The Canals of Pooler
By: Jean Williams
The City of Pooler has three significant canals that were built specifically for drainage, flood control and to eradicate mosquitoes. They are Pipemakers Canal, Hardin Canal and Quacco Canal.
In the early 1800’s, it became known that mosquitoes were the cause of yellow fever and malaria. The Chatham County Drainage Act was created in 1876 after a yellow fever epidemic killed 1,000 people. The historic Savannah-Ogeechee Canal with six locks was built in 1830 specifically for barge transportation from the Ogeechee River to the Savannah River. It traverses the City of Pooler specifically at Tom Triplett Park where Lock number three is located.
The Hardin Canal
The Hardin Canal was created about 1930 by the W.P.A. (Works Project Administration) to drain the Hardin Swamp, to eradicate mosquitoes and for flood control. The Hardin Swamp is located west of Bloomingdale and south of U S Hwy 80 in Effingham County. The area was thought to have been owned by the “Harden” family who were prominent citizens of Bryan County and Savannah. Years ago the name Harden was misspelled as “Hardin” in a newspaper article which was never corrected and used thereafter.
The journey of the Hardin Canal to the Atlantic Ocean is long and winding. It begins near the Little Ogeechee River in Effingham County. Georgia’s second Little Ogeechee River is located in Hancock County near Sparta. The Hardin Canal flows east, southeast, under Osteen Rd, through Bloomingdale under US 17, under Wild Cat Dam Rd, southeast, under Pooler Parkway, curves around the Pooler water treatment facility, under S. Rogers Street in Pooler, under Pine Barren Rd, under I-95 and I-16, through Southbridge, south a long distance, then it spreads out into three streams. One stream flows under and one stream flows beside Dean Forest Road. All 3 streams flow under Ogeechee Rd, then under Veterans Parkway, to the Ogeechee River, to Ossabaw Sound and to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Quacco Canal
The Quacco Canal begins as a small but very important part of a flood control drainage system that forms in the western Pine Barren Road area north of I-16 and west of Pooler Parkway. It flows east under Pooler Parkway on the north side of the I-16 exit, and continues east, under Memorial Drive, under Quacco Road, under I-95 and joins the Hardin Canal near I-95 on its way south to Ossabaw Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. In recent years the canal has needed major improvements to handle the increased demand for flood control. At the time of this article, that construction project was under way at Quacco Road.
The history of the naming of Quacco Road and Quacco Canal could not be found. However, in creole speaking cultures, names were giving to children that indicated the sex of the child and the day of the week on which they were born. Wednesday’s child was given the name Quaco, Cubaor or Cubba. In tropical America a substance from the leaves of the Mikania quaco plant was sometimes used as an antidote for snake bites.
The Pipemakers Canal
The Pipemakers Canal is a significant floodway that prevents storm water flooding and provides mosquito control. It begins west of Bloomingdale near US 80 and travels east 13 miles to the Savannah River. The name Pipemakers is a reference to the Indians making pipes from the clay found along the canal.
The history of the Pipemakers Creek begins at its confluence with the Savannah River near the historic site of the Yamacraw Indian Village. In 1750, this area contained five acre garden spots. By 1793, rice plantations had been established. Captain John Rae’s Hall Plantation was purchased by Thomas Young who also owned Springfield Plantation. Thomas Gibbons owned Whitehall Plantation and Fair Lawn Plantation covering one mile of land along Pipemakers Creek. In 1834, to support his rice production, Thomas Gibbons made an agreement with Thomas Young to straighten the creek between the two properties into an 18 foot wide canal, creating Pipemakers Canal.
On Rae’s Hall Plantation there was a six-acre prehistoric site known as the “Irene Mound” that was occupied from approximately 1100 A.D. until 1600 A.D. In 1736 German Missionaries from Moravia occupied the area and named the hill “Irene.” The site also contained the home of a chief and his family. The mound was 25 feet high, 150-175 feet in diameter and eight separate archeological layers. In 1937 the U S Government decided to excavate the “Irene Mound” in search of early history of the area. W.P.A. (Worker’s Progress Administration) and many government organizations, museums, carpenters, researchers, scientist, and skilled and unskilled workers were employed for the excavation which took two years, finishing in 1937. About 80% of the unskilled workers were African American unskilled women who toiled at the task of delicately excavating human Indian and animal bones, shards of pottery and pipes. A 1941 report states 40 burials, 170 pottery vessels and thousands of potshards were found. The skeletons are now at the Smithsonian Institution. Lack of a proper storage facility prevented the artifacts to return to Chatham County so they were placed at the Ocmulgee Indian
Mounds National Monument in Macon
By 1817, people became more aware that mosquitoes were the carrier of diseases such as malaria and yellow fever. Efforts were made to drain swamps and eliminate standing water in marshy areas to prevent the outbreaks of mosquito born diseases. An ordinance was passed to prohibit rice cultivation near Savannah. In
1876 Georgia had a yellow fever epidemic that killed 1,000 people, and the Chatham County Drainage Act was created. By 1889, 21,000 acres had been drained and 34 miles of ditches and a system of 3 canals had been dug, using the W.P.A. work program, including Pipemakers Canal which was extended inland. Many flood
control improvements have been made over the years.
Pipemakers Canal is included in the Chatham County Greenway Program offering many segments of the canal service roads for hiking and nature trails. Caution: These trails are natural environments and tall vegetation, snakes, alligators, insects and other wildlife may be present. Avoid private property and entering the canal is unsafe and prohibited.
The 13 mile journey of Pipemakers Canal: From West Bloomingdale it travels east, near Towne Lake subdivision, turning
south, around the Pooler Sports Complex,
flows under the pedestrian bridge and
Pooler Parkway, east and south of Tanger Outlet Mall, through a catchment basin, under I-95, across Crosswinds Golf Club, south of SAV/HH Airport, east under Dean Forest Road, Hwy 21, Hwy 25, to the GA Ports Authority, to a Savannah River Tidal Gate that controls tidal and storm surge from the canal and the river. The Savannah River carries the canal water to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Historic Savannah-Ogeechee Canal 1830-1890
The 16.5 mile Savannah-Ogeechee Canal was Georgia’s first canal and constructed between 1820 -1830 for the purpose of transporting lumber, cotton, rice, bricks, guano, naval stores and food crops between the inland areas near the Ogeechee River and Savannah. The initial construction funding came from the State of Georgia and Canal Company stock sales of 1556 shares at $100 each. The labor was enslaved Africans of plantation owners who were paid for the slaves’ services. When the slaves were needed to work on their plantations, the labor force expanded to local workers and 70 men from Ireland who were invited to emigrate and work on the canal. These men were the beginning of Irish settlers in Savannah. At the peak of construction there were 577 workers, about 90% African American and 10% white. The canal was completed in December 1830 at a total cost of $190,000.
The Ogeechee River watershed is 10 feet lower than the Savannah River which required six locks to raise the barges up and down for passage. Three of the hand operated locks were built of bricks and three were made of wood. Each lock was 18 feet wide and 102 feet long and each had a lockkeeper’s house. A towpath was made on the east side of the canal for horses and mules to pull the barges along and poles were also used. Barges paid a toll to use the canal. Between 1834 -1835, over 500 barges traveled through the canal. The canal played a role in the commerce and social life of local citizens. It was used for swimming, washing, bathing, playing, fishing, drinking and romancing. There was a scenic passenger barge for special occasions and the canal was sometimes used for church baptisms. The many businesses along the canal in Savannah provided jobs. Restaurants, taverns and dance halls opened up to serve the mixed race neighborhoods.
The route of the Savannah Ogeechee Canal begins at the Ogeechee River, runs northeast by Bush Road, under Little Neck Road, Little Ogeechee River at Half Moon Lake, under Quacco Road, I-16 & I-95, turns east on the southside of Tom Triplett Park in Poolerat Lock#3, under Dean Forest Road, I-516, under Louisville Road, into the Georgia Ports Authority and to the Savannah River. Some areas of the tow path along the canal are now nature trails and open for hiking. The Savannah-Ogeechee Museum has maps and information about the hiking trails.
The Ogeechee River is a 294-mile-long blackwater river that begins at its North and South Forks, about 2.5 miles south-southwest of Crawfordville, Taliaferro County, GA south of I-20 and flows generally southeast to Ossabaw Sound about 16 miles south of Savannah. It is one of Georgia’s free flowing rivers with no dams.
In the late nineteenth century, the Savannah-Ogeechee Canal began a gradual decline. It suffered damage during the Civil War, heavy rain caused flooding and a yellow fever epidemic killed over 1,000 people. Canals were being built to drain swamps and stagnant wetlands to eradicate mosquitoes. Railroads were the new preferred transportation. In the 1880’s The Central of Georgia Railroad began purchasing warehouses and wharves along the canal front in Savannah and by 1890 they owned 100% of the canal company stock. At that time, after 60 years of service, the Savannah-Ogeechee Canal became a part of local history.