Board of Canal Commissioners

State: Illinois

The Illinois General Assembly created and incorporated the Board of Commissioners for the Illinois and Michigan Canal in 1829 when they first passed legislation to construct the canal. The first board was composed of three members appointed by Governor Ninian Edwards: Edmund Roberts, Gershom Jayne, and Charles Dunn. By 1831, there was question over whether a canal or a railroad was the better option to connect Lake Michigan with the Illinois River. While the issue was deliberated, the legislature abolished the board.

In 1835, when the legislature again passed an act to begin construction on the Illinois and Michigan Canal, they ordered the creation of a five-member Board of Commissioners. Governor Joseph Duncan appointed former Governor Edward Coles president of the board and tasked him with negotiating loans with eastern financiers for the construction of the canal. Duncan appointed Gurdon S. Hubbard, Joel Manning, William Linn, and William B. Archer as the other members of the board.

In 1836, the General Assembly changed the board to three members. Governor Duncan appointed William F. Thornton as president, Gurdon S. Hubbard as treasurer, and William B. Archer as acting commissioner. The acting commissioner held the primary duties and responsibilities and earned a yearly salary.

In 1837, the legislature amended the law so that the General Assembly elected the three-person board, and any member could perform the duties of the acting commissioner when required. On March 3, the legislature elected William F. Thornton as president of the board, Jacob Fry as acting commissioner, and John A. McClernand as treasurer. Thornton, Fry, and McClernand were re-elected to their offices in March 1839. When McClernand resigned in May 1839, Governor Thomas Carlin appointed David Prickett to the position. On February 1, 1840, the legislature elected Prickett to the position formally.

In 1841, the legislature elected Isaac N. Morris as president, Jacob Fry as acting commissioner, and Newton Cloud as treasurer.

"An Act to Provide for Constructing the Illinois and Michigan Canal," 22 January 1829, Revised Laws of Illinois (1829), 14-18; "An Act to Abolish the Office of Canal Commissioners," 1 March 1833, Revised Laws of Illinois (1833), 113-14; An Act for the Construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal; An Act for the Construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal; An Act to Amend an Act entitled,"An Act for the Construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, Approved January 9, 1836"; John H. Krenkel, Illinois Internal Improvements, 1818-1848 (Cedar Rapids, IA: Torch Press, 1958), 31-32, 38, 41, 46, 123, 125; Report of the Canal Commissioners of Illinois to Governor John R. Tanner (Springfield, IL: Phillips Brothers, 1901), 105.