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Mitigation Case Study: Pipemakers Canal

For more than a decade, the Historic Preservation Division (HPD) has reviewed projects that have the
potential to affect a series of drainage canals located throughout Savannah and Chatham County. Most
of these were subject to compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act because
of federal permitting through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As early as 2001, HPD review staff found
in reviewing these projects that these non-transportation canals such as Pipemakers, Strawberry, and
Hardin should be considered eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Although not
a lot of information was available beyond the structures themselves, it was evident that the series of
drainage canals formed a system that permitted the development of otherwise marshy or poorly
drained wetlands. Therefore, it was our opinion that these drainage canals should be considered eligible
under Criterion A, for association with the development of Savannah, and C, as structures. While they
continued to serve their historic function of draining water, we understood that continued
improvements to the canals were necessary in order to maintain them and increase their capacity.

In 2006, Chatham County Engineering Department proposed improvements to Pipemakers Canal that
included doubling the width, dredging and slope work and the addition of maintenance roads. In
consultation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, HPD entered into a Memorandum of Agreement
with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Chatham County to mitigate the adverse effects that would
result from this work. One of the mitigation measures was preparation of a written report concerning
the history and development of Pipemakers Canal. Ellen I. Harris of the Metropolitan Planning
Commission, Savannah for Chatham County Department of Engineering prepared this document entitled
A Developmental History of Pipemakers Canal, Chatham County, Georgia. The report is very informative
and contains key general background material as well as site-specific documentation. For example, while
we originally thought the canals were primarily for development, it turns out that the major impetus
was public health, with development following. Also, some of these canals were the result of one of the
largest Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects in the state. Pipemakers Creek/Swamp was fully
converted into a canal by 1930 and as suburbanization spread across Chatham County after World War
II, the canal system was maintained and utilized to drain wet areas to build new subdivisions and
accommodate new development.
The report illustrates just how important this network of non-transportation canals was in the history of
Savannah, providing drainage for prevention of disease, for agricultural cultivation and for land
development. In addition, it is a valuable tool in understanding a historic resource that is being altered
both directly and indirectly as a result of modern development.
A Developmental History of
Pipemakers Canal
Chatham County, Georgia
Produced By:

The Chatham County-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission

MPC Staff
Thomas L. Thomson, P.E. AICP, Executive Director
Beth Reiter, AICP, Historic Preservation Director
Ellen Harris, LEED AP, Preservation Planner, Author

MPC Board Members


Jon N. Todd, Chairman
W. Shedrick Coleman, Vice-Chairman
Adam Ragsdale, Secretary
Susan R. Myers, Treasurer
Russell Abolt
Michael Brown
Ellis Cook
Ben Farmer
David Hoover
Stephen R. Lufburrow
Timothy S. Mackey
Lacy A. Manigault
Robert L. Ray
A Developmental History of
Pipemakers Canal
Chatham County, Georgia

By:

Ellen I. Harris
Metropolitan Planning Commission
Post Office Box 8246
Savannah, Georgia 31412

For:

Chatham County Department of Engineering


Post Office Box 8161
Savannah, Georgia 31412

February 12, 2009


Contents

List of Figures iii.

Introduction 1

Historic Context 2

Chatham County History 2

Chatham County Canals History 3

Pipemakers Canal Land Use History 6

Conversion of Pipemakers Creek into Pipemakers Canal 11

Original and Current Physical Environment 20

Results/Conclusion 29

Bibliography 30

Appendix 1: Memorandum of Agreement

Appendix 2: U.S. Geographical Survey 7.5-Minute Topographic Quadrangle Maps

Appendix 3: Pipemakers Canal Location Map

Appendix 4: Pipemakers Canal Photo Key

Appendix 5: HS-1 Georgia Historic Resources Form- Pipemakers Canal


Figure List

Figure 1: 1816 McKinnon Map (from 1916 tracing) 11

Figure 2: 1830 Whitehall Plantation Map 12

Figure 3: 1864 Civil War Map 13

Figure 4: c. 1870 Drainage Map 1 14

Figure 5: c. 1870 Drainage Map 2 15

Figure 6: 1875 Chatham County Plat Map 16

Figure 7: 1896 Chatham County Drainage Map 17

Figure 8: 1906 Chatham County Drainage Map 18

Figure 9: c. 1920 Chatham County Drainage Map 19

Figure 10: 1930 Chatham County Properties, Public Road, Etc. Map 20

Figure 11: Bridge, Georgia Ports Authority, 11/17/06 21

Figure 12: Remnants of older wooden bridge at Georgia Ports Authority, 11/17/06 22

Figure 13: Tidal gate at Georgia Ports Authority, 11/17/06 22

Figure 14: Canal and access road, 11/17/06 23

Figure 15: Highway 17 Bridge, 11/17/06 24

Figure 16: Dean Forest Road Bridge, 11/17/06 25

Figure 17: Golf Course Access Bridge, 11/17/06 25

Figure 18: Wooden bridge remnants, 11/17/06 26

Figure 19: Wooden bridge remnants, 11/17/06 26

Figure 20: Tributary ditch, 11/17/06 27

Figure 21: Pipemakers Canal at Adams Road, 11/17/06 27

Figure 22: Adams Road Bridge, 11/17/06 28

iii.
Introduction

This report was compiled at the request of the Chatham County Engineering

Department, in order to fulfill a portion of the mitigation requirements as outlined in the

Memorandum of Agreement Among the US Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah

District, The Georgia State Historic Preservation Division, and the County of Chatham,

State of Georgia, Concerning the Treatment of Historic Properties to be Affected by the

Proposed Phase II Widening and Drainage Improvement Project to Pipemakers Canal,

Chatham County, Georgia, attached as Appendix 1.

1
Historic Context

Chatham County History

Savannah was founded on February 12, 1733, when Oglethorpe and the original

colonists landed on the banks of the Savannah River. The colony was established in part

as a buffer for the Carolina Colony against the Spanish in Florida, but also to provide

new opportunities and possibility of success to Londons disadvantaged poor. 1

Oglethorpe laid out the new city in a series of wards, each with a central square.

Each ward consisted of four trust lots and 40 tything lots. Each family was granted a

tything lot on which to build a home as well as a 5 acre garden lot on the outskirts of

town and a 45 acre farming lot beyond the town. 2

Initially slavery prohibited in the colony which significantly hindered agricultural

development.3 It was not until 1750 that the ban on slavery was lifted,4 and agriculture,

particular rice cultivation, a very labor intensive crop, was able to profit on a large scale.

Land along tidal rivers was particularly valued for rice cultivation and before the

Revolutionary War, rice made up one third of all exports. After the invention of the

cotton gin in 1793, cotton became another significant export. Both cotton and rice were

major cash crops through the mid-nineteenth century. The Civil War devastated

Savannah and its surrounding plantations, though cotton was still a major crop until the

1920s when the arrival of the boll weevil significantly hampered production. Rice

production, with its high labor requirements, could not be adequately sustained without

1
M. Todd Cleveland et al., Cultural Resources Survey for the Proposed Excavation and Drainage
Improvements, Pipemakers Canal, Chatham County, Georgia (Atlanta: TRC Garrow Associates, Inc.,
1998), 33-34.
2
Ibid.
3
Ibid.
4
Preston Russell and Barbara Hines, Savannah: A History of Her People Since 1733 (Savannah: Frederic
C. Beil, 1992), 16.

2
slave labor, and had dissolved in Chatham County by 1900.5 The plantation agricultural

economy was replaced by industrial development in the twentieth century. As in many

communities, the invention of the automobile as well as sociocultural changes which

developed after World War II resulted in suburbanization which engulfed and

transformed most of Savannahs farm and plantation communities. 6

Chatham County Canals History

Canals have served a variety of functions throughout Chatham Countys history

including transportation, drainage for agricultural cultivation, drainage for prevention of

disease, and drainage for land development.

The Savannah and Ogeechee Canal was the only canal in Chatham County used

specifically for transportation. This 16.5 mile canal was constructed between 1826 and

1830, and connects the Savannah River to the Ogeechee River. At completion, the canal

was 48 feet wide at the top and 33 feet wide at the bottom, and six locks interspersed

along the canal controlled water levels. The canal had a tumultuous beginning and was

sold for a fraction of its value in 1836, six years after its completion. Subsequent

improvements under the new management revived the transportation component of the

canal which served as an important element of the economy in the 1840s and 1850s. The

canal served the timber industry exceedingly well, as one of the nations largest sawmills

was located along the canal. Additionally, products including cotton, rice, peaches, etc.

were transported via canal. Remaining active through the Civil War, it was not until the

5
Cleveland, 34-35.
6
Chatham County-Savannah Comprehensive Plan (2006): Chapter 8, pages 2-3.

3
late 19th century that the canal suffered a gradual decline, and eventually succumbed to

the transportation power of the railroad.7

Much of Chatham County consisted of low-lying marshland traversed by small

creeks. This geographical characteristic made rice cultivation an ideal crop for the area

and early canals served as ditches to help control rice field irrigation. During the early

years of the colony, slaves were prohibited which severely hampered agriculture

production. After the 1750 revocation of the anti-slave policy, the rice industry

flourished. In 1751, there were approximately 35 slaves in Georgia but by 1753, the slave

population had increased to about 1000. By 1760, there were approximately 3,500 slaves

in Georgia. This provided the requisite labor for rice cultivation, a very labor intensive

crop, which in turn allowed Savannah to become an economic, political and cultural hub

in the region. By 1773, 1400 plantations had been established in the region.8 President

George Washington during his visit to Savannah in 1791, noted in his diary, The town

on 3 sides is surrounded with cultivated Rice fields which have a rich and luxuriant

appearance.9 Rice cultivation flourished until the Civil War which dealt the crop a lethal

blow by removing the cheap labor source. By the twentieth century, rice cultivation was

almost obsolete. The closure of the export house of Harris and Habersham in 1899

signaled the demise.10

As people became more aware of the causes of diseases such as malaria and

yellow fever, efforts were made to eliminate standing water in marshy areas to prevent

outbreaks of these mosquito born diseases. In 1817, the first ordinance was passed

7
Christopher E. Hendricks, Savannah and Ogeechee Canal. National Register of Historic Places,
Nomination, (Historic Preservation Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, 1997), 3.
8
Russell and Hines, p. 44-45.
9
Ibid, p. 77.
10
Ibid, p. 158.

4
prohibiting rice cultivation in the immediate vicinity of Savannah. At this time, the

swamps were drained as a preventive measure against future epidemics. Sixty years later,

following the yellow fever epidemic of 1876, the Commission on Drainage for Chatham

County was created through an Act of the Georgia State Legislature. By 1889, twenty-

one thousand acres of land had been drained by the installation of thirty-four miles of

ditches in a system of three canals. Machinery was furnished by the county for the

construction of the Casey, Placentia, and Springfield canals, and convicts provided much

of the labor.11

In the 1930s, the county engaged in six major canal-building projects, operated by

WPA forces, which included work on the Casey, DeRenne, Hampstead, Buckhalter,

Savannah and Ogeechee, and Dundee canals. Though the original construction of the

canals had been to control water levels in the rice fields, the Drainage Commission aimed

to eliminate puddles and residual ponds in Savannah and the surrounding area through a

program of canal construction that would become that largest WPA project in Georgia. In

accordance with the standards of the Georgia State Board of Health, projects such as the

digging of ditches to drain one hundred square miles of swamp near Pooler and

Bloomingdale were meant to [tap into] the heart of the mosquito breeding area of

Harden swamp, eradicating the threat of malaria in those mosquito infested regions.

New canals were dug, old ditches were re-cut as v-shaped trenches to prevent the erosion

of banks and kept the water flowing freely, making them easier to maintain, and low

areas were filled in.12

11
Twelve Miles of Canals Complete, Savannah Morning News, November 10, 1936.
12
Ibid.

5
Pipemakers Canal Land Use History

The earliest European settlers along Pipemakers Creek arrived in the first half of

the eighteenth century. These settlers were quickly frustrated by title and land survey

disputes, and frequently gave up their ownership claims.

Along the north side of Pipemakers Creek, William Cooksey settled property

bounded by the Savannah River to the east and Pipemakers Creek to the south in 1735,

but abandoned the property after four years and moved with his family to Charleston.13

Subsequently John Armory, a yeoman, and his wife Sarah, moved to the Georgia

Colony from England and settled along Pipemakers Creek in 1737 with their friend,

Isaac Gibbs. While granted 150 acres, Armory was able to clear approximately six acres

for rice cultivation. He too abandoned his land and left for South Carolina after being

unable to obtain a clear survey and title. Similarly, Isaac Gibbs found that his land was

also claimed by Isaac Young and he gave up after a year.14

Isaac Young eventually amassed 1,100 acres, sold half prior to the Revolutionary

War, while his heirs held on to the remaining Watson track until after the Revolutionary

War.15

At the end of the eighteenth century, Thomas Gibbons began collecting land

along the Savannah River and the north side of Pipemakers Creek that later formed

Whitehall Plantation, including property from Isaac Youngs estate, 50 acres of which

was already being used for rice cultivation. Gibbons called this property Fair Lawn.16 His

purchase in 1813 of the Orange Valley track along Pipemakers Creek provided him with

13
Mary Granger, ed., Savannah River Plantations (Savannah: The Oglethorpe Press, 1997), 266-267.
14
Ibid, 268-269.
15
Ibid, 285-286
16
Ibid, 304.

6
a full mile along Pipemakers for cotton and rice cultivation.17 Thomas Gibbons son

William made the first significant physical alteration which turned part of Pipemakers

Creek into Pipemakers Canal in 1830. William Gibbons arranged with Thomas Young,

the owner of Raes Hall Plantation to the south of Pipemakers Creek, to straighten the

creek which was the boundary line between their two properties in an 18 foot wide canal.

As this straightening would provide Thomas Young with more land at the completion, it

was agreed that Youngs slaves would dig the canal. The exchange was complete by

1834.18

At William Gibbons death in 1852,19 the property was passed to William

Heyward Gibbons, under whose management rice cultivation flourished. However, the

Civil War took a toll on the rice industry but Gibbons attempted to revive it. In 1872, 419

acres were under cultivation. This increased to 512 acres in 1873 and to 585 acres in

1874. Soon after, a series of storms damaged crops; rice was becoming harder and harder

to cultivate due to the high cost and scarcity of labor.20

William Heyward Gibbons died in 1894 without an heir and White Hall

Plantation was passed to his nephew William Gibbons Lathrop. After changing hands

within the family several more times,21 a 500 acre tract along Pipemaker's Canal, though

inland (across Port Wentworth Road), was sold to S &A Railway in March 1949. In May

1952, the remaining 394 acres of the plantation (all the way to the Savannah River) was

17
Ibid, 308-309.
18
Ibid, 314-315.
19
Ibid, 321.
20
Ibid, 324-330.
21
Ibid, 332.

7
sold to S&A Railway. The site was called a major industrial site that was acquired for

industrial and transportation expansion of Savannah. 22

The south side of Pipemakers Creek was originally set aside for an Indian

settlement, arranged through an agreement between Oglethorpe (representing the

Trustees) and the Lower Creek tribes, under the leadership of Tomochichi. The Savannah

Indians established New Yamacraw Village in 1734 at Pipemakers Bluff,

approximately one hundred yards southeast of the mouth of Pipemakers Creek. There

were a number of houses constructed of sticks and mud, and whitewashed with ground

oyster shells. The land around the creek was likely cleared and used for growing crops by

the Indians. Subsequent to Tomochichis expressed desire that his people receive an

education, a group of Moravian colonists and missionaries constructed a school house in

1736 on the banks of the mouth of Pipemakers Creek, on a mound that had become

known as the Irene Mound.23 Another small mound was noted near Irene Mound which

was presumed to be an Indian burial mound.24 After a series of difficulties and setbacks,

including the Moravians having left for Pennsylvania and Tomochichi dead, the New

Yamacraw Indians abandoned their settlement along the banks of Pipemakers Creek in

1739. This land was subsequently sold back to the Trustees. 25

450 acres of land that included the Irene Mound and New Yamacraw was granted

by the Trustees to Patrick Graham who left it to his nephew Mungo Graham who sold it

22
River Tract Sold to S.&A. Railway, Savannah Morning News, May 8, 1952.
23
Granger et. al, 343-347.
24
Dolores Boisfeuillet Floyd, New Yamacraw and the Indian Mound Irene. (Pamphlet, located at
Georgia Historical Society, 1936), 17.
25
Granger et. al, 350-352.

8
to John Robinson in 1758. Upon his death, the lands were sold to pay off some debts and

were purchased in 1760 by John Rae, an Irish immigrant. 26

John Rae built Raes Hall which served as a trading post until 1767, 27 and used

the Irene Mound as a family burial ground.28 After Raes death in 1774, the land was

passed among various family members. Finally the property was sold (in some dispute) to

Thomas Young in 1797. His nephew, also Thomas Young, eventually inherited the

property and developed the land for cotton and rice, entering into the above mentioned

agreement to straighten Pipemakers Creek in 1830 with Thomas Gibbons. This allowed

both farmers to flood their respective rice fields on each side.29 Although rice production

on Raes Hall remained profitable, soon after Thomas Youngs death his heir, Alexander

Kettle, sold Raes Hall to Mitchell King of Charleston in 1838. Kings death in 1862 and

the Civil War took a heavy toll on Raes Hall, as it did on many rice plantations in the

area. Many of Raes Halls slaves had been transferred to the Kings other estates, and by

1865 Raes Hall was virtually abandoned. Kings heirs did not immediately revive rice

cultivation subsequent to the Civil War, but did make an unsuccessful attempt in 1871.

The abolition of slavery rendered the rice fields unprofitable. In 1872 the heirs sold the

rights to dredge the rice fields on Kings Island and along Pipemakers Creek to the City

of Savannah which terminated all prospect of restoring rice production. 30

After changing hands several times, Joseph Hull and Company eventually came

into possession of Raes Hall and additional land along the south side of Pipemakers

Canal. Sometime between 1911 and 1916, the City acquired the rights to expand and

26
Ibid, 350-352.
27
Ibid, 367-368.
28
Floyd, 18.
29
Granger et. al, 367-368.
30
Ibid, 371-377

9
enlarge the existing drainage system and allowed other lands to be newly drained as a

sanitary precaution. Joseph Hull and Company sold the land to the Savannah Warehouse

& Compress Company in 1916. The Company built tremendous warehouses on the site

and was very successful, even through the Great Depression. 31

Adjacent to Raes Hall on the south and Whitehall plantation on the north, a little

further inland along Pipemakers Creek, large tracts of land on both sides of the Creek

were acquired by John Frances Triboudet in 1761 and 1762. The property was transferred

to Peter Bocquet in 1767 and he subsequently deeded a portion to Sarah Gibbons and a

portion to Ebenezer Jenckes. Portions of the canal were used to irrigate rice fields. In

1837 an 80 foot right-of-way was sold to the Central of Georgia Railroad. By 1844 the

Jenckes plantation consisted of 1,750 acres. Subsequently the estate was sold to James M.

Butler and then to John Ryan in 1863. Mary Houstoun acquired the property in 1888 and

portions of the land were leased to timber companies. After her passing in the early

1920s, the land passed to Daniel Zipperer, George Brinson, E.D. LaRouche, Edward

OBrien, and R.L. Walker.32

The 1930s saw a renewed archaeological interest in the Irene Mound. Dolores

Boisfeuillet Floyd, a historian in Savannah, identified the mound as the Moravian school

site and subsequent burial grounds of General Elbert. Her work there inspired the Work

Projects Administration authorities to conduct an extensive archaeological investigation

of the site in 1937.33

31
Ibid, 384-385.
32
Daphne Battle, An Archaeological Survey of 76ha. (193 Acres) Kahn Mitigation Site, Chatham County,
Georgia (Beaufort, SC: Cypress Cultural Consultants, 2007), 16-21.
33
Granger, et. al, 386-388.

10
The Chatham Field Airport was built in 1940 as a WPA project. The airfield was

controlled by the military from 1942 to 1950 and it is currently known as the Savannah

Hilton Head International Airport.34

Conversion of Pipemakers Creek into Pipemakers Canal

The area currently referred to as Pipemakers Canal, was originally Pipemakers

Creek, a winding creek off the Savannah River. More inland, Pipemakers Creek turned

into Pipemakers Swamp. The name Pipemaker was synonymous with the term pot

maker in the area and was the creek and was likely given the name due to the many

pottery shards once littering the site.35

Pipemakers Creek was converted into Pipemakers Canal gradually over a span

of about 100 years. The conversion can be traced predominantly through 19th and 20th

century maps as well as some newspaper articles.

Figure 1: 1816 McKinnon Map (1916 Tracing)

34
Ibid, 21.
35
Dolores Boisfeuillet Floyd, New Yamacraw and the Indian Mound Irene. (Pamphlet, located at
Georgia Historical Society, 1936), 23-24.

11
An 1816 map (see Figure 1) shows the length of Pipemakers Creek before its

conversion into a canal. The creek itself is well defined, and is shown to be surrounded

by what appears to be swamp. Further inland, the creek becomes swamp. Rice fields are

already established on the Savannah River just north of the creek.

Figure 2: 1830 Whitehall Plantation


Map

A map of Whitehall Plantation from 1830 (see Figure 2) just prior to the creation

of the first section of the canal, clearly shows the original creek with a sketch of the

proposed canal. The creek formed the boundary between Whitehall Plantation and Raes

Hall, and the map outlines the plan to straighten the creek into an 18-foot wide canal.

Rice cultivation on the north banks of Pipemakers Creek and the Savannah River are

clearly established. This first phase of conversion of Pipemakers Creek into Pipemakers

12
Canal, as arranged between William Gibbons (Whitehall Plantation) and Thomas Young

(Raes Hall), was complete by 1834.36

There is little evidence of subsequent alterations to the creek/canal over the next

sixty to seventy years. There is a request for proposals in the Georgian Newspaper in

1832 for a bridge over Pipemakers Creek on August and Cherokee Hill Cross Road. The

article notes that the bridge will be 40 feet long, 20 feet wide, and will consist of black

cypress.37

An 1864 Civil War Map (Figure 3) shows Pipemakers Creek (north of Raes

Hall) maintaining its 1834 configuration.

Figure 3: 1864 Civil War Map

An undated map which appears to be from around 1870 (see Figure 4) shows

Pipemakers Canal near its merger with the Savannah River as having a series of fairly

elaborate drainage ditches, in a grid pattern, presumably for rice field irrigation. Another

36
Granger, et. al, 314-315.
37
Notice in the Georgia Guardian, November 5, 1832.

13
map which may be from the same map series shows more drainage ditches along

Pipemakers Creek further inland (see Figure 5).

Figure 4: c. 1870 Drainage Map 1

14
Figure 5: c. 1870 Drainage Map 2

15
Figure 6: 1875 Chatham County Plat Map

Figure 6, dated 1875, illustrates Pipemakers Canal dividing Gibbons White

Lawn to the north from Raes Hall (also called Red Oaks) to the south. The grid pattern

of Gibbons property again appears to indicate rice fields to the north of Pipemakers, and

some less developed rice fields to the south. It appears that by 1875, Pipemakers Canal

had not extended beyond its original construction boundary, separating White Lawn (or

Hall) from Raes Hall.

16
Figure 7: 1896 Chatham County Drainage
Map

This lack of development or conversion of Pipemakers Creek into a canal at the

end of the nineteenth century is further supported by a drainage map of Chatham County

dated 1896 (Figure 7) which clearly shows Pipemakers Creek/Swamp as being well

defined, though surrounded by swamps. The original 1834 boundaries of the canal do not

appear to have been extended by this point.

17
Between 1896 and 1906, a significant extension of Pipemakers Canal occurred,

likely through City or County drainage projects. A 1906 drainage map of Chatham

County shows Pipemakers Canal well developed and extending well inland (see Figure

8), to just beyond Bourne Avenue.

Figure 8: 1906 Chatham County Drainage


Map

By the 1920s, the canal had been extended again, this time to its approximate

finished length, as shown on a map (Figure 9) which appears to date from the 1920s,

though it cites the 1896 drainage maps (Figure 7) as the base map.

18
Figure 9: c. 1920 Chatham County
Drainage Map

A map dated 1930 confirms that Pipemakers Creek/Swamp had been fully

converted into a canal (see Figure 10).

As suburbanization spread across Chatham County after World War II, the

existing canal system was maintained and utilized to drain wet areas to build new

subdivisions and accommodate new development.

19
Figure 10: 1930 Chatham County
Properties, Public Road, Etc. Map

Original and Current Physical Environment

In 1854 Reverend George White described the area as flat, interspersed with

many swamps. The country has a large portion of fertile land. On the Savannah River, the

bodies of tide swamp lands are extensive, and are cultivated upwards of twenty miles

from the brackish marsh up the river, and are considered the most valuable lands in the

State. Many of the rice plantations have a picturesque appearance.38

Early maps indicate that the current Pipemakers Canal was originally a fairly

substantial creek, particularly closer to its mouth at the Savannah River. Rice cultivation

38
Rev. George White., Excerpts from Historical Collections of Georgia (New York: Pudney & Russell,
Publishers, 1854; Republished by A Plus Printing Company), 302.

20
along its banks was developed as early as 1816. The creek is shown to be surrounded by

swamp, especially further inland. The creek eventually evolves into swamp at its most

inland reaches.

The current physical environment is quite varied. A field survey was conducted

on November 17, 2006. The intent was to document all accessible, existing structures on

Pipemakers Canal. The survey began at the Georgia Ports Authority, where Pipemakers

Canal connects to the Savannah River, and ends in Bloomingdale at Adams Road (see

Appendix 2: Pipemakers Canal Photo Key). An access road runs adjacent to most

sections of the canal. No fences were observed, only a series of bridges.

Pipemakers Canal currently begins at the Savannah River on land now occupied

by the Georgia Ports Authority. This portion of the canal has been severely altered and no

semblance of the original canal structure remains. The Irene Mound, once located at the

mouth of Pipemakers Creek at the Savannah River, no longer exists. The area is marked

by a heavily industrial appearance.

A bridge, constructed in 200639 is the first structure over the Canal (see Figure

11). It replaced an older, wooden bridge, the date of which is uncertain (see Figure 12).

Figure 11: Bridge, Georgia Ports


Authority, 11/17/06

39
John Walz, interviewed by author, Savannah, GA, November 17, 2006.

21
Only remnants of the wooden bridge remain.

Figure 12: Remnants of older


wooden bridge at Georgia Ports
Authority, 11/17/06

The Tidal Gate shown in Figure 13 was constructed in 1959.40

Figure 13: Tidal gate at Georgia Ports


Authority, 11/17/06

40
Ibid.

22
Beyond the Georgia Ports Authority, the canal travels through mostly rural,

wooded areas. The canal remains quite wide (approximately 20-25), and the access road

along the canal is in good condition (see Figure 14). The canal is well maintained by the

County, being mowed three times per year, and sprayed for mosquitoes twice per year.41

Figure 14: Canal and access road,


11/17/06

The canal is also sprayed with herbicide periodically to prevent too much

vegetation from clogging the canal. The concrete Highway 17 bridge over the canal was

built in 1984 (Figure 15).

41
Ibid.

23
Figure 15: Highway 17 Bridge,
11/17/06

Further inland, the canal maintains its rural and wooded nature. The access road

which runs along the south side of the canal is a noticeably higher elevation than the

surrounding land. This condition was created as the canal was dug, the removed earth

was piled next the canal. The Dean Forest Road Bridge is a modern, triple-square,

concrete bridge (Figure 16).

Just south of the airport, the canal remains fairly wide but is considerably

shallower. In some areas there is an access road on both sides. The modern concrete

bridge provides access to the golf course (see Figure 17).

24
Figure 16: Dean Forest Road Bridge,
11/17/06

Figure 17: Golf Course Access Bridge,


11/17/06

25
Perhaps the most interesting extant structure on Pipemakers Canal is the

remnants of a wooden bridge in a small subdivision of Pooler (Figures 18 and 19). The

original date of construction is unknown, and the exact date of partial demolition is

unknown, but is likely to have occurred within the last 10 years.

Figure 18: Wooden bridge remnants,


11/17/06

Figure 19: Wooden bridge remnants,


11/17/06

A small tributary ditch from the adjacent suburb adjoining the canal illustrates

critical drainage element the canal continues to provide for development (Figure 20).

26
Figure 20: Tributary ditch, 11/17/06

As Pipemakers Canal gets closer to Hardin Swamp, its final destination, the canal

becomes considerably narrower and shallower (see Figure 21). At Adams Road crossing,

a small modern concrete bridge has been constructed (see Figure 22).

Figure 21: Pipemakers Canal at


Adams Road, 11/17/06

27
Figure 22: Adams Road Bridge,
11/17/06

No historic photographs were located.

28
Results/Conclusion

Pipemakers Canal is a physical representation of the history and development of

Chatham County. Its creation and subsequent evolution reflect the social and economic

trends occurring throughout the County.

Its inception in the 1830s as the result of an agreement between two property

owners to provide additional drainage for rice cultivation mirrors the broader trend of the

popularity and economic viability of rice cultivation throughout the County, especially

along waterways. The canals expansion at the beginning of the twentieth century, which

resulted in the drainage of surrounding swamps, reflects the broader concern over

eliminating swampy areas to prevent disease. On the banks of Pipemakers Canal the

WPA excavation of the Irene Mound in 1937 and the Chatham Field Airport, another

WPA project, in 1940 were two of numerous WPA projects occurring throughout the

County. Its subsequent maintenance satisfied the pressures of suburbanization post-

WWII.

29
Bibliography

Battle, Daphne. An Archaeological Survey of 76ha. (193 Acres) Kahn Mitigation Site,

Chatham County, Georgia. Beaufort, SC: Cypress Cultural Consultants, 2007.

Chatham County-Savannah Comprehensive Plan. 2006.

Cleveland, M. Todd, Mark D. Chancellor, Jeffery L. Holland, and Kristin J. Wilson.

Cultural Resources Survey for the Proposed Excavation and Drainage

Improvements, Pipemakers Canal, Chatham County, Georgia. Atlanta: TRC

Garrow Associates, Inc., 1998.

Efficiency in Drainage Work. Savannah Morning News, January 2, 1938.

Floyd, Dolores Boisfeuillet. New Yamacraw and the Indian Mound Irene. Pamphlet,

located at Georgia Historical Society, 1936.

Granger, Mary, ed. Savannah River Plantations. Savannah: The Oglethorpe Press, 1997.

Hendricks, Christopher E. Savannah and Ogeechee Canal. National Register of

Historic Places, Nomination. Preservation Division, Georgia Department of

Natural Resources, 1997.

Notice for Request for Proposals for a New Bridge Across Pipemakers Creek. Georgia

Guardian, November 5, 1832.

River Tract Sold to S.&A. Railway, Savannah Morning News, May 8, 1952.

Russell, Preston, and Barbara Hines. Savannah: A History of Her People Since 1733.

Savannah: Frederic C. Beil, 1992.

The Countys Canals. Savannah Morning News, August 27, 1889.

Twelve Miles of Canals Complete. Savannah Morning News, November 11, 1936.

Walz, John. Interviewed by author. Savannah, GA, November 17, 2006.

30
Appendix 1
Appendix 2
U.S. Geological Survey 7.5-Minute Topographic Quadrangle Maps
Meldrim and Meldrim SE Quadrangles
Appendix 3
0 0.5 1 2 Miles
Pipemaker's Canal- Location Map
yb

Rd
R
Bonn

nowlt
Towles
M
id

on W
dl
e
St

Pky
Pipemaker's Canal

Clif
Rd

tt Rd

ay
t

Phil
Dorse

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Canty

t on
ads

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lips
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gate

Dr
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Cross

erry S
ir k
r

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e St Horn
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v
R

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Au g
rd Dr
ach

Rd

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t
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eco

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William B Wilson Dr

Dr
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Ro
Stag

e St
Perry Rd Gruman Rd

Rd .

rtle

S Co
be

lvd

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SH
e Rd

Aggett Dr

My
ighw Airways Ave

rt B
ay 8 Grang
r Row

asta
0

y
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kw

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l er

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wa

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th

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UNINCORP nd it R d Elea rn

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ger P

nt Av
ad

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n t
Canal Rd De Bu Clov
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2nd Ave Tre


state
o
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C

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on

ar P Ca

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st

d o int D rl Gri
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nt

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Appendix 4
0 0.5 1 2 Miles
Pipemaker's Canal- Photo Key

Figure 21

Figure 19

Figure 22
Figure 20

Figure 18

Figure 14
Figure 17 Figure 13

Figure 15

Figure 16
Figure 12 Figure 11
Appendix 5