Professor pens book about Hennepin Canal

Staff Writer
Geneseo Republic

A new book on the Hennepin Canal recently has been released.

“Voices of the Hennepin Canal: Promoters, Politicians and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers” was written by Western Illinois University Geography professor emeritus Donald “Bill” Griffin.

The Hennepin Canal was opened in 1908 and was built and operated until 1951 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The work combines Griffin’s many years of research on the Hennepin Canal with the “words of the people who were party of its history,” he said.

The book references letters, newspaper articles and editorials, documented interviews, Congressional debates, survey reports and more.

“Voices of the Hennepin” is part of the New Western Illinois Monograph Series and was published by the university.

Griffin said the canal was not only important for its contribution to inland water transporation in the U.S., but also because the technology used at the time to construct the 75-mile route.

“From a civil engineering standpoint, this was the first time in the United States that concrete was used in building navigation locks and dams. Engineers had done some work in Great Britian with concrete navigation structures, but the methodology used for the Hennepin Canal would lead to the locks build for the Panama Canal,” he explained.

The book is a result of Griffin’s 30-plus years of scholarship on the planning, construction and operation of the Hennepin Canal.

Roger Viadero, director of the WIU Institute for Environmental Studies and a professor in the biology department, served as the book’s editor.

“The book bridges a broad range of disciplines from geography to water-resource engineering, political science, history and economics,” siad Viadero.

In addition to telling the story of the Hennepin Canal, Griffin’s book will help fund Western Illinois University Foundation Scholarships. A percentage of the profits from the book sales will go directly toward student scholarships.

Copies of “Voices of the Hennepin Canal” may be purchased by contacting University Archives at (309) 298-2717.