I & M Canal Documents and Correspondence, 1832-1857
Illinois and Michigan Canal Documents and Correspondence, 1832-1855, is a collection of original documents, contracts, reports, maps, letters, and other material relating to the construction and operation of the Illinois and Michigan Canal (I&M Canal), with some relating to the people and activities of the communities along the I&M Canal. This collection represents a valuable resource for scholars and researchers looking for primary sources on the building of the I&M Canal and on the business and everyday life in Illinois during the decades before the Civil War.
The bulk of the documents in this collection relate to real estate transactions along the I&M Canal, which include lists of land lots (offers of sale and accounts of sale, for Chicago and Ottawa), schedules of forfeited lots, certificates of sales of lots in Chicago, and many letters of property transfers (most from 1836). There are a number of mortgage deeds, some of the relating to property transactions of early Lockport resident Robert Milne.
Other documents relate to construction of the I&M Canal, which took place from 1836 to 1848, including the contract for the construction of the canal, several contracts for the construction of locks along the I&M, certificates and receipts from the Board of Commissioners for work completed, and an advertisement for a sector valve gate for canal locks. Other documents include original maps of Chicago and Illinois and auctioneer reports.
Most of the correspondence are business letters, relating to the construction of the I&M Canal. There is much correspondence to and from William Gooding, during his service first as Chief Engineer of the I&M Canal, and later as Secretary of the Canal Board. Other correspondence involved I&M Canal Commissioners, and such officers and members of the board as General William F. Thornton, President of the Canal Commission, and Jacob Fry, Acting Commissioner. There are some letters from Lockport residents to relatives and friends that relate to their everyday life.
A most interesting letter to the Board of Commissioners is a petition from November 18, 1840, signed by some seventy mostly Chicago residents (including the city's first mayor, William B. Ogden), who invested in property along the I&M Canal in 1836. They were asking for restitution because they felt they paid inflated prices.
The majority of these documents and letters were gathered by I&M Canal historian John Lamb over a period of several decades. A few of the documents were donated by the family of Robert Hawley Milne, Lockport, IL and also appear in the digital collection with that same title. The documents were scanned, transcribed, and placed online in July of 2013.
Introduction written by Robert Pruter, Reference and Research Librarian