Almost Yesterday: Diversion Channel Contract Issued
It seems like Almost Yesterday that a contract was issued for the construction of the headwaters of the Little River Drainage District. The date was November 27, 1912. The contract was awarded to the D.C. Stephens Company of Buffalo, New York, with work on the project expected to begin in the summer of 1913.
This specific contract called for the creation of a drainage river thirty miles long from near Allenville on the west to the Mississippi River on the east. The new channel would be approximately one-hundred feet wide and twenty feet deep.
It was this water from the north and west that had for generations regularly renewed the great wetland regions of Southeast Missouri, giving rise to the area’s identification as “Swampeast Missouri,” or the Missouri “Glades.” The area was sometimes dry, but often wet. The giant wetland was one of the most distinctive features of 19th century Missouri.
The commissioners of the Little River Drainage District announced that this single contract called for the Stephens Company to be paid $1.25 million for clearing 4,000 acres of timber, building approximately forty miles of levees on the south side of the headwater, and moving eight-and-one-half million yards of soil…making this the largest single contract for earth movement in world history.
The vision of the Little River commissioners was that the east-west channel across the top of the system, and a series of smaller parallel ditches running north and south to the Arkansas border, would drain the great Missouri wetlands. The result was the greatest man-made transformation of the landscape in world history.
It seems like almost yesterday…