Wabash & Erie Canal 1832 - 1874 (468 miles)
On March 2, 1827, Congress provided a land grant to encourage Indiana to build the Wabash & Erie Canal. The original plan was to link the navigable water of the Maumee with the Wabash through the seven mile portage at Fort Wayne. Work began five years later on February 22, 1832 in Fort Wayne. Construction proceeded west as the canal reached Huntington by 1835, Logansport in 1838, and Lafayette in 1841. Work was also performed east toward the Ohio line, but the canal did not open to Toledo until 1843. A second federal land grant enabled the canal to reach Terre Haute by 1849.
At Evansville, 20 miles of the Central Canal had been completed north by 1839. The W & E was extended south in the late 1840's through the abandoned Cross-Cut Canal works to Worthington and then south following the old proposed Central Canal route. The connection with the Evansville segment was completed in 1853 forming the longest canal in the United States. By 1860, portions south of Terre Haute were closed and the process of decline continued northward. In 1876, the canal was auctioned off by the trustees.
(update 04-02-07) New state marker in Daviess County. (pdf)
Following is the text for the state marker entitled “Wabash and Erie Canal”:
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 southern section no longer used because of repair costs and railroad competition. Entire canal in Indiana sold at auction 1876.