Voices of the Hennepin Canal
Rich Egger's guest on Emphasis is Western Illinois University Geography Professor Emeritus Donald “Bill” Griffin. He is author of Voices of the Hennepin Canal: Promoters, Politicians, and the US Army Corps of Engineers.
Construction of the Hennepin lasted from 1892 to 1908. Griffin said concrete was used to build the navigation locks and dams, marking the first time this was done in the US.
“It's a methodology that's still used today but in more modern form. The same techniques applied to the Panama Canal. The same techniques apply today to the Mississippi River, the Illinois River, the Ohio River and so on,” Griffin said.
Griffin said the canal never lived up to its potential because Congress took too long to appropriate money for it. The first funding bill was introduced in the mid 1870s but the money was not set aside until 1890.
“Any bottleneck is in how the Congress does business. We tend to do these things on a piecemeal basis,” Griffin said. “By the time it was completed it was virtually obsolete in terms of size.”
Today the waterway is known as the Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park.
Griffin will lead a field tour of the Milan area and three Hennepin locks in late September as part of the 2012 Upper Mississippi River Conference.
Voices of the Hennepin Canal: Promoters, Politicians, and the US Army Corps of Engineers is part of the New Western Illinois Monograph Series. It's published by the University Libraries and the WIU College of Arts and Sciences.
Griffin said a percentage of profits from the book will be directed to WIU Foundation Scholarships.