The Illinois and Michigan Canal, 1827–1911
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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September 3, 1838

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The board of canal commissioners employed a minimal number of persons to aid it in overseeing the canal's construction. Operations were broken down into three divisions: the Summit Division (on the eastern end), the Middle Division, and the Western Division. Within these main divisions further sectional divisions of varying lengths were made.

William Gooding, a former engineer on the Erie Canal, was employed as the project's chief engineer to exercise overall day-to-day supervision over the project. Each of the resident engineers oversaw one of the main divisions. Junior assistant engineers supervised smaller portions of the large divisions. Rodmen were surveyors. One of the three canal commissioners acted as that body's treasurer and in that work he was assisted by a full-time clerk. Joel Manning of Jackson County had been employed by the canal commissioners as their full-time secretary since the board first had met in Vandalia on January 15, 1836.

Desirous of bringing their headquarters to the center of canal operations and thereby providing economies to both the contractors and the state, the commissioners moved their offices to Lockport in 1838. There on canal lands were constructed office space and a secure storehouse which provided contractors supplies otherwise not available in the vicinity. The cost of supplies furnished contractors was deducted from the monthly payments made to them for work accomplished on their contracts.

Points to Consider

How many officers and agents were selected for employment by the board of canal commissioners?
Why were so few employees required to construct the contemplated canal?
Where is Lockport and why was it selected to be the canal commissioners' headquarters?
Describe Lockport as it was on September 3,1838.

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