Brigadier General Quincy Adams Gillmore, Second Florida chief of the Army Corps of Engineers. Gillmore graduated first in his class at West Point. He conducted several surveys of the Florida east coast during his command (1869-1884). In later years, Gillmore published several textbooks, including one on underwater concrete, a necessity in waterway and canal improvements. Gillmore recommended improvements in the old Haulover Cut that Wright had constructed in 1854. But Wright, now Gillmore’s superior and Chief of the Corps of Engineers, turned Gillmore down. The Federal Government remained resistant in spending federal dollars for construction of internal improvements. Construction of waterways was left to the states and to private enterprise for work deemed local in importance. In the relatively new state of Florida, its government after the Civil War was bereft of any cash to pay for public improvements. It was again left to private enterprise to finance canals and railways.
In 1881, four St. Augustine investors led by Dr. John Westcott, who also had been Surveyor General of Florida, formed the Florida canal company that would dredge 268 miles of privately-owned waterway by 1912 and earn the company more than a million acres of valuable east coast land from St. Augustine to the tip of the Florida peninsula as well as the right to collect tolls from waterway traffic. Westcott proved invaluable in heading the company. His knowledge of the choice state land available to pay for the company’s work benefitted the enterprise immensely in the years ahead. In 1929, the State of Florida turned over what been the private Florida East Coast Canal to the Federal Government free of charge for perpetual maintenance and enlargement as the Florida portion of the toll-free Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Courtesy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The completion and operation of the Flagler railway and other railways throughout Florida spelled the death knell for the Florida East Coast Canal and other inland waterways. At first, it was thought that inland waterways would serve as ‘rate-regulators’, competitors against a monopolistic railway system. As the railway system became more reliable and economical, many inland waterways simply could not compete against faster, more competitive railways in the delivery of most goods, especially perishables. The development of the Interstate Highway system beginning in the 1950s and the use of refrigerated trucking in tandem with containerized shipping soon overtook the competitive advantage of railways in the delivery of many categories of freight. At the same time, the development of the airplane and commercial jet aircraft took away much of the passenger traffic formerly transported by the railway. Courtesy, the author.
Bucket dredge in the Matanzas -Halifax rivers Cut south of St. Augustine ca. 1893. Large steel buckets attached to a continuous heavy chain scooped up sand, clay, and rocks, and then dumped the material on either side of the Cut via conveyor belts. Among the earliest of the dredges employed, the bucket dredge soon fell into disuse as chains often broke under the strain of conveying heavy spoil. Eighty to a hundred men with picks and shovels opened up ditches where little or no water existed. Courtesy. St. Augustine Historical Society.
For some time, there has been much debate over where the northern terminus of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) might be located. When I appeared as the “waterway expert” on the Modern Marvels documentary “Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway” shown on the History Channel, the writer/producer contended as many still do, that the AIW begins in Miami and ends in Boston. But as many point out, and I agree,the barrier islands along the Atlantic coast end in Virginia. And for the most part, there is open water north of Virginia,with some exceptions like the Cape Cod Canal.
In the early 1900’s, a new renaissance arose over federal support of inland waterways with the election of progressives like Theodore Roosevelt to the presidency and Napoleon Bonaparte Broward to the Florida gubernatorial post. More than thirty citizen’s groups lobbied Congress for inland waterway support. Among the most influential was the Atlantic Deeper Waterways Association (ADWA) led by Congressman Joseph Hampton Moore of Philadelphia. The ADWA had over 500 members, representing the coastal states from Maine to Florida when it first met in Philadelphia in 1907. The ADWA would spend the next three decades lobbying Congress for a continuous Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, which would officially open in 1935 from Miami, Florida to Trenton, New Jersey. Courtesy, the author.