The attempt, and ultimate collapse of efforts, to build a canal around the Falls of the Ohio River at Jeffersonville, Indiana (across the river from Louisville, Kentucky), as recorded in an archive of documents related to efforts by the Indiana Canal Company (1807, three documents) and the Jeffersonville Ohio Canal Company (1819-1820, 87 documents).

Jeffersonville, IN, 1807-1820. 4to, 8vo, and 12mo, a collection of manuscript documents, including receipts, copies of contracts, arrest warrants, depositions, etc. The earlier documents (1807) are related to the first attempt to construct a canal around the Falls of the Ohio River, including a receipt for services as a director from Col. Marston G. Clark, an arrest warrant for the president and directors of the Indiana Canal Co. to answer Marston Clark's complaint, and a 2 pp. statement of his complaint for non-payment, docketed on verso and found by the jury in his favor. The remainder of the material revolves around the struggles of the third canal company, organized as the Jeffersonville Ohio Canal Company in 1818. There are 35 receipts (30 in ms., and 5 partially printed) for work performed on the dam at Cane Run by William Smith, the contract with him agreeing to the scope of the work (2 items), depositions regarding the progress of the work (4), statements of arguments between Smith and the Canal Company, and between one of the directors John Bigelow and the Canal Company (20), statements regarding the damage the canal caused to certain town lots (6), pages from logs of accounts for money collected for the lottery used to finance the project, and funds expended to build the dam (2), arrest warrants, summons, and subpoenas (15), etc. Some moderate soiling, but overall the documents are in very good, quite legible condition. Most of the items in the collections have been folded. (59300). (#7190). Item #59300

Westward expansion and growth of commerce in the Northwest Territory increased traffic down the rivers to New Orleans. One impediment to this increased trade was the treacherous Falls of the Ohio. Boats were forced to offload passengers and inventory and portage all around the falls, or wait months for high water to attempt the navigation. A fierce rivalry began between Indiana and Kentucky over who would control river traffic, first via boat pilots and later via development of a canal around the Falls. Several towns on either side of the falls sprang up to take advantage of the river trade, including Jeffersonville and Clarksville on the Indiana side, and Louisville and Portland on the Kentucky side. Early efforts to build a canal included investments and surveys by George Rogers Clark and his cousin Marston G. Clark, General Benjamin Hovey and his friend Aaron Burr, among others, in the first decade of the 19th century. They were among the original directors of a canal company chartered by the Indiana Territory in 1805. Rumors of land speculation, competition from a canal company in Kentucky, and the controversies around Aaron Burr caused the effort to collapse. Though both Albert Gallatin and President Thomas Jefferson were proponents of funding for national transportation projects, when they left office in 1809, no policies for financing such efforts were in place. Efforts to build a canal around the falls, therefore, remained primarily local. With statehood for Indiana in 1816 came a renewed push for the construction of the canal on the north side of the river. Local entrepreneurs became directors of the new Jeffersonville Ohio Canal Company, chartered in 1818. From B.H. Meyer's History of Transportation in the United States before 1860 [Peter Smith, 1948]: “Many projects were advanced for constructing a canal around the falls and every suggestion was enthusiastically received by the people of southern Ohio. In a number of instances the early companies organized for this purpose asked for stock subscriptions and these were quickly given. The first company of any importance was the Jeffersonville Canal Company, incorporated by the State of Indiana. Shares of stock were issued and committees were appointed in Cincinnati and other cities of the Ohio Valley to solicit subscriptions. There had been from the first much dispute as to the respective advantages of the Indiana and of the Kentucky side of the river for a canal; many investigations and several surveys had been made, but no unanimity characterized the reports on these routes. On the contrary, one side or the other was favored, according as the friends of the one side or the other had been more influential in making the appointments.” Paul Fatout's paper entitled "Canal Agitation at Ohio Falls," published in the Indiana Magazine of History in 1961, states: "A complication occurred at a July [1818] meeting in Jeffersonville, when it developed that speculators (whether within the company or outside is not clear) were buying land on the proposed canal route with a view of profiting at the expense of the company. This disclosure, added to lack of plan and estimate, led Cincinnati subscribers to withhold their subscriptions and to appoint a committee to engage an engineer ‘to examine the obstructions in the bed of the river at the falls, to ascertain the practicability of removing them, and the probable expense of doing it.’ In addition, a commission appointed by the states of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky to examine the feasibility of a canal favored the Kentucky side. The lottery to finance the Jeffersonville canal proved a disappointment and by 1820, the company was nearly bankrupt. Rumors of sabotage of the dam across Cane Run that the company had financed abounded. Ultimately efforts on the Indiana side of the river collapsed, and the Louisville and Portland Canal emerged triumphant. The papers collected here indicate a company disintegrating. Marston Clark, one of the original directors, sued it for non-payment. William Smith, the man hired to construct the dam across Cane Run in 1819, sued it for abrogating parts of his contract. The president and directors of the Jeffersonville Ohio Canal Company sued John Bigelow over the collection of lottery funds, and several townspeople, some of them members of the canal company, petitioned for redress for damage done to their town lots by the damming of Cane Run and digging for the canal.

Price: $5,500.00

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