The Illinois and Michigan Canal and the OWR
The idea of a canal that could connect the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River was central to plans for northeastern Illinois for 200 years before it opened. French explorers were the first to recognize the need for a canal to connect the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River.
Early French explorers recognized the advantages of a canal from Lake Michigan to the Des Plaines River. In 1673, Native American guides led French explorers Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet from the Illinois River to the Des Plaines, across the Chicago Portage to the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, providing them with a shortcut back home to Canada. Jolliet immediately conceived of a canal that would allow an inland passage from the Great Lakes down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.
In 1803, Fort Dearborn was constructed at the mouth of the Chicago River to protect this strategic future port site.
Before the canal was built, it took days of bone-jarring travel on rutted turnpike roads that baked rock-hard every summer and became a sea of mud after each winter. Pioneers had two main choices for travel by wagon and horseback over muddy roads or by canoe. The marshy prairie rivers were unreliable for shipping. 43
The push to build the canal began with New York Congressman Peter B. Porter in 1810. 46
Following the War of 1812, on August 24, 1816, when the United States of America signed a peace treaty with the combined tribes of the Council of Three Fires, the Potawatomi, Ottawa, and Ojibwa. The Treaty, actually signed in Portage des Sioux, Missouri, dealt with the combined tribe's relinquishment of land previously owned and relinquished to the U.S. by the Sac and Fox tribes in the Treaty of St. Louis in 1804. This land comprised the current states of Missouri, Illinois, and Wisconsin. 44
In the Treaty, the three tribes also gave up land on which the Illinois and Michigan Canal was built upon, connecting the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River. In return for the Indian's concessions, the United States would pay $1,000 dollars, roughly $18,000 today, in merchandise over a 12 year period. This Treaty was one in a long list of treaties that the U.S. worked out with Native Americans in a long history of both friendship, and war. 44
In 1818, Gurdon Hubbard wrote of an agonizing 3-week-long journey across the Chicago Portage to the Illinois River. Later he joined the ranks of political leaders, including Abraham Lincoln, who advocated for a canal. 45
If not for the idea of the proposed Illinois & Michigan Canal, some of Chicago would have been a part of Wisconsin. In 1818, legislators decided that the canal should be within only one state’s borders, so they moved Illinois’ boundary north 41 miles. 43
It was not until March 30, 1822--six years after Native Americans ceded a strip of land for canal purposes--that the U.S. Congress took major action: giving the State of Illinois permission to construct the canal, appropriating $10,000 for a survey of the route, and granting the state ninety feet of land on each side of the twenty-mile-wide strip of projected canal site that ran from Chicago to Ottawa, Illinois. 46
In 1822, a Federal Act authorized the survey and construction of the canal, but provided no funds.
1823-1833: Board of Canal Commissioners
On Feb. 14, 1823, the General Assembly appointed a 5 member Board of Canal Commissioners responsible for the survey made by Col. Justus Post and Rene Paul in 1823 and 1824 on possible canal routes. Their only report was issued in 1825 and the Commission was replaced by an Illinois and Michigan Canal chartered company which came to naught.
An initial commission on Feb. 14, 1823, charged to survey the canal lands and estimate the cost of canal construction; surrendered its charter on January 12, 1826 . The commissioners were: Thomas Sloo, Jr., of Hamilton County, Theophilus W. Smith, later of Chicago, Emanuel J. West; Erastus S. Brown; and Col. Samuel Alexander. The commissioners visited Chicago in 1823 and Samuel Drake Lockwood was given the duty of contracting with engineers to survey the route of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. He could not secure one and the Board selected two civil engineers, Col. Justus Post, engineer of St. Louis, Missouri, in 1923 and Col. René Paul, of St. Louis, in 1824 to examine the country between the Illinois River and Lake Michigan in 1824 and 1825 . They surveyed the route, executed a map thereof, known as the Post and Paul map. For 54 days services exploring and examining the country between the navigable waters of the Illinois River and Lake Michigan, on the route of the contemplated canal, in the autumn of 1823, at $6 per day, they received $324.00 on Dec 1823.
Col. Alexander, a skillful surveyor, determined under all circumstances to commence de novo and survey, level, stake out, bore, and permanently locate so much of the canal line as was practicable before the beginning of winter. On the 20th of October the Commissioner and party left Chicago to perform this labor and returned on the 12th of November following having completed the examinations, surveys and levels.
In 1825, the state chartered the Illinois and Michigan Canal Company with a capital stock of $1,000,000. However, fearing the canal's many unresolved issues might alienate the U.S. Congress from the canal project, the state repealed the act the next year. 46
The push towards construction started anew in 1827 when the U.S. Congress passed an act granting the state 284,000 acres of land along the canal route under the assumption that funds from the sale of this land would finance the building of the canal. A land commission was established and, after years of surveying, inspecting, and debating, the canal's advocates realized that the canal construction was a much bigger undertaking than they had initially expected. 46
In January 22, 1829 a new Canal Commission was formed reducing the Commissioners from five to three members, Dr. Gershom Jayne, a druggist and physician of Springfield, Edmund Roberts of Kaskaskia, and Captain Charles Dunn, responsible for the first platting of Chicago and Ottawa in 1830 to sell lots to finance canal construction. By 1833 the Commission suggested that a railroad be constructed instead and the General Assembly abolished the Commission. The first town lots of this embryo metropolis were sold by the commissioners in behalf of the state in the latter part of 1829, and the sales continued in 1830 and 1831.
Edmund Roberts served as President, I&M Canal Commissioners. Feb 14, 1823, 1830. Edmund Roberts was a member of the surveying party for the canal that visited Chicago in 1830 under James M. Bucklin, chief engineer. When the government land sales began in Chicago on Sept. 27, 1830, he was among the first buyers, possibly as agent. The land that later became known as the Russel & Mathers addition was originally entered under the names Russel, Mathers, and Roberts. He additionally purchased lot 4 in block 2, lot 2 in block 18, and with Pierre Menard, Jr., lot 4 in block 29. He signed the 1833 Chicago Treaty document as a witness and received $50 for a claim at the treaty. He is listed among "500 Chicagoans" on the census which Commissioner Thomas J.V. Owen took that same year. 5
In 1830, much of northeastern Illinois was designated canal lands and sold for $1.25 an acre.
Eleven significant historic towns/cities grew and prospered because of the Illinois & Michigan Canal. Six of these towns were platted by the canal commissioners during the planning and construction of the Illinois & Michigan Canal including: Chicago, Channahon, LaSalle, Lockport, Morris, and Ottawa.
After the Black Hawk War of 1832, Native Americans in Illinois were forced to sign treaties ceding all of their land east of the Mississippi River. Soon after the last of the Native Americans departed, the first shovel full of dirt was turned for the construction of the canal.
Commissioner Brown arrived on June 22, 1833 , in a yawl, Ariadne, with a load of lumber, landing where Mrs. Wright formerly lived [lakeshore, E end of Madison Street ].
Canal surveyors in 1837 discovered 19 Indian mounds in what is now downtown Morris. Other Indian mounds were found at Channahon and Starved Rock.
1835 - 1843 Board of Commissioners of the I&M Canal
Because of increased agitation for a canal in 1835, the legislature created a new Canal Commission of five Senate approved members appointed by the Governor, and in July 1836 construction on the canal was begun. The Commision consisted of Colonel Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard, General William F. Thornton, and Col. William B. Archer, and subsequently J.B. Fry. Construction began on July 4, 1836, under Chief Engineer William Gooding with the festive groundbreaking ceremony, amid a frenzy of real estate speculation. 47
The work of constructing the canal was formally begun with imposing ceremonies at Canalport on the Chicago River, July 4, 1836. But not much progress was made during the summer and autumn. Much of the time was consumed in preliminary preparations such as constructing roads across the marsh on the eastern sections, building houses for the laborers, and procuring machinery and other supplies. Owing to the scarcity of laborers and to the floods in the Des Plaines valley, however, little progress was made on either portion of the work during the autumn and winter months. (Engineers Report, Illinois Senate Journal, 1837)
The plan adopted by the commissioners was attacked by the House committee on Internal Improvements as entirely impractible because it was beyond the financial ability of the state to accomplish. The committee claimed that the estimates of the engineers were untrustworthy because they had omitted several important items of expense and underestimated the cost of others.
As a result of an attack upon this Commission it was reorganized in 1837, with three members chosen and controlled by the General Assembly. The new board consisted of Gen. W. F. Thornton, Gen. Jacob Fry, and Col J. A. McClernand.
In 1837, The Commissioners built a road from Chicago to Lockport, one of the earliest roads radiating from Chicago. In the same year they built a frame headquarters building, a stone warehouse, and two large houses for the canal commissioners. 47
The result of the attack on the plan of the Commissions was the reorganization of the canal board and the appointment of Benjamin Wright, of New York, as a special engineer to re-examine the route of the canal and give the General Assembly an expert opinion on the relative feasibility of the two plans. Wright's report, made October 23, 1837, strongly supported the plan adopted by the commissioners, and urgently recommended the completion of the work on that plan. This report was accepted as removing all doubts of the continuance of the work on the plan adopted.
Work was interrupted by the 1837 economic downturn. Due to floods, labor scarcity and the panic of 1837, little progress was made before work was abandoned in 1842.
The construction of the Illinois & Michigan Canal was a major undertaking that involved engineers, contractors and thousands of immigrants. Before the canal could be dug, men had to clear the land of trees, brush and boulders. Canal laborers worked long hours, lived in temporary shantytowns near the construction sites, and frequently were injured or killed in accidents or by diseases that plagued the shantytowns. 43
Many different ethnic groups helped to dig the canal - Scandinavians, French Canadians, and Germans among them but the Irish immigrants who previously worked on the Erie Canal played the lead role in this backbreaking work. Irish, as well as German, Scandinavian and other immigrants, attracted by the promise of abundant jobs, flocked to Illinois to begin the arduous work of digging the canal by hand. Digging the canal was backbreaking labor. Their basic tools were shovels, wooden scoops, and wheelbarrows. They earned a dollar a day for 12-14 hour days filled with hard labor. By the end of 1838, over 2000 men were working to build the canal. Shantytowns for canal diggers and their families sprang up along the canal. Living conditions in these shanties were deplorable; dozens of people often lived crowded into small huts. Many died of diseases, including cholera and dysentery. It took 12 years to build and over 1000 workers died of accidents, disease and squalid living conditions. 43
One European visitor called the construction of the canal “truly fabulous” given the “savage condition” of the state of Illinois. 43
In 1835, the Illinois legislature took the next major step, passing a law that empowered the Governor to raise a loan of $500,000 and begin the construction at once. Canal bonds were put on sale in 1836, but "cheap money" had increased the cost of labor and material to such an extent that a new estimate placed the cost of the canal at $8,654,000. The first spade of earth was turned on July 4, 1836, but 1836 and 1837 were years of general speculation and upheaval in land prices, while the canal project saw little work completed. The whole country was heading toward a financial panic, and many who had bought land from the government, from the canal commissioners, or from private dealers were forced to relinquish their rights and lose all they had paid. Lots, blocks and acres were sold for taxes and, in many cases, reverted to the government. Eventually, the canal's proponents found a new way to complete the canal: a loan of an additional $1,600,000 was made, and the state pledged its remaining 230,476 acres of canal land.
The intention had been to contract for the entire division, but, on account of the abnormally high prices of labor, provisions and supplies, the bids were almost uniformly above the estimates of the engineers.
In 1838, a posse was formed to put down a bloody feud between different factions of Irish canal workers. 43
Canal workers unearthed large quantities of magnesium-rich dolomite, a kind of limestone that is particularly hard. It was used to construct the canal locks and area buildings. 43
Canal contractors faced serious obstacles, including unruly workers, rough terrain, and lack of funds. Many were driven to bankruptcy in the 1840s when work on the canal was suspended. Canal employees were issued scrip, which could be redeemed for land, and many turned to farming. 43
The intent of the Canal Commissioners was that the scrip would be used for money throughout northern Illinois. Many contractors were paying their workers with this 1840 canal scrip. The Irish canal workers found to their sorrow that about the only thing they could buy with the scrip was canal land. As a result many bought farm land and town lots and settled down to become farmers, merchants and residents in northern illinois. In a effort to keep the work going along the line of the canal, the Canal Commissioners in 1842 issued the third scrip issue in the form of certificates of canal indebtedness, which were printed on the back of the fancy 1840 notes. These were never really accepted and as a result, canal construction gradually slowed to a halt.
Laborers wages were from twenty to thirty dollars a month and board. Pork at Chicago was from $20 to $30 a barrel; flour from $9 to $12; salt from $12 to $15; oats and potatoes, seventy-five cents a bushel.
1845: Board of Trustees of the Illinois Michigan Canal
The State was flat broke in 1845, and as the Canal ran into increased financial troubles the Governor was authorized to negotiate a loan to be secured by a deed of trust. The Canal and all its property were turned over to a Board of Trustees in 1843, two chosen by loan subscribers (Eastern and Foreign Bank, generally) and the third appointed by the Governor to build and manage the Canal for the benefit of the creditors, until the interest and the principle were paid and the Canal reverted to the State. The Canal was rapidly completed and opened for navigation in April of 1848 at a total cost of $6,170,226.
The I & M Canal officially opened April 10, 1848, when General Fry travelled between Lockport and Chicago. On April 16 a formal opening ceremony was held. On April 24th, 1848, General Thornton travelled the entire 96 miles from La Salle to Chicago transporting a cargo of sugar from New Orleans to Chicago. It was then transferred to a steamer and traveled through Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and Lake Erie and arrived at Buffalo, New York on April 30, 1848. The canal opened to barge traffic on Apr. 26, 1848. 47
The canal was a minimum of six feet deep, 60 feet wide at the top and 36 feet at the bottom. Several widewaters allowed canal boats to pass each other. Canal engineers built four aqueducts - Aux Sable, Nettle Creek and at the Fox and Little Vermilion Rivers - to carry the canal over water.
The Illinois & Michigan Canal was the key to the development of the Midwest and helped fuel westward expansion. The canal revolutionized the transportation system of Illinois and established Chicago as a gateway for goods and people traveling throughout the continent. It also served as the gateway to the West, and ended Chicago’s days as the western frontier in 1848.
The Illinois & Michigan Canal carried on a lively passenger trade between 1848-1852. Canal packet boats carried thousands of people back and forth between Chicago and La Salle. By the end of 1852 the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad paralleled the canal, effectively ending the Illinois & Michigan canal packet boat.
In the period between 1848-1853, the majority of the traffic on the canal was by packet boat. Packets were allowed to go six miles an hour whie freight boats were restricted to three miles an hour. It took approximately 22 hours to go from Randolph Street in Chicago to LaSalle, a distance of 100 miles. The cabin or enclosed area was where meals were served, and at night, shelves were lowered for sleeping tiers. In 1853, when the Rock Island Railroad opened, the packet business pretty much ended.
According to a description of the Illinois State Archives' Record Group 491.001: "Although it took much longer than expected to pay off bondholders and required several payments to creditors to be delayed, the entire canal debt was liquidated and the waterway returned to the state on May 1, 1871 (Minutes of Meetings of the Canal Commissioners and Trustees, May 15, 1871, RS 491.001)."
The years 1861-1865 were among the busiest and most profitable in the canal’s history, with a record $300,000 in tolls in 1865. With the Mississippi River blockaded for much of the Civil war, the canal and Great Lakes trade become critical to the war effort. Tons of government grain and oats pass through the canal toll free on its way to the Union soldiers. 43
With a single brief exception, the direct management has been in the hands of a commission or board. That exception was during the suspension of work on the canal between 1843 and the beginning of the trust in June, 1845. The management was then in the hands of one of the commissioners, known as the acting commissioner, assisted by the secretary, an engineer, and an agent for the protection of the canal lands and other property. Prior to this arrangement the board of commissioners had usually consisted of three men, chosen biennially, part of the time by the Governor with the ratification of the Senate and the remainder of the time by the joint action of the two houses of the General Assembly. During the continuance of the trust, the board of trustees consisted of two members elected biennially by the canal creditors and a third apponted by the Governor. Since the termination of the trust in 1871, the three commissioners have been appointed by the Governor with the ratification of the Senate. The result has been that the appointments have usually been determined by party service or political expediency rather than by any special qualifications for the management of the canal.
The trustees who received the deed of trust were Captain William H. Swift of Washington and David Leavitt of New York, elected by the creditors at New York, May 27, 1845 and Jacob Fry, appointed by the Governor of Illinois, June 10, 1845. Captain Swift and Mr Leavitt held office from that time until the canal was completed and the debt paid off in 1871.
The subordinate officials and employees of the canal have always been appointed by the board or subject to its approval. During the development of the project, the offices of secretary and treasurer were filled by members of the board and since 1873 the same policy has been pursued. But from 1837 to 1873 these officials were appointed by the board from outside its membership. Recently (1918) the employees of the board have been the general superintendent, the chief clerk and paymaster, the land agent, the attorney, and a force of about 25 clerks, collectors of tolls, lock tenders and repair men.
For many years practically all the appointments have been determined by political affiliations. The efficiency of the canal administration necessarily suffered. In the investigation of the damages which would be sustained by the canal property from the construction of the Chicago Drainage Canal, it was discovered that for many years squatters had held several tracts of canal land which had been entirely lost sight of by the canal management. It was further discovered that among the forgotten files of the canal office were unrecorded deeds to several lots and parcels in the city of Joliet.
The same failure to conserve the best interests of the state in the management of the canal affairs came to light in the legislative investigations of the "Dresden Heights dam lease", in the month of November, 1907. According to the evidence there presented, the canal officials entered into a sale and lease of state property to a private corporation, seemingly without any definite knowledge of the value of the rights conveyed. The consideration was $2200 and the value of the rights conveyed has been variously estimated at from $5,000,000 to $15,000,000.
In 1840 all but $300 of canal scrip had been redeemed and placed into two boxes that were stored for a time in Chicago state bank building then in 1848 to the canal offices in Chicago where they remained until 1853.
In that year the newly appointed State Trustee, Josiah McRoberts, asked newly elected Governor Joel Matteson to take them to Springfield so that they could be deposited with the State Treasurer.
McRoberts had to repack the scrip that was in the battered old candle box, which was falling apart. This scrip he unwisely put into a shoe box. The shoe box and sealed wooden boxes were placed together in a trunk by McRoberts one early January day in 1853. McRoberts met the new Governor in Joliet and rode with him to LaSalle. There he helped the Governor transfer the trunk to the Illinois Central station for the trip to Springfield. McRoberts returned to Chicago and no more was heard of the trunk with its scrip for many years. 37
In 1858, it became known that a large amount of this scrip was being redeemed. This had been going on since 1856, and the person redeeming it was none other than Governor Matteson. 37
Matteson, who had garnered over $200,000, was quick to declare his innocence having, he said, purchased the scrip from a number of speculators. He said he had not seen the trunk since he had deposited it in the basement of the Statehouse. Indeed the trunk was found in a dusty corner of the Statehouse basement but the shoebox was gone along with all its contents and the sealed box had evidently been broken into and an attempt made to reseal it. The elusive shoe box was never found, not even after Matteson's death. 37
The Legislative inquiry got as far as calling Mateson to be a witness. To forestall that he paid the State $224,182.66 which he raised by selling his Springfield mansion and a house in Quincy. As soon as the money was paid the investigation was closed. 37
A grand jury was convened at Springfield in April 1859 which gathered a lot of testimony about how the scrip was packed, handed over, what had been cancelled and what hadn't, however Matteson was not called to testify, nor any of the individuals from whom he said he had purchased the scrip. 37
The grand jury moved to indict 16-7. The next day it voted to reconsider but again the vote , by a narrow margin, was for indictment. The next day there was another vote to reconsider but this time the vote was 12-10 not to indict and it was pointed out that when the jury was chosen many of its members were taken not from jury lists but hangers on about the courthouse, a select group very favorable to the former Governor. 37
The case was closed.
On April 30, 1871, the Canal Trustees made their final report, and turned the Canal and its properties back to the State.
Under the Canal Commission system set up in 1870, three commissioners were to be appointed by the Governor with the concurrence of the Senate. They were regarded as part of the State administration and were to last until 1917.
The Canal was deepened in 1871, beginning the reversal of the Illinois River and deepened again in 1892 by the Corps of Engineers. After the great Chicago Fire of 1871, Chicago rebuilt rapidly along the shores of the Chicago River where sewage could easily be carried away into Lake Michigan. A severe storm in 1885 alerted the City to the danger to their water source, and the Sanitary District of Chicago was created in 1889 by the Legislature.
In the late 19th century, much of the boating on the canal was recreational.
On January 17, 1900, the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal opened between Chicago and Lockport, reversing the flow of the Chicago River, sending sewage from Chicago to the Des Plains River, and diverting barge traffic from the I&M Canal. The Niagara was the last boat to take a commercial cargo down the canal in 1914. It was Captained by Captain William Schuler.
The I&M Canal experienced a brief resurgence during World War I.
Several women worked as locktenders, receiving the same pay as men.
Mary was born October 1957 in New York and married George Funk who may have been a saloon operator in Oswego and in Lisbon, IL. The Funks moved in 1897 to Lock 12, just west of Ottawa near Buffalo Rock, where George served as locktender. The year after, in February, George died, leaving his wife, Mary, to care for their 13 year old boy. She applied for and received her husband’s position, receiving his salary of $35 a month with the locktender’s house and some land. She worked the lock until 1911 or 1915, hiring a man to help for $5 a month plus board. She was a “jovial and merry hearted soul.” Mary passed away July 14, 1931 in Wedron, in La Salle County.
Josephine Gretza served as a Locktender for the I&M Canal Lock #5 in the middle of Joliet, Illinois, between 1897 and 1903. She was paid $35 month during navigation and $25 during winter months. Josephine married either Joseph P. Gretska (1873 - 1829) in 1899 and had at least one son Leonard, born in July, 1908 in Chicago, and Viola, or, Josephine married Joseph Gretzka (1849 - 1901) with children Mary and Joseph Jr.
Anna C. Schuberg began working as a locktender on Jan 12. 1909 as a Locktender No 1 at Lockport, Illinois with a salary of $35.00 during navigation and winter months until 1913.
Clara Foster was a cook on “The City of Pekin” around 1870, a grain carrying canal boat. The Foster family represents a typical canal family engaged in the boat business on the Illinois and Michigan Canal. They came to Illinois in the 1850's to settle in Morris. George Foster was a shipper and then a lock-tender. When he retired as the lock-tender at Aux Sable in 1913, he was 79 and the oldest canaler in continuous service in the Morris area. Clara’s father, Joseph M. Foster came to Morris in 1850 where he entered the canal boat business, first as a mule driver, and then as a boat owner. He owned several boats and continued to operate them until his death in 1906. The City of Pekin was 99 feet long and 17 feet wide. “The fore cabin was the sleeping quarters of the deck hands. The walls were tongue and groove lumber painted creme colored. There was a board floor with a rag rug. As you stepped into the cabin there was a step down, a bunk bed on either side, windows were sliding ones with green shades. Under the window at the back was a shelf with a wash basin, a small mirror on the wall, a couple of hooks for hanging the ‘go-to-town clothes.’ A towel hung on the door. A lantern was used for lighting, and stored on the shelf. The sheets and pillow cases were dark blue with small white figures (calico) and dark blankets. The main cabin or captain’s quarters had three rooms. The front half was dining room and kitchen. The back was divided in half with bunk beds on either side. The menus were simple – meat, potatoes, a vegetable and a ‘sauce.’ Bacon and eggs and bread with coffee for breakfast, and sometimes ‘steamboat strawberries’ (prunes). Two of Joseph Foster’s sons worked on the canal. James Henry Foster was the engineer on the “City of Pekin.” Joseph William Foster (1868-1903) was born on a canal boat near Seneca on August 9, 1868. He was the captain of “The City of Pekin” until his death. A cousin was a deckhand.
Not much is known of Mrs William Mellin, but she was Appointed to fill a locktender vacancy from October 6, 1898 at the I&M Canal Lock No 11 near Ottawa, Illinois until circa 1902. Her service began Oct 6, 1898 through 1903. She was paid $35 month during navigation and $25 during winter months.
The Illinois & Michigan Canal closed in 1933, replaced by the Illinois Waterway comprised of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, the Cal-Sag Channel, the lower Des Plaines River and the Illinois River.
The Stevenson Expressway (I-55) was built over the easternmost seven miles of the I&M Canal. During the planning stages it was even called the Illinois & Michigan Canal Expressway.
1917- 1925: The Dept of Public Works, Office of Waterways
In 1917 the Canal Commissioners, Rivers and Lakes Commission, and Illinois Waterway Commission were combined to become the Illinois Division of Waterways in the new Department of Public Works. By 1916 the I and M Canal had very little traffic at all due to inadequate ability of the Illinois Waterway to haul freight competitively.
1925-1933: Department of Purchases and Construction
The Illinois Legislature created the Department of Purchases Construction July 1, 1925 in order to enable the design and construction of the Illinois Waterway. Some of the authority formerly vested in the Illinois Waterway Commission was assigned to the newly created Dept to enable the design and construction of the IL Waterway, with the provision that its powers become void upon completion of the project. In 1925, work progressed on the Lockport Lock, the IL Waterway, and repairs of the Illinois Michigan Canal. The Marseilles Lock and Dam when completed was 600 feet long and as wide as the Panama Canal. The new Lockport Lock and Dam had the distinction of having the highest lift of any lock of its size in the world, 41 feet. A 1930 Supreme Court decision necessitated a reduction in water taken from the lake.
1933-1972 : Department of Public Works and Buildings
OWR Headquarters was moved from Chicago to Springfield in 1933.
In 1933 the Department of Purchases and Construction was abolished and the Division of Waterways was again made part of the Department of Public Works and Buildings. The waterway project completed, Waterways turned its attention to surveying the boundaries of Lake Michigan and Wolf Lake, determining the divide between private encroaching lands, and the public lands in holding for everyone.
Collection, compilation and dissemination of information on river flow led to agreements with the US Geological Survey to set up stream gaging programs that are still going today. Swampland draining and the creation of drainage districts to reclaim farmlands continued as well. Working with the Corps of Engineers and barge operators, Waterways was able to increase traffic on Illinois Rivers, making them a major means of transportation in the state. Considerable work was also done on general flood protection, particularly in Southern Illinois and a Supreme Court decree in 1933 ordered the construction of the Chicago River lock and controlling works which was completed in 1938.
In 1943, highway and all other purely civilian improvements had to be subordinated to more vital national needs for the duration of the war. Approximately 80% of the Division's work came under war related activity, including maintenance and operation of 14 movable and 23 fixed bridges on the Illinois waterway between Lockport and Grafton. Much war material was being water-shipped and hundreds of naval vessels built in Great Lakes shipyards (including gigantic submarines) were navigated down the waterway to outfitting ports.
- 1830 Board of Commissioners of the Illinois and Michigan Canal Harrison McGary
- Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois
- Canal Commissioners - 1901
- Canal Commissioners report 1836-1917
- Report of the Canal Commissioners
- Report of the Chief Engineer on Canal Lands Sold," Annual Report of the Canal Commissioners of Illinois, Springfield, Dec. 1, 1878, 1879
- 1881. "Reports to IL General Assembly, 1881 Vol 3, Report of Canal Commissioner"
- IL Div of Waterways "Report 1921-22"
- Second Annual Report of The Department of Public Works and Buildings Division of Waterways. State of Illinois. 1919.
- Third Annual Report of the Dept of Public Works & Buildings, July 1919 to June 1920.
- Fourth Annual Report of the Dept of Public Works & Buildings, July 1, 1920
- Fifth Annual Report of the Dept of Public Works & Buildings, July 1921 to June 1922.
- Sixth Annual Report of the Dept of Public Works & Buildings, July 1922 to June 1923.
- Seventh Annual Report of the Dept of Public Works & Buildings, July 1923 to June 1924.
- Eighth Annual Report of Division of Waterways 1924-1925.
- Eighteenth Annual Report, Dept of Public Works and Buildings, Div of Waterways, July 1 1934 to June 30 1935
- Reports to the General Assembly of Illinois, Volume 4 (Dec 1891)
- Report of the Canal Commissioners of the State of Illinois to Governor Edward F. Dunne. Dec 1, 1913.
- Illinois. Canal Commissioners - 1901
- Illinois. Canal Commissioners (1836-1917) in 1902.
- Bluebook of the State of Illinois 1907.
- Rivers and Lakes Commission Annual Report v. 1.
- Rivers and Lakes Commission Annual Report v. 2.
- Rivers and Lakes Commission Annual Report v. 3-4 (1915-16).
- Flood control Report. An engineering study of the flood situation in the State of Illinois. Issue 29 of Bulletin (Illinois Division of Waterways) 1929 June.
- IL Dept of Purchases & Construction, Division of waterways, "Flood Control Report" 1930
- Annual Report of the Dept of Purchases & Construction 1930. Group photo
- Annual Report of the Department of Public Works … 1933/34-1943
- Illinois & Michigan Canal Legislation and Titles 1956
- Illinois Political Directory
- O'Byrne, M. C.. History of La Salle County, Illinois. Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1924.
- Engineering News-record - Volume 57, 1907
- Municipal Journal and Engineer. 1911
- Burke A. Hinsdale and Isaac Newton Demmon, History of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1906)
- Notable Men of Illinois & Their State. 1912.
- 1922 Official Reference Book, Press Club of Chicago
- The Illinois and Michigan Canal: A Study In Economic History By James William Putnam, Ph. D, Chicago Historical Society Collection, Vol. X. 1918.
- Life of a Woman Pioneer, by James Elder Armstrong, 1931.
- History of La Salle County, Illinois, Inter-State Publishing Co. Chicago 1886
- The Michigan Alumnus, Volume 32, October 1925.
- Newspaper Photo Nov 26 1932
- The Michigan Alumnus, Volume 54 pg 416 published October 1947.
- IMCNHC Roadmap Part 2: The story of The Illinois & Michigan Canal
- This Day in History, August 24th, 2022 – “The Treaty of St. Louis” By R.J. Von Mayer. Talking Glass Media LLC.
- Illinois and Michigan Canal Heritage Corridor, A Roadmap for the Future 2011-2021
- Illinois and Michigan Canal records, ca. 1839-1871. Chicago History Museum
- Early Chicago, Inc