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 History Center Announces Staff Changes

The Chattanooga History Center announces changes in its executive staff, following the resignation of Dr. Daryl Black. Marlene Payne has been promoted to the newly created position of Museum director.  Ms. Payne, with the Center for eight years, most recently has been its deputy director.  Other staff members are remaining in their positions: Caroline Sunderland as ... (click for more)

Civil Rights Program at UTC on March 26

The Departments of History and Political Science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga are pleased to announce that on Thursday, March 26, 2015, at 6:00 pm in the University Center's Raccoon Mountain Room, Dr. Renee Romano of Oberlin College will deliver a lecture entitled "What Kind of Reckoning?: Making Sense of the Contemporary Prosecutions of Civil Rights-Era ... (click for more)

Tennessee Broadband Expansion Bill Sought By EPB Put On Hold For Now

Advocates for broadband expansion in Tennessee, including Chattanooga's EPB, announced Tuesday that efforts to extend community-based fiber optic networks are being placed on hold for now "because there is not enough support among state lawmakers to change a state regulation that prevents the expansion of municipal fiber optic systems." EPB earlier won a ruling from the Federal ... (click for more)

Haslam Adds K-12 Funds In Budget Amendment

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam on Tuesday unveiled additions to the FY 2015-2016 budget that will be considered by the General Assembly in the coming weeks, including added funding for K-12. The governor last week met with school superintendents from the largest systems in the state over the issue of state funding for K-12. The next day, the Hamilton County Schools joined ... (click for more)

Physicians Thank Their Patients On Doctor’s Day

March 30 has been set aside as National Doctors’ Day since 1933 as a time to recognize the contributions made by our physicians. While the recognition is appreciated, our greatest satisfaction comes from caring for our patients.  For 132 years, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society has been the physicians’ voice as we worked together to improve health of our community. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Look At My April Garden

On this April Fool’s Day, as I take my monthly stroll through my virtual garden, there are gorgeous flowers and there are weeds, which appear to be trying harder than the flowers. So let’s see what we find before searching for “The Prize Egg” on Sunday. A FLOWER to the New York cab driver who told a young writer, “Always remember that everyone you meet knows something that you ... (click for more)