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Canals collection

Identifier: S1494

Scope and Contents

This collection includes text written by Lee Ault and L.S. Bowman ranging from 1900 to 1941 regarding Indiana canals, particularly the Whitewater and Central Canals.


  • 1849-1941; undated


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Historical Note

Indiana built three canals, the Central Canal, part of the Wabash and Erie Canals, and part of the Whitewater Canal.

The northern part of the Central Canal begins in Broad Ripple and ends in downtown Indianapolis. It was originally designed to connect to the Wabash and Erie Canal with Evansville, a Whitewater extension near Muncie, "Cross-Cut" canal from Terre Haute to Worthington, a Madison railroad and the Michigan and National roads in Indianapolis.

"A canal from Terre Haute to Evansville authorized 1846. Maysville Division along White River was over 23 miles long from Newberry through Owl Prairie (now Elnora) to Maysville; part of it paralleled what is now S.R. 57. Contracts were let June 1849. Construction was delayed by cholera outbreaks among workers, many of whom were Irish immigrants. Navigation between Newberry and Maysville opened June 1852. By 1853, Wabash and Erie Canal, America's longest at approximately 460 miles, linked Lake Erie at Toledo, Ohio with Ohio River at Evansville. By 1860, most of [the] southern section [was] no longer used because of repair costs and railroad competition. Entire canal in Indiana sold at auction [in] 1876.”

Only nine miles of the Central Canal was finished and cost overruns and revenue shortfalls caused the state to default on its interest payments. The Central Canal was sold to private parties to retire some debt. It was then sold to the Indianapolis Water Company which deeded the section south of 20th street to Indianapolis, which has developed it into a downtown pedestrian park.

The Whitewater Canal was planned to run from Laurel to Lawrenceburg. Thirty-one miles was built before the canal project was abandoned by the state due to debt.


0.01 Cubic Feet (1 folder)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged chronologically.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a donation.

Processing Information

Collection processing completed 2013/09/10 by Edythe Huffman. EAD finding aid created 2013/09/10 by Edythe Huffman.


Canals collection
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

140 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 U.S.A.