The Wabash and Erie Canal through Huntington, Indiana

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The Boats

The first boat constructed in Fort Wayne was the Indiana, built in 1834 by F.P. Tinkham.
Fort Wayne on the Old Canal. Reprint. FW & AC Public Library 1952

The following is the result of a vote taken on the packet Indiana on her passage from the junction to Lafayette on Oct 17th, 1848: Taylor - 16, Cass -6, VanBuren - 3
Indiana Herald. Wed Oct 18, 1848. Pg 3 Col 3

July 4, 1837, canal boat Prairie Hen became the first boat to navigate the canal to Wabash.
The Marion Chronicle Tribune, March 1982 - Canal Fever cut through Indiana.

The first Canal boat to pass through Lagro was captained by Will Dale. The boat was named the Prairie Hen and made its appearance of July 4, 1837. Thus the first boat to run the entire length from Toledo to Lagro was the Red Bird under Captain Mahon.
Pioneer Days in the Wabash Valley. Flossie Enyart Bailet. 1933

The name of one boat, I well remember. -The Mazeppa: beneath the name was a painting of the unfortunate Mazeppa tied to the back of the wild horse as punishment for some deed he had penetrated, and made immortal by Lord Byron.
Huntington Herald, Sat. July 7, 1928 Letter to J. Bippus from M. Hawley

We took a trip to Toledo on the Caspian, Captain George D. David.
Fort Wayne Sentinel, May 15, 1852

 James Blee joined with Charley Stephel in shipping timber, logs, hoop poles, grain and similar cargo by canal boat. Their boat Plow Boy hauled whiskey exclusively and was known up and down the line.
Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook Thomas E. Castaldi. Old Fort News. 1992

My father, Patrick Cunningham, worked with the state boat crew, which looks after breaks and leaks all along the Canal, explained Tom, Its foreman was Tom Kelly, my father was on the water for about a year just before the close.
Huntington Herald. January 2, 1926. F.S. Bash article

The John Good was built at Roanoke by Captain Van Becker....her machinery was made at the Fort Wayne Machine Works by W.T. McKean Esq.
Dawson's Daily Times & Union. May 2, 1863

The canal boat Brooklyn, which was caught down about Col Milligan's last season, passed here last week, trying to make her way east to navigable water. It was a "tight fit", and she has abundant opportunity to become intimately acquainted with the bottom of the canal. We understand that there are still about a dozen boats west of this point, and it is doubtful if they will ever get out of the canal.
Indiana Herald Wed. May 26, 1875

An interesting notice appeared at the same time (1848) It offered service to Cincinnati under the following terms: Fast Sailing Niagara has large, well furnished cabins and state rooms. Offers greater inducements to the travelling public than any other line boat on the canal.
Fort Wayne on the Old Canal. Reprint. FW & AC Public Library. 1952

The Canal boat Niagara, Capt. H. Miller, left our dock last Monday afternoon, with a full load of wheat, flour, & c. for Toledo. She delivered her cargo, and was back here bright and early yesterday morning, making the trip to Toledo and back in little over three days and a half. This is, we believe, the quickest trip ever made, and speaks well for the sailing qualities of this favorite boat, and the go-a-headativeness (sic) of her enterprising Captain.
Fort Wayne Sentinel. May 1, 1847

The Amazon was built for Jim Mulligan, who finally sold it to Wilhelm. The Amazon won a $100 prize paid in Toledo for bringing-in the largest cargo ever received in that port from a canal boat. The 2,600 bushels of wheat from D.L. Shearer's warehouse which stood where the Huntington Theater is now located. We handled that great boat with 6 immense mules, the best ones I ever knew in my life!
F. S. Bash article, March 29, 1931 Source unknown. (VM Collection)

The second variety consisted of what was known as stone boats, intended to transport heavy freight such as logs, lumber, bricks and stone.
Roanoke History Dr. S. Koontz. Roanoke Review, 1921

James Willhelm bought the Amazon, and it was a big boat for canal days. Crandal had a job as driver for this boat. The Amazon carried the record load to Toledo, 2,600 bushels of wheat. The Seabird was a steamer and was finally taken to the Ohio River.
The Huntington Press, Sunday Oct. 16, 1921 - Interview with A.A. Crandal

This splendid boat made her appearance in town last week and attracted quite a crop of spectators. She is commanded by that old favorite of the traveling public, Captain Archibald Mahon. The boat is magnificently furnished and a more gentlemanly, kind and generous fellow that Captain Mahon never walked a plank.
Persons who may have occasion to travel the canal are requested to give the Noble a trial, they cannot fail to be highly pleased.
Huntington Herald Press, Aug. 7, 1925 Mahon & Packet had endorsement.

The Albert S. White of Lafayette is a new and superb canal packet. Built at this place for the Wabash and Erie Transportation Company. She was to leave port yesterday for Fort Wayne, there to receive her furniture etc., and we venture the opinion that when fitted-out she will "take the shine off" of anything in her line to be met with "in these diggins."

She is commodious, and her apartments so arranged as that there can be no danger of indiscriminate mingling up of male and female passengers and crew, as is sometimes necessarily the case in boats of bad construction.
Tippecanoe Journal & Lafayette Free Press. Sept. 15 1841

The first boat to pass the entire length of the canal was the Albert S. White, with Cyrus Beldon of Toledo as Captain. 226 miles.
Bye Gone Memories of Wabash County. 1976. Wabash Bi Centennial

The canal boat Harriet has a full supply of groceries such as coffees, teas, sugars, etc. Now lying at Wabash, where she will remain during the closing of the canal (Winter freeze)
Wabash Gazette. December 10, 1849.

The Superior is the name of the most inferior looking boat on the canal. It is drawn by two most dilapidated, jaded, ruined horses mortal men ever set eyes on. Given a fair opportunity they could gladly have drowned themselves.
Wabash Gazette. March 15, 1861

The boat Superior lying at the foot of Miami street has sunk. Her cargo consisted of ice and it is feared it will be a total loss.
Wabash Plain Dealer. July 21, 1870

When the Pennsylvania, Captain Sharra commanding, completed the first trip from Toledo in July, 1853, her arrival in Evansville was an anticlimax. Nobody in town had enough spirit to cheer, fire a gun, raise a glass, or start a parade.
Thus the Great Wabash & Erie canal was finished, or so it was thought, twenty one years and five months after Jordan Vigus had marshaled in Fort Wayne the procession that marched out to the feeder dam and loudly hurrahed when he broke ground in 1832.
The 468 miles of this canal made it the longest in the United States. On construction, the trustees had expended $2,375,236; the total cost in Indiana, from the state line to Evansville was $6,437,809.
Indiana Canals. Paul Fatout. Purdue University Press 1972

The showboat Dixie Boys Minstrel brought entertainment to residents along the Indiana portion of the canal. It seated 100 persons, and several performances were given each evening. The admission was only 25 cents.
Fort Wayne on the Old Canal. Reprint FW & AC Public Library. 1952

An icebreaker passed down the canal Sunday morning, and later in the day, two canal boats reached this port, the first sign that the "cold spell" begins.
Indiana Herald Nov. 27 1872. (VM Collection)

If any doubts have been entertained as to the practicability of navigating the Wabash and Erie Canal in this state with steam canal boats, they could have been easily removed by seeing the ease and speed with which Captain Sabin, of the canal boat Union with 1713 bushels of corn on board, towing the Waterman with 1911 bushels of wheat, and the Matilda with 1805 bushels of corn passed through the canal. These boats were loaded at Perrysville in this state 182 miles from the state line, and bound for Toledo.
Last winter, Captain Sabin placed in the Union one of the Welch, Ireland & Corb canal boat engines and propellers, and with this boat loaded as above started and towing the other boats, has made as good time as can be made with a single boat with the same load by a team of mules or horses. He loses some little time passing locks with his three boats, but makes it up by an increased speed on long levels. In the wider and deeper canal from here to Toledo, he can make better time and carry much larger loads.
He would have taken from here this morning 200 barrels of flour in addition if he could have obtained it. Captain Sabin has made several trips and has given assurance in saving time and making money, that steam on the canal is no longer a theory but a perfect success.
The Union was an old canal boat and of course not constructed with a proper regard to use for an engine and propeller, but with all the disadvantages she has convinced the doubting that the Indiana canal is large enough and deep enough for profitable steam navigation. Important changes and results in canal navigation must ensue from the use of these engines and propellers.
Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel. July 5, 1862

Canal boat for sale. The undersigned will sell cheap and upon favorable terms, the Smith Grant being at Wabash, as also the furniture, harnesses, etc. John. M. Wheeler.
Indiana Journal. 1851. (From Wabsah Museum, date unknown)

The canal propeller Buffalo arrived here from Huntington Indiana with a full load of wheat and flour. The Buffalo is a new boat, now on her first trip, and is represented as fulfilling, in every aspect, the anticipation of her builders and owner Captain Morgan. She left Huntington Thursday morning, and arrived here at 5.30 pm yesterday, making the run 129 miles in 72 hours, from which should be deducted 5 hours detention in Fort Wayne, and 1 hour at Providence. The captain made no effort to crowd the boat, and machinery being rough, and a large fleet coming in, which was not allowed to pass.
The engineer of the boat informs us that 1 cord of wood is amply sufficient for 24 hours run, demonstrating that so far as economy in running expenses is concerned, that has been secured, in its fullest extent, by the introduction of steam as a motive power on our canals.
Indiana Herald , Oct. 1, 1862 (VM Collection)

A steam canal boat passed through this place last Thursday. Its size is that of an ordinary canal boat, and its engine is in the stern, which propels a screw rigged near the rudder. We learn from the Toledo Commercial that she made the trip from Lafayette to Toledo, a distance of 220 miles in 5 days, which is a gain of 2 days over the usual means of propelling. The fuel for the trip from Lafayette cost $13.87, while the expenses of towing would be over $30.00. The boat is said to be perfect."
Huntington Herald May 29, 1862. p. 3 col. 1

Some of the later canal boats, which were equipped with steam power, had retractable smokestacks which were lowered for passage under the bridges.
Canals of Mid-America. Leslie C. Swanson, 1964. Moline IL.

The John Good was built at Roanoke by Captain Van Becker....her machinery was made at the Fort Wayne Machine Works by W.T. McKean Esq."
Dawson's Daily Times & Union. May 2, 1863 


This page last updated 12/02/07 09:35 AM