The Tumble July 2021


1. Canal Missionaries and Preachers
2. The Dennis Property 8. Re-watering of Delphi’s Dry Canal Bed
3. The Rise and Fall of Point Commerce 9. New Signage on Whitewater Canal Trail
4. Robert Earl 10. News From the Past
5. Sagacity of a Gander 11. Reservoir Marker Dedication
6. Carrying Cargo by Boat 1845-1850 12. Suez Canal Transportation Interrupted

Canal Missionaries and Preachers

By Carolyn Schmidt

The Home Missionary, an American Pastor’s Journal. for the year ending April, 1839 advertised for ministers as follows:

Stations for Missionaries. We very much need more ministers of our denomination in Northern Indiana. This part of our state is larger than the state of Massachusetts.  It is an excellent body of land; has fine climate, very much like that of New Jersey. For a new state, its population is already quite large. It is filling up very fast, as excellent lands every year are brought into market. The Indian reservations have, the most of them, already been ceded to our government. This part of Indiana is, without doubt, destined to be, to the farmer, one of the most interesting and desirable portions of the whole great valley, New York, Cincinnati, New Orleans, and, I may say, Charleston too, will be very near him, as markets for his produce, in a very few years. The Erie and Wabash canal extending from Lake Erie to Terre Haute, (the head of steam-boat navigation on the Wabash,) is to be completed in about a year. It is already finished and in operation from Fort Wayne to Logansport; various other canals are being constructed in this part of Indiana. In this interesting part of our state, we have, I believe, but two Presbyterian ministers, who statedly preach the Gospel; six of these are on the line of the Erie and Wabash canal; the other four are near the northern boundary of the state. The missionary field of these ministers is more than a hundred miles square.

“We want ministers now at the following places, viz. one for Wabash and Lagrow [Lagro], on the canal; one for Rochester and Plymouth, on the Michigan road; one for Goshen and Elkhart, on the line of the northern canal; one for Marion, on the line of the central canal; one for several places on Eel river; and one for Kosciusco county. Wabash, Goshen, Rochester, Plymouth, and Marion are county seats, and important places. How much could be raised for the support of ministers at the places above named, I know not; but I should think nearly half the necessary sum.

“You may form some idea of the religious condition and wants of this part of our state, when I tell you, that, probably, not one tenth part of the funerals are attended with religious services of any kind. If I may take my own neighborhood as a sample, not one child in fifty, of eighteen years old, can repeat the decalogue or say the Lord’s prayer. I could speak of the almost universal profanation of the Sabbath; the great prevalence of intemperance, gambling, and other kindred vices; but I forbear. If any thing is done for this population, to save them from open irreligion and ruin, IT MUST BE DONE SOON. We want learned and pious ministers, such as are willing to make any sacrifices that the cause of Christ may demand. Can you not send us such?”

The Erie & Wabash Canal mentioned in the article is the Wabash & Erie Canal. The northern canal mentioned is the Erie & Michigan Canal that was planned to run from the Wabash & Erie Canal at Fort Wayne north and northwest through Albion, Rome City, Goshen, Elkhart, South Bend, Michigan City on Lake Michigan, to Gary, and eventually into Illinois. The central canal mentioned was to connect the Wabash & Erie Canal at Peru and extend south and southwestward to Evansville on the Ohio River.

Whether this article was successful in securing ministers we do not know.  We do know that life among canal workers was rough and tumble. They could have used some religion.

Information was sought about itinerate preachers traveling up and down Indiana’s canals by boat and ministering to people in towns along the way. Although this was thought to be a likely scenario with the poor conditions of the roads at that time, none was found.  Two preachers who had other types of connections with canals were John B. New and Benjamin F. Reeve.

John Bowman New was “born in Delaware, was originally a farmer, and later in life became the owner of a cabinet-making establishment.  For ten years he lived in Kentucky, and he came to Indiana as a soldier under General Harrison in the War of 1812, from North Carolina.” He was appointed by the State Meeting to a one year term as a missionary to Fort Wayne in October, 1846.  “ He was to receive out of the treasury two hundred and fifty dollars, and the balance of his expenses he was to meet by the labor of his own hands.  He arrived in Fort Wayne on November 7 and preached his first sermon on November 15 at the court house because the eleven churches there would not allow him to use their buildings.  It took two full months before he had a large audience; “but when he began to immerse believers in the canal, in which the ice was more than a foot thick, the inhabitants became anxious to know more of those people that were everywhere spoken against” by other clergy.

John Bowman New

According to Frontier Faith New believed that this act of faith impressed the local residents. He also attracted their attention  when he immersed Edward Hodgkins, who had been an Episcopalian preacher and who then began to teach the ancient gospel.

“At the expiration of the first half of his year there was at Fort Wayne a Christian church of fifty members, with a well-attended and interesting Sunday-school. During the other six months he preached half his time at other points” in DeKalb, Wabash, and Huntington counties.

John B. New went on to live in Madison and Vernon, Indiana before moving to Indianapolis where he was a pioneer preacher in the Christian (Disciples) Church. He lived there until 1872, when he died at age seventy-nine.

Did New’s baptisms in the icy water of the Wabash & Erie Canal in Fort Wayne actually start his career as a preacher?

Another preacher that had canal ties was Benjamin F. Reeve.  He was born in Virginia, lived for a time in Kentucky where he was brought up Methodist, and moved to Indiana in 1833. He lived in Rush county in southeastern Indiana and preached at Flat Rock Church and over a small district for about three years. He was a bishop for 28 years.

Benjamin F. Reeve

“During his ministry he has been especially useful as an immerser. Possessing great strength of body, caution, and self-possession, he has usually been called on to immerse the obedient wherever he has been present. He baptized his first subject in June, 1833; since which time he has immersed hundreds, if not thousands, without the slightest accident to any. On one occasion he buried [immersed] thirty-six without coming up out of the water.”

The book Pioneers Preachers does not say if his immersions were in the Whitewater Canal, the river or the creek.  It does say that “he has never given himself wholly to the word. Much of his time has always been devoted to secular pursuits.” One of these pursuits was serving as a member of the Board of Managers of the White Water Canal for several years. He served as Justice of the Peace for thirteen years and was in the Indiana State Legislature. He was a Representative for Rush county from 1836-38 and a Senator from 1841-44.


Commemorative Biographical Record of Prominent and Representative Men of Indianapolis and Vicinity. Chicago, IL: J. H. Beers & Co., 1908.

Evans, Madison .A.M. Biographical Sketches of the Pioneer Preachers of Indiana. Philadelphia, PA: J. Challen & Sons, 1862.

Franklin, Joseph. “The Reformation Movement in Indiana.” The Christian-Evangelist: An Illustrated Weekly Religious Newspaper. St. Louis, MO: Christian Publishing Company, March 19, 1903

Mather, George R. Frontier Faith: The Story of the Pioneer Congregations of Fort Wayne, Indiana 1820-1860. Fort Wayne, IN: The Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society,1992.

The Home Missionary, and American Pastor’s Journal: For the Year Ending April, 1839.

New York, NY: Printed by William Osborn, 1839.

The Dennis Property

By Samuel R. Ligget

In March 2021, we received a telephone call from Mr. Jay Dennis, who is a long-time Canal Society of Indiana member.  He came across our names (Sam & Jo Ligget) as fellow members living in Vigo County and invited us to his farm to explore the 2.2 miles of the Wabash & Erie Canal that traverse his property.

We were on his property several years earlier to document a pioneer cemetery as part of the DNR cemetery project.  At that time, while working on the cemetery site, I commented to Mr. Dennis that we had to be close to the canal.  He immediately confirmed my suspicion and offered to show us the canal.  We all got into his pickup and went down the bluff.  At the bottom of the bluff was the canal prism.  Mr. Dennis then gave us a tour of about 1 mile of the canal he owned.  Now he offered to let us explore all 2.2 miles of the canal on his property.  My brother, Larry Ligget, also a CSI member, was welcome to accompany us.  We knew we were in for a treat.

The Dennis farm is in northern Vigo County.  This 2.2 miles of the canal lies on the 12¾ mile stretch between Lock # 40 and Lock # 41 (Terre Haute).  At the southern end of the Dennis part of the Wabash & Erie Canal is the Otter Creek Aqueduct.  We couldn’t get close enough to see if any of the aqueduct structure remains.  Mr. Dennis thinks the canal berm and towpath were removed for about 100 yards to the north for fill when Highway 41 was rerouted to that area.  Due to recent flooding along the Wabash River, this low, flat area along Otter Creek was flooded and muddy.

House foundation photo by Sam Ligget

At the far north end of the canal on Mr. Dennis’s property, there remains the foundation of a house that sat on the eastside (berm) of the canal.  The father of the family who lived in the house had a liquor still in the river bottoms west of the house.  This man would go out to tend his still and while there would become drunk.  When he came home, he would inevitably beat his wife.  When the oldest son got old enough, he told Dad if he ever beat Mom again, he was going to kill him.  That is exactly what he did.  The sheriff came to investigate the incident.  After hearing the story and reflecting a while, the sheriff decided it was justifiable homicide and no charges were ever filed against the boy.

Towpath and berm of canal –photo by Sam Ligget

The towpath and berm of the canal on the Dennis farm are easily discernable along his 2.2 miles excepting the disturbed area by Otter Creek.  Only in a few locations has the berm and/or towpath been disturbed. There is a power line that runs down part of the canal bed.  Farm machinery and power company trucks use the towpath as a lane.  A little less than 1 mile of the canal bed is in a wooded area.  We decided to walk most of this part due to the possibility of getting our vehicle stuck.  It was easy walking with no briars, Asian Bush Honeysuckle, or other brush to impede us.

The towpath is used by farm machinery, etc.

As we were leaving we noticed that Mr. Dennis had an Allis-Chalmers WC tractor sitting near his house.  I remarked that I had spent many hours on an Allis-Chalmers WD45.  He invited us to look at his old tractors–including a WD45–which brought back a lot of memories for me and my brother, Larry.

We spent a great afternoon on Mr. Dennis’s farm.  On this property, we viewed not only a long section of the Wabash & Erie Canal, but also a pioneer cemetery, Native American mounds, and the flooded river bottoms with turkeys, owls, and a variety of waterfowl.  Mr. Dennis himself is very pleasant and knows many stories of the land and the people of this part of Vigo County.  Thank you, Jay Dennis, for your interest in preserving history!

The Rise and Fall of Point Commerce

By Carolyn Schmidt

Point Commerce is located on the bluff  above the point where the Eel River entered the west branch of the White River, which made it a point of river trade. It was near where the intersection of the Cross-Cut Canal and the Central Canal was originally planned, which should have greatly increased its population. It is across the White River from today’s Worthington, Indiana. However, the canal route was changed and instead of Point Commerce becoming a major city, Worthington received most of the canal trade and Point Commerce waned.

On October 21, 1973, the Green County Historical Society members and guests met on the lawn of the Allison House in Point Commerce to listen to the following paper compiled and delivered by Judy Fougeboosse.  It is quoted below as it was presented. I, Carolyn Schmidt, have added some clarification.

“The FIRST settlement in Greene County was formed at Point Commerce in 1813. This place, for many years was the best in the County, and always remained a model of thrift and enterprise. When a town was later established there, it led all others in it’s progress and it’s advancement in commercial activity, in education, in religion, and in cleanliness.

“In 1835 the State Legislature passed a bill which provided for the construction of a canal down White River  and another down the Wabash. A survey was made and it was found that the best place to join these canals was at the mouth of the Eel River. As all the transportation was done by boats at this time, it was plainly seen that the junction of these two canals was bound to be an important place.

“At this time, James M. H. and John F. Allison were in business at Spencer. They were shrewd business men, and instantly saw that the junction of these canals would become an important commercial center, so they came to the mouth of Eel River, bought a tract of land and on April 25, 1836 laid out 35 lots and named the town; thus began Point Commerce, in anticipation of what was expected of the place. John F. Allison, himself, did the surveying. At the same time they built a large store building, obtaining the lumber at Littlejohn’s Mill, in Owen County. The Allisons immediately put in a large stock of general merchandise, including everything needed at that early period in the country. They bought their goods in the east, at New York, and shipped them to Pittsburg, thence down the Ohio to Louisville, and from there, hauled them by wagon to Point Commerce.

“The younger of the two Allisons was John Fletcher, who was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky July 10, 1814. His father, John E. Allison was a man of wealth and owner of many slaves, which John F. inherited. But he did not believe that one man had a right to own another, consequently, he liberated his slaves.

“He had the special charge of the outdoor branch of the Allison & Allison business, and made frequent trips to New Orleans, and occasionally to Louisville and Pittsburg. He was a Whig and served three terms in the State Legislature, two as Representative and one as Senator.

“He did not confine himself to political and commercial affairs alone. He was a leader in every public enterprise and made great sacrifices of time and money for the good of the community. He advanced the first railroad project, the Great Air Limited, to which he gave 1,200 acres of

land, then valued at $8,000.00. He assisted in promoting the I & V Railroad, and donated $1,000.00 to that enterprise.

“He and his brother owned several hundred acres of land. Their possessions included what is now Worthington, and extending northward to Johnstown. Johnstown was named after John F.  He opened the first store there. It was a place of considerable importance in the old canal days.

“James Montgomery Higgins Allison was of British ancestry. He was born at Elizabethtown, Maryland September 11, 1802.  He was  a large portly man, weighing over 200 pounds. He was a Whig, and a faithful Methodist, a man of wonderful enterprise and generosity. James M. H. was married twice, His first wife was Julia Ann Payne, who died childless 18 months after their marriage. In 1828 he married Julia Ann Applegate, daughter of a wealthy tobacco dealer of Louisville, Kentucky. To them were born 13 children, 9 boys and 4 girls.

“In 1837, James M. H. Allison built the hotel, which was called ‘Junction House,’ getting the lumber sawed in Spencer and floating it down the river. Dr. David Shepherd, his brother-in-law, who married Mahala Allison, was the first landlord.

“The hotel and tavern rates in those days were fixed by law, as follows: Dinner 25ȼ, Breakfast 20ȼ, Supper 20ȼ, corn and hay for horse 25ȼ, ½ pint whiskey 12½ȼ, quart of whiskey 25ȼ, ½ pint rum 37ȼ, ½ pint brandy 50ȼ, Board and lodging for one week $2.00.

“The most important weekly occurrence was the arriving of the mail from Washington. It arrived via Sullivan by a Star-Route contract, carried by back or horseback. The carrier had a bugle, and along the route, when passing farm houses or settlement, he would announce his coming by blowing his horn; the citizens would bring letters or packages, which were few because of the high rate — 25 cents on a single letter, which was usually paid by the receiver. When the weather and roads would permit, he would make the trip in the hack carrying passengers and small packages of produce for a fee.

“When the town people would hear the bugle sound they knew the mail was coming, and would assemble at the Post Office, then located in the Junction House on the turn of the road. There were no individual mail boxes. The general mail boxes were about seven or eight feet high, closed on the outside with alphabetically arranged pigeon holes on the inside. The mail bags were taken behind the enclosure and emptied on a table or floor, then the Postmaster would go over the mail calling the name on each letter or package. The person hearing his name called would answer “here.”  The Postmaster would then toss it over to the crowd outside and then followed a scramble to catch and pass it on to the owner. If a person failed to answer promptly to his name when called, he was passed and compelled to wait until the mail was gone over the second time and placed in the general delivery boxes.  Then he could call for it at the window.

“In 1880, Junction House was torn down by Tip Osborn and removed to Worthington, and now forms a part of the Hedden Hotel.

“In 1838, J. M. H. Allison brought his family here, and for a time they lived in a cottage just east of the hotel, then in the hotel until 1844 when he built the elegant two story brick residence. This was the first brick home in the community, and it was located on the hilltop overlooking the meeting of the two rivers and intended junction of the two canals, which was to make this place famous.

“The house has ten rooms, all large with high ceilings; most of the rooms are furnished with chair board, big open fireplaces are in many, and the baseboards are wide, window ledges are deep, and the boards in the floors are six inches wide, An old fashioned fruit cellar is under one large room, and this cellar, as the rest of the foundation, is of large blocks of sandstone. It has a little porch or portico at the front which opens into a hall, and also had a like portico over an outer door on the west side. It has a long double veranda on the east side and the upper part was once enclosed, making a long room.

“John F. built a two story frame house directly across the street from his brother, with the arrangements of the two houses being very similar, his always being painted white. They both had old fashioned well or dairy houses built to correspond with the architecture of the house. After Taylor Messick bought it from Sam Hays, Mr. Messick tore it down and erected the present house from the material.

“In 1837, the same year Junction House was built, Dr. Shepherd built the one story brick house which is still standing. Its plan and the John F. Allison lower floor plan were almost identical. It had the two porticos and a back porch. The foundation is of stone, old fashioned chair boards are in several of the rooms. It’s walls are very thick, baseboards are wide, and the heavy doors swing on three hinges.

“The first dead were buried just north of this house, but later the bodies were moved to the Hays Cemetery, east of Point Commerce, on the farm of Mark Hays.

“In 1849, a two story brick building was built across the street west of Dr. Shepherd’s house. It was 40 x 80, the upper story being used for religious services, the lower for school rooms. The bricks for the structure were made on the ground between Dr. Shepherd’s and the Ben Hays’ home. J. M. H. Allison was a large contributor in building this; he gave $3,000.00.  It was said, without his help, neither teacher or preacher could have been secured.

“In 1882 the old church was town down, and the brick and much of the frame were used to build the home of the present Mark Hays. The old stone slab bearing the inscription “Wesley Chapel M. E. Church 1849”, was used to cover the Hays’ cistern for many years, and now stands in the yard of the Methodist Church at Worthington.

“Before there was a church building at Point Commerce, meetings were held in private homes, and often in the old Junction House. The dining room was used for meetings, and when the crowds were large, the doors leading to the bar room were opened.

“In 1869, the Point Commerce Academy was founded by Professor E. E. Henry and Rev. John  Laverty, both of whom were able educators. Students came from the surrounding county and from distant towns. The course of study was similar to the modern high school. For a few years, Point Commerce Academy flourished, then Prof. Henry accepted a position elsewhere and the school finally closed.

“The Ben Hays’ house, in which I referred to, was built in 1864 by Sam Miller. After Mr. Miller died, his son Frederick occupied it until 1888, when he sold it to Ben Hays. The stone for the foundation of this house and the old Eel River bridge was quarried near the Devil’s Tea Table, east of Point Commerce. Many of you may remember this big two story yellow house on top of the hill. It was torn down when the new State Highway 676 went through.

“The town consisted of about 100 houses scattered all over the hillsides. The main square consisted of a block, which was composed of the lots on which the school house stood and the lots east. There were two ferries in the locality; the Smith Ferry below Point Commerce, and the Osborn Ferry north of the old town. Both proved to be highly profitable. There was flour mill located  on the west side of Eel River, where the dam had once been. It was run by water power, the current being so strong at this point that it would furnish power enough to turn the large wheel. This was the only one of its kind in the county. This being the case, farmers from all over the county, and as far as Sullivan County, came there to get their grinding done. Those living the farthest away would have to take two or three days to make the journey.

“Each man took his turn in getting his grinding done, as he came. Those who had traveled some distance would try to get enough done to last a year, for the land was so swampy and muddy that the teams could hardly pull through. It is interesting to note that at this time many of the teams were oxen.

“The mill was owned and operated by two or three different men. Sam Miller operated it for many years. It’s last proprietor was Henry Newsom. The old mill, however, met a tragic end, when a tribe of Indians, the last to pass through this place, destroyed it by fire, for some unknown reason.

“The firm of Allison & Allison did an extensive business as general merchants, pork packers, and dealers in produce, which they shipped down the river to New Orleans. They often shipped 15 to 20 flat boat loads of pork and produce in a single season. This was late in the decade of the forties.

“Money was scarce, and the merchants took all sorts of produce in exchange for goods. It is said they often had in stock no less than $40,000.00 worth of pork and produce in their warehouses and pork houses, waiting for the river to reach boating stage.

“Hundreds of heavy loaded wagons, drawn by 4 and 6 horse teams, were pulled up the steep incline which passed in front o the hotel and the Allison’s store every season. It was a busy place and there was bustle and action everywhere.

“There were doctors, tanners, shoemakers, carpenters, coopers, gunsmiths, blacksmiths, milliners, shops, stores, cotton gins, carding mills, distilleries, saw mills, coffee houses, and many other pioneer enterprises. All expected that Point Commerce would one day become a great city, but this dream did not come true. There were several reasons why Point Commerce fell.  J.M. H. Allison became ill in 1850 and was thought to die. This and poor generalship of the firm of Allison & Allison, along with them being so generous, brought on their financial crash in 1852.

“In 1851, the entire country was hit with an epidemic of cholera, and Point Commerce was no exception. It was said, among its first victims were the four doctors, which left the town without medical aid. As a result, there were many deaths and about one-fourth of its population of 500 died.  Many of the remainder fled, so that the town was practically deserted. This, and other unsuccessful ventures, along with the big fire in 1854, caused Point Commerce’s failure.

“Worthington began to grow in population, while Point Commerce declined. The rivalry was very bitter, and the one hope of the redemption of Point Commerce lay in the construction of a lock on the river at Newberry.  The contract called for this, but for some unknown reason the lock was never constructed and they failed to get the steam boat trade which they would have gotten if the lock had been constructed.

“J. M. H. and John F. Allison both died in Indianapolis, J. M. H. in 1877, and John in 1885. J. M. H. was brought back here and is buried in the Hays Cemetery, along with his wife and many of the other settlers.

“Point Commerce is now almost extinct. Just a few houses mark this once flourishing town. As many other places, Point Commerce rose, progressed, and fell, but the memory of this historical place will be recorded forever in our hearts and minds.”

Robert Earl

By Carolyn Schmidt

Robert Earle was born in Marcellus, New York in 1804 to Robert Earle and his second wife, whose name we do not know. Our subject Robert Earle later dropped the final “e” from his name.  This is reflected in his genealogy chart.  He, like his father, was married twice. His first wife was Margaret Beatty.  They had six children.  For a time they lived near Mansfield, Ohio before moving to Broad Ripple, Indiana.  After Margaret’s death, he married Mary Scott and they had six more children.  Although he fathered twelve children, many of them died very young with a little over a half of them reaching the age of 21.

On April 20, 1837 Jacob Coil laid out forty-eight lots for the village of Broad Ripple, which was located seven miles north of Indianapolis, Indiana.  Robert Earl was the first merchant of the village. His son William later became its first postmaster in 1850.  A dirt road was the only connection the village had with Indianapolis before the Central Canal was constructed.  Its settlers were elated when the Indianapolis—Broad Ripple portion of the Central Canal was completed and water let in from the White River on June 27, 1839.  As water poured into the channel young boys were said to have raced “pell mell” down the canal just ahead of the water.

Robert Earl took advantage of the canal almost immediately.  He opened a canal boat service and advertised in the Indianapolis paper:  “Boat leaves Indianapolis at 10:00 in the morning and returns at six in the evening. Good order at all times will be preserved. Fare one dollar. Persons visiting Broad Ripple are assured that good entertainment will be found by those desiring eatables, etc.”  In another advertisement he said “every attention is paid to render those comfortable who make the passage.”

The “Silver Bell,” an elaborately decorated, silver painted, canal packet boat, which was drawn by silver-gray mules and their harness also decorated with silver, was the first to offer service when this section of the canal was opened.. It offered the fastest travel anywhere in Indiana at eight miles an hour. [Four miles an hour would become the official speed limit for Indiana canal boats.]

An article in the Indiana Journal of August 3, 1839 entitled “Excursion on the [Central] Canal” describes one of these boat trips as follows:

“As one of a company which recently sailed up the canal to Broad Ripple, permit me to give you a short account of the voyage and its incidents, scenery, etc.

“We left the lock at 8:00 A.M. being about thirty in number and soon passed Cottonville, the seat of the enterprising Mr. West. Here is one of the most delightful residences near the city, and highly improved; also one of the best mills (grist) and also a cotton spinning establishment in full and beautiful condition. Near this you also pass the beautiful and inviting residence of Mr. Blake—one of the most beautiful situations in the county. The country is flat on each side of the canal and but little improved, but susceptible of cultivation, and we soon passed over the aqueduct over Fall Creek.  This I am told is in very perfect condition, and is really an object of curiosity.  Here there is a beautiful pool containing water twelve or fifteen feet in depth, and gives one a faint idea of a lake; the width and depth would admit of a steamboat.

“Having passed the aqueduct the country is more elevated and the soil of a better quality, and I am told there is some of the finest tillable land on either side of the canal. The bluffs here on the right of the canal are high and remarkable, and furnish some of the most delightful sites for country residences to be imagined. The breeze on the canal is very comfortable and refreshing. Three miles from town we passed Mclivain’s Bridge. Here the ground is a little rolling and beautiful. Shortly after this we passed near White River; and the prospect here is delightful; there is a view of the river for half a mile, and the banks are beautifully adorned with shrubbery and flowers. At 10 we passed the Michigan Bridge near Pittsburgh, and had a remote but pretty view of Mount Pleasant, distant about one mile, and on the top of a beautiful ascent. The country is delightful and productive. The bluffs continued and [were] very remarkable. Six miles from town the bottoms on each side of the canal are extensive and productive, and the bluffs here terminate. Eight miles from town we passed Smith’s Bridge near the Rocky Ripple of solid limestone, which would furnish a quantity of good building stone, and for other purposes. We soon reached Broad Ripple, which is caused by a dam thrown across White River a little below the mouth of the canal to turn the water into it. The view here is beautiful. Here is the most comfortable public house, kept by Mr. Earl, the enterprising and attentive owner of the boat. Here a number of the company spent the day delightfully, and partook of a good dinner and some fresh fish; others of the company amused themselves rambling on the banks of the river. In the evening we returned pleasantly and safely.

“When we permit our minds to revert back to the first settlement of this country only about twenty years, when the country was one dense and wild forest, roamed by savages and frequented by wild beasts and serpents, [and things] which have taken place within so short a period, we almost fancy ourselves amidst a fairyland. It furnishes a strong argument for and striking illustration of the advantages of internal improvements, arts and arms, and sufficiently demonstrates the superiority of mind and of an intelligent people over barbarism and ignorance. I would here most warmly urge others to make a similar expedition this hot weather. They will find themselves amply rewarded for their time and money, and I will promise they will be politely and comfortably entertained by Mr. Earl, the enterprising and indefatigable proprietor. One of the Company.”

Dunn writes in the History of Greater Indianapolis: “Alluring as the trip might seem. There were few persons in Indianapolis at that time, when 50 cents was the legal allowance for a day’s work on the roads, that could indulge in such luxuries very often, and as there was very slight occasion for travel over this line on business, the canal boat was soon found an unprofitable venture, and was dropped altogether.  At a later day the company used boats with scythes attached to the stern to cut the moss and grass, which almost stopped the flow of water at times, but in the early period they got rid of it by shutting off the water and raking it out.”

Robert Earl soon had a line of canal boats pulled by mules walking along the towpath. He also built a flat-bottom boat, which he christened the “David Burr” that was named for a commissioner of the Wabash & Erie Canal.  He hauled lumber, corn, wheat, whiskey and produce from Broad Ripple to Indianapolis.

Almost all the commerce that took place on the canal was the transportation of lumber for Frank Aldrich and his father-in-law Alfred Gay.  Alfred Gay came in 1858 and started a saw-mill with George D. Stevens. Gay & Stevens, as the firm was known, was located along the Madison railroad tracks one square south of the old Madison depot on South street in Indianapolis. It had the first circular saw operated there.  They established a wood yard that was first located at the corner of Michigan street and the canal and then was moved north of North street. They bought a lot of timber on land located above Broad Ripple, established a camp of refugee negroes to harvest it, and loaded it onto two scow boats to take it down the canal to Indianapolis. The boats were 85 feet long, 25 feet wide, and 3 feet deep, each of which carried about 25 cords of wood.   These boats also transported quantities of corn, boulders for street paving, flour from the mill at Broad Ripple, and passengers for Sunday school and other picnic parties.  The boats were towed to favorite picnic grounds at Golden Hill or the site of Fairview Park.

In 1844, during James K. Polk and Henry Clay’s presidential campaigns, political parties were held on the decks of Robert’s flat boats. A heated political argument arose during one of these fishing trips. The patron thoughtlessly took a backward step and fell into the canal. This led to the rumor that “unruly people attending these political parties were thrown overboard.”

Robert kept a detailed record of his business dealings in Broad Ripple.  His ledger includes entries for meals, lodging, hauling, labor, tobacco, whiskey, sundries, plowing, horse boarding, and boat passages.

In August 1839 the State of Indiana abruptly suspended work on all Internal Improvement projects due to the Panic of 1837 having caused the state to be in debt over $14,000,000. Only 8.8 miles of the Indianapolis section of the Central Canal were complete at that time.  The final cost was $180,000 per mile completed.

The state unsatisfactorily operated what there was of the canal until 1850.  It was filled with moss. When they wanted to take down the water to clean it, the lessees of water-power complained.  The 1847 flood washed out canal banks and the Fall Creek aqueduct. The canal was dry for months.  Lessees refused to pay water-rents and brought law suits.

In 1848 Robert Earl petitioned the committee on canals and internal improvements asking for compensation for damages done to his property, by cutting away the levee of the Central Canal near the feeder dam, in order to save the dam from destruction.  A bill, No. 350, was read before the General Assembly in the Indiana House of Representatives, and, rules being put aside, it was read a second time.  It was decided in the negative.

Indiana’s governor, Joseph A. Wright, was authorized to compromise the law suits and sell the whole property to the highest bidder by the acts of January 19 and 21, 1850.  It was sold to George G. Shoup, James Rariden and John S. Newman for $2,425. Subsequently the Canal Manufacturing Hydraulics and Water Works Company purchased it.

The United States Federal Census records Robert Earl as a laborer in 1850, a boatman in 1860 and a lumber dealer in 1870, about 66 years old.  No records were found of his death or place of burial.

What started out in 1839 as an exciting, lucrative canal boat business for Robert Earl did not end up as anticipated.  Considering his disappointment in business along with the death of his first wife and so many of his children at young ages, Robert must have lived a very sad life.


Public Member Trees: Robert Earl, William Earl

Indiana, Select Marriages Index, 1748-1993.

Cherry, Lu Ann Kennedy. The Beatty Book: The Descendants of Samuel Beatty of Armstrong.,1995.

Dunn, Jacob Piatt, History of Greater Indianapolis. Chicago, IL: The Lewis Publishing Co., 1910.

“Excursion on the Canal,” Indiana Journal. August 3, 1839.

Journal of the House of Representatives, of the State of Indiana. Indianapolis, IN: John D. Defrees, State Printer,


Leary, Edward A. Indianapolis: The Story of a City. Indianapolis, IN:The Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc., 1970.

Schmidt, Carolyn. Tracking the Central. Ft. Wayne, IN: Canal Society of Indiana, 1999.

Snepp, Daniel W.  “Wabash & Erie Canal,” Outdoor Indiana. Vol. 37, p. 36.

Sulgrove B. R. History of Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana. Philadelphia, PA: L. H. Everts & Co., 1884.

U.S. Federal Census:  1850, 1860, 1870

Sagacity of a Gander

One day last week a gander was “on duty” near the canal basin at Albany [New York], in keeping guard over a flock of goslings, which led to a rencontre between his gandership and a rooster. The contest, however, was of short duration, for the gander seized the cock by the neck and straightway flew into the [Erie] canal, where he thrust his antagonist under water, and there held him until he was dead.  Terre Haute Wabash Express August 24, 1853

Carrying Cargo by Boat 1846-1850

Don Haack, CSI member from Ft. Wayne, found an article in the Indiana Postal History Society Newsletter Vol. 36, No. 1 about cargo shipment by water. The article had three postal documents and showed how there was no direct water route for these shipments at that time.

The first document was a bill of lading that read:

SHIPPED, IN GOOD ORDER AND WELL CONDITIONED, BY Moses Smith on board the good Steam Boat, called the North Bend whereof _____ is Master for the present voyage, now lying in the Port of CINCINNATI, and bound for Wabash River the articles marked or numbered as below, which are to be delivered without delay in like good order, at the port of Graysville, Ill. (the unavoidable dangers of navigation and fire only excepted, unto Stephenson or assigns, he or they paying freight for said goods at the rate of 30 cents for Hundred Pounds.

In Witness Whereof, The Owner, Master, or Clerk of said vessel has affirmed in 3 Bills of Lading of this tenor and date, one of which being accomplished, the others to stand void.

Dated at Cincinnati, this 10 day of April, 1846.

It then listed the packages to be carried and their weights.  The shipment weighed 1,017 pounds and at 30 cents per hundred pounds cost $3.05. If left Cincinnati, Ohio, on the “North Bend,” went down the Ohio River and up the Wabash to Graysville, Illinois, which is about 12 miles north of New Harmony, Indiana, and then went overland north to Albion, Illinois and Moses Smith.

The article then showed the picture of an 1848 stampless cover canceled in Cincinnati and sent to J. C. Ross of Terre Haute, Indiana.  This time the shipment was made by canal boat. The cargo was loaded in Cincinnati, shipped up the Miami and Erie Canal to Junction, Ohio, then followed the Wabash and Erie Canal west through northern Indiana and then down to Covington, Indiana where is was received by Mr. Hardy.  At the time the Wabash and Erie Canal had not been completed all the way to Terre Haute, so Ross had to pick up his 3,144 pounds of cargo in Covington from Hardy. The canal finally opened to Terre Haute on October 25, 1849.

A third item in the article was a stampless cover of September 23, 1850 mailed to John C. Ross, the same merchant in Terre Haute, who received the earlier shipment from Cincinnati.  However, this time the cargo of seven boxes of merchandise was sent by the steamer “Ohio” from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, down the Ohio River to Evansville, Indiana, and then sent by wagon to Terre Haute, since the Wabash River was not navigable at the time.

Canal Word Puzzles

Below are the names of those who correctly answered the weekly Canal Quotes or Word Search puzzles since the March 2021 issue of “The Tumble.”

Re-watering of Delphi’s Dry Canal Bed

Information and photos from Dan McCain

On the coldest day in February 2021 the pipe from the U.S. Aggregates’ Stone Quarry, which provides crisp clear water for the section of the Wabash & Erie Canal in Delphi, Indiana, burst.  This was at about the same time, the electric grid in Texas failed thus freezing their water pipes, which then burst leaving hundreds of homes without water.

Without fresh water entering the canal, it wasn’t long before the canal bed was dry as seen on the upper left side of the picture.  Many people were concerned about how a waterless canal would affect Canal Park’s summer season. Luckily, during the last week of March,  the Stone Quarry was successful in replacing the damaged pipe section. Once repaired the beautiful flow of clean water returned to the old Wabash & Erie Canal thanks to the efforts of the local company’s crew.  Thus represents the company’s two decade commitment to provide the canal with millions of gallons of water pumped from the depths of their quarrying operations.  The water is much appreciated as it is the lifeblood of the Canal Association’s offerings to the public.

After the canal re-watering, the Carroll County Wabash & Erie Canal Association put out a call for help to get Canal Park ready for the summer season.  Volunteers for the Spring Cleanup Workday came to the park on Saturday morning May 8, 2021. They were provided with a free lunch for all their hard work in making this historical site come back to life.

On Memorial Day weekend “the Delphi,” a canal boat replica which plies this section of the canal, and Pioneer Village in Canal Park were officially opened. Take your family on the canal boat ride, enjoy a day of educational fun in the canal museum and Pioneer Village, or get your exercise by walking the many trails along the canal and through scenic areas.

New Signage on Whitewater Canal Trail

New signage has been placed along the Whitewater Canal Trail on the Yellow Bank section of the trail.  The volunteers who are building and maintaining this trail have been busy having work days on recent Saturdays.  The volunteers hope to complete the trail in the future so that  hikers and bikers can follow it along the Whitewater Canal and its feeder from Laurel, Indiana to Brookville.  The pictures of the new signage are courtesy of the Whitewater Canal Trails’ Facebook page.

CSI suggests taking a trip to this area to experience the solitude along this trail.  See the old stone lock ruins, listen to the rippling water of the nearby Whitewater River, and hear the chirping birds and buzzing insects.  See if you can find the work of a busy beaver where he has gnawed down trees.

News From The Past

These short articles were found while looking for topics for CSI’s daily “Day in Indiana History” E-mails to members last year.  Many of them are reprints from other newspapers, which was a common practice in those days.

Wabash Courier, Wabash, Indiana

January 3, 1833

On the 13th of December, Mr. Boon introduced a resolution “to instruct the Committee of Roads and Canals, to inquire into the expediency of making an appropriation, for the purpose of removing certain obstructions in the navigation of the Wabash river.”

Rising Sun Times, Rising Sun, Indiana

January 3, 1835

WABASH RIVER — On the 15th ult., the resolution introduced into the Senate on the 4th by Mr. Tipton, instructing the committee on Roads and Canals to inquire into the expediency of making an appropriation to improve the navigation of the river Wabash, was taken up; when, after an eloquent speech from Mr. T. in support of the object contemplated by the resolution, it was agreed to.

Wabash Courier, Terre Haute, Indiana

December 25, 1852

THE CANAL. —The Canal will doubtless be in full operation from the Lake [Erie] to Evansville by the first of April. Such at least are the prospects now. In view of this fact, we have already called the attention of the public, to the matter of providing accommodations for the immense trade which will, on the completion of this canal, pour in upon us. As we heard a citizen remark yesterday, it is doubtful whether a man in Evansville has any definite idea of the effect of this canal on the business of our city. As a community, we do not appear to realize its importance. As business men we seem to place certainly too low an estimate on its trade, and the importance of having the necessary accommodations to properly manage it. All along the line of the canal above, business men appear to realize the probable effect of this improvement on Evansville, more than do our own citizens, and they express unmitigated surprise that we are not erecting warehouses to accommodate its business.

Indeed we shall be in the condition of Terre Haute, when the canal was opened to that point. For two years they had not the proper warehouse accommodations, of course to the great detriment of business, and the consequent injury of the business interests of the city. — Evansville Journal.

Evansville Daily Journal, Evansville, Indiana

May 9, 1855

The Canal. — The canal continues in first rate order, with considerable business doing.

The “76” arrived yesterday from Lafayette with 2172-bushels corn consigned to John S. Mitchell, and to go to Louisville. This excellent boat, under charge of Capt. Hamilton, will leave to-morrow for Lafayette. As will be seen by advertisement, she is taking freight at Wabash river rates. We hope she will have as much as she can carry.

The Brilliant started for Washington yesterday with a load of molasses, &c., for Washington.

Evansville Daily Journal, Evansville, Indiana

May 9, 1855

WABASH & ERIE CANAL TRANSPORTATION TO NEW YORK BOSTON, PHILADELPHIA and BALTIMORE.—The undersigned Agent will receive for its delivery THROUGH of all kinds of Produce and Merchandise from this city, by the “Troy and Western Line” of of Canal Boats, on favorable trms.   JOHN S. MITCHELL, Agent

Evansville Daily Journal, Evansville, Indiana

May 9, 1855


Office and Warehouse on Water street, between Main and Locust; also corner of Walnut st. and the Canal, and at the Big Wharf Boat at foot of Main street.

WILL advance case on al kinds of Produce consigned to them, for sale here or to ship to other correspondents at New Orleans and the Eastern Cities. Orders for purchasing Produce or Merchandise, filled at the shortest notice and lowest market prices. They will give prompt attention to the Forwarding of all Merchandise and Produce entrusted in their care and with their experience and ample facilities for storage, do not hesitate to guarantee satisfaction.


Evansville Daily Journal, Evansville, Indiana

May 9, 1855

  1. G. O’RILEY & CO., Storage, Forwarding and Commission MERCHANTS, EVANSVILLE, IND.

Having fitted up a mammoth Wharf Boat, the largest on the Ohio River, in the most substantial manner, we are prepared to facilitate any business entrusted our care, either by RIVER, RAILROAD OR CANAL., without exposing in the inclemency of the weather, any property; and particular attention will be paid to Receiving, Storing and Forwarding, and also to the sale of any Produce consigned to us, and all orders promptly filled.

P.G. O’Riley returns his sincere thanks to his numerous friends for their former patronage, and respectfully solicits a continuance of the same, which will be fully reciprocated.

A Store Room, well supplied, will be kept for the accommodation of Boats, and their orders carefully filled.  P. G. O’Riley & Co.

Marshall County Republican, Plymouth, Indiana

December 25, 1856

Canal Trustee.  The Ft. Wayne Sentinel suggests the name of General Edsall, of Allen county, as a suitable person for this post.—He is, or course, a Democrat—modern one we mean—not one of the old Jeffersonian stamp.

By the way, what is the reason we bear so little said now-a-days about Jeffersonian Democracy? A few years back locofoco editors could not write an article of a finger’s length without having something to say about “Jeffersonian Democracy,” or “Federal Whigs.” These constituted the burden of their songs, by day and by night. Alas, how changed!  Has the party progressed so fast that it has forgotten its old catch-words?” Jefferson is never thought of and the old Whig party has suddenly become a glorious old National party.—What will be the next phase of the “unchangeable Democracy?”  Unchangeable, indeed!  There is no need of this changing. It always had four faces, and its principles were ebraced in these words; “loaves and fishes,.”  It is, truly, the same party it always was.—The name that John C. Colhouse described it: “a party bound together by the adhesive power of public plunder.”

Evansville Daily Journal, Evansville, Indiana

January 2, 1860

Skating has recommenced on the Canal. The boys are hard at it, “cutting circles,’ forward and backward, “shinnying,” “sculling,” sliding, and racing on the ice. If you want to see real enjoyment, just go to one of the canal bridges and notice Young America on skates.

Indianapolis Journal, Indianapolis, Indiana

December 29, 1873



Recently there was published in the JOURNAL an account of the troubles existing between the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company and their mining operatives at Carbondale, growing out of the attempt on the part of the company to compel the men to take out leases for the lands occupied by them—lands upon which they had squatted more than a quarter of a century ago, under the assurance that they should occupy the same at will without price. The Scranton Free Press says:

“The difficulty between the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company and its employees reached its climax on Monday morning last, when the officials of the company appeared at the mines and prevented the miners and laborers from going to work. The men and boys congregated outside the works, and Andrew Nichol, the company’s manager, read out the names of the men, informing each severally that he could not have work until such a time as he signed a lease to the company of his lot, adding that the opportunity would be afforded them to do so at ten o’clock in the company’s office. The men at once returned to their homes, and at ten o’clock, out of mere curiosity, a large number of them congregated around the office, but not as much as one signed the lease.

“Public opinion was at a white heat, having grown in intensity and bitterness to an extent absolutely alarming within a short week. One of the most severely denounced propositions was an intrigue of the company’s officials to obtain possession in prospective of the disputed land by an overture as reprehensible as it is insignificant. The young men who work in the mines and whose parents are squatters on the coal lands, were informed that they could go to work, provided they signed contracts renouncing all claims on their part to the land at present owned by their parents. By this means the company would come into easy possession of the disputed property at the death of the original squatters, many of whom are far advanced in years. To their credit, however, be it said, the young men did not sign any such contracts, but denounced its provisions in forcible and unmistakable language.

“During the past week the company’s civil engineers have been taking a survey of the squatters’ property and laying it out in lots. Everywhere they have been met with feelings of marked dislike, and groaned and hooted at. They survey marks were taken out and one indignant squatter armed himself and made an onslaught on the surveyors, driving them precipitately off of his property. Their appearance was looked upon as the capping of the unjust and aggressive climax of the unprincipled monopolists. Among those who have been made the subject of persecution was Tom Cogan, a mining boss, who received a notice on Monday signed by Bill Bowers, setting forth that unless he signed a lease he could have no employment. Several young men who are the only support of their aged mothers, have received notices to the same effect. This sudden throwing of an entire community out of employment, at such a season as the present, is a great misfortune.

“There are in Carbondale some very handsome houses that were recently erected by working men, and many of them at a cost of fifteen hundred dollars, on squatter property that has been wonderfully improved within the past few years, and the idea of losing these pleasant homes that they have by sheer industry secured for themselves, is one of the bitterest that can be conceived, to the owners. To be sure, a great majority of the squatters’ homes are nothing more than mere huts, still they are none the less dear to those who have spent the sunniest hours of their lives in them for the past thirty, thirty-five, aye, and some forty years.

“The rupture is a most unfortunate one, for all concerned, and, if, as represented, the men have by long possession graduated into an actual ownership of the soil, it is nothing less than a crime for the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company to endeavor to dispossess them by having recourse to such petty intrigue as that we have already indicated. The law recognizes the right of possession just as much as it does that of purchase or transfer; and the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, in trying to subvert a fixed principle of law, are positively the law-breakers, and if its breaking recoils on over-zealous officials, the blame must not be set entirely to the name of the workmen who break the law under most aggravating circumstances.”

Indianapolis Journal, Indianapolis, Indiana

December 10, 1894

FRANCE’S GREAT ENGINEER. [Lessepe’s failed Panama Canal, Suez success]

The late Ferdinand De Lessepe’s proudest title was that of papa. A family of twelve children gave him that.—Boston Herald.

From every point of view De Lessepe was a great man and his work will be an everlasting monument to his memory. —Chicago Dispatch.

While he illustrated his humanity by his errors of judgment, now that he has gone history will not hesitate to rank his with her greatest names.—New York Advertiser.

De Lessepe was a great man, and remoter history will do him the tardy justice of so pronouncing him, while his errors will be set down as those of his age.—Boston Traveler.

Had De Lessepe been a stronger man than he was; had his head been clearer, and his judgment sounder, and his vanity less, he would never have gone into the mad business of the Panama canal.—Philadelphia North American.

The world will always honor De Lessepe as one of its great men, and Americans willingly add their tribute of commendation to the memory of him who sought to do for American a service which Americans should do for themselves.—New York Press.

The world will continue charitable to the memory, and posterity will know of him only as the grand engineer who changed the trend of commerce and brought the nations nearer one another. Frenchmen will not abate in their pride that he was a son of France.—-Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Even the failure of the Panama scheme and all the corruption it brought to light cannot deprive De Lessepe of the glory won by piercing the Isthmus of  Suez. If France no longer calls him the great Frenchman he will always be remembered as one of the greatest men that France ever produced.—New York Herald.

When all the facts brought to light in the course of the investigations of the monstrous Panama scandal are plainly weighed, though a measure of censure must still be sorrowfully passed upon that great and unhappy man, a just and generous mind will pronounce that Ferdinand De Lessepe was more sinned against than sinning.—Boston Advertiser.

Lessepe’s advanced age was the real cause of failure at Panama. Had he been able to exercise personal supervision of the work the money spent would have so nearly constructed it that completion would have been easy, and there would have been to-day another colossal monument to his memory. The fame which Suez brought will be great and enduring after the failure at Panama has receded from view.—Baltimore American.

Daily Tribune, Terre Haute, Indiana

December 3, 1902


All That Now Remains to Agreement on is Price Which the Government of Colombia is to Receive.

WASHINGTON,  Dec. 3.—Dr. Herran, acting minister from Colombia, called up Secretary [John] Hay at the state department at the extremely early hour of 9 o’clock this morning and was in conference with him for about half an hour. It is generally understood here now that all controversy is at an end regarding United States control of the right of way on the Isthmus and that only the price to be paid Colombia remains for decision.

Reservoir Marker Dedication

Text and photos by Sue Simerman

On April 24, 2021 a canal marker was dedicated at Six Mile Reservoir in Antwerp, Ohio.  It was sponsored by Cooper Farms, Inc,, John Paulding Historical Society, Antwerp Community Development Commission and The Ohio History Connection. Six Canal Society of Indiana members attended:  Steve & Sue Simerman, Neil Sowards, Carl Bauer, and Tom and Diane Fledderjohann.

When we attended the marker dedication for The Reservoir War, my husband, Steve,  and I parked on High Rd. 176 of gravel and wondered if the woods would have morels. However, we were stopped by No trespassing signs .

Every thing was set up nicely for the program with a tent and spaced chairs.  Many people did not sit and were behind us.  I would say there were at least 70 in the audience.

Members of the local boy scout troop were there. They  presented the flags to open the program.

Judge Michael Wehrkamp spoke first.  He said he became interested in placing a marker and considered  himself as a “History Nerd.” Although he had thought that a marker would be a good idea back in 2015, his wife had a baby and the marker went on the back burner. In 2018, interest was aroused in promoting Antwerp, its quality of life, and getting companies to hire its citizens.  The Judge thought the time was right to get a marker. He contacted Jane Nice and they started to work on its wording. They had wanted it to be dedicated on an anniversary date in 2020 and felt fortunate it was selected as one of the markers to be made. They got sponsors and permission to place it on the farm of Jim Cooper of Cooper Farms, who was listed as one of the sponsors.

Kim Sutton, representing John Paulding Historical Society, spoke of the beginning time for settlers, the mosquitoes, draining of the Black Swamp and the creation of the canals.

It was mentioned that the museum has a slip scoop that was found in the canal. Jane Nice told

the audience that Paulding County actually had two canals, The Wabash & Erie and the Miami & Erie. Junction, Ohio, where the two canals joined was predicted to become equal in size to Fort Wayne, Indiana. She explained that after the canal had been abandoned it was only used to boat timber or lumber to or from Defiance, Ohio and explained the blowing up of the reservoir. Some work has been done on creating a play about this event.

There were descendants of the dynamiters in the crowd.   A man who lives near Detroit was the spokesperson.  He said he had only recently found out that his mother’s ancestors were involved. His ancestor was H.H. Conrad, who had been in the Revolutionary War and was from New York.  He came to Antwerp to open a spoke factory.  He explained the condition of the reservoir with its stagnant water, fear of Ague/ Malaria, and mentioned that there was boating and fishing on it.  The legislature did not press charges in the end.

The two-sided historical marker was unveiled and read:

Here in 1887, frustrated locals destroyed the Six Mile Reservoir when legal efforts to close it failed. Years after any boat ran on the Wabash and Erie Canal, its water source, the 2,000 acre reservoir, became a stagnant, uncultivable breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitos. Legislative attempts to abandon the canal and reservoir failed because manufacturers in Defiance used the waterway to float logs downstream. On the night of April 25, 1887, 2000 men calling themselves “The Dynamiters” carried a banner that read, “No Compromise! The Reservoir Must Go!” and converged here, overpowered citizen guards, gouged the banks of the reservoir, dynamited the bulkhead and lock and burned down the lockkeeper’s house. The next day, Governor Joseph B. Foraker denounced the acts of the “mob of lawless and rioting men.”

Governor Foraker dispatched General Henry Axline and several companies of militia from Toledo to the site, where they set up Camp Dynamite to protect their property and preserve peace. By then, the Dynamiters had dispersed and citizens flocked to see the Gatling gun and mingle with the soldiery. The troops were recalled after a week. The conflict’s only casualty was Private Fred Reeves, who died of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot would. Governor Foraker visited the site a month later and was convinced of the citizens’ grievances. A bill of abandonment of the reservoir and canal passed in Ohio Legislature and became law on April 12, 1888. On July 4, 1888 citizens of the county, joined by troops who served at Camp Dynamite, celebrated in nearby Antwerp. The Dynamiters were never punished.

After the informative dedication program, a reception was held at the Antwerp Schools Auditorium where some maps were displayed.  Bandannas were flattened out in the center of the tables.  The stage had some props on it for the play such as a wheel chair turned into a cannon and a wooden box with H.H. Conrad on it. Refreshments of small premade sandwiches, bagged chips, bottled water and cleverly designed cookies portraying dynamite, picks, shovels, mosquitoes, logs, frogs, etc. were eaten.

As always when canallers get together, you learn something. Before the program Tom and Diane Fledderjohann and Neil Sowards looked at the brick kiln to the east of the dedication site.

Suez Canal Transportation Interrupted

On June 28, 1859 the Evansville Daily Journal of Evansville, Indiana reported the groundbreaking for the Suez Canal as follows:

June 28, 1859  SUEZ CANAL.—The work of constructing this great undertaking was formally commenced on the 25th of April last, and the first sod turned by M. Ferdinand de Lesseps, in the presence of the contractor of the works, a large staff of engineers, and native workmen, assembled at the point determined on for the outlet of the canal on the Mediterranean, the construction of jetties, and harbor of Port Said.

When ground was broken on April 25, 1859 little did they know that over 160 years later on March 23, 2021 a massive cargo ship would block the canal tying up traffic and creating havoc in the global shipping system, which was already strained by the COVID pandemic.  The “Ever-Given,” flying a Panama flag, ran aground possibly due to high winds and blocked passage in a one lane section of the canal with its bow touching the eastern wall of the canal and its stern lodged against the western wall. Luckily none of its crew was injured and their was no pollution.

The canal, which carries about 10% of world trade, is crucial to oil transportation. Traffic through the canal is valued at over $9 billion a day. Concern soon grew about how long it would take to move the ship and reopen the canal. Three days later there was a backlog of over 200 vessels with others changing course as dredgers and tugboats worked to free the ship.

The sky-scraper high ship, “Ever Given,” was carrying containers between Asia and Europe when it got stuck 3.7 miles north of the southern entrance near the city of Suez. They tried to avoid having to remove the cargo from the ship. They hoped to free it by using tugboats, dredgers, and even a backhoe and have the high tides that would occur on March 28 float it away. This did not work.

Finally on Monday March 29 a “flotilla” of tugboats got the bow of the ship dislodged and guided it down the canal as they blared their horns signifying their success. The “Ever Given” went down the canal for inspection at the Great Bitter Lake about halfway between the north and south ends of the canal. There the ship’s structural integrity and mechanical equipment would be checked out. It was believed that most of the damage was in the ship’s keel.

Navigation of the canal resumed at 6 p.m. that night.  Over 420 vessels had waited for the canal to reopen of which 113 were expected to cross the canal by Tuesday March 30. Other ships had taken a 3,100 mile detour around the Cape of Good Hope at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel, etc. It was estimated that it would take another 10 days to clear up the backlog of boats on either end.

The head of the Suez Canal Authority told journalists that more than high winds were involved it the ship’s running aground and will be investigated. This will probably lead to years of litigation.

Thanks to John Geyer of Hamilton, Ohio for sending the newspaper articles.