Ohio History Journal

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Perhaps the most important event in the early history of

northwestern Ohio was the opening, in 1843, of the Wabash and

Erie Canal from Toledo to Lafayette, Indiana. During the brief

period between that date and the coming of the railroads, this

canal was responsible for opening up a large and important agri-

cultural area. Immigrants from the East poured into the Maumee

Valley; farms were cleared; and towns and cities sprang up. In

the decade following 1843, the amount of corn shipped from

Toledo rose from a comparatively insignificant amount to millions

of bushels. For a time, Toledo became the chief port in the

United States for the shipment of corn.1 The influence of the

Wabash and Erie Canal on the development of the Maumee region

is of great significance. An historical study of the development

of the Wabash and Erie Canal reveals a multitude of difficulties

such as local jealousies, disease and epidemic, labor troubles,

financial difficulties, and problems of sanitation. It is the pur-

pose of this paper to discuss some of these non-technical diffi-

culties which were encountered and overcome in the construction

of this canal.

For several years prior to 1827, Indiana had contemplated

building a waterway to connect the Maumee with the Wabash

River. On March 2, of that year, the state secured from Con-

gress a handsome grant of land to help in financing the pro-

jected improvement. This federal aid consisted of alternate sec-

tions for five miles on each side of a canal that would connect

navigable points on the two rivers. Indiana accepted the land

grant, but soon found that any navigable canal that was built

would have to be extended down the Maumee River through


1 Elbert J. Benton. The Wabash Trade Route in the Development of the Old

Northwest, John Hopkins University Studies (Baltimore, 1903), Ser. XXI, nos. 1-2,

p. 99.