Forgotten Waterways: Analyzing Beams from the Wabash and Erie Canal
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CitationTaormina, R., & Speer, J. H. (2016). Forgotten Waterways: Analyzing Beams from the Wabash and Erie Canal. Tree-Ring Research, 72(2), 78–90.
PublisherTree Ring Society
AbstractThe Wabash and Erie Canal system was an important transportation network in the early 1800s prior to the dominance of trains and later automotive transportation. In this work, timbers from Culvert 151 were examined, after they were exhumed during construction of Hwy 641 on the south side of Terre Haute, Indiana. Cross-sections were taken from each of 22 beams and allowed to air dry to determine the stability of the timbers. We examined the wood to determine the genera or species of each sample that was used in this construction project and developed a floating chronology from our white oak group samples. The mix of species present included 11 beams of American beech (Fagus grandifolia), five white oak group (Quercus subgenus Lepidobalanus), and one each of American elm (Ulmus americana), winged elm (Ulmus alata), sugar maple (Acer saccharum), shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), white ash (Fraxinus americana), and black walnut (Juglans nigra). This suggests that the timbers were cut from the available trees in a certain size class without much regard for wood properties. The oak trees were an average of 186 years in age and the floating chronology dated to AD 1827. We also compared our chronology to 16 other oak chronologies in the region using an Inverse Distance Weighting (IDW) algorithm in ArcGIS to determine the most likely provenance of the samples. Our oak chronology correlates the strongest to archaeological samples from southeastern Indiana in Jefferson County along the Ohio River. It is possible that the timbers were cut near Madison Indiana, shipped down the Ohio River and up the Wabash River prior to incorporation in Culvert 151 on the Wabash and Erie Canal. © 2016 by The Tree-Ring Society.