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

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October 12, 1854

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David Leavitt was the canal's banker as well as one of the bondholders' trustees. William Gooding in 1854 was the trustees' secretary. And since Edward B. Talcott had resigned on April 30, Gooding was serving as acting general superintendent as well. Eli S. Prescott had served as the canal's land agent since July 23, 1845. Previously he had been appointed the register at Chicago's U.S. land office, a position he held over 1839-1841. By the terms of an act of the U.S. Congress, approved August 3, 1854, the state was entitled to an additional 32,896 acres of U.S. public lands, the sale of which was to help pay off I and M debt. Prescott was to select the additional acres which Congress provided from unsold U.S. lands remaining in Illinois and not subject to preemption. Canal land sales in 1854 raised $272,548.

The water level of the Illinois River below La Salle had been problematic since the canal's inception. Early in November 1854 the depth at some places was down to as little as twenty-eight inches. This condition effectively shut the canal off from river traffic. Freezing temperatures closed the I and M on December 4, 1854 for the remainder of the season.

Tolls in 1854 amounted to $198,326.92. Repairs and maintenance totaled $53,242.68. Of that latter figure $5,000 was advanced on an $11,713 project to repair the Kankakee feeder and $2,052 was put down for new bridges at Romeo, Lockport, and Joliet.

F.G. Saltonstall had been employed as the canal secretary's clerk since 1845. After he resigned on January 2, 1855 he was replaced by William A. Gooding. Saltonstall had earned $1,100 per annum. W.A. Gooding received $1,000 a year. It was not uncommon for canal employees to hire relatives to serve as their subordinates (see document 18).

Points to Consider

What were "public lands"?
Who had been buying up most of the "public lands" (see also document 32)?
How would low water levels on the Illinois River have affected the I and M?
Why should the I and M have been required to pay for bridges passing over it?

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