ILLINOIS STATE ARCHIVES
The Illinois and Michigan Canal, 1827–1911
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
LETTER FROM GEORGE C. DARROW TO EDWARD B. TALCOTT CONCERNING THE TOWING CONCESSION BETWEEN BRIDGEPORT AND CHICAGO
July 22, 1848
Whereas La Salle was the canal's western terminus (see document 17), Chicago was located at the eastern end. At both Chicago and La Salle goods being transported along the canal had to be transshipped. When eastern manufactured goods were shipped west they passed up the Hudson River by steam powered packet ships. On reaching Albany goods were offloaded onto canal boats for passage across the length of New York State along the Erie Canal. At Buffalo they were offloaded onto steam or sail driven packet ships which carried the goods across Lakes Erie, Huron, and Michigan to Chicago. There they were offloaded onto canal boats for passage along the I and M to La Salle where they again were offloaded onto steam packets which made their way down the Illinois River to Grafton. At Grafton the Illinois flowed into the Mississippi River and transshipment was not necessary until those goods reached St. Louis or further points south.
Lumber harvested along the shores of the Great Lakes and sent west obviously had less distances to travel. Each settlement along this somewhat laborious route was a market as well so that much was sold along the way, especially at Chicago, before ever reaching St. Louis. Goods passing east in the opposite direction along this same route mainly were agricultural. And as before not all reached the eastern seaboard. As difficult as this water route was, it was far superior to overland wagon transport.
The South Branch of the Chicago River covered four miles between Bridgeport, where the actual canal began, and the Chicago harbor. Most canal boats had no power in themselves and had to be towed from shore by mules or horses along the canal line (see document 20). Towboats provided power between the Chicago harbor and Bridgeport. The concession George C. Darrow was requesting had been awarded to the steamboat Indiana on July 7 at the rate of $27.50 a day. Darrow lived in the vicinity of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Points to Consider
What was George C. Darrow proposing?
Why was it necessary for towboats to ferry canal boats between Chicago and Bridgeport?
Darrow lived near Grand Rapids, Michigan. How was he going to reach Chicago?
If Darrow were not awarded the concession in question, did he intend to remain in Chicago anyway? Why?