ILLINOIS STATE ARCHIVES
The Illinois and Michigan Canal, 1827–1911
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
LETTER FROM SYDNEY S. DURFEE TO EDWARD B. TALCOTT CONCERNING A SCOW SCRAPER
June 11, 1848
The canal had been built on the "shallow cut" plan. That is, on the Summit (eastern) Division it was filled by the Des Plaines River and other feeders and by water pumped up by steam engines from the Chicago River at Bridgeport. Lake Michigan did not directly feed the canal as envisioned by a deeper cut. As completed the I and M was sixty feet across at the surface, thirty-six feet wide at the bottom, and six feet deep. From the time of the canal's opening in April, its depth along the summit level had been problematic (see also document 41). The seventeen mile feeder from the Calumet River was not to be completed until the fall of 1849. And the soil along this portion was unusually porous. Consequently the pumps at Bridgeport were in constant use. That a dredging device was even being suggested just two months after the canal's opening demonstrated the seriousness of the problem.
Sydney S. Durfee served as Chicago's harbor master from 1848 through 1850. Thereafter he was engaged privately as a contractor doing excavation work below wharves along the banks of the Chicago River (harbor). Hiram H. Scoville and his three sons in 1848 operated a foundry and machine shop in Chicago at Canal and Adams Streets.
Points to Consider
What was S.S. Durfee proposing to have built?
What is a scow?
Why were oxen to pull this scow rather than mules or horses?
Why would such a device have been proposed on June 11, 1848?