3. Canals and Plank Roads
Better transportation was a high priority for early Illinois Governors, legislators and citizens.
A number of acts were passed, charters granted, and funds expended to open up the interior of
the state to development.
Construction was started on the
Illinois and Michigan Canal in
1836 and completed in 1848.
During that same period a
number of railroads and plank
or toll roads were also planned.
Funds needed to be raised
before construction could be
started on any project.
For the first few years the
railroads were short unconnected segments, equipment was scarce, rails were non-existent and
funding wasn't easy to come by.
The route for the Old Plank Road Trail was
originally slated to be used for a plank road
although the plank road was never built between
Joliet and the Indiana border.
It started on February 12, 1849, when the Illinois
Legislature passed "An Act to Construct a Plank
Road from Oswego, in Kendall County, to the
Indiana Line, by way of Joliet, Will County."
This 1849 act granted the "Oswego and Indiana
Plank Road Company" the right to receive
subscriptions for $100,000 of capital stock,
authorization to construct a plank road from
Joliet to the Indiana line, the right to levy tolls
and erect toll
gates once three miles were finished, the right to appropriate
a right of way of up to 80 feet of land when
voluntary cession or purchase wasn't possible, and
other rights necessary for plank road operation.
According to Joliet railroad historian, Bill Molony, the O&IPR company was formed
in the spring of 1851 with Joliet businessmen in most of the executive positions. The
survey for the road was completed in May, 1851 and the right-of-way was obtained.
The company worked on the road in 1851 and 1852 and, Molony says, the plank road
from Plainfield to Joliet was completed in 1852 or 1853.
Other legislative acts in the 1850's made plank road and railroads charters
interchangeable and provided for the incorporation and operation of railroads that
crossed state lines.
Old Plank Road Trail
A 22-mile recreation and nature trail in northeastern Illinois