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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

The Miami-Erie Canal

Dallas Bogan on 4 August 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

"General William C. Schenck and two other surveyors were commissioned by the Legislature to survey and locate a route for a canal between Lake Erie and the Ohio River in 1820. They were unable to determine the location because of lack of aid and various restrictions, but did gain valuable information. On January 11, 1821, as a legislator General Schenck delivered a speech in which he enthusiastically urged the construction of the canal. Returning to his lodgings, he became quite ill, and died not more than seven hours later. He was 48 years old.
"Franklin had an aqueduct over Clear Creek east of where Riley Boulevard bridge meets South River Street. Constructed out of stone, with three arches, it was one of the scenic spots on the canal. It was removed in 1949 mainly for flood control reasons as it had become a settling basin for silt. Two types of bridges were used for roads to cross the canals. Some would swing a- side; the others like Fourth Street were built high enough for barges to pass under them.
"The Miami Canal made Franklin a center for trade. In 1836-37 Franklin firms shipping grain by canal included Earhart & Kinder; Mooney & Rodgers; Britton- Schenck & Co., and M.W. & A.R. Earhart. Hogs were slaughtered and the pork packed in barrels to be shipped by canal. Handling pork shipments were S.R. & J.H. Burrowes; Caldwell, McTaggert & Campbell; Britton- Schenck & Co; and l. Pugh.
"In order to facilitate shipping two basins were excavated, one on each side of the canal, on the south side of Sixth Street. On each basin there was a port and commission house. "When the C H & D Railway was built through Carlisle in 1848, the business on the canal began to decline. It decreased more in 1874 when the Big Four went through Franklin.
"Logan Long Roofing Company had water rights from the canal for more than 100 years, by virtue of a 99 year lease granted by the state to the predecessors of Logan-Long. They vacated the canal in October 1937 after they installed a new pumping system to draw water from the river. Before 1873 the local fire-fighting system drew some of its water from the canal. Pipes with leaded joints connected the canal to fire hydrants at the curb; one was excavated on S. Main St.
"Officially abandoned in 1909, the Miami-Erie Canal was not officially drained until 1929. It presented a problem from stagnant water and the breeding of the mosquito. In July 1929, the state leased to Franklin the entire portion of the canal within the city limits for 99 years. In 1931 Governor George White signed the DeArmond bill which made the abandoned Miami-Erie Canal waterway available for highway purposes or parks." The preceding was taken from "Franklin in the Great Miami Valley pp 47, 48, 49.
One can trace the Miami-Erie Canal route in many cities-for example Patterson Road in Dayton, Riley Boulevard in Franklin, Verity Parkway in Middletown, and Central Parkway in Cincinnati.
Twenty hours from Cincinnati to Dayton by canal was considered a rapid trip. Merchandise was brought to Dayton from New York by water in twenty days. The cost of freight per ton was seventeen dollars and twenty-five cents. The route was by the Erie Canal to Buffalo; thence by Lake Erie to Cleveland; thence by the Ohio Canal to the Ohio River, down the river to the Miami Canal, and up the canal to Dayton--a distance of one thousand one hundred and fifty-two miles.
A Congressional grant dated May 24th 1828 gave to Ohio 500,000 acres ofland, to be sold by the State at $2.50 or more per acre for the payment of the canal debt. This was called the "Miami Extension." The upper Miami Canal had been slighted as to the advantages of the lower Miami Canal. The shipping of goods and produce on the canal proved to be of no use to the farmers in the upper part of the proposed Miami-Erie Canal. The promise of the completion of the northern section of the canal had not been started. This extension to Lake Erie was not granted until 1831. The actual construction on the extension did not start until two years later. Land was granted for the extension totaling 464,000 acres.
The complete construction of the Miami-Erie Canal from Cincinnati to Toledo took an incredible twenty years. There were actually three phases of construction. The Miami Canal, which extended from Cincinnati to Dayton, was completed in 1829. The next phase was the Miami Extension Canal which ran from Dayton to the interchange of the Auglaize and Maumee Rivers near the town of Defiance, its completion being in 1845. At the north end of the Miami Extension Canal, the Wabash and Erie Canal started and continued to Toledo.
Early in 1831, an extention of the Miami Canal was begun. Continuing up the Miami Valley the "Extension" crossed the Mad River a mile and a half above Dayton, on a picturesque aquaduct. Some six miles further up, the Miami River is bridged by the stone arches. Thence the line rises rapidly, passing up ten locks, through Tippecanoe, Troy, and Piqua, to the foot of a battery of nine locks at Lockington, where it reaches up to the Loramie Summit Level of fourteen miles. Near the top of this battery the Sidney Feeder enters, supplying water for the locks and part of the Loramie Summit. Towards the northern end of the Summit stretch, the Loramie Resevoir feeder enters to furnish water to the eleven locks stepping down, within as many miles to the St. Mary's Level. Here another feeder leads in from the St. Mary's Resevoir. Thence the level drops down the Auglaize Valley, twenty-one locks within fifty miles, to Junction, passing through the towns of Kossuth, Spencerville, Delphos and Hammar. At Junction the "Extension" joined the Wabash and Erie Canal, which formerly connected Toledo with Logansport, Ft. Wayne, Terre Haute and Evansville, Indiana. The sixty-mile section of this latter canal which exists between Junction and Toledo, follows the Maumee Valley, dropping down a battery of nine locks at Defiance to the "Twenty-three mile" level, and thence passing Independence, Florida, Napoleon, and Damascus to a lone lock at Texas. Half way to Providence two more locks step down to the "Twenty mile" level, on which is situated Maumee City, eight miles and two locks from Toledo. Here a battery of six locks connects the canal with Swan Creek on the level of the lake. The Wabash and Erie Canal, begun in 1832 and finished in 1842, was abandoned west of Junction in 1854.
In 1836, the canal was complete to Troy. However, the financial status, in 1837, of the nation was bleak. The panic caught the State completely by surprise. The canals had drained the fairly new State to almost oblivion.
Funds kept coming somehow and on July 4, 1837, the canal was completed to Piqua, thus welcoming the first boat to reach this far.
In the valleys of the Miami and the Maumee, north of Piqua in the 1830's, was a large region consisting of over two million densely wooded acres. The clearing away of this region was nil. The main reason for the non-clearance of this area was the cost to have it done; this cost being in the neighborhood of $15 to $20 per acre. The market in the Lake area was great but the cost of transporting it was too much of a burden for this type of shipment.
The Miami Canal extension opened up in this area in the 1830's and the demand for wood and the new shipping methods allowed the wood to be ferried. This pro- vided a cheaper way to ship this product. Wood sold along the line of the canal for $2.50 or $3.00 per cord. Forests could be cleared and made the way for the plow at no cost to the land owners.
The distances between locks was highly irregular with one extremely long distance given as 23 miles. If the locks were evenly distributed as to mileage, the distance would be about one every 2 miles.
The "Miami and Erie Canal" was opened to Lake Erie in 1845 with the official name being designated in 1856.
The Miami-Erie Canal would not be possible without a water supply. Certainly huge reservoirs were to be made that would supply the canal's 244 miles and 105 locks. The Grand reservoir was built at Celina. The Loramie and the Indian Lake reservoirs were made by damming Loramie Creek and the Great Miami River respectively.
The Miami-Erie Canal brought a new revelation to the people interested in trading and selling their goods. The population that followed the canal tended to be a more business-like nature. Industry followed this waterway and made many towns what they are today.
The period of greatest prosperity of the canal was from 1831 to 1861, and the largest amount received in any one year since the canal was in use was $351,897.72, in 1851. The largest amount expended in any one year was $270,471.18, in 1852. From 1829 to 1888, inclusive of both years, the total receipts of the Miami and Erie canal were $5,969,432.56, the total expenditures, $4,352,454.79. On all the canals of the State, for the period from 1827 to 1888, inclusive of both years, the total receipts were $16,158,441.83, and the total expenditures $10,180,871.87.
The Miami Canal, between Dayton and Cincinnati, operated for years without any competition. Water was the cheapest transportation. However, turnpikes were coming and by 1840 these means were taking a bite out of the canal's profit. The tolls taken on the canal were $2,000 less in 1841 than in 1840. The Board of Public Works said: "This diminution is mostly produced by the completion of the turnpike roads, over which produce can now be transported to Cincinnati, if not more cheaply, at least frequently with greater convenience than on the canal. This effect would seem to indicate the policy of so arranging the rates of toll as to do away with this competition, either by increasing them on the roads or diminishing them on the canal."
The canal business started breaking up around 1877. With increased railroad and turnpike traffic the waterway was outdated. The Miami-Erie Canal had in 1905 approximately 600 miles still in existence. This mileage was in very bad shape. Public sentiment wanted it repaired, but, competition narrowed it down to extinction. The railroads picked up the grain, livestock and freight business. Passenger traffic abandoned the canal packet and turned to the speedier railroad. After 1913, only a few localized sections of the canals existed.
The canal was 248.8 miles in length and rose at it's summit at Loramie of 512 feet above the Ohio River level. There were a total of 19 aqueducts, 3 guard locks, 103 lift licks, and 3 reservoirs.

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This page created 4 August 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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