aThe Clinton-Kalamazoo Canal really never was. It was started with great enthusiasm in the year 1838 and was supposed to have provided a water route from Lake St. Clair all the way to Lake Michigan. Unfortunately, for proponents of the project, its financial funding ran into trouble-causing continuation of the construction to cease. By 1843 only 13 miles had been completed. The project never resumed. Parts of what’s left of the canal are still visible today. Signs posted in various spots in Oakland and Macomb Counties mark some of those locations. Interestingly enough, the canal was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
The canal signs are a reminder of an era long gone. In the early nineteenth century, canal- building fell under the “internal improvement” banner. Politicians favoring legislation promoting internal improvement believed that it served to fight poverty. Henry Clay, David Crockett, and Abraham Lincoln were strong supporters. Speaking of canals, in particular, Lincoln had a history with water. His trips down are Mississippi were life changing for him. While living in New Salem, Illinois- he was involved in the effort to increase commercial traffic on the Sangamon River. And lest it be forgotten, his U. S. patented invention had very much to do with water and ships. Some say that the idea for his flotation-device invention came to him while on a ship navigating the Detroit River near Fighting Island. As a state legislator, Lincoln was part of a Whig delegation that favored a state bond to fund internal improvements (for Illinois) in the state house session of 1836-37. However, the same financial crisis that killed the Clinton-Kalamazoo Canal in Michigan also halted canal building and other projects in Illinois. Lincoln and fellow supporters of the internal improvements they felt were so strongly needed-had failed (there were other factors involved, as well). But now whenever I see the Clinton-Kalamazoo signs- driving around as I do-I think of Mr. Lincoln. I wonder how things here in Michigan might have been different if the canal project had succeeded.Mail this post