|Canal Boat - Ben Franklin - Whitewater Canal Indiana State Historic Site|
|Exploring Indiana's Historic Sites, Markers & Museums South East Edition|
Southeast Indiana Historical Marker - Whitewater Canal
Title of Marker:
Location: US 52, north side of highway at Gordon's Lock #24, east Metamora. (Franklin County, Indiana)
Indiana Historical Bureau
Important waterway of pioneer commerce. Built 1836-47 from Lawrenceburg to Hagerstown, with branch to Cincinnati. Used until 1860. Fifteen-mile section restored by state.
Constructed as part of the Indiana Mammoth Internal Improvement Act of 1836 signed by Governor Noah Noble on January 27, 1836, the Whitewater Canal was to form an integral part of southeastern and eastern Indiana's transportation system. The ambitious act, in concert with the Panic of 1837, bankrupted the state and brought a major political party to its knees.
Indiana Mammoth Internal Improvement Act of 1836
The Internal Improvement Act was a too ambitious program of internal improvements that provided for the construction of canals and turnpikes. The ambitiousness of the program bankrupted the State of Indiana and caused the eventual demise and collapse of the Whig party, which favored the bill. The state assembly passed this bill that added ten million dollars to the state's budget at a time when its income was only about $65,000 annually.
Panic of 1837
This complex event created an economic depression that lasted from about 1837 until 1842. The multiple causes were questionable lending practices in the Western United States, restrictive lending policies enacted by Great Britain and falling agricultural prices. The period before 1837 had been a period of intense economic growth. During this time the prices of cotton and other commodities rose. Land prices also increased. The Bank of England noticed a decline in cash on hand in 1836. They raised interest rates in an attempt to attract more cash. When the Bank of England raised its interest, it forced banks in the United States and other nations to raise their rates. This, along with other events, caused land and cotton prices to fall. The chain of events this set off triggered a depression that caused profits, prices, and wages to fall and increased the unemployment rates. It was not until 1843 that the economies of the major countries rebounded.
Decline of the Whigs
The Whig party had pushed for the law and bore the brunt of the blame. During the following years, the Whig Party collapsed, leaving the Democratic Party in control for many years.
The Whitewater Canal's construction lasted from 1836 to 1847. During this time, there were many starts, pauses as the State of Indiana ran out of money, and the various private companies charged with completing also ran into financial difficulties. After completion, it connected Hagerstown, Indiana with Cincinnati, Ohio seventy-six miles to the south. The canal provided a quick, convenient way for farmers to transport their goods to market in the cities. Before the canal a farmer would need several days travel over deeply rutted roads to take his goods to Cincinnati. The canal proved a difficult construction project. It dropped 491 feet over the distance and needed fifty-six locks and seven dams. Several aqueducts to carry the canal over waterways also needed construction. Portions of the canal operated until 1862. The Whitewater Valley Railroad runs a part of the canal as a tourist attraction between Connersville and Metamora Indiana. The train runs alongside the canal and at Metamora visitors can ride a canal boat. The town of Metamora has many small shops and museums. The State of Indiana maintains an operating gristmill in the town.
Ben Franklin Arrives
The first canal boat to arrive at Brookville from Lawrenceburg was the Ben Franklin, which arrived on June 8, 1839. General Elisha Long commanded the boat, owned by Long and Westerfeld.
For more information contact:
Whitewater Canal State Historic Site
19083 Clayborne St.
Metamora, In 47030, Usa
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