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Indiana Historical Bureau

IHB > Shop > Books Listed by Topic > The Indiana Historian > Canal Construction in Indiana > The 1827 Diary of John Peter Paul The 1827 Diary of John Peter Paul

John Peter Paul

John Peter Paul was born December 23, 1800 in Greene County, Ohio. He graduated from Washington College, Virginia, and became a surveyor. He married Eliza Meek. He died in September 1835 in Clark County, Indiana.

His father, Colonel John Paul, was a prominent early settler, who founded Madison, Indiana in 1810 and made it his home until his death in 1830.

Source: Biographical and Historical Souvenir for the counties of Clark, Crawford, Harrison, Floyd, Jefferson, Jennings, Scott and Washington, Indiana (Chicago: John M. Gresham & Company, 1889), 203-6.

Map - Paul's Travels

This map shows John Peter Paul's travels in Indiana recorded in his diary, May 31-October 22, 1827. He went from and back to Fort Wayne on both routes during this time.

The cover of John Peter Paul's surveying journal.
Indiana State Library, Indiana Division

[May] 31st, Thursday. . . . arrived at Ft. Wayne1 about 5 o'clock, quite fatigued. . . .

[June] 2nd, Saturday, was spent in erecting tents and arranging for comfort. . . .

6th, Wednesday. Had a party at camp. Fine bevy of ladies.

7th, Thursday. . . . took up the line of march and encamped . . . 2 miles West of Summit.2

8th, Friday, moved nine miles and encamped at Croix Creek. . . .

11th, Monday. Commenced work at the forks. Run an experimental feeder line3 up the Wabash nearly two miles. . . .

15th, Friday. Continued canal line. Moved encampment 6 miles to Camp Black Loon down Northeast side of the Wabash to the bluffs. On

16th, Saturday, took dam section, gauged stream and propelled to a short distance below Jane's Spring. The water very fine. . . .

18th, Monday, progressed with the canal line a short distance below camp but discontinued as the instrument4 was not in proper adjustment. Had to run the line over again on

19th, Tuesday . . . . Camp life thus far very pleasant, feel no disposition to enter a more pleasant business in as much as I can not conceive of any that has advantages over it. . . .

22nd, Saturday, run an ordinate and then made a resurvey of an experimental line. Shortened the distance, straightened the line and got better ground. . . .

27th, Wednesday, run an experimental line down around the hills and found it impracticable.

28th, Thursday. Resumed the old line and progressed about three miles with the line. Moved the encampment three miles, run below the Treaty Ground5 to a fine Spring. Had the cold bath in its highest perfection. The health of all tolerably good, my own as good as usual. . . .

[July] 2nd, Monday . . . moschetos extremely troublesome. . . . Returned to camp after wading the River twice. Water deep; no fun in wading and, after, walking--

3rd, Tuesday. . . . Severe rain in the evening. All got wet and not altogether dry on the 4th. . . .

4th . . . . Mirth and music close the evening . . . .

9th . . . moved camp about seven miles below the Mississineway. Running today in a very beautiful prairie 6 or 7 miles in extent. Fine springs in it, high ground on the North. Left off work and waded through swamps to the River, got into camp about 10 o'clock, all in a bad humor. . . .

11th, Wednesday. Morning, rainy and unpleasant, spent making out returns to the Department.6 All remained in camp. Had a slight chill, followed by high fever afterwards, sweated freely and now feel quite well. Take Ague Powders tonight, go to bed and sweat freely. . . .

18th, Wednesday. . . . in the meantime killed 7 large rattlesnakes. . . .

21st, Saturday. Packed our things and saw them loaded into the wagons. Went on the line, run two miles and seventy chains, chained to the River. . . . Walked down the River, passed along the edge of a very pleasant prairie . . . .

Came to the mouth of Eel River, found the stream rapid and wide affording, apparently, almost as much water as the Wabash at their junction. . . .

27th, Friday, saw everything in a state of forwardness for a remove. Went on the line, run a short distance, came to a small stream and were induced by the roaring of the waters to a short distance in the direction of the noise where, to our utter astonishment, we beheld a scene grand beyond my feeble powers for description. . . .7

We walked down the River with the expectation of finding the tents pitched . . . when, to our consternation, we met the Col.8 and his party in the perogue and learned that the wagons had missed their way and were about two miles and a half from where we had expected to encamp. The sun was down, Mr. Morris and myself started in search, were bewildered in our course and were overtaken in the dense woods by darkness. Groped our way through the brush and woods until we fortunately found a road and with the utmost difficulty kept it until, contrary to our expectations, we found the wagons. We got some refreshments and concluded to remain there for the night, got our beds and slept soundly until daylight.

[August] 12th, Sunday. Finished the survey of the River around the prairie. We walked down the trace to the Tippecanoe, the baggage was carried down in perogues. . . .

16th, Thursday, left camp . . . for Lafayette. . . .

18th, Saturday. . . . completed the survey of Tippecanoe. . . .

27th, Monday, arrived at Fort Wayne. . . .9

[September] 2nd [sic], Monday, took the whole day to ride 21 miles during which time I was much distressed with fever. No water to be had but in puddles and that sickening to the taste. . . .

20th, Friday, arrived at encampment No. 1 on Maumee. Found the Col. and several others quite sick . . . no progress has been made in the surveys . . . .

1 Paul left Hamilton, Ohio on May 23; his diary documents his travels north through Dayton to Fort Wayne (Paul, 1-2).

2 The summit was the highest point on the canal line; all planning started from this point.

3 A feeder line was used to provide a steady supply of water for a canal.

4 The instrument was probably the compass and levels.

5 Site of the present city of Wabash (Paul, i).

6 The engineers, working for the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, were under the authority of the Engineer Department, U.S. War Department.

7 Fitch's Glen, north of the Wabash River at Logansport (Paul, ii).

8 This group of engineers was under the command of Colonel Asa Moore.

9 Paul left Fort Wayne on August 30, 1827. He traveled south through present Muncie, Indianapolis, Columbus, and Lexington to Madison, where he was medicated for his fever. He then went to Jeffersonville and returned to Madison by steamboat. He left Madison on September 14 on horseback and reached Fort Wayne on September 19. His diary documents these travels (Paul, 18-19).

Editorial Note: This is a small part of the diary of John Peter Paul, an Indiana surveyor on the Wabash and Erie Canal in 1827. The original manuscript is in the possession of the Indiana State Library.

The manuscript was published in a limited edition of 100 copies in 1933 as "We Run The Canal Line" being the Diary of John Peter Paul, a member of the party engaged in the preliminary survey of the Wabash and Erie Canal in the year 1827 (Crawfordsville, IN: R.E. Banta).