Friday, January 8, 2016

Channel Cat Tales: Levee on the Illinois Shore

The Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit about water is coming to Lawrence County in the Fall of 2016! To get our readers focused on Water and how it affects, and has affected, the county we propose to run a series of articles titled, Channel Cat Tales, on Fridays.  Last week we posted photos of "Catfish" so you would remember the name of this new feature.  If you have a water related story of photographs please stop by the museum on Mondays to share with us.  

Before the Civil War, a levee from Bellegrade (a steamboat landing on the Illinois side of the Wabash south of Russellville) to Bowman's Hill  (aka Robeson's Hills) was proposed. This concerned the good folks in Vincennes as shown by the article found in the Weekly Vincennes Gazette August 11, 1858. 

The projected extension of the Levee along the Illinois shore of the river from Bellegrade to Bowman's Hill, is a matter in which our citizens may have a deep interest. Mr. Stengle, a scientific engineer, has examined the bottoms, and the water marks along the river in that vicinity, and in regard to the question of how much difference the construction of said levee will make in the height of the water at Vincennes , he says:

"The ordinary descent of the high water marks along the river, I find to be about four feet per mile, except at one place where there is a difference of 3.1 per mile, between two high water marks, only ¾ of a mile apart. This extraordinary descent occurs at the lower end of the levee to which point the water was confined on one side by the bluffs and on the other side by the levee.  As soon as the water reached that point it had a chance to spread out, and consequently began to drop down. Now, if the levee was completed to the hill, this rise of 3 1feet would be continued to the hill at Vincennes , and making some allowance for the water that escaped through the breaks of the levee , and ran over it, I think that the difference at Vincennes will be between four and five feet."

Mr. Clements, of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad, whose attention has also been called to this matter concurs fully in the above opinion of Mr. Stengle.

It is evident that if the water had been increased four or five feet higher at this place, last spring, the whole city would have been from two to three feet under water for about two months! As it was, with the river about seven miles wide, the water was backed up nearly entirely round the town. Again, it the additional height in the river is created by the making of the new levee, nothing short of a levee twenty feet high and fifty feet wide, will afford any protection to the prairie below town.

This subject is one of great importance to our citizens, and they should give it immediate consideration. If Mr. Stengle's conclusions shall be found to be correct, and the facts seem to entirely sustain him, then some measures ought to be taken to enjoin the construction of the new levee .