Chapter XLII

Burlington Saturday Evening Post

Capt E. H. Thomas


[This did not have a chapter on it. I am assuming it is Chapter XLII- Georgeann McClure]


First cargo From Lakes to River


   As stated in a former chapter of my river story, the Hennepin canal, 75 miles in length, was completed but a few years ago.  Its completion finished an all water route from the Mississippi river to Chicago and Lake Michigan.  The two canals, the Hennepin and the Illinois and Michigan, have a stationary stage of seven feet of water.  The lock are 35 by 170 feet.  It was intended for a waterway between the river and the lake, on which barges could be used, in order to reduce freight rates, east or west.  The government and the State of Illinois have done a lot of work on these canals, since the Hennepin was completed, and yet the boatmen have not used it, for the very good and sufficient reason that there ha been no freight or business offered by the parties mostly interested I the cheap rates.  However, some one has at last discovered that his all water route between Chicago and the river, is the thing needed to regulate freight rates, and they have gone at it in the right way.  They interested Captain W. A.H. Wallace, of Henry Illinois in the cause, and he has demonstrated that there is something in it.  On the fifth day of the present month, Capt. Wallace, with a steamer and several barges, sailed from Chicago with a cargo of salt, billed to the merchants of Muscatine, Iowa.  This is probably the first through trip which has been made, that is, the first business trip from lake to river.  It was in the nature of an exploring expedition and on all daylight runs Captain Wallace found the canals in good condition, and reached Muscatine with his fleet June 10th five days out from Chicago.  With a double crew day and nigh run, this time  can be reduced to three days.  It proved a successful trip, and Captain Wallace will make another and continue in the trade if he can secure the business.  This is the one important thing.  If the merchants and shippers of Rock Island, Davenport, Muscatine, Burlington, Fort Madison, Keokuk, and the smaller owns along there will encourage this movement furnish the freight the canal boats can be kept in operation and the present freight charges largely reduced.  As  have heretofore stated, the heavy freight traffic in this section is east and west, and the charges are greater than in any other direction.  The grain movement is toward Chicago, and the heavy, slow freights come west from that city.  A small portion of this Chicago traffic would keep the canal boats employed and enable their owners to make some money at cheap water rates.  The operation of these boats would also have its effect on the charges made for all freight sent by rail and largely reduce them, it has been demonstrated that the boat is the only effective regulator of freight rates.  So, I say now that his movement has been started if the merchants and shippers will encourage it, it will prove a success and a great benefit to them as well as to the farmers and the people generally.  Gove Capt. Wallace the freight to and from Chicago and he will do the rest.  He owns a number of steamers, and a lot of barges, loaded to the canal depth of five feet, each carry 200 tons, and with his three or four fleets, he can do a large business between the points named.  If the people really want the cheap water transportation, this is their opportunity.  They must take the initiative, for Capt. Wallace, or on their steamboat man, will operate the boats without a guarantee of business.  They all had a taste of this in the old days.  Running a boat without a cargo is not a profitable business.   E. H. Thomas

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