Franklin Ellis.

History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men online

. (page 59 of 193)
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raised to the required height) the right to collect toll
from boats passing down or up the river. By the
terms of the act the company was required to com-
mence work within five years, and to complete the
improvement to the Virginia line within twelve years
from its passage, under penalty of forfeiture of

During the year 183(i sufficient stock was subscribed



to authorize the issue of a charter early in 1837, and
on the 10th of February' in that year the company I
was organized by the election of officers, as follows :

President, James Clarke.

Treasurer, John D. Davis.

Secretary, Jesse H. Duncan.


Thomas Bakewell. George Hogg.

James L. Bowman. John Lyon.

John H. Ewing. John Tassey.

John Freeman. William Wade.

Cephas Gregg. Samuel Walker.

By the sixth section ofthe State act of Feb. 18, 1836,
chartering the United States Bank, it was required,
among other burdens imposed, to subscribe to the
stock of this company, then in prospect, $50,000 at
the opening of its books, and $.50,000 more when
$100,000 of stock from other sources should have been
expended on the work.

The State, by act of April 14, 1838, subscribed
$2-5,000 in stock, and by act of June 11, 1840, $100,-
000 more.

The company started in 1837, upon the following
subscriptions of stock :

[jf Allegheny County
F.iyetle '

Washington "


$47,400 ;


25,400 1









$13.3,100 j




100,000 !


$258,100 [

To which the St!>

This, until after the completion of the improvi
ment to Brownsville, was the company's entire capi-
tal basis, and much of this was never realized.

In the summer of 1838 a careful survey of the river
was made by an engineer corps, at the head of which
was W. Milnor Roberts (afterwards engineer of the
Northern Pacifle Railroad, and now or recently en-
gaged in the service of the Brazilian government),
with Nathan McDowell and Robert W. Clarke, assist-

From Pittsburgh to Brownsville was found to be
about .V,', iHile<, ana the asrcnt a little ov,t :!:V, feet;
from r,i-uwiisvillr tn th.' Vir-inia line, a littl.' ..v.t 3.5
miles, accent 41 Irct: totaU, !li)^ miles, and 711 tect.
This would have renuiivd -^evente- ii dams nf tour and


,11s wl

iM li.

approved June 24, 1839, authorized the company to
construct the dams eight feet in height from pool to


At first it was thought that ten dams of eight feet
in height would be required to carry the work to the
State line (five below and five above the mouth of j
Dunlap's Creek), but by an authorized increase of
dam No. 4 to ten feet, and those above Brownsville
(three in number) to whatever height the banks would
allow, it was found that seven would be sufficient.

Dam and lock No. 1, a mile above Smithfield Street ,
bridge, Pittsburgh, was let by contract, Dec. 17, IJ
to J. K. and J. B. Moorhead. No. 2, at Braddock's
Upper ripple, was contracted (re-let), May 17, 1839, to
Coreys and Adams. Both these dams were put in
use Oct. 18, 1841, though neither was entirely com-
pleted at the time.

On the loth of July, 1840, lock and dam No. 3, at
Watson's Run, two miles above Elizabeth, was let io
Bills & Foreman ; and No. 4, at Frey's Shoals, fifteen
and a half miles below Brownsville, to Fenlon &
Patton (changed in construction to Fenlon & Loner-
gan). The work was under the general direction of
Chief Engineer Roberts. The construction of Nos. 3
and 4, from the commencement of work until May,
1841, was under the personal supervision of George
W. Cass. In the contract for No. 4, the company, to
provide against a (not improbable) lack of funds,
served the right to stop the work at any time, paying
lur what had been done. In May, 1841, for the cause
which been foreseen, they were obliged to avail
themselves of this right, and for the same rea.son work
on No. 3 was suspended at the same time.

The year 1842 brought great discouragement to the
company. The Ignited States Bank broke, and failed
to subscribe and pay its second $50,000. Of the sec-
ond ($100,000) subscription of the State, the company
was comiielled to receive a large portion in State
l)ijii(ls, and having received them were compelled to
sell them at a loss of fifty per cent. Many of the
dividual subscribers for stock resisted |>ayi]irnt, while
some were unable to pay. Thecomiian\ .mr.l sio.iiuO,
and had no money to pay with. Eveiytliinu" >ri/able
was taken and sold on execution. In 1841 an effort
was made to secure further aid from the State, but
this was unsuccessful, for the condition of the State

miles, — thereby causinir d(la\
liave been unendurably \ .xat
in construction and altrml:
made the work wholly unremunerative. Besido, <in
some of the ripples the fall was three and tonr left,
and one, at the mouth of Cheat River, six liut. ll
was soon seen that this ])lan must be abandoned.
Accordingly the Legislature, by a supplemental act,

'he fourth section of the act is as follows: The said cnnipany
■niiitti-il t<. erect bocIi dams as may bo necessary for the construe-
,,1 111,- -aiil i„ivi-„li„Ti below Bro\vn?ville,toaheglitnot exce,

I Ur\ ti.iiN 1 1 I,, |„„,1. In selecting persons to assew tlaniag,

.ii,-,i l,y n,,- ,,>,i>i,ii, liioi of said navifration, no person shall he chosen
is a resident of any county through which the said improvemenl
pass. Provided, That all the locks below Uie town of Elizabeth, in
gheny County, on said river be made one hundred and ninety feet
and fifty feet that all tliel,„-ksl,ch,\v the t,i\vn of Browns
^liall !„■ ,,t l,l,,' liiii iiM-'i. ■■ Ml,' -,ii|l. Ill' ,:i.,l it also repealec


treasury would not permit the investment. In 1842
a very strong effort was made to interest certain Bal-
timore capitalists and persuade them to replenisli the
company's treasury, so as to complete the slack-water
improvement to Brownsville, and thereby make it a
feeder to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which
about that time was nearing Cumberland, where it
was thought it would be obliged to make a long halt.
But the Marylanders were too intent on pushing their
great work to the Ohio to engage in any side enter-
prise, especially one which they could not control.
To all these reverses was added, in July, 1843, a
breach of one hundred feet in dam No. 1, which be-
fore it could be stopped, in 1844, washed a hole forty
feet deep. On May 4, 1841, the Legislature had given
the company power to borrow and mortgage its works
and tolls, and more extended power to the same effect
was given by act of April 5, 1842. But the com-
pany's credit was gone, and these powers were of no
avail. For two years the work made no progress, ex-
cept to decay. The whole project became a " mortifi-
cation to its friends and projectors, and a nuisauce to
the navigation." Its friends were almost ready to
abandon it to the mercies of the floods and of an in-
dignant public, when aid came from an unexpected
source. The State's financial condition had become
so depressed that the Legislature, by act of July 27,
1842, and again by act of April 8, 1843, directed sales
of all its corporation stocks, among them its $125,000
in this company. This induced a number of men of
capital, enterprise, and of unfaltering faith in the
ultimate success of the improvement to buy this
stock, — of course at a low figure, — and thereupon to
engage to repair and complete the work to Browns-
ville, upon ten-year coupon bonds, secured by a mort-
gage of the improvement and its revenues, to be
applied first to old debts, second to interest, and then
to reimburse to themselves the principal of their act-
ual expenditure. These men were James K. Moor-
head, Morgan Robertson, George Schnable, Charles
Avery, Thomas M. Howe, John Graham, Thomas
Bakewell, J. B. Moorhead, and John Freeman. They
did the work, chiefly through sub-contractors,' under
the name of Moorhead, Robertson & Co. Their con-
tract with the company was made Nov. 9, 1843. It
was July, 1844, before they could get effectively at
work, but they went at it with such energy and skill,
with Sylvanus Lothrop for engineer, and J. B. Moor-
head for superintendent, that on the 13th of Novem-
ber, 1844, — dams Nos. 3 and 4 being completed, and
the breach in No. 1 thoroughly repaired, — the lower
division of the Monongahela improvement was for-
mally opened from Pittsburgh to Brownsville and

At the time of the opening there had been expended
on the improvement (exclusive of engineering and

salaries of oflScers) the sum of $418,000, viz. : con-
struction of dams and locks Nos. 1 and 2, $160,500 ;
repairing of damages on same, $35,000; construction
of Nos. 3 and 4, $222,500. Of the sum thus far ex-
pended, less than one-half had been paid out of the

Before the work was opened to Brownsville in 1844,
the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had been completed
to Cumberland. The route of travel and trafiic from
that place to Brownsville was over seventy-five miles
of the hard, smooth National road, which then more
than ever before was crowded with stage-coaches laden
to the full with passengers to and from the railroad ter-
minus at Cumberland, and the greater part of these pas-
sengers were now delivered to or received from the Mo-
nongahela River steamboats at Brownsville, and this
continued during the navigation season in each year
until the opening of the Pennsylvania Railroad to
Pittsburgh in 1852. Here were eight years of a rich
harvest for the slack-water and the eastern division of
the National road. During that time the Navigation
carried between Brownsville and Pittsburgh more than
two hundred and eighty thousand through passengers,*
a large proportion of whom passed by stage over the
great road. In the same time more than four hundred
and sixty-two thousand way passengers were carried
between the same points ; and the total passenger tolls
for that period amounted to $126,100.23.

From 1845 to 1847 the revenues had almost doubled,
thereby enabling the company in 1^847 to nearly ex-
tinguish its old floating debt, keep down the interest,
and pay $13,500 of the*principal of the $231,-500 of
bonds which had been issued to Moorhead, Robert-
son & Co. In the report of Sylvanus Lothrop, the
company's engineer, made to the president and man-
agers in January of that year, he said, in reference to
the slack-water improvement, " Although but two
years old, and just beginning to struggle into notoriety
as an avenue for the trade and travel between the
East and the West, it has already yielded a revenue
which, after paying expenses, ordinary repairs, and
interest upon its large debt, exhibits a surplus equiv-
alent to about eight per cent, upon its whole capital
stock. This, I am inclined to think, is without an
example in the history of our public works, and may,
perhaps, be mentioned without offense as a most strik-
ing commentary upon the supineness and indifference
and apparent want of sagacity which, a few years ago,
while running after chimeras, would, but for the en-

2 Tlie number of through passengers carried in those years between
the termini of the Navigatiou, Brownsville and Pittsburgh, was for
each .year as follows :

1845 2a.727

1840 M,U84

1847 4r,,HJfi

1848 47,019

1849 3=..158

1850 :l8ilS8

1851 32.115

1852 25.013

Total 283,030



terprise of a few public-spirited individuals, have
suffered tliis great work, the most important to this
city which has ever been constructed [Pittsburgh had
no railroad then], to perish for the want of a few thou-
sand dollars. It is a remarkable fact that with so
many unanswerable arguments to recommend it to
and enforce it upon the pulilic atfcnlion, no work in
the country has ever encountered ,-rcatcr <jlislacles
than this. Instead of IkIiil', a-^ it oimlit to have been,
fostered by ovir citizens and hailed by the inlialiitants
of the Monon-aliela Valley as a blessing to them-
selves, it met with nothing but the most chilling re-
gards from the one, and with either the most violent
prejudices or the most determined hostility from the
other. And yet it has already lived to subdue and
tritimph over both. ... It is now, I am happy to
say, among the most popular of all our public im-
]>rovements. Its present advantages are already uni-
versally felt, while its future is rapidly unfolding in
prospects as flattering to the lamlholder of the Mo-
ncuigahela as to the owners of the improvement

The toll on coal over the entire length of the slack-
water navigation was sii.'.H per thousand bushels,
which is said to have hccn less than oin-tburth part
of the rates cliargeil loi- the same di.slanee over the
Schuylkill Navigation, which had been made the
.standard for this company by the act of 1836. Yet
the rate produced njucli ili~sali>fac-tion among coal
sliippers on the upper jiools iNo.-. .'. and 4i. who con-
tended that the river ought (o lie /', - , .• that the St.ate
had no power to autliori/.e -dams and locks and the
collection of tolls; or if that was to be done, there
should at least be a sufEcient number of dams to allow
them to be made low enough to be "juniped" at high
water. These arguiuents were ur^cd in arti.'les urittcn
for the newspai.ers. and at town-nieelini;> heltllortlie



dams be cut down to four
by the act of 183G, and
company and the Legi.-l
the supplemental act an

danisare'siillerea to rem;

The Legislature of 1840 was appealed to in printed
jiamphlets tor redress. The result was that the Navi-
gation Company consented, in consideration that no
further reduction of tolls should be asked for until
its existing debts were paid, nor so as to disable divi-
dends of eiglit per cent. ]ier annum from being made
to the stockholders, to reiliice the tolls niH.n the pools
Nos. 3 and 4 on coal in Hat-lioats iuiended to go down
the Ohio, so that such lading could pass from Browns-
ville to Pittsburgh for i?:i.4(;} per thousand bushels.

j instead of S2.91 as before, and the Assembly so en-
acted by act of March 21, 1849.

The agitation failed to accomplish the lowering of
the dams, but a calm succeeded the lowering of the
tolls on pools 3 and 4, and the people were satisfied.
The relations between the company and the coal-
owners became hijrmonious, and have ever since re-
mained so. The latter found that their predictions of
the utter worthlessness of coal lauds in case the high
dams were allowed to remain were baseless, but that,
ou the contrary, those lands were rising rapidly in
value from year to year. This appreciation has been
continual and rapid, especially in the later years,
until the ])resent time, when coal lands along every
part of the slack-water navigation are eagerly sought
for, as a certain source of wealth.

Notwithstanding that the tolls from freights and
passengers continued about the same for many years,
such was the rapid increase of the coal trade that at
the end of 1853 the entire indebtedness to Moorhead,
EobertsDH & Cn. was paid : and, but for new debts in-
curred in l.s.lo |,,r .some additional rights (S2000),
and a second lock al dam -\o. 1 i s./d^SOO), and in 18.53
-54 another lo,k at .lam No. 2, costing about $50,000,'
rendered nece - ary to accommodate the increased
coal trade, and the extension above Brownsville, the
company would have been free of debt. The contrac-
.tors ibr the lock at No. 1 took bonds for their work,
and by a new issue of mortgage bonds in 1853 ($125,-
oiKii the company was enabled to pay for the lock at
No. 1^, carry on ilie extension, and thus to pay out of
the earnings its lirst cash dividend of four per cent,
in .July, 1853.

The extension of the work above Brownsville hadj
been ]Histponeil from time to time on account of the
low eoiiilili(ui ol' the company's finances. In 1848 ii
«a- lliou-ht that the interests of Greene County and
the upper i>.irt of bayelte demanded the extension,
I'cl'ruary in that year the Legisla
ulhorizing a new opening of books
< bordering on the river for sub'
scriplions to the stock to the amount of $200,000, to be
expended ,,n the erection of locks and dams abo
llrown.-viile. The books were accordingly opened
but no subscriptions secured. By the same act the
opening of books in Pittsburgh was authorized foi
suliseriptions to the stock to pay the debt incurred on
the work below Brownsville, in excess of what pre-
existing stock had paid; and in the event of failure
to secure such suliseriptions, the company was author-
ized to .loulile the ( xisting stock and credit to each
shai'e its jiroiiortion of earnings used and to be used in
paying that indebtedness. Accordingly, the books
haviiiu been opened in Pittsburgh without results.
the stock was doubled in 1848, bringing the whole
amount up to $521,000. This, however, gave no actual

and on the
j ture passed
' in the five

I Alstons & H.innay -
small & Hardy forth



increase to tlie company's available means. In the
fall of 1853 a renewed effort to obtain stock in Fay-
ette and Greene to extend the work was determined
upon, and some additional stock was subscribed in
Pittsburgh. The effort was earnestly pressed, but
with no better success than before.

Notwithstanding these failures, the Legislature, by
act of Jan. 25, 1854, made it imperative upon the
company to put locks and dams Nos. 5 and 6 under
contract, and have them completed. No. 5 before
June 1, 1855, and No. G before Dec. 1, 1855. The
improvement to the State line was required to be
completed before Dec. 1, 1857, but this requirement
was relaxed by act of Ajjril 8, 1857, so as not to re-
quire No. 7 to be begun until locks and dams to carry
the work from the State line to Morgantown should
.be put under contract, and with the completion of
which No. 7 was to be contemporaneous.

In compliance with the act of Jan. 25, 1854, the
company promptly put Nos. 5 and 6 under contract.
No. 5, just above Watkins' Bar, two miles above
Brownsville, to Burns & Ross ; and No. 6, at Rice's
Landing, ten miles farther up, to Messrs. Dull. They
were constructed at a cost (including the raising of
dam No. 4 and some dredging) of about §200,000,
and were completed and ready for use in November,
1856, thus opening the slack-water navigation to

The dams are constructed of logs, squaring at least
a foot, built up perpendicularly from the bed of the
river to near the water-level, when they begin to slope
on both sides to the comb, after the manner of an old-
time log cabin. They are tied together by cross-tim-
bers parallel with the line of the river, bolted to the
longitudinal timbers so as to form a net-work, with
interstices of seven by nine feet filled with stone.
Their breadth at the base is about sixty-live I'-'ut :
their depth below the slopes as originuliy built is
from three to six feet, though by reason of breaches
they are now much deeper in places.' Dams 1 and 2
run straight across the river. No. 3 is in threestraight
lines of unequal length (the middle one two hundred
and eighty feet, the other two aggregating about four
hundred and twenty feet), the middle one being at
right angles with the channel, the other slo|iing from
it downwards to theshores, about twenty-two leet from
the line of the middle part. Dam No. 4 is a segment
of a circle, about six hundred and five feet in length,
curves up stream, having a versed sine of fifteen feet.
Dams 5 and 6 are also segments of a circle, with tlie
convex sides upwards, and are each about six liini-
dred feet long. These, by reason of their increased

1 It required more stone (I4,-i97 cubic yards) and timber to repair llio
great breacll of Ma.v, 1868, in dam No. 2, tljan were used in its original

is generally an incompact conglomerate <if ~.tu I ^in'! i .iimln.! -civ.I
The breach of 1S« in No. 1 required to Hll it, in th, l,i...i,r.. ,1 Mi
Lothrop, (be engineer, " iin immense mass ..I ;,n.l sImi- 11, at no

height, — thirteen and a half and fourteen feet, — have
the longest slopes on the lower sides. The others slope
about equally above and below, from three to four
feet of slope to one foot of rise. They are sheathed
above with double courses of oak plank closely laid,
five inches thick, spiked to the timbers and covered
with gravel. The sheathing below is of heavy oak
timbers or spars flattened to eight inches and spiked
to the crib timbers. The dams are further secured at
their ends by high strong cribs filled with stone, and
above by double courses of heavy sheet piles, driven
vertically into the bed of the river to such depth as to
be secure anchorage to the entire structure. In some
cases, since their original construction, piles have been
driven in below vertically and above slopingly. Dam
No. 7 will be on rock, and will be otherwise fastened.

All the original locks are one hundred and ninety
by fifty feet in tlie chambers between the points or
mitres of the gates and the side-walls. The entire
length of the walls is two hundred and fifty-two feet,
and their height tilj.iut twenty-five feet. They are
ten and twelve led tliiik, Imilt of heavy blocks of
dressed stone, hiid in livilrtiulic cement and securely
clamped. Except tliose at Nos. 1 and 6, which
have rock bases, they are built upon heavy oak tim-
ber deeply laid and covered with heavy oak plank.
Each of the old locks contains over five thousand
three hundred perches of stone. The new ones (put
in in addition to the original ones in locks Nos. 1 and
2) are larger and eoiit:iiii |ii'o|iortionately more. These
are twohundreil tiii'l IiIIn hy lilty-six feet in the cham-
bers, but built in oth. r respects as were the old ones.
To show the facility with which boats are passed
through these locks, the following quotation is given
from the report of the board of managers to the stock-
holders, presented January 12th of the present year
ilSSL'i, viz.: "In twenty hours between midnight of
tlie 17th December last and the same hour of the en-
suing night there were passed through lock No. 1
forty-two coal-boats, forty-six barges, ten flats, and
two fuel-boats, containing together an aggregate of
1,661,000 bushels, or about 63,118 tons of coal. A
correspondingly increased amount could have been
passed during the twenty-four hours had not the pas-
sage of boats been suspended during four hours of
that day by the refusal of the pilots of some tow-boats
to pass down below out of the way of the boats seek-
ing to leave the lock."

"The coal business on the Monongahela," says the
tibove-qiioted report, "has increased so largely in re-
cent yetus that the pressure for the passage of coal-
boats in time of a rise of the river has become very
great at dain No. 3, where there is only a single lock.
As the necessity arose, a similar difficulty at locks
Nos. 1 and 2 was relieved by the construction of a
second and enlarged lock at each of those points.
The company has, therefore, in order to meet promptly
the demands of the coal trade and afford every facil-
ity for rapid navigation, ordered a new lock, of larger



dimensions than any heretofore constructed on their "The receipts of the company from tolls during the

improvement, to be built alongside of the present past year [1881] is as follows :

lock No. 3. This work will be put under contract From coal and slack . . . 8148,952.82

and completed as speedily as possible; and they have " pQ^g 5 212.57

it also in contemplation to duplicate the lock at No. " steamboats, freight, etc. . 00,366.26

4, also on an enlarged scale. These improvements " passengers . . 2,406.45

will fully accommodate, for many years to come, the

still rapidly increasing coal trade out of pools Nos. 3 $216,938.10"

and 4, especially when the formation of a pool below Following is a statement of the number of bushels

dam No. 1 shall have been effected. of coal and .slack shipped from the several pools of

'■ The United States government, having completed the Monongahela slack-water during each month of

lock and dam No. 9, at Hoard's Rock, in West Vir- ^jig yg_.jr 1881, viz.:

ginia, are now proceeding with the construction of , , ^ ,

" r.i^.T,.,. 1^°"' P°°' 1^°°' ^°"^

lock and dam No. 8, near Dunkard s Creek. It this Months. No. i. No. 2. No. 3. No. 4. Toui.

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 59 of 193)