The Kwasind Dredged the Tennessee River to Keep it Navigable

Sunday, May 11, 2014 - by Harmon Jolley
The Kwasind, hard at work on a project.
The Kwasind, hard at work on a project.

The reservoirs and dams of the Tennessee Valley Authority have been a great boon to our area in preventing floods.  However, by maintaining adequate water levels during dry periods, TVA has also been beneficial in allowing navigation to continue.  Dredges, those machines which do the dirty job of removing silt and debris from river channels, are still important today but even more so prior to TVA. 

I came across an old photo of the dredge Kwasind, which is referenced in several reports of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.   Kwasind was a character in “The Song of Hiawatha,” an 1855 poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.   The name is appropriate for a dredge, since Kwasind helped his friend, Hiawatha, to remove roots, sandbars, and sturgeons from rivers and lakes.

According to one of the documents of the Corps, the Kwasind was built in Knoxville in 1899.  It was a dipper dredge with a steel hull and a wooden frame.  Dimensions were, in feet, a length of 80, breadth of 28, and a depth of 6. 

Dredges were used in scooping material from the river bottom in order to maintain a navigable depth.  Work crews were dispatched by the Corps where needed.  Frequent trouble spots included natural shoals of the river, as well as mouths of tributaries where silt often collected.

The 1913 Report of the Chief Engineers listed the Kwasind as being involved in a project at Kelly Shoals, 47 miles above Chattanooga.  “A channel  4,300 feet long and 150 feet wide has been dredged through these shoals;  the first cut being casted to the left of the channel forming the base for the longitudinal dike.   Taking the survey made just previous to the commencement of the work as a basis and the daily records of the dredge as to the character of material removed, it is estimated that approximately 22,226 cubic yards of blasted rock and 29,560 cubic yards of gravel place measurement have been removed.

I believe that the location 47 miles above Chattanooga places that in the vicinity of Meigs County.  That may explain why that the photo of the Kwasind was in a box of old family photographs.  My maternal grandmother’s family, the Grubbs, lived in Meigs County at the time of the report of the chief engineers.  Possibly some family members were employed in the dredging project.

In the 1920 Report of the Chief Engineers, the Kwasind was mentioned as being employed at the shoals where North Chickamauga Creek flowed into the Tennessee at Big Ridge.  “Party No 2 worked at North Chickamauga Shoals from July 1 to 28 and October 1 to 11 1919 completing this work and was equipped during the greater part of the time with the following plant: Dredge Kwasind, steamer Ocoee, derrick boat No 7 drill, tender No 4, 1 drill outfit, 1 pump boat, 1 tool boat, 5 quarter boats, 2 launches, 10 barges, 3 dumpscows, 1 storage boat, and 1 flat boat.”

Though TVA raised water levels by constructing dams, dredges continue to be used.  I found several references to TVA projects which required dredging over the years.  In recent years, the clean-up of the Kingston Fossil Plant ash spill is referenced on several sites which mention dredges.

If you or someone you know has ever worked in a dredging operation, or you have additional information on the Kwasind, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.    I will update this article with some of your comments.

Photograph of the Kwasind from the Cincinnati Public Library
Photograph of the Kwasind from the Cincinnati Public Library

Chattanooga Books Available By John Wilson

John Wilson, former Hamilton County Historian, has written two volumes on the early families of Hamilton County and also books on Chattanooga and on Lookout Mountain, as well as editing books on Chattanooga's railroads and the Stokes and Hiener photo collections. Railroads In And Around Chattanooga , featuring Chattanooga's intriguing railroad history, has 69 chapters and covers ... (click for more)

Copies Of Chattanooga Photo Book Collection Still Available At Zarzour's, By Mail

Copies of books in the Historic Chattanooga Photos series by Chattanoogan.com are still available at Zarzour's Restaurant and by mail. A fourth, and perhaps final, volume, Old Chattanooga Photos, is planned to be issued later this year. Railroads In And Around Chattanooga , featuring Chattanooga's intriguing railroad history, has 69 chapters and covers rail history here and ... (click for more)

Erlanger Expects $5 Million Profit Despite "Very Challenging" Budget

Erlanger Health System officials said they expect a $5 million profit for the upcoming fiscal year despite a "very challenging" budget. Britt Tabor, chief financial officer, said there will be continued top line growth, which has brought a 51 percent rise in patient revenue over the past five years. "This is organic growth. It's not from mergers or acquisitions," Mr. Tabor ... (click for more)

Public Defender Says Another Entity Needs To Continue Funding For New Mental Health Court

Public Defender Steve Smith said another entity needs to take over funding the new Mental Health Court. He said Criminal Court Judge Don Poole has agreed to oversee the court and will make a budget presentation to the County Commission on May 31. Mr. Smith told members of the Pachyderm Club on Monday that he has been funding the program through the services of Anna Protano ... (click for more)

Tennessee Business Expansions On Rise Across State

In 2016, Tennessee was named State of the Year for Economic Development by Southern Business & Development Magazine based on project totals and the variety of industries that invested in the state and created jobs. To a great extent, Bradley and Polk Counties have benefited from that investment.   From February 2015 to February 2016, Cleveland/Bradley County led the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: DeVos Changes Everything

I believe that from every point on my moral compass the state’s hijacking of five public schools in Hamilton County is wrong. I also believe I can argue with success from any direction on my compass against any of the proposals or terms that Commissioner Candice McQueen just threatened to impose on the county’s Department of Education. But today let’s go to ‘True North’ on my compass ... (click for more)