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

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August 24, 1900

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By the early 1880s heavy rains at Chicago were reversing the flow of the Chicago River from south through the I and M to north out into Lake Michigan (see also document 46 explanation). Even though intake cribs had been placed far out into the lake, the city's water supply seriously was polluted on these occasions. Chicago's leaders responded boldly.

The General Assembly provided for drainage and sewerage districts in 1889 and the Chicago Sanitary District was created that same year. This body determined that a major canal serving sanitary and shipping needs was the most practical option available.

Construction on this mammoth project commenced on September 3, 1892. When completion neared in late 1899 more earth and rock had been excavated than later was to be dug out in the construction of the Panama Canal. The twenty-eight mile Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, connecting the Chicago and Des Plaines Rivers at Lockport, was opened in January 1900. This grand new innovation overnight made the eastern-most portion of the I and M from Joliet to Chicago obsolete and it soon was closed to traffic permanently.

When all I and M debt had been liquidated in April 1871, the trustees delivered their final report and the trust at that point was dissolved. Subsequently the governor appointed three commissioners to oversee canal operations. Commissioner appointments were ratified by the Illinois Senate.

Points to Consider

Why was M.J. Hogan making a claim for $189?
By 1900 how were canal boats being powered?
Locate Summit on a map. How did this town get its name?
Who were the "Drainage trustees" and how might they have been responsible for diverting water away from the I and M?

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