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A large part of the money raised by the city accordingly commenced, and for some time proon its bonds was expended in completing the gressed with a reasonable prospect of an early Government canal. The citizens hoped that completion according to the original plan, and Congress could be prevailed upon to refund to at an expense somewhat within the estiniate. the city the money so expended, but all efforts Their operations were suddenly arrested by to get a bill through Congress for that purpose the failure of the banks which had on deposit were unavailing. Taxes were levied to pay the the unexpended portion of the fund which had interest on the bonds, the assessments being come into the hands of the commissioners, and made on the real estate in the city in propor- by the with holding of $2,000 of the loan by tion as it was supposed it would be benefited by the Farmers and Mechanics' Bank, of Albany, the building of the canal. Money was very New York. At this time the whole of the scarce, and a great deal of real estate in the city, timber dams had been completed, and someespecially that near the docks which had been thing more than 45,000 cubic yards of earth assessed very heavily, was leased to pay the had been excavated. The amount of money canal tax -- the bidder who would pay the expended by the commission for materials, imcanal tax for a lease of the property for the provements, provisions and labor, was $20,600. shortest term of years receiving a lease from The commission being without funds were the city for the term bid. Some of these leases compelled to abandon the further prosecution run for ninety-nine years, and considerable of the work, and they accepted the proposal of property is held under these canal tax leases at George W. Strong of October 2, 1839, to take the present time. The commissioners were the work by contract and complete the chanunable to raise sufficient funds to meet the in- nel to the depth of eleven feet from the top of terest on the bonds, and the common council the capping for $4,636.92, to be paid as follows: was compelled to issue new bonds for the semi- Upon the execution of the contract, $1,411.78, annual interest as it matured, and to petition in property belonging to the fund and demands the bond bolders for leniency, and finally the due the fund from sundry individuals for pork bondholders, believing that the citizens were sold; and upon the completion of the work a unable to meet their obligations and did not draft upon the Bank of River Raisin for possess sufficient resources to pay the bonds $670.69, and upon the Merchants and Mechanin full, offered a compromise. General Lewis ics' Bank of the city of Monroe for $2,535.45, Cass, who held a large amount of the bonds, in full. The drafts and demands were to be took the lead in the matter, and a compromise taken without any recourse whatever to the was effected at 627 cents on the dollar.
commissioners of the canal fund or the city of In April, 1840, the canal commissioners made Monroe. The work was to be completed by a report to the council showing that at the the 15th of May following: commencement of the work it was estimated Little was accomplished for the next two that the amount of excavation necessary to years for the want of funds to carry on the construct a channel of suitable dimensions to work. Petitions and memorials were sent to correspond with the canal constructed by the the House and Senate frequently from Monroe, United States, was computed at 55,000 cubic Adrian and surrounding towns, asking for an yards, exclusive of the dams at either end of appropriation. But the General Government the canal, necessary to preserve the work from refused or neglected to make any further approinundations during the progress of excava priation, and in 1842 the work was still untions. The expense of excavation in the body completed, and the harbor at La Plaisance in a of the work was estimated at thirty cents per very bad condition. The city, feeling the necesyard, and removing the dams by dredging sity of sufficient harbor improvements, decided $1,500, and that the commissioners believed to bond the city for $10,000 to complete the that the object of the commission would be work. But the credit of the city was so poor more fully secured by conducting the work in the East that it was evident that the loan under their own supervision by the appoint could not be made in the money market and ment of an acting commissioner, than by must be taken at home, and $1,000 of the bonds accepting any proposals that were offered to were issued in denominations as small as $5.00 take the work by contract. The work was and taken up by persons of small means. Finally several patriotic citizens, David A. stituted the commissioners of the canal fund for Noble, Thomas G. Cole, Harry Conant, Dan. the year. The following is a list of the names B. Miller, William V. Studdeford, James Armi- of persons who held the office of canal comtage and Levi S. Humphrey came forward and missioners : provided for the balance of the loan, $10,000,
1838—John Burch, Gershom Bulkley, Moses and gave their personal obligation for $9,000.
B. Savage, James Hervey Miller, Chester The commissioners made a contract in
Stewart. August, 1842, with Henry W. Campbell and
1839-Gershom Bulkley, John Burch, Moses George W. Strong for the completion of the
B. Savage, James Hervey Miller, George W. canal, Henry V. Disbrow acting as treasurer
Strong of the canal fund and superintendent and sur
1840 -Harry V. Man, Alpheus Felch, Charles veyor of the improvements. The canals were
M. Humphrey, Luther Harvey, Jacob W. completed in 1843; but from that time to the
Alexander. present frequent dredging at certain points in
1841-Charles M. Humphrey, Wolcott Lawthe channel has been necessary to keep it clear
rence, James Armitage, Enos Jackson, Walter and of sufficient depth for navigation.
W. Prentice. Many attempts since then have been made
1842–James J. Godfroy, Wolcott Lawrence, to increase the depth of water in the river and
Warner Wing, Carlos Colton, Henry Disbrow. canals. At one time the legislature made a
1843-James J. Godfroy, Henry Disbrow, land grant of 5,000 acres for that purpose, and
Carlos Colton, Warner Wing, James Armitage. in 1849 the plan of confining all the water in
1844- James Armitage, Jefferson S. Bond, the river to the canals and that part of the
Titus Babcock, James E. Skinner, Obadiah river channel connecting them, by damming the old river channels at the head of the canals,
1845 - James E. Skinner, Titus Babcock, and a wing dam at Barn Island to narrow the
Jefferson S. Bond, Obadiah Spalding, Norman channel and make the water cut its way
D. Curtis. through Barn Island Bar, was adopted. A con
1846—Hiram Stone, John Burch, Charles tract was made with J. M. Sterling and William
Noble, Charles G. Johnson, Harry Conant. A. Noble to construct four dams in accordance with this plan, for which they were to receive John Mulhollen acted as collector of the 2,500 acres of the land grant. The dams were canal fund, and for several years his whole time built of spiles and plank, but did not remain was occupied in collecting the canal tax and long enough to test the merits of the plan. selling lots and land returned as delinquent The ice raised them and they were carried out for non-payment of the tax. with the first spring freshet. Isaac P. Chris- With all the modern appliances, the excatiancy, for 320 acres of land, offered the hull of vating of a canal is a very simple matter; but the old steamer Constitution to be used for a dam. at that early day, with the primitive methods Judging from the records it would seem that then in vogue, it was a great undertaking. most of the schemes. were proposed for the The greater part of the excavating was accompurpose of obtaining the remainder of the land plished with the spade, shovel and wheelbargrant, and that numerous patriotic citizens row, operated by the sons of the Emerald Isle,
than in the improvement of the shipping express purpose from “ York State." Bulk. facilities and navigation. Finally Dan. B. beads or dams were built at each end of the Miller got the remainder of the land grant for canal, and earth partitions or bulkheads were building dams in the river at the points where left at different points as long as possible. The the railroad crossed the old channel.
sections so divided off were kept free from There were five commissioners of the canal water by horse-power pumps, as the work fund elected every fall, and the contests were progressed. After all the earth possible had at times quite spirited. As high as tirenty of been removed from between the two dams the leading citizens were in the field at one at the end of the canal, they were broken time as candidates. The five candidates re- through and the water let in, and the receiving the highest vote were elected and con- mainder was excavated by means of a horse
power dredge. The horse-power dredge com- in their work, was considered the best. It was plete consisted of two scows, one about 50 feet estimated that when the scraper was well filled long and 25 foot beam, with an opening similar every three linear feet of it contained a cubic to a center board box about 6 feet wide and 25 yard of earth. feet long, and a little aft of the middle of the In 1850 a committee consisting of H. V. scow. Through this opening a large scraper. Man, C. G. Johnson, A. A. Rabineau, I. R. shaped excavator with long arms was operated. Grosvenor and R. O'Connor, were appointed at The arms were secured at the after end of the a public meeting to investigate into the true opening with pins, and were of sufficient financial condition of the city, its indebtedlength so that the scraper could be let down ness, and if possible the causes of such indebtto the bottom of the canal to a depth of 12 oredness, in order that our citizens may be 14 feet in a position to scrape; the scraper was enabled in future to guard against a repetition connected with chains to a crank at the for- of like evils. ward part of the opening.
I give below an extract from the report of The other scow was improvised from an old the committee in regard to the canal loan, scow that had been used in the coasting trade canal expenditures, etc., in order that the to Toledo and Sandusky. A capstan was set present generation may see that if we do not up in it so that it extended from the bottom of manage our city government at the present the boat ap through the deck. The drum, or time infinitely better than our fathers did, we part around which the line wound, was on do fully as well, and that there are probably no deck. The four sweeps to operate it were in more jobs and politics in the city government the hole, and were arranged so that a horse as it is now conducted than there were when could be hitched to each sweep, and the horses our forefathers held down the aldermanic moving around in a circle turned the drum on chairs. deck. This scow was anchored securely in the
EXTRACT FROM REPORT. canal, and a line made fast to it passed over a It seems to have been contemplated when sheave on the dredge scow a short distance off, the charter of our city was obtained in the and back around the drum, so as to give a year 1837, to procure a loan or vote a tax for double purchase in towing the dredge scow. the completion of the ship canal previously
When everything was in readiness, the commenced by the General Government, as we scraper was let down to the bottom of the find in the act of incorporation provision made canal, the dredge scow made fast to the other for a loan or tax, not exceeding $50,000. A movescow by passing a line over the sheave and ment was made in 1838 under this authority. around the drum, the horses hitched to the The first step taken by the council, after a vote sweeps in the hole of the scow. The horses in its favor purporting to bave been made by then walked around with the sweeps and the people, was on the 20th day of August, wound up the line about the drum, steadily 1838, appointing an agent to proceed East to drawing the dredge scow forward and causing negotiate a loan of $25,000. This was effected the scraper to scrape along the bottom of the by said agent by an exchange of the bonds of canal and fill itself with dirt. When the crew the city for the stock of the North American on the dredge scow thought the scraper was · Trust and Banking Company of the city of full enough, they took hold of the crank and New York for a similar amount. The stock of with the chains attached to the scraper hoisted the Trust Company was then pledged to the it up into the opening, as a center board is Mechanics and Farmers' Bank, of Albany, and raised in a sailing vessel, and then with long a loan obtained of $25,000, said stock being poles poled the dredge scow off into the “old held as collateral security and the city said to river” channel, opened a dump or door in the be responsible for the depreciation that might scraper and let the dirt out, then poled her arise from a fall in the market value of the back avain to the canal in position ready to same. A further guaranty was required by the scrape vip another load. A horse-power dredge bank at Albany and claimed to have been of another patron was used for a while, but the given in behalf of the city by several gentleone above described, invented by H. W. Camp- men residing at Troy and Albany, they being bell and used by Messrs. Campbell and Strong owners of property near the present landing