IOWA HISTORY PROJECT
Saturday Evening Post
E. H. Thomas
[Using Hennipen Canal
- Cargoes of Salt Coming from Michigan
At Saving in Transportation
----at lay Reclaiming Iowa’s Over- ----ow Lands -- An old Tragedy]
Millions of dollars
have been spent by individuals, companies and the government in the dry
regions of the west in bringing water on to the lands there to bring
them under cultivation, and it has proved a paying investment.
Now a movement is on to take the water off the dry lands and
convert this almost worthless land into productive farms, Thro the
building of levees and other work our neighboring states Missouri and
Arkansas have reclaimed thousands of acres of their bottom land which
have been swamps and bayous heretofore.
Not by this, but thro the drainage of these lands, a sickly
malarial region has been made as healthy as the other lands of Iowa,
there is a great need for this reclamation work, the conservation of our
natural resources, which divine providence has put here for our use.
There are no less than 75,000 acres of land in the Des Moines
river valley much are subject to overflow and on the Iowa, Cedar and
Skunk rivers, there are probably 175,000 additional acres of this excess
of land making a total of at least 250,000 additional acres.
The men who own the land have no certainly of securing a living.
Some of it introduces a crop between floods, but each and every
year the bottom land farmer is taking chances on losing his seed and his
labor. And I have no doubt
that after a series of floods, the major part of this land is entirely
abandoned for several years. Under
such conditions the land has little value, where it has been properly
protected by levees and the water kept off of it, it has proved to be
the most productive land in the country, and its value has been
increased from $12 to $100 and $150 an acre.
A great many of the states which are now engaged in the
reclamation work have a high rate of taxation and a heavy bonded
indebtedness, and they regard it as good policy to go ahead with this
work, and by so doing increase the productions and wealth of their
people. Iowa has made a move
in this direction, and yet it is amply able to do such work and pay for
it, without imposing a heavy burden upon the people.
It is sometimes said that a “public debt is a public
blessing.” this is not
always true, but if the State of Iowa thro a sale of its bonds, could
reclaim and put under its cultivation its 250,000 acres of lowlands it
would certainly prove a blessing and benefit to the people in after
years. The owners of the
land would probably be willing to assist in this work, by paying the
interest on the bonds. Our
representatives at Des Moines should at least make a start, devise some
plan thro which this important work can be done.
Get a law thro the legislature authorizing the issuance and sale
of bonds for this purpose. Very
many of the people in the Des Moines river valley favor such action by
our law makers.
The writer, who has been advocating the use of the two Illinois
canals as a connecting link between the lakes and the Mississippi river
is pleased to notice that Capt. Wallace has made the second
successful trip. This time
he brought a cargo of 1600 barrels of salt from Chicago to Davenport.
It appears that a Chicago firm who deal exclusively in salt, are
behind this movement and
that they will establish distributing storehouses in the different river
cities. It will prove a good
thing for the dealers in salt, and give them a decided advantage over
their competitors who ship by rail rate, between river and lake alone
will give them a good margin of profit.
If other Chicago merchants would adopt the same policy they could
build up a large trade in the river cities and the companies at this end
of the line would get the benefit of lower prices on the goods.
And if the grain buyers in the river cities would use the cheap,
all water route to Chicago they could afford to pay the farmers better
prices for their grain. It
takes too much of the farmers grain to get it to market.
A short time ago a farmer out in central Iowa had a large
quantity of oats and he concluded to ship to Chicago. On applying to the
railroad agent for rates he found that the freight charge of a car load
of the oats would amount to more than the value of the oats in the
Chicago market. This rate
was prohibitive and therefore he could not ship.
Such conditions should not exist, but I have no sympathy for
people who live along a navigable waterway for they can get out from
under the burden by using the boats for transporting their grain and
merchandise. However, they
are learning-showing an interest in water transportation, and as a
result the boats are returning to the rivers.
I notice that one day last week ten steamers were at the St.
Louis levee taking in and discharging cargoes.
This is the largest number seen here for many years, and the
newspapers called attention to the fact.
Contrary to the predictions of the knockers the new line between
St. Louis and Kansas City is having a good business, and this is the
third season. The boats on
the Ohio and Mississippi river are also doing well, and the number is
being increased. The cry of
no water and wait for river improvement, comes from those who are
interested in delaying or preventing the restoration of cheap water
transportation. If the
shippers will furnish the business the steamboat men can and will
navigate the rivers, just as they are.
They demonstrated this in the old days, and they are doing it
now. The one all important
thing is the business for the boats.
Along in the early ’70’s there was a mysterious disappearance from the city of Keokuk, in which I took an especial interest for the reason that I was personally acquainted with the missing one. E. B. Isett was born in Wapello, Iowa. His father was a prominent merchant in the town during the ’40’s and ’50’s. Young Isett was of a quiet disposition, had little to say but was an industrious student, and a bright, intelligent young man. His sister, Mary, married D. N. Sprague, whom the older residents of that section will remember a prominent lawyer and who held the office of District Attorney for a number of years. Mr. and Mrs. Sprague left Wapello in the ’70’s and located in Keokuk. Young Isett went with them and made his home with them. After going to Keokuk young Isett became a court reporter. He received a good salary, and as he had no bad habits, he saved some money depositing it in a Keokuk bank. One evening he came home ate his supper, went out into the city, and was never seen again by any of his relatives or acquaintances. His best clothing was found at his home, and his savings in the bank. The police department of the city took the matter up, and a thorough search was made, but no trace of him could be secured. During the winter of 1879 I was publishing a paper at Dallas City Ills. While there I received a letter from the young man’s aged mother, asking me to assist her in the search for her lost son.. The mysterious disappearance of this young man brought grief to the home of this good mother, which she carried to the grave. Night and day for years, this burden was upon her mind, and as she told me it would have been a relief to her to have known that he had died and received a Christian burial. From a photograph of the young man I had a cut made, and printed and mailed several thousand circulars, giving his description and the details of his disappearance, but learned nothing concerning him.
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