This Day in Indiana - September 22, 1853 - First Boat to Travel Entire Length of Wabash-Erie Canal Reaches Evansville
|A Day in Indiana History - September|
The first ship to travel the entire length of the Wabash and Erie Canal, the Pennsylvania, arrived in Evansville on September 22, 1853. The longest canal in the United States and the second largest in the world now connected the Great Lakes with the Ohio River.
The Wabash and Erie
In the dawning years of the Nineteenth Century, the quest for fast, cheap transportation of freight over long distances seemed in reach with the construction and economic success of the Erie Canal. The Erie Canal connected New York City with the Great Lakes. It spurred New York's growth as a major commercial center. It also provided encouragement more canal construction across the United States. Landlocked states like Indiana seized on canals as the answer to open markets in inland cities that lacked navigable rivers. The Wabash and Erie was the first of these projects tackled by Indiana.
The Proposed Canal
The proposed canal was a grand project. It would span 468 miles across Indiana and Ohio, connecting it the Erie Canal via the Great Lakes with Evansville on the Ohio River. The Wabash and Erie actually consisted of four main canals, the Miami and Erie Canal, the Wabash and Erie Canal, the Cross Cut Canal and the Central Canal.
Miami and Erie Canal
The 274-mile Miami and Erie Canal connected Toledo, Ohio on Lake Erie with Cincinnati, Ohio on the Ohio River. Workers commenced construction in 1825 and finished in 1845. When complete, the canal had nineteen aqueducts, three guard locks, 103 canal locks and multiple feeder canals. The canal was profitable, but not as profitable as the state of Ohio hoped. Competition from railroads ended canal commercial operations by 1913.
Wabash and Erie
This canal began at Junction, Ohio and to Terre Haute. Junction received its name because the Wabash and Erie joined the Miami and Erie Canal in the town. The town flourished during the 1840's through the 1850's until the railroads began displacing the canals.
Cross Cut Canal
The Cross Cut Canal continued the Wabash and Erie route from Terre Haute to Worthington, Indiana.
The Central Canal completed the link from Worthington to Evansville. This was the last link completed in 1853.
Because many credit George Washington with the suggestion that a canal be built through the region, the builders chose the 100th anniversary of his birth as the date to begin construction of the huge enterprise. Thus, on February 22, 1832 construction crews broke ground for the Wabash and Erie Canal.
Excerpted from the author’s book:
A Day in Indiana History – March