“Along the Calumet River” is the title of Cynthia Ogarek’s book and the
subject of her talk to the Duneland Historical Society Thursday, May 19 at
the Library Service Center.
She is a public historian which she explains means she is not affiliated
with a college or university. She is a consultant and advisor to museums and
co-founder of the museum in Calumet City, Illinois where she lives.
She speaks of one river including the Calumet, Grand Calumet and Little
Calumet, 90 miles long and draining 600 square miles of land. She traced the
head waters to a farm in LaPorte County east of Red Mill County Park and
says the river drops forty feet as it crosses Porter County.
The book chapters are: Wilderness Era, Early Settlement, Industrialization,
Urbanization, Recreation and Clean-up and Preservation.
Her talk concentrated on engineering and managing the river and she counted
twelve man-made alterations or modifications to the river over the years,
starting with the I&M Canal in the mid-1800s which included a Calumet
feeder. Others are the Blue Island Dam, dredging the harbor near 95th street
in the 1870s, Indiana Harbor Ship Canal in 1903, Cal Sag channel (1912-1922)
to connect to the Mississippi River.
Also, Hart Ditch, channeling the Little Calumet with connecting ditches to
Burns Ditch, Gary channels in the 1930s, moving the river in Illinois in
1938, widening the Cal Sag channel to allow for bigger barges in the 1950s
and the 7.8 mile long Chicago Skybridge (1958).
The twelfth project is the O’Brien Locks and Dam which are located where the
St. Lawrence Seaway ends and the Lake to Gulf Waterway begins.
Today the river is crossed and recrossed by I-80, I-94, I-394, I-57, I-294,
Environmental and historic groups are working to preserve sites along the
river and to clean it. Her research found that people have been concerned
about preservation and clean-up since 1890.
“Along the Calumet River” is on sale at the Westchester Township Historical