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Title:History of drainage channel improvement in the Vermilion River watershed, Wabash Basin
Author(s):Hay, Ralph C.; Stall, John B.
Contributor(s):Illinois State Water Survey
Subject(s):Water resource development
Water resource development--Illinois
Human dimensions
Drainage districts
Drainage history
Geographic Coverage:Illinois (state)
Abstract:For this 1250-square-mile basin in three counties in east-central Illinois, documentation is given for the 105 legal drainage districts formed between 1880 and 1974 to provide for surface drainage. Also traced is the human and social drama associated with the 150-year conversion of swamp to rich cropland. When Illinois became a state in 1818, and for decades afterward during which early settlers came in, east-central Illinois was a wide, flat swampy expanse covered with big bluestem and other swamp grasses. Settlers described vast ponds covered with green scum, swarms of mosquitoes, cholera, milk sickness, ague, and fever. They considered the land worthless. An early resident refused to trade his riding horse and saddle for 640 acres valued in 1974 at about $1 million. Drainage ditches were constructed by floating dredges assembled at the site. Upland ditches were made straight to serve man's needs as there were no natural curving streams or drainage channels to follow. A 1908 improvement of Saline Branch main ditch shortened it from 19 to 14 miles; the grade was increased from 3 to 4 feet per mile. This historical study reminds readers of the vast amount of brutally hard work and sustained effort contributed by thousands of people to conquer the swamps, to convert them to rich cropland, and to provide the man-made drainage improvements which are accepted as normal by most people in 1974. The legal drainage districts are still in existence and carry out maintenance of ditches. They offer considerable potential for working with other units of local government to enhance further developments in water resources, environment, and drainage.
Issue Date:1974-09
Publisher:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Water Resources Center
Genre:Report (Grant or Annual)
Sponsor:U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
Rights Information:Copyright 1974 held by Ralph C. Hay, John B. Stall
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-05-09

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