A History and Biographical Cyclopaedia of Butler County, Ohio
Pages 136 - 141


Next page | Butler County Ohio | Cyclopeadia index page | Previous page

The navigation of the Miami River did not please our forefathers. They could go down the stream, but not up, except with so much difficulty that it was practically never tried. Enlarging and digging out its bed was discussed for many years, as is related in a preceding chapter; but nothing ever came of the project. No canal of great size had been made in this country when the idea was first entertained of uniting Lake Erie and the Ohio River by digging a navigable channel from the one to the other. But it was not long after the second war with Great Britain that New York began its surveys from the Hudson River, along the channel of the Mohawk, to the Eastern extremity of Lake Erie, under the leadership of DeWitt CLINTON. The result of the labors of the surveyors of this route was before the people of the world when, on the 14th of December, 1819, Governor Ethan Allen BROWN, the chief magistrate of the State, incited by the example set him by a long list of worthies, from Christopher COLLES and Eliakim WATSON down to the latest advocates of internal communication, sent a message to the Legislature of Ohio, in which he called their attention to the necessity of improving our highways of travel, and the importance of constructing canals.

His words did not fall on unwilling ears. They were repeated year by year, and inquiries were made of those who had gained experience by the construction of these water-ways in New York, as well as of capitalists and money-lenders in the great commercial centers of the East. It was necessary not only to find out that canals were practicable, but that they would pay; and not only this, but that money enough could be borrowed by the state in its corporate capacity to arrange for their construction. All these questions were in the end answered satisfactorily.

Before making any recommendation on the subject, Mr. BROWN had had an extended correspondence on the subject with DeWitt CLINTON, then the head of the Board of Canal Commissioners of New York State. This was in 1816. In February, 1820, an act was passed by the Ohio Legislature appointing three commissioners to locate a route for a navigable canal between Lake Erie and the Ohio River, and providing for its location through the Congress lands, then lately purchased of the Indians. This act also proposed to ask of Congress a grant of one or two millions of acres of land. The enactment was not thoroughly carried into effect by reason of some failure to appoint commissioners or to have a suitable survey made.

In a communication sent by Governor BROWN to the House of Representatives in the preceding month he treated at some length the idea of a canal through the two Miami valleys. In the valley of the Mad River little more than excavation and a few locks would be required. Following down the route of the Great Miami no obstacle would be met with until the hills at Franklin were reached. Near Hamilton there was the choice of two routes - one by the valley of the Great Miami down the stream, or the other following the line of Mill-creek, the valleys of both coming together in Fairfield Township.

On the 3d of January, 1822, Micajah T. WILLIAMS, of Cincinnati, a representative from Hamilton County, and chairman of a committee to whom the report had been referred, made an elaborate report, discussing the question at length. He said:

"It is a well-established fact that man has not yet devised a mode of conveyance so safe, easy, and cheap as canal navigation; and although the advantage of cheap and expeditious transportation is not likely to be perceived when prices are high and trade most profitable, yet the truth is familiar to every person of observation that the enormous expense of land carriage has frequently consumed nearly, and sometimes quite, the whole price of provisions at the place of embarkation for a distant market. This is essentially the case in relation to all commodities of a cheap and bulky nature, most of which will not bear a land transportation many miles, and consequently are rendered of no value to the farmer, and are suffered to waste on his hands. The merchant who engages in exportation of the produce of the country, finding it a losing commerce, abandons it, or is ruined; and crops in the finest and most productive parts of the State are left to waste on the fields that produce them, or be distilled, to poison and brutalize society."

The valuable report of Mr. WILLIAMS concluded with the introduction of a bill authorizing an examination into the practicability of connecting Lake Erie with the Ohio River by a canal, which was read the first time, and finally passed January 31, 1822. The second section appointed Benjamin TAPPAN, Alfred KELLEY, Thomas WORTHINGTON, Ethan Allen BROWN, Jeremiah MORROW, Isaac MINOR, and Ebenezer BUCKINGHAM, Jr., commissioners, "whose duty it shall be to cause such examinations, surveys, and estimates to be made by the engineer as aforesaid as may be necessary to ascertain the practicability of connecting Lake Erie with the Ohio River, by a canal through the following routes, viz.: from Sandusky Bay to the Ohio River; from the Ohio River to the Maumee River; from the lake to the river aforesaid by the sources of the Cuyahoga and Black Rivers and the Muskingum River; and from the lake by the sources of the Grand and Mahoning Rivers to the Ohio River."

In a letter addressed to Micajah T. WILLIAMS, one of the Ohio canal commissioners, by DeWitt CLINTON, governor of New York, on the 8th of November, 1823, in response to inquiries from Mr. WILLIAMS, Governor CLINTON thus refers to the project of constructing a canal from the lake to the Ohio River:

"The State of Ohio, from the fertility of its soil, the benignity of its climate, and its geographical position, must always contain a dense population, and the products and consumptions of its inhabitants must forever form a lucrative and extensive inland trade, exciting the powers of productive industry, and communicating aliment and energy to external commerce. But when we consider that this canal will open a way to the great rivers that fall into the Mississippi; that it will be felt, not only in the immense valley of that river, but as far west as the Rocky Mountains and the borders of Mexico; and that it will communicate with our great inland seas and their tributary rivers, with the ocean in various routes, and with the most productive regions of America, - there can be no question respecting the blessings that it will produce, the riches it will create, and the energies it will call into activity."

James GEDDES, one of the most honored names in the State of New York, was employed as engineer, on the recommendation of the governor and canal commissioners of that State. He retired within the year, and was succeeded in September, 1824, by Mr. David S. BATES, also of New York, who remained here as principal engineer until march, 1829. The engineer in charge of the preliminary work upon the Miami Canal from the first, Samuel FORRER, was superintending engineer of the line from Cincinnati to Dayton. Mr. FORRER is still alive, as are also three of the other engineers, Jesse L. WILLIAMS, Francis CLEVELAND, and Richard HOWE.

In the second annual report of the commissioners they say:

"The unhealthiness of the season, and other causes which have operated to retard the prosecution of the surveys and examinations, have prevented the location of a line of canal on the Western or Miami route.

"The canal line south from the summit would probably cross Mad River near its mouth, thence pursuing the valley of the Great Miami to a point where it may be thrown into the valley of Mill Creek; thence along that valley to Cincinnati. The waters of Mad River may be thrown into this line near Dayton, and those of the Great Miami below, and, being conducted in sufficient quantities to the termination of the canal at Cincinnati, would afford power for extensive and valuable hydraulic works, which are there much needed.

"This line of canal would pass through a section of country inferior to none in America in the fertility of its soil or the quantity of surplus productions it is capable of sending to market. That part of the canal between Dayton and Cincinnati may be with great ease supplied with water, could probably be constructed for a moderate expense, and would become a source of immediate and extensive profit."

In their next report the commissioners say:

"From Dayton to Cincinnati this line, sixty-six miles seventy-one chains in length, assumes generally a very favorable aspect. To Middletown, a distance of about twenty-three miles, it is of the most favorable character, with the exception of two points. The first is situated about three miles below Dayton; the second at and immediately below the mouth of Clear Creek, below Franklin. The first of these difficulties is occasioned by the contact of the river (the Miami) and the highlands for the distance of forty-chains. To pass this will require a wall of stone-work at low-water line, or an embankment of earth and loose fragments of stone, protected from the outside from abrasion by the floods, by loose stones. This wall or embankment must be raised of sufficient height to protect the canal from the floods of the river, which rises from twelve to fifteen feet. It is believed that such a work can be built and sustained without difficulty. The bottom of the river is composed of detached masses of rock, and at this point the river is very shoal. The adjoining hills and bank are composed of loose masses of stones, gravel, and other materials necessary for the construction of the embankment or wall. The second of these difficulties is of a character very similar to that of the first, though of an aspect somewhat less formidable. The river does not bear so hard upon the hill as at the first point. A wall or embankment will be required to pass this difficulty very similar to that above described. This line, as far as Middletown, can be supplied with water without any cost on account of feeders. The crossing of Mad River above Dayton with the line of canal by means of a dam will afford any supply of water from that stream which may be required for the purposes of navigation, and an additional quantity may be drawn from it for the supply of hydraulic works along the line below, without injury to the valuable works already in operation at Dayton.

"From Middletown to the Ohio River at Cincinnati, a distance of about forty-four miles by the line of location, there are few serious obstructions. With the exception of half a mile of side-hill near IRWIN's mill on Mill Creek, which has a tendency to slip, and three or four miles in the same vicinity of side-lying ground, and a few points of inconsiderable difficulty on the Miami between Middletown and Hamilton, this line is of the most favorable character. It presents nothing but proper cutting, and passes into the valley of Mill Creek along the margin of some ponds and swamps, which in flood-time flow into that stream. The excavation to get into the valley of Mill Creek from that of the Miami does not exceed five feet depth at any point. There is not in the whole a half mile of the line which amounts to that depth. Down the valley of Mill Creek there are no obstructions until the line reaches the side-lying grounds near the Ohio. These, though presenting difficulties, are not of the most serious character.

"From a point on Mill Creek near WHITE's mill, about nine miles from the Ohio, two lines were run, --one on the principle of keeping up the level so as to command the upper plain on which Cincinnati stands, entering the Ohio at the mouth of Deer Creek, above the town; the other by locking down the valley of Mill Creek as it descends, and passing on the west of that plain to the lower plain of the town. The first of these lines, in consequence of keeping so high a level, will cost something more than the second or lower level. The difference, however, will not be great, as the lockage, which on the lower line is distributed along the valley of Mill Creek for a distance of seven miles, is on the plan of the upper line thrown into the valley of Deer Creek near the river, where suitable stone for their construction can be had from the bed of the Ohio, without the cost of hauling them from six to seven miles. But should the difference in the cost of these two lines be considerable, the superior value for hydroelectric purposes, which the surplus water which might be thrown to that point would have on the upper plain over its value on the lower plain, will probably more than compensate for the differences in the cost of the two lines. The upper plain is elevated one hundred and eight feet above high water in the Ohio. The surplus water that might be conveyed into a basin on the upper plain, with so great a power for its use, might be made a very considerable source of revenue to the canal without interfering with its usefulness for navigation, the primary object of its construction. This section, from Middletown to Cincinnati, may be supplied with water from the Miami with but very little expense. By a cut of twenty-four chains the mill-race of Abner ENOCH, near Middletown, may be turned into the canal. Building a dam, and enlarging this race, will be all that is necessary to command from the river any quantity of water which may be required for the supply of the canal to the Ohio. As much water may be introduced at this point as can be thrown forward through the canal without injury to the navigation, without sensibly affecting the mills on the river below. This surplus water may be very profitably used at several points in the valley of Mill Creek, by throwing it at the heads of locks, on to wheels, and taking it again into the canal on lower levels, losing nothing except the extra evaporation and absorption occasioned thereby. The surplus water which may be passed through the canal and used for hydraulic purposes, both in the valley of Mill Creek and at Cincinnati, would unquestionably be a source of considerable revenue to the canal and of general benefit to the surrounding country. It may be remarked, also, that at no points within the State would this hydraulic power be of so great a source of revenue as at these. The surrounding country sustains a dense population, and is almost entirely destitute of water-power. The same remarks will apply to some degree, to the line from Dayton to Middletown. Suitable stone for the construction of locks may be obtained near Dayton and in the bed of the Ohio River near Cincinnati. Through the intermediate parts of this line stone of the proper quality for that use has not been discovered convenient to the line. Stone of a good quality may, however, be transported from Dayton and points above that by water, and deposited near the sites of the locks between Dayton and Hamilton."

In their next report the commissioners enter into a calculation of the revenue to be obtained from the lower section of the Miami Canal. They say:

"The following statement will exhibit the probable revenue which may be derived from the proposed canals during the progress of the work and after their completion. So soon as that part of the line extending form the Miami above Middletown to the Ohio shall have been completed, which will be in three years from the commencement of the work, an extensive and valuable water-power at the southern termination of the canal in Cincinnati, where that power is much needed, and as valuable as at any other place, will be at the disposal of the State. This power may be estimated as follows: Any quantity of water which can be permitted to pass in the canal without injury to its banks or to its navigation may be taken into the canal at Middletown. From a close calculation, it is thought safe to introduce 8,000 cubic feet per minute. Admitting 4,400 cubic feet per minute of this quantity to be expended on the forty-four miles of canal between Middletown and Cincinnati, equal to 100 cubic feet per minute for each mile, and 600 cubic feet per minute to be used in locking boats from the Ohio River into the canal and from the canal into the river, which will be sufficient to pass eighty boats per day, there will remain a surplus of 3,000 cubic feet per minute applicable to hydraulic purposes at Cincinnati. The descent from the proposed basin, on the upper plain at Cincinnati, to high-water mark in the Ohio, is fifty feet, and to low-water mark one hundred and eight feet. This water may, therefore, be applied on three overshot water-wheels of fifteen feet diameter each, in succession, before it reaches the level of high-water mark. It has been ascertained by actual experiment that 300 cubic feet of water per minute, if applied to the best advantage on an overshot wheel of fifteen feet, will give power sufficient to keep in operation two pairs of four and a half feet mill-stones. Calculating from this datum, twenty pairs of mill-stones could be driven on the first descent of sixteen and a half feet of the surplus water from the basin, the same number on the second descent, and the like number on the third descent of sixteen and a half feet, in all power sufficient to keep in operation sixty pairs of mill-stones in the descent of the surplus water from the basin to the level of high-water mark. Two hundred and fifty dollars would certainly be a moderate rent for water-power sufficient to drive a pair of mill-stones, of the same power applicable to any other machinery, in such a place as Cincinnati especially when it is considered that the power would be constant, not subject to interruption from high or low water. At this rate the water-power from the basin to high-water mark in the Ohio would rent for fifteen thousand dollars per annum. And this rate is much lower than that for which power is rented in other places. The power obtained by descent from high-water to low-water mark would not be as valuable as that above estimated, as it would be subject to occasional interruptions from high water. These interruptions on the upper half of the descent from extreme high-water mark would seldom occur; and it will be safe to estimate the rent of water-power from high to low-water mark at five thousand dollars per annum; making the total amount of water-rents twenty thousand dollars per annum. Much water-power may also be obtained in the descent between Middletown and Cincinnati, which is one hundred and seven feet. The amount of tolls arising from transportation on the canal extending from Dayton to Cincinnati it is not so easy to estimate. The following, however, is the most correct view we are able to give of the subject.

It is ascertained, from information on which the utmost reliance can be placed, that thirty thousand barrels of flour have been exported from the county of Montgomery alone in one year. It will undoubtedly be safe to estimate that the same quantity will be exported when additional facilities are offered by the canal for exportation; and that at least an equal quantity will be exported from the counties of Clarke, Champaign, Miami, Darke, and other adjoining counties. The lowest price for which flour can now be transported from Dayton to Cincinnati is fifty cents per barrel. A toll of twelve and a half cents per barrel from Dayton to Cincinnati will not be unreasonable, and this on sixty thousand barrels will give a revenue of $7,500. On all other articles exported from Dayton to Cincinnati on the canal it will be undoubtedly safe to calculate on receiving a toll of $2,500 per annum, making on the descending navigation from Dayton an aggregate of $10,000. From the business which will naturally fall into the canal from the intermediate counties of Warren, Butler, and those adjoining them, together with the whole ascending navigation, it will be safe to calculate on receiving an equal amount of toll, making a total product from tolls of $20,000 per annum, which, added to the estimated rents for water-power, will produce the annual sum of $40,000."

The preliminary measures having been taken, the acting commissioner issued the following advertisement:


"Proposals in writing will be received by the undersigned at Hamilton, on the 15th of July next, for the construction of about fifteen miles of the Miami Canal, extending from a point on the Great Miami River two miles above Middletown, to a point near Hamilton.

"Persons who are disposed to contract for the construction of any part of this work are invited to examine the ground before the day of sale. Any information as to the character of the line, manner of constructing the work, or terms of contracting, may be had on application to Samuel FORRER, Esq., engineer on the line.

"A profile of the line, with the estimates of the value of the work , will be exhibited on the day of letting, for the information of all who may be disposed to take contracts.
"M.T. WILLIAMS, Acting Commissioner.
"Cincinnati, June 27, 1825"

In that year (1825) his excellency DeWitt CLINTON, governor of the State of New York, visited Ohio, on the invitation of the citizens of this State, in order to be present at the commencement of the internal improvements of the State by our canals. As soon as it was known that he would be present on that date, an invitation was extended to the most prominent gentlemen of the vicinity to meet him, on the 11th of July, in Hamilton. The invitation read as follows:

"Sir, - You are respectfully invited to attend, at Hamilton, on Tuesday, the 12th July instant, at an early hour, for the purpose of partaking of a dinner to be prepared for their excellencies DeWitt CLINTON and Jeremiah MORROW, governors of the States of New York and Ohio. Invite any of your friends who can make it convenient to attend with you.

"By order of the committee of arrangement.
"Lewis P. SAYRE, Chairman.
"Hamilton, July 11, 1825."

The dinner which was provided on the occasion, of which one hundred and fifty persons partook, was elegant and abundant. It was prepared by T. BLAIR, and served up under the shade of the locust-trees in the court-house yard. The day was fine, and the pleasure which was universally felt at welcoming the "father of internal improvement" was heightened by the presence of Jeremiah MORROW, governor of the State of Ohio; Ex-Governor Ethan Allen BROWN, the Honorable Benjamin TAPPAN, and Micajah T. WILLIAMS, Esq., canal commissioners; Judge David S. BATES; the chief engineer, Samuel FORRER, Esq., and a number of other distinguished citizens and strangers, who honored the occasion by their presence. John REILY presided at the table, assisted by John WOODS, as vice -president. Governor CLINTON was met at Middletown on the previous day by a deputation from Hamilton, with Captain DUNN at the head of his fine company of cavalry, together with a large concourse of citizens, who escorted him to Hamilton, where rooms had been prepared for his reception.

The enthusiasm which was excited by the presence of Governor CLINTON was, if possible, heightened by the toasts and sentiments which followed the removal of the cloth. Thirteen regular toasts had been prepared, as follows:


  1. "The President of the United States and heads of departments. - If talents, virtue, experience, and patriotism at the helm will afford security, the ship of state is in no danger of foundering."
  2. "The Heroes of the Revolution. - They are fast dropping into the grave, but the memory of their deeds survives them."
  3. "Internal Improvements. - Whether their accomplishment legitimately belong to the States or the nation, a prophetic spirit may look forward to the period when, in times of trouble and difficulty, the works of the present age may become the safeguard of our national independence and the bond of national union."
  4. "The State of New York. - She has given a noble specimen of what the genius and enterprise of one man may accomplish. Let Ohio profit by the example."
  5. "The States of Ohio and New York. -Connected by mutual interests, and not less united in policy than in their admiration of the illustrious father of internal improvement."
  6. "The Miami Canal. -When completed as far as its location has been authorized, may no sectional interests prevent its extension to Lake Erie!"
  7. "The Republics of South America. -Let no unholy interference of the allied sovereigns disturb their independence!"
  8. "Greece. -the land of ancient renown and modern glory."
  9. "The Bunker Hill Monument. -When it shall have moldered into dust, the names and the deeds that it commemorates will not be forgotten."
  10. "Lafayette. -His honors and rewards as far exceed those of princes as his merits surpass theirs."
  11. "The Friends of the Manumission and Colonization of the Blacks. -They are the friends of man, and their exertions will promote the best interests of their country."
  12. "The Press. -It needs no other check to preserve it from licentiousness than uncorrupted public opinion."
  13. "The Literary Institutions of Ohio. -May they continue to be encouraged by an enlightened and liberal policy until the Western wilderness shall become an academic shade!"

After the regular toasts, Mr. REILY, from the chair, addressed the assembly as follows:

"I rise, gentlemen, to propose a toast in obedience to the instructions of the committee of arrangements; and, in thus becoming the organ of my fellow-citizens, I have the satisfaction of performing a duty highly gratifying to myself.

"It is only an act of justice to testify respect to men of distinguished worth and talents, whose lives have been devoted to the service of their country. But this is an occasion of more than common interest. Our state has just commenced a stupendous work of internal improvement similar to that which New York has nearly completed, under the auspices of our distinguished guest - a work which is destined to elevate her to a proud rank among the States of the Union. Under such circumstances it is natural for her to look to new York for her model, and to DeWitt CLINTON as her presiding spirit. I shall, therefore, meet the cordial response of this assembly when I propose -

"DeWitt CLINTON, the friend and promoter of internal improvement."

To which Governor CLINTON replied:

"Fellow-citizens, - I receive with grateful sensibility this expression of approbation, and I fully appreciate its importance. Its communication through so respectable an organ in behalf of this respectable company renders it peculiarly interesting, and I offer to you my sincere thanks for your kindness to me on this occasion, and during my visit to this place.

"For fifteen years I have devoted myself to the great cause of internal improvement, and it has been my good fortune, during my administration, to witness the commencement of the canals of New York, and in a very short time I hope to witness their completion. To the moral power and intelligence of the people we must ascribe the success of these stupendous undertakings. Ohio in her infant state, with inferior revenues and a less numerous population, has followed the example set by her elder sister, and has undertaken an enterprise without a parallel in the history of mankind, considering all the circumstances under which it has been commenced; and the whole exhibits wisdom, patriotism,, and magnanimity that would reflect honor on any age or country. The success is as certain as the resulting advantages, unless some destroying spirit should be let loose among you and darken the brightest days that ever opened upon the West. I beg leave to present as a toast:

"The public-spirited State of Ohio and her excellent chief magistrates who have pointed out her way to greatness and glory, and supported her in her illustrious career."

By John WOODS Esq.:

"Governor MORROW. -His long-tried public services have tested the purity of his principles.

"Under his administration the State of Ohio has commenced the great work of forming by internal improvement the bonds of union between all the members of our government, and by whose wisdom and prudence were pointed out the only means by which we shall be enabled to march with firmness to the accomplishment of the magnificent work."

Governor MORROW rose, and said:

"Gentlemen, it would manifest insensibility on my part were I not to acknowledge the gratitude I feel for your kind expression of regard. That I have performed public services in which important interests were rendered, early in the settlement of our country, is certain. But it is equally true that these, which are overrated, have been more than compensated by the repeated expressions of your confidence.

"Permit me, then, to say that I express the feelings of my heart when I assure you that I entertain a sincere respect for the people of this town and its vicinity, and tender my best wishes for their welfare. I propose -

"The Citizens of Hamilton and Rossville. -Their interests assured and prosperity promoted by the Miami Canal."

Arrangements having been made at Cincinnati to entertain the distinguished gentlemen as guests in that city on the day succeeding, the company retired at an early hour, and Governor CLINTON, accompanied by the gentlemen who had attended him hither, together with an escort of military and citizens, proceeded, that evening, to Martin's tavern, where he was met by a military escort from Cincinnati.