xt7z348gft9j https://exploreuk.uky.edu/dips/xt7z348gft9j/data/mets.xml Shaler, Nathaniel Southgate, 1841-1906. 1877  books b96-12-34908136 English Stereotyped for the Survey by Major, Johnston & Barrett, Yeoman Press, : [Frankfort, Ky. : Contact the Special Collections Research Center for information regarding rights and use of this collection. Railroads Kentucky. Rivers Kentucky. Transportation routes of Kentucky  : and their relation to the economic resources of the commonwealth / by N.S. Shaler. text Transportation routes of Kentucky  : and their relation to the economic resources of the commonwealth / by N.S. Shaler. 1877 2002 true xt7z348gft9j section xt7z348gft9j 


         N. S. SHALER, DIRECTOR.





           BY N. S. SHALER.


316, 317, A 318

 This page in the original text is blank.



  In the matter of the economic development of the resources
of any area, the means whereby these resources may be ap-
proached, and their distribution to markets accomplished, is
often of far greater value than the character of the resources
themselves. At first sight these questions of transportation
would seem to be matters for the consideration of an engineer
rather than a geologist, on account of the importance of the
questions concerning the ease or possibility of particular pro-
jects; but the knowledge required for these considerations
is, to a great extent, that which is obtained by the geologist
rather than the engineer.
  I have endeavored, as far as possible, to avoid the difficult
considerations which arise from the discussion of the plans
of several projectors of various transportation routes. The
sketch given below is an effort to show what development of
the existing lines of transportation is necessary to give the
State a proper hold upon the economic resources found within
its borders, and to bring them into relation with the rest of
the world.
  The first thing that strikes the observer who considers
the transportation conditions of Kentucky, is the fact that
the State is singularly isolated from the great markets of
this continent. Its considerable railway system leads mainly
to its local markets, and its wonderful water system lies unde-
veloped, or, when effective, is cut off, by some slight barriers,
from access to its best mineral fields. In the past, this water
system has been under grave disadvantages. Its ways, too, do
not lead towards the great markets of the country. On the



contrary, they turn their course to the less settled sections,
where development has not gone far enough to make great
markets for the natural products of the State.
  In considering the relation of natural and artificial ways to
the markets, 1 shall take up first the rivers, and pass then to
those channels of trade that do not depend, to the same ex-
tent, on the natural features of the country.
  It is impossible to examine the rivers of Kentncky as I have
done, during my journeys through the State, without being
convinced that in them the Commonwealth has a wonderful
set of natural ways whereby her great stores can be taken to
their markets. In those ways lie her riches quite as much as
in the coal, iron, salt, stone, oil, timber, and net products which
are found beneath her surface. With all the grosser products
of the earth the question of carriage must always be one of
the first importance, and in the present and all prospective ad-
vance of rail transportation, the cost of carriage must always
be much greater than by water, even where the latter form of
transportation has to be obtained by locks and dams.
  As previously noticed, our river system has had the grave
disadvantage that it leads towards the west rather than the
east. Such a river system turned towards the Atlantic coast
would have made a very different economic history for this
part of the continent. It should be noticed, however, that
this disadvantage is, year by year, becoming less grave. The
gain is made in two ways: firstly, by the increase in popula-
tion in the regions bordering the Mississippi; and secondly,
by the extension of navigation on these waters. There is, at
least, twenty-five thousand miles of shore line on this water
system that can be made readily accessible to water naviga-
tion. With the growth of population, it is not too much to
expect that, within the knowledge of living men, this shore
line will be occupied by a population of nearly one hundred
million of people, with the most varied industries the world
has ever seen gathered into one river valley. With this sys-
tem of water transportation made completely available, Ken-
tucky will always have the best possible chance of furnishing





a large share of the products of mining and manufactures
used by the valley in which it lies. As regards the products
of the earth found in this valley, she must always have the
first place, as determined by the elements of richness and
accessibility. Her coal, taking it for all qualities, is as good
as that of West Virginia, and is far nearer the regions of
great demand.   She has the largest area of iron-working
coals as yet discovered, and in many other elements of min-
eral wealth she is equally well favored.
  It is not only in regard to the growing numbers and ripen-
ing civilization of the Mississippi Valley that this river system
is of value. The civilization of Europe has overdrawn its
stock of coal, iron, and timber, and the day has come when
these must be brought, in part, from afar in order to maintain
her industries. The Ohio Valley would, at present prices, be
able to send iron to Europe at an advantage, if there were only
a proper use made of these natural channels of trade. With
the growth of capital and the adjustment of our currency,
giving a sound basis for our industries, we may be sure of a
vast source of wealth in this export alone. There is no other
region in which can be found iron-working coal or cheap char-
coal, together with iron ores of such varied qualities, all in
such easy relations of distance to each other, and where their
products are on a water system leading td so large a native
and foreign population. Looking more closely to our Ohio
river system, as developed within Kentucky, we are struck by
the fact that the main river has very little actual contact with
the best of the coal and iron of the State, or with that of the
other States bordering on the river. In most cases these ma-
terials have to be brought to the river from some distance,
either through its tributaries or by the means of railways. It
is not necessary to discuss the reasons for this peculiar geo-
graphical relation of the natural resources of the valley. I
only wish to call attention to the fact that there is less good
coal on the Ohio river front than on any one of its principal
southern tributaries, and that the peculiar difficulties which
beset the approach to these fields are common to the whole
    VOL III.-21                                          321



river. That these difficulties of position are not at all serious,
is shown by the fact that they are obviated not only in many
other countries, but that the most prosperous coal mining region
on the Ohio, that of the Monongahela river, is approached
by means of locks and dams, there being already several of
these structures, giving about one hundred miles of naviga-
tion on that river. What is especially desirable in Kentucky,
is the careful prosecution of the work of improving the navi-
gation of the rivers of the State by means of -locks and dams,
as has often been proposed. In the Appendix to this report,
I have assembled the information which I have been able to
gather concerning the results obtained by the special surveys
made about forty years ago, with the view to this sort of im-
provement. This work was begun about fifty years too soon
-before the demand for the mineral products of the State had
grown to sufficient dimensions. Its advantages would have
been great, however, provided that in any one of the east-
ernmost streams of the State these improvements had been
carried to completion; as it is, the half success of the experi-
ment on Green river has counted against the work. A glance
at the map will show that the mouth of this river is below all
the more populous cities of the Ohio Valley, it being neces-
sary to tow the boats, carrying coal and other similar products,
up the river for a great distance, in order to find any consider-
able market. If this improvement had been applied to the
Big Sandy, the Licking, or the Kentucky, the markets of Cin-
cinnati and Louisville would have been opened to its products.
The improvements on the Green river are gradually growing
in value, and I look forward to seeing them extended so as to
give access to the admirable coal and iron deposits on its trib-
utaries-Mud river, Bear creek, and Nolin river. The mar-
kets below its mouth, though still small and suffering from the
great depression arising from the late war, are slowly coming
to their natural prosperity. The unhappy and utterly unneces-
saryblunderwhich was made with the first furnace in this val-
ley, that at Airdrie, has done a great deal to frighten capital
away from this region. The cause of this unfortunate piece



of mismanagement is well set forth in the report of Assistant
P. N. Moore, in the second volume of this series of reports.
After a careful personal study of the conditions in this val-
ley, I am satisfied that, with the revival of industry, which
all reasonable men await, this section is sure of a prosperous
industry in iron manufacturing. I am convinced that, reck-
oning the cost of getting the product to a great market as
part of the cost of manufacture, there is no region in the
world where iron can, at the present time, be made any
cheaper than it can here.
  To complete the navigation of the Green there is needed
an extension of the slack-water to Nolin river, and up that
river and up Bear creek for about twenty miles on each. One
dam will answer every purpose on the main river, and one on
each of these tributaries. Or it may be, that, by making the
dam on the main river rather high, it would back up those
streams for a sufficient distance for all the present needs of
access to their ores. The navigation on Pond river should be
extended by one more .dam, to give access to the admirable
ores on that stream, which, with this improvement, could be
shipped, at a good profit, even as far as Cincinnati, whenever
the manufacture of pig iron becomes again active. With
these additions, which could all be made for less than two
hundred thousand dollars, I should regard this stream as hav-
ing all its known resources sufficiently opened to industry.
  The Cumberland and the Tennessee are so far within other
States that the plans for the bettering of their navigation
should be accomplished by the General Government. The
resources which will be brought out through their improved
channels are really enormous, and though not in the main
from beneath Kentucky soil, would still serve to build up the
interests of the Ohio Valley, in which Kentucky has the
largest share of any State. The Cumberland is more the
property of Kentucky than the Tennessee, for the larger part
of its course is in our State. The region drained by its upper
waters has a great store of coal, and is especially rich in the




heavy lubricating coal oils, which are sure to have a large and
constantly increasing market.
  The small, narrow, and crooked stream bearing the name
of the Tradewater river, has not yet been sufficiently ex-
plored.  Its banks are very richly stored with timber, and
there is, doubtless, much coal accessible on its waters. A
preliminary study of its drainage goes to show that one or
two dams will develop a great deal of navigable water. These
dams would be low and of small cost. Probably, with suffi-
cient accommodation for boats of a size fitted to pass the
narrow and tortuous windings of the stream, thirty thousand
dollars each would be a sufficient estimate. I base this reck-
oning on similar works in other districts.
  Above the Green, there is no river which demands improve-
ment, in the interests of the mineral resources of the State,
until we come to the finest of our purely Kentucky rivers, the
noble stream of that name. In the old work of improvement
of the rivers, this stream had four locks and dams, of good
workmanship, built along its course. Of these, the upper-
most was just sufficient to carry the navigation to Hickman
Landing, above Frankfort-still about one hundred miles be-
low the lowest coal and iron on its waters-practically not in
the least bettering the mineral interests of that valley, though
it has well paid for itself by its incidental effects on the pros-
perity of the Commonwealth. To complete this system, there
should be about twelve more dams on the main stream, carry-
ing the navigation about one hundred and fifty miles fur-
ther up than it extends at present. Then a system of smaller
dams on the tributaries-giving about three to Red river and
four each to the North and Middle Forks-would make an ef-
fective outlet for the resources of a large area. At the time of
the surveys for these improvements, it was proposed to make a
water route to Cumberland Gap, by building a dam at Cum-
berland Ford. taking the water thence, by canal, to Richland
creek, entering the same at a point about six miles above
Barbourville; thence, by a cut about a mile in length, and not
over forty feet deep at any one point, to Colline Fork of



Goose creek; thence down Goose creek to the Kentucky
river, a total descent of two hundred and twenty-five feet,
requiring about thirty locks for the connection between the
Cumberland and main Kentucky. Yellow Creek, above the
Cumberland Ford,would give, with two locks, an easy passage
up to the foot of the Cumberland Gap, within about a mile of
the summit of the pass over the mountain. This would make
a total of about forty locks between the Cumberland Moun-
tain and the Ohio river. The cost of the work would require
reestimation for modern prices.  A careful consideration of
the Kentucky river has satisfied me that the lockage could be
finished to the Three Forks for about two million of dollars.
On the tributaries the locks and dams would cost about fifty
thousand dollars apiece, so that Red river, and the North and
Middle Forks, would, for the locks we have proposed, cost
about five hundred thousand dollars. If it was ever desired
to carry out the project of a canal to the upper Cumberland,
the cost would be about three million dollars for that work
alone-a cost that makes it inexpedient to consider it at pres-
ent.  I must say, however, that this last named channel offers
certain great advantages. It will be seen, by reference to the
preceding reports in this volume, that the iron ores at the
Cumberland Mountain are the cheapest and best of any within
our limits or near our borders.  It is exceedingly desirable
that they should be brought into close relation with our iron
ores and iron-working coals. I believe in time our industries
will warrant the investment of the money necessary to make
this line of cheap water transportation; for it will serve to
bring the question of carriage of ores in this great ore and
coal district to a most satisfactory solution.
  I am satisfied, that if the slack-water navigation of the
Kentucky river was carried up to the Three Forks, it would
be rapidly extended up the smaller tributaries. The cost of
the locks and dams in the smaller tributaries is much less
than in the large streams. Sufficient locks and dams on the
Three Forks of the Kentucky will cost only about one half
what would be required on the main stream, and the rate of




fall would give something like three fourths of the navigation
to each lock that it would in the main stream. As will be
shown hereafter, the expense would be but little more per
mile of navigable water than the cost of the turnpikes, and
not over one third the first cost of cheap railways. When
the navigation of the Kentucky is fully developed, it will af-
ford about six hundred miles of navigable water bordered by
coal, iron, salt, and timber lands. Every dam will be a possi-
ble source of water-power; for the flow is much in excess of
the probable needs for lockage. The cost of this navigation
will probably be not far from five thousand dollars per mile,
unless done by convict labor, when it can be reduced to about
three thousand dollars per mile; in the one case the total
would be three millions, in the other, twelve hundred thou-
sand dollars.
  The next stream, the Licking, has not quite half the pos-
sible mileage that we find on the Kentucky, and the cost
of getting to the point where the coal field begins would be
about twice as great. At least twenty dams would be re-
quired to take the navigation to that point where the supply
of iron ore becomes great. If we had them now, there is no
doubt that there would be a great tide of trade poured over
this way. It gives access to some admirable iron ores, which,
by slack-water navigation, could be put at the furnaces in
Newport so as to cost, for the ore required to make a ton
of pig metal, not more than five dollars. Its admirable can-
nel and bituminous coals should find a great market in the
Cincinnati centre, where the stream debouches. This stream,
with the safe harborage for vessels, and its ready access to
the greatest city of the Ohio Valley, would become a great
manufacturing centre. Four of these locks and dams were
begun, but only one, the lock No. 3 from the mouth, has been
kept uninjured; the others have been destroyed to the foun-
dations for their stone. The dams in this river would be less
costly than on the Kentucky, especially if the plan of begin-
ning the dams at the head waters and working down was
adopted. Some time would be lost, but admirable building



stone would be secured at low cost.  Reckoning from the
contract prices of dams on the Monongahela, we may estimate
the cost of locks and dams on the Licking sufficient to carry the
navigation to \Vest Liberty, at about two million five hundred
thousand dollars, with ordinary labor. Many of the lateral
streams are worthy of improvement by one or two dams-
Slate creek, in order to give access to the Preston ore banks,
and the coal nearest to the lower river, and other streams to
give more coal frontage. The total possible navigation in the
coal and iron district on this river is about one hundred and
eighty to two hundred miles.  Owing to the smaller water
supply, the water-powers would be less valuable than on the
Kentucky river.
  Still further up the Ohio river we have Tygert's creek and
Little Sandy. Both these streams are capable of this form of
improvement; but the Little Sandy is sufficiently improved by
the railway which traverses its valley, which was built for the
purpose of furnishing an outlet for the mineral wealth of the
district. Tygert's creek, though a smaller stream, is quite
capable of being locked and dammed at relatively small cost.
It would open a considerable territory for coal and iron pro-
duction. The Lambert ore bank, and other ores found along
its waters, would furnish cheap shipping ores. To carry this
navigation to the Iron Hills Furnace would require about six
dams, costing about two hundred thousand dollars, if made
with locks for sixty-foot boats, which are large enough for
this rather crooked and small stream. This stream would
furnish the most westerly coal on the main Ohio above its prin-
cipal cities.
  The Chatterawha or Big Sandy river is admirably suited for
this form of improvement. On its waters we have a great
series of coal seams; in fact, the most westerly development
of the beds certainly identifiable as the West Virginia and
Pennsylvania seams, is found on its eastern branch, the Tug
Fork. Six dams on the main stream and two on Tug Fork
would cost less than a million dollars, and would give about
one hundred miles of navigation in a good coal country. Ex-




cept the recently discovered 'black band ore," the only val-
uable iron ores known to this Survey on its waters are on the
tributaries of Big Blaine creek, which it would be possible to
lock and dam by making storage reservoirs. Every mile of
the possibly navigable waters of this stream abounds in coal of
varied qualities. The stream is strong-flowing in the greatest
droughts, and would afford excellent water-powers at all the
main dams. The navigation could be extended up the smaller
streams at many points. Big Blaine, Rockcastle, John's creek,
Beaver creek, are all suited for such improvements, and on
the main stream the system would be possible quite up to the
State line. The possible water transportation on this river,
which would be regarded as within the mineral belt, amounts
to quite four hundred miles.
  I am glad to say that there is a chance of action on the
part of the Federal Government looking to the improvement
of this stream. In 1875 1 furnished, at the request of the
United States engineers, a report on the mineral resources
of this district, with special reicrence to this matter of slack-
water navigation in the Chatterawha or Big Sandy Valley.
As a good part of the waters of the river lies within the
boundaries of another State, the Federal Government has a
warrant for an effort at its betterment, and our Representa-
tives should urge action on this point with all possible energy.
With the same number of locks and dams on this river that
has been built on the Youghiogheny, it would be possible
to put equally as good qualities of coal into the Ohio
below all the most serious dangers of navigation that men-
ace the coals moving from Pittsburg to the lower Ohio, thus
bringing the eastern coal beds of the Commonwealth at least
one half nearer the market than the present sources of sup-
ply. The Peach Orchard coal brings the highest price paid
for bituminous coal, and regularly sells at better prices than
the Pittsburg coal, whenever it manages to struggle past the
obstacles which block it from the market.
  The upper Cumberland, within the limits of Kentucky, af-
fords over three hundred miles of waters which could readily




be made navigable by slack-water but for the eighty feet of fall
and some distance of cascades, where it passes the conglom-
erate of the coal measures. The fifty miles of this stream
below the falls only afford a precarious navigation to small
steamboats-a navigation which is so little to be trusted, that
it cannot be thought of much value. Excepting at the falls
and rapids above described, the Cumberland is a stream of
very gradual fall, and is, therefore, well fitted for improve-
ments of this description. Engineering skill would doubtless
succeed in contriving a canal past these obstructions without
great difficulty. The tributaries of the Cumberland, on ac-
count of their gradual fall, are peculiarly suited for the ready
creation of a great canal system. Big South Fork, Laurel
river, Clear Fork, Big Yellow creek, Straight creek, and the
uppermost head waters, Poor Fork, Clear Fork, and Martin's
creek, are capable of transformation into cheap canals.
  The upper Cumberland, within Kentucky, can readily fur-
nish six hundred miles of very important navigable waters.
Thus we see that, including Green river and its tributaries,
the Tradewater, the Kentucky, the Licking, Tygert's creek,
the Chatterawha or Big Sandy, and the Upper Cumberland,
the State can readily secure enduring water navigation having
a length,within the mineral districts,of about twenty-four hund-
red miles. Estimating the average length of the pools at ten
miles, would give a total of two hundred and fifty dams; and
these, at a cost of say fifty thousand dollars each, which, inas-
much as the small tributary dams are small and not costly, is,
it seems to me, a sufficient average price, we have a total of
about twelve million dollars for the total cost. When we com-
pare this sum with the cost of creating other practicable ways
for the transportation of heavy materials, it is seen to be by
no means excessive. The cheapest railways, fitted for heavy
traffic in coal and iron, cost nearly ten times as much per
mile. Indeed, the cost of this form of canal is not much over
the cost of good ordinary turnpikes. The cost .of operating is
not to be compared with that of railways, nor even with turn-
pikes of the first class. The cost of the force of propulsion,



and the consequent impost on the materials, is exceedingly
small compared with railways. This, with coal and iron, in a
region where the transportation makes all the difference be-
tween profit and loss, is a most important matter.
  The cost of creating this system of water navigation may
be materially reduced by using convict labor, and pro-
tracting the work long enough to accomplish it in this fashion.
Supposing the labor of seven hundred and fifty convicts
is given to the work, and supposing that two thirds of the
cost of construction is in the labor, it would require about forty
years to complete this system, which is not too long a time for
the execution of a great system of public works of this kind.
If undertaken at once and steadfastly prosecuted, by the ex-
piration of that time our State would have a system for the
production and cheap transportation of iron and its products
which would be without rival in the world. It would not re-
quire more than two hundred thousand dollars per annum,
with the convict labor, to bring this scheme to completion; so
that eight million of dollars, spread over nearly half a century,
and giving, as one of its benefits, the incalculable ameliora-
tion of our penitentiary system, is the small price we would
have to pay for this noble system of ways to our wealth.
  In any contemplated extension of this slack-water system in
our State, I would suggest a careful inquiry into the several
methods of making dams now used in Europe. One of these
methods, the system adopted to some extent in France, uses a
dam that can be lowered down in high water and lifted in low
water, with great ease, and possesses many advantages, inas-
much as it does not obstruct navigation in high water, permit-
ting vessels 'to run out in floods without the delay of lockage,
and yet providing locks when they are needed.
  Another plan, which will be found very useful on the small
creeks, tributary to the Ohio and to the Kentucky streams,
where there is already slack-water, or where it may be here-
after built, has for its characteristic feature a contrivance where-
by the lock is entirely dispensed with, and only a few hundred
gallons of water is necessary to pass a vessel one hundred




feet long and twenty feet wide. An inclined plane, made of
wood, leads from below the dam to its crest, rising at the rate
of about two feet in a hundred. This can be made slippery
by allowing a little water to flow over it, and then the boat
mounting is dragged up by oxen. In descending, the vessel
runs down the slope unaided, like a launching ship. The
advantage is not only in the saving of water, but in the less
cost of the inclined way as compared with the lock, it being
readily seen that, in a country where timber abounds, the cost
of the way need not be over five thousand dollars, even when
built in the most solid fashion. The only place where I have
seen these dams is in the Saltzkammer-gut, or the crown salt
lands of -Austria, where it is extensively used for the transpor-
tation of salt to market, the return loads being very small.
The increased cost of return loads comes from the need of
oxen to drag the boats over the dam. It would be easy,
where there was a reasonable supply of water, to make a
small water-wheel do this work. A wheel costing only a few
hundred dollars would furnish ample power for the needs of
this work. From what I have seen and heard of this method,
I am inclined to think that it might work as well on the main
streams as it does on the smaller rivers of Austria, where it
has been adopted on account of the saving of water. If this
should appear, on careful inquiry, to be the case, it would be
immensely to the advantage of the general plan; for it would
greatly reduce the expense of construction and management.
On the main streams, where most of the transportation would
be done by means of steamers towing flats, the steam power
of the tug-boats could be made to drag their barges over
the dam.   The most considerable advantage of this sys-
tem would be found in the fewer dams required, and the
saving of all the trouble incident to the maintenance of locks.
In order to carry vessels of large burden, there must be at
least four feet of water on the gate-sills of the locks. This
amount of water can often be readily had in mid-stream, five
hundred feet below the lock, when it is hard to get it on the
lock floor, and the water-way leading thereto. Some damage

I 5



would naturally be apprehended from the straining of vessels
in passing over such ways. I believe that this fear is ground-
less; or, if it should prove an obstacle, it would be easy to
meet the difficulty by the use of sheet-iron boats, which are
pronounced to be the cheapest for long-continued usage. If
this plan can be adopted for streams of all sizes, it would
probably reduce the cost of giving our rivers the advantages
of a system of locks and dams to not more than two thirds
the cost of the ordinary method; possibly even less, for it is
the locks, rather than the dams, that will make the expense
of this form of navigation on our narrow rivers.
  Inasmuch as this question is one of national importance,
the Federal Government might be memorialized to have the
whole question adequately examined, and determinative ex-
periments made. By some such means the Ohio river could
have its completely navigable waters extended to over six
thousand miles of length. The problem of cheap transpor-
tation can be more easily solved in this way than any other.
  Even where it is not deemed advisable to improve the
whole of a river, it will sometimes prove important to make
this form of navigation connect with a railway system. When
the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway is extended to Lexington,
Kentucky, as it must be in time, the Licking, from the cross-
ing of the railway to its head waters should be provided with
these locks and dams, or locks and slides. At a cost of some-
thing like five or ten thousand dollars per mile, this river
could be made an admirable branch line of transportation
for the railway. For this end, if desired, cars could be taken
directly on to the boats and loaded at the mines, and taken
from the boats, by an inclined way, to the main railway. The
upper Cumberland, when it is crossed by a railway, either at
the ford or at the falls, could be treated in a similar manner.
My opinion is, however, clearly to the effect that the State
should start with the determination to make, in time, every
bit of possibly navigable water within its mineral districts the
seat of actual navigation, so that its great natural sources of
wealth may suffer no hindrance from the evils which so gener-



ally cramp the development of such resources. In the great
race which is before our Ohio Valley States it will secure her
the victory.