They Left Their Mark In Oakford, 1872

Leveeing The Low Lands
Page 20

One of the greatest agricultural benefits to the area was the reclaiming of the Sangamon bottoms for cultivation. In the fall of 1896 the farmers connected their rather ineffective individual levees into a more successful single barrier against the flood waters. During the early 1900s a movement formed to straighten the Sangamon River. In April 1903 a petition to this effect was presented to and granted by the Mason County court. The members of the preliminary board of commissioners of the Sangamon River Special Drainage District of Mason Menard and Cass Counties were T. W. Buckley, John Young and James Weaver. The following November a contract was let to Pollard, Goff & Co. The sum of $160,000 was levied for this purpose and work began in 1904. Bert Weaver was awarded the contract for clearing the right of way. At this time James Weaver lived in the bottom two miles due north of Oakford and operated a large saw mill on the tract of land he owned. The huge dredge was hauled into the area and assembled near "Shady Rest" Mr. Weaver's house.

By September 1905 the dredge had completed a mile of new channel 75 feet wide up the Old Wagon bridge (erected in 1896) and returned to Weaver's mill. The dredge was supposedly the largest such in operation in the state and attracted people from miles away, who made weekend visits to watch it work. The crew planned to reach the CP&St. L river bridge with the channel in December 1905. Another dredge began farther east working down and joining the channel that began at Oakford. The project extended into 1908 before the entire channel was completed from Salt Creek to the mouth of the Sangamon below Chandlerville.

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