• UNIT-Local History Component
    Title: The Power Canal
    Focus: Begun in 1888, the power canal and powerhouse at Sault Ste. Marie were finally completed in 1902.
    Connection:  Remember when we talked about the rapids of the Saint Marys river.  Today we are going to talk about how a canal was built to capture the energy of the falling water to generate electricity.
    Teaching Point:
    1. The Weitzel and Poe Locks were completed, and the Sault became a transportation center (1880s).
    2.  Plans were made to construct a power canal to bring more industry to the Sault.
    3. With the help of Francis H. Clergue,  the project was completed in 1902.
    Resource Material for Teachers:

                Plans to utilize the water-power potential of the rapids have a long history at the Sault. As early as the 1840s, people were talking of installing waterwheels at the rapids, to grind grain or operate other machinery. Indeed, during the construction of the State Locks and canal in 1853-55, waterpower had been harnessed to drive a waterwheel which removed water from the low areas as the canal was dug.

                Outside investors dreamed of tapping into the power of the “largest millpond in the world” (Lake Superior). The Sault was slated to be the “Chicago of the North.”  The first attempt, begun in 1888, failed due to lack of capital, and the project languished for almost ten years — until a bold  man named Francis Clergue, who had come to Sault, Ontario, from Bangor, Maine, and had rescued a similarly stalled project on that side of the river, decided to get involved on the Michigan side of the river as well. With his ability to convince investors of the potential for developing hydroelectric power in the Michigan Sault, Clergue got the project moving again, with actual blasting and digging restarted in 1898. The “Lake Superior Power Company” canal and powerhouse began generating power in October 1902. See pp. 150-160 of City of the Rapids. Over one century after it opened, the complex is still producing clean, nonpolluting power 24 hours a day. A much more detailed history of the power canal was published by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1982. It was written by Prof. Terry Reynolds and is entitled, simply, Sault Ste. Marie: A Project Report.

    Active Engagement:  Color Book with descriptive text pages 36-37student pages.

    Share: Have students take a virtual tour of Edison Sault Electric Company website: http://www.edisonsault.com/  with special attention to links to the Hydroelectric Plant and ESE History.  If possible, arrange a classroom tour of the Hydroelectric plant.

Last Modified on February 14, 2018