairfield,
N. C, and the Alligator Kiver. It has considerable local impor-
tance, passing through a rich farming country having no railroad
facilities. One boat, the steamer Alma, trading under the name of
the Fairfield and Elizabeth City Transportation Company, uses the
canal as a part of its regular weekly route between Elizabeth City
and Fairfield. The canal is also used by an occasional sailing vessel.
The steamboat company prorates with the Norfolk and Southern
Railroad at Elizabeth City. The depth of the canal is about 6 feet,
wliich seems to be deep enough to answer the purposes of the trade.
Corn is moved between the middle of November and March and
makes a busy season for the boat. The Albemarle and Chesapeake
Canal Company is said to be a large stockholder in the Fairfield
Canal Company, and, with the owner of the steamer Alma, is believed
to hold a majority of the stock.

The Newbern and Beaufort is a small canal 3.2 miles long owned by
the Newbern and Beaufort Canal Company, and is controlled by the
Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal Company through stock ownership.
It connects the head of Clubfoot Creek, which empties into the Neuse
River, with the head of Harlowe Creek, a tributary to the Newport River,
thus forming part of the 40 miles of waterway between Newbern and
Beaufort.* The annual report of the Chief of Engineers, U. S.
Army, 1906, p. 1152, says of this canal that the corporation owning
it does very little, if anything, in the way of maintenance, and that
the United States makes no expenditures on this canal, and makes

"Report of Chief of Engineers, 1906, part 1, p. 260.



no effort to keep the rest of the waterway in better condition than
the canal itself. Hence, the value of the waterway is \ery much
restricted, and its full value can never be developed so long as the
above conditions prevail. Commerce for 1905 through tliis system
of waterways amounted to 83,667 tons, a gain of 1,648 tons over
1904. It consisted principally of timber, lumber, fertilizers, cotton,
cotton seed, cotton-seed meal and oil, hay, fish, grain, oysters, clams,
and general merchandise. No toll charges are made on the canal.
The manager of the Virginia-Carolina Chemical Company at Newbern,
N. C, says:

We ship via the Beaufort Canal to southern points, and if we could get an outlet
to Wilmington we would use the canal more. This little canal serves a good pur-
pose now, and if it were wider and deeper it would be a big help to us in getting
goods from Charleston * * *. We are as much interested in opening up the southern
route via the Newbern and Beaufort Canal as we are in the northern route. The
Beaufort Canal is so small and shallow it is not adequate for large boat loads of heavy-

Another shipper at Newbern says:

We ship also through the Newbern and Beaufort Canal. There is a fine chance
there for business if they had a little more water, but we can't get any appropria-
tions to widen or deepen the channel, because, I suppose, the railroads are against
us. Although they have trouble getting through this canal, they still continue to
try to use it and do use it, and they have a good deal of trouble with the shallow-
water and get aground very often, and have to pole through it and use extraordi-
nary means, but still they keep on trying to get through. It proves how useful it
would be if it were deeper and wider. It would certainly open up a big business


Louisiana has many small canals, some of them being used for
drainage purposes. None of them are of much commercial importance.
The more important are (1) New Basin Canal, (2) Old Basin Canal,

(3) Barataria and Lafourche Canal (known as Company Canal),

(4) Harvey's Canal, and (5) Lake Borgne Canal. The New Basin
Canal is owned by the State of Louisiana — the others are private
canals. These canals are taken up separately below.

Several canals for oyster traffic have been built by the Louisiana
Navigation and Fisheries Company in the last few years. This com-
pany at present controls the following canals: Bay Adam or Doullut
Canal, Quarantine Bay Canal, Salt Works Canal, Mevers Canal, Bay
Fontenette Canal, and Beppo Canal. These are all in southern Lou-
isiana and were built to develop the rich fish and oyster industry on
the lower coast. Other small canals used by oyster boats in southern
Louisiana are the Stockfleth Canal, Nestor Canal, and the Jurgevich
Canal. The following table shows the date of the construction and
the dimensions of the more important of these oyster canals:


Date of


Length. Width. Depth.

Ba-v Adam





Quarantine Bay

Online LibraryUnited States. Inland Waterways CommissionPreliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report → online text (page 32 of 83)