The Illinois and Michigan Canal, 1827–1911
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
DOCUMENT 43LETTER FROM WILLIAM GOODING TO DAVID LEAVITT CONCERNING CANAL EXPENDITURES AND THE SEVERE WINTER
February 5, 1856
The canal had been closed to navigation on December 12, 1855. This annual event occurred when ice became so prevalent along the line that boats no longer could pass. It was not until April 8, 1856 that the ice had sufficiently melted so that traffic could resume. For nearly four months the canal virtually was useless to shippers. The Chicago and Rock Island Railroad on the other hand operated continually over this period (see document 42 explanation). Increasingly Illinois was becoming an industrialized state which could ill afford to shut down for a third of the year in order to hunker down for the winter (see document 39 explanation).
Over that harsh season contractors Stone and Boomer refurbished the Aux Sable and Little Vermillion River aqueduct feeders. Having fulfilled their contracts, they were paid $11,033 on March 31.
Points to Consider
What happened to the I and M in the wintertime?
Why was this a major limitation for canals, especially those in northern climates?
Which other contemporary means of transportation had no such limitation?
Why would the canal not pay much until the lakes were clear?