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


Chester Martin: Tales Of Broad Street

Did anyone ever tell you when you were growing up that Broad Street (in Chattanooga) did not always exist - except for nine short blocks from the river to 9th Street? Very hard to imagine that now, to be sure, but the street, as we know it today was not always there. My parents were both around, however, when that street only ran from the river (Aquarium area) to 9th Street, now ... (click for more)

Montagues Led In Chattanooga Banking, Industry; Fine Homes Were Knocked Down On Cameron Hill

One of Chattanooga's first banks opened after the Civil War's end was a project of two Northerners, who had first eyed Cincinnati for their First National Bank. The First National opened Nov. 15, 1865, in an unpretentious brick building between Third and Fourth streets. The founders were Theodore Giles Montague and William Perry Rathburn. They had moved on to Chattanooga because ... (click for more)

$125 Million County School Building Plan Includes Shifting CSLA To Tyner Middle; Combining Tyner High/Middle; New Harrison Elementary, New East Hamilton Middle

Hamilton County School officials on Thursday unveiled a $125 million building plan that includes moving the Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts to the current Tyner Middle School, which will undergo a major renovation. Tyner Middle will move across the street into Tyner High School. Both Tyner buildings have been under-utilized for a number of years. There will also be ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Committee Says Pulling Away From County Schools Is "Feasible"

After eight months of investigating the viability of Signal Mountain establishing a separate school district, a committee of six has determined that it is feasible and would meet the goal of improving the education provided to students. The committee was also tasked with identifying obstacles and if possible to find ways to overcome them.  Results of the report were presented ... (click for more)

The Deer Decline At Enterprise South Nature Park

There are now 11 fewer deer to see at Enterprise Nature Park. The hunters snuck another one in secretly so as not to cause controversy.   I go to that park three or four times a week, and haven't seen any deer for months, and I used to see them all the time. They had to put out "salt licks" to attract deer from surrounding areas outside the park. Then they killed them ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: At Last! New Schools

In this me-me-me-only-me world of today, we-we-we-finally got a thrilling $125 million facility plan for the Hamilton County Department of Education on Thursday night. The School Board unanimously approved a well-thought-out “first Band-Aid” that will provide a new elementary school in Harrison, middle schools in East Hamilton and Howard, and a quite-satisfactory answer to move ... (click for more)