Construction of Wabash and Erie Canal was deadly

Construction of Wabash and Erie Canal was deadly

Bob Quirk Oct 1, 2016
From the Journal Review newspaper and website.

The Wabash and Eric Canal was started in 1832 in Fort Wayne. It reached Fountain County in 1846 and when completed in 1853 was the longest artificial waterway in the country.

Transportation in the days before the canal was quite inadequate. The population of the state was growing and better transportation was badly needed to ship out the surplus farm produce and to bring in the much needed supplies for the pioneer families.

The canal being close to the Wabash river and running through swamps and low lands, malaria became a problem and later cholera made its appearance. The work was done by Irish immigrants who had been forced out of Ireland by the potato famine. These laborers died by the hundreds, and the death rate was so high that the digging of graves was almost as big a job as digging the canal. The situation was to grow so terrible that for every six feet of completed channel it had cost the life of one human being.

The laborers who died from the cholera in Fountain County were buried in a cemetery at Maysville, a thriving village of this period between Attica and Riverside, also on a plot of land in Shawnee Township on the Bodine farm, 2 1/2 miles north of the village of Fountain. Others were buried in the corner of Portland Arch Cemetery.

Even from the beginning it was necessary to distribute large doses of quinine, calomel and “Blue Mass” to the workers, with the whiskey-bearing jigger boss making the rounds three times a day, and six times on Sunday.

The Canal’s troubles did not end with the plagues, for when they were not burying their dead they were fighting each other, since the Irish workers on the project were about equally divided between men from North and South Ireland, Cork and Ulster. This meant a general skull cracking on religious grounds whenever two of them met.

It was a hard life for the laborers and living conditions were very bad. The dirt was moved by pick and shovel and wheelbarrows. It was the hardest kind of work, done under very difficult conditions.

There were many jobs to be done beside digging the canal. A supply of water had to be provided which usually required damming one of the tributary streams entering the Wabash River and raising its level so that water could be led from above the dam to the main canal by means of feeder canals. Aqueducts had to be built across some of the creeks. These were huge wooden troughs the width and depth of the canal and supported on posts or stone piers and with a plank tow path built on the side for horses. In some cases, streams were crossed by damming them at the opposite bank of the canal and raising the level of the creek to that of the canal thereby providing a water supply as well as a crossing.

Thus with the coming of the canal, local farmers had a market for the surplus farm goods and manufactured goods from the east were made available to them.

Soon there were passenger boats for people to travel on. I will tell about them in my next article.
Bob Quirk is a retired educator and historian. He contributes this column to the Journal Review.

2016 Elks Crawfordsville Car Show

The 14th Annual Crawfordsville Elks Lodge 483 Car Show, will be held Saturday August, 2016, in Crawfordsville, Indiana. There is a new venue this year, it will be at Creekside Lodge, beside Sugar Creek, just off of Lafayette Avenue, west of US 231. Click below to view and print the event flyer, from the Ben Hur Car Club website.

Elks of CrawfElks CarShowFlyer Jun2016

Sagamore Parkway bridge demolition

Sagamore Parkway Eastbound Bridge demolition July 12, 2016.

Today, July 12th, 2016, one of the road bridges, over the Wabash River, was demolished, using explosives. This is the latest phase in the reconstruction project, of the bridge carrying the east bound carriageway of Sagamore Parkway, formerly US52, from West Lafayette to Lafayette, Indiana.

River Road, Old State Road 43, which is situated next the Wabash River, and passes under the bridge, has been closed from Monday July 11, 2016, for approximately one month.

Traffic from the east bound bridge has been diverted onto the other, west bound bridge, temporarily. The deck had previously been stripped off of the bridge framework, and the most easterly span was removed, before the framework was demolished, at approximately 9AM, on the 12th. Crews have been given 24 hours to remove the debris from the river.

The east bound bridge is situated south of the west bound bridge, and was constructed in 1936, and is therefore older than the west bound bridge. The two bridges are of completely different designs.

2016 Wolcott Summer Festival

We are looking forward to visiting the 48th Annual Wolcott Summer Festival, on Monday, July 4, 2016.

The Annual Wolcott Summer Festival started in 1969 when the town of Wolcott experienced several disastrous fires and some of the citizens pondered on how to perk up the town’s spirit. “Why not a festival like we had in 1961 to celebrate the town’s Centennial.” July 4th was suggested and what would be better than to celebrate our town and the birthday of the United States at our festival. It was done! And Wolcott Summer Festival began…

Visit their Facebook Page at

Wolcott Festival Website

This annual festival features a classic car and a tractor show, and live music on stage. This year featuring one of my favorite bands, the Groove Catz.

The Groove Catz on stage at Wolcott
General view of the show
A general view of the car show by cjp02 on


We’re Standing Tall

In 2006, the Vermillion County Community Foundation sponsored an art project involving 16 hand painted, 8 feet tall, fiberglass giraffes, on display at various locations in Vermillion County, Indiana.

To quote from an information booklet published at the time to publicize this event:-

Vermillion County, Indiana is home this summer to a unique art project – 16 eight foot tall giraffes decorate the landscape if Indiana’s longest county. Local sponsors and artists from this Western Indiana community have teamed up under the guidance of the Vermillion County Community Foundation to show their pride in being Indiana’s tallest county. The program is being so well received, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office of Tourism has even re-named State Highway 63 “Giraffe Parkway” in honor of the event.

The Foundation hopes visitors and residents alike will appreciate the giraffes which will be on display through October. Then, on November 5th they will each be auctioned off to the highest bidder to help the Foundation continue its work providing scholarships and grants to programs which showcase the county as a vibrant place to live.

The event is known as :- “Discover Surprises in Vermillion County – We’re Standing Tall”.

For further information and more pictures of these giraffes:-

2016 Crawfordsville Strawberry Festival

If you didn’t know, the annual Strawberry Festival will be held this coming weekend, in Crawfordsville, Indiana.

The Festival runs June 10, through the 12th, 2016.

(Pictures from 2013 Festival – by cjp02 on FLICKR)

Festival Grounds

The Groove Catz on stage at the Festival

General view of the show

With great entertainment, a flea market, tractor show, and on Sunday, a large classic car show, there is plenty for people of all ages. My favorite part is the car show, on Sunday.

Checkout their website for schedule and much more:-

John Doe, supposed victim of Larry Eyler, the Highway Murderer

John Doe, Makeever Cemetery

Apparently this John Doe’s remains were found alongside nearby Interstate 65, in the mid 1980’s. His true identity was never discovered, but he is believed to be a victim of the serial killer, known in the media as the Highway Murderer. The emergency personnel, that answered the call to his discovery, raised the money for this headstone and burial. Although this small cemetery, in rural Jasper County, Indiana, near Rennselaer, is closed to new interments, the commissioners donated the plot, and allowed him to be buried here.

The Memorial text reads:-






Makeever Cemetery sign


Makeever Cemetery

I found this web page about Larry Eyler and his crimes, while researching this John Doe grave.

Larry Eyler, the Highway Murderer  – Murderpedia

Chicago Tribune article from 2010