The Lock and Dam

Taken From the Henry Republican, Henry, Illinois
January 18, 1872

The lock and dam at this point for the Illinois river was fully completed on Thursday last, and the contractor was paid the balance due him at the state treasurer’s office at Springfield on Saturday, amounting to the sum of $161,829.67. The entire cost of construction has been $375,900.87; engineering and contingencies $24,099.13. Total $400,000, just the sum appropriated for the work. The original estimate of the cost of the work made by Chief Engineer J. C. Jenne, was a little over 399,000. Had the work been completed within the contract time, the 1st of September last, the entire cost would have been several hundred dollars less than Jenne’s estimate, the expense of engineering since Sept. 1, having been nearly $3000.

The location of the lock and dam was made when there was twelve feet above low water, making the measurements difficult in the extreme; yet the result has showed that Mr. Jenne possesses extraordinary ability as an engineer in the construction of works for the improvement of water navigation. This lock here is the largest and most complete of any on this continent. Twelve canal boats can be taken through at one lockage. The gates, four in number, are wonderfully ponderous in their dimensions, each gate being forty-three feet wide, and twenty-four feet high, and containing 25,000 feet of lumber, and ten tons of iron, and yet their construction and machinery are such that two men can handle them easily. There is some talk of inviting the general assembly to view the work.

With the work finished and accepted by the commissioners, one of whom remarked he never saw a piece of work done better. The engineers and contractor, with his assistants, all leave Henry for their several homes and new fields of labor. Chief Engineer Jenne returns to New York state; engineer G. A. Keefer to Thorold, Ontario; engineer J. S. Butler to Sterling. Mr. Willard Johnson, Wells, J. L. Johnson, etc. all go to New York, while most of their employees scatter to places where other improvements are in progress.  Most of those have kept house among us, and have made acquaintances we are lothe to part with. The character of the workmen, some 150 of whom were strangers, was good, there being hardly a broil or fight during the two years of its construction. But few accidents have happened, and but two deaths. The work is a monument of skill and faithfulness, alike creditable to the engineers, contractor and the canal commissioners, all of whom have discharged their trusts well, and served with fidelity the state of Illinois.

Alluding to the value of the lock and dam, the Chicago Tribune adds: It now remains to be seen what effect this work will have upon the revenues of the canal. It will now be open for business all the season from Peoria to Chicago, and while the river is navigable it will be open to business down to St. Louis. The revenues of the canal will be relieved of the expense of the pumping works at Chicago. Lake Michigan will continue to supply the canal proper with all the water it needs, with a liberal extra supply to the river. If the business of the canal shall be increased as a result of this extension, then it would be proper economy to continue the improvements as proposed, and erect another dam, paying the cost from the surplus earnings of the canal. it has be demonstrated that the canal can be managed as economically and as wisely by commissioners as if leased to private persons; and should the business of the canal be increased as is anticipated as a result of this dam and locks, the state may, and speedily too, find the whole work not only remunerative of the cost, but largely profitable. Before the meeting of the next legislature, the effect upon the business of the canal will be tested by actual experience, and, with the results before them, the legislature can act intelligently with regard to further expenditures.