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Nicaragua Canal - 1889-1893

The Maritime Canal Company of Nicaragua, chartered by U.S. Congress, February 20, 1889, assumed the concession to build a canal across Nicaragua originally assigned to the Nicaragua Canal Association in 1887. The new company was organised after an act of Congress authorising the incorporation of the association. Work upon the canal was begun in the same year and was continued until 1893, when the company went into bankruptcy.

By 1890 A. G. Menocal was the chief engineer of the Nicaragua Canal Construction Company. The first expedition for construction left New York on 25 May 1889, and on 03 June 1889 landed at the proposed entrance to the canal, at Greytown, on a sandy, uninhabited coast, without harbor or shelter from the elements, with no means of communication along the line of the canal except through tortuous and much-obstructed streams, some of which could not float a loaded canoe, and depending altogether on a base of supplies for constructive material and subsistence 2,000 miles distant, with only one line of steamers touching on that coast, and two weeks distant from the nearest telegraph station.

The first work of construction undertaken was to obtain an entrance from the sea into the bay, by means of a breakwater, the building of which was pushed forward without delay. On 01 July 1890, a length of 700 feet of this pier had been completed, its outer end being in 12 feet of water. By late 1890 the company had errected wharves and warehouses for the reception and storage of supplies. Parts of the San Juammilla, Deseado, San Francisco, and other streams, had been denied of obstructions and made navigable for small craft, and several miles of the route of the canal, between the harbor and the Eastern Divide, had been cleared and made ready for dredging. The company had built two miles of broad-gauge railroad, and about 70 miles of telegraph and telephone lines, and had landed at Greytown large quantities of machinery, tools, lumber, piles, creasoted lumber, boats, steam tugs and launches, lighters, pile-drivers, and other material and equipment necessary for the harbor and canal work.

By late 1890 it was estimated that, with "business-like" management, the canal can be finished in seven years, of which one year would probably be consumed in doing necessary preliminary work, and six years in the actual construction; and the total cost was estimated not to exceed $90,000,000.

On 29 March 1892, the California State Nicaragua Canal Convention held a meeting at San Francisco at which it was resolved that it was deemed wise and expedient that a National Nicaragua Canal Convention be held at St. Louis, Mo., on 02 June 1892. The Governor of Cahiforumia was requested to inform the Governors of all time other States and Territories of this resolution and to ask such Governors to appoint delegates to the convention; two delegates being appointed for each Senator and Congressman from the States. This convention duly met at the time appointed, and held a session of two days. Addresses were made by Govermior Framicis of Missouri, Judge Estee of California, amid by Warner Miller, President of the Nicaragua Construction Company. Mr. Miller in his address gave the history of the undertaking, also an account of the work already perfommned.

By 1892 the final surveys and maps had been made, headquarters had been erected at Greytown which included bammacks, hospital, warehouses and machine shops; the harbor at Gicytowum had been opened to a depth of 14 feet, on the bar; and the company had bought the plant of the American Dredgimig Company, which did much work at Pammnma. The right of way had been denied of timber for 10 miles and 5,000 acres were cleared, ready for dredging. One mile of the canal pmoper, west from Greytown, had been opened up to a depth of 17 feet. Borings of the rock cuttings over time whole line had been made at a distance of every 1,000 feet. Finally, 11 miles of railway had been completed. In all this work the company had spent about $5,000,000.

The convention after adopting a permanent organization, with G. L. Converse, of Ohio, as president, adopted a semies of preambles and resolutions to the effect that time constructiom of the canal was feasible; that a fair and consevative estimate of the cost was $87,084,176, and that the canal can be built in five years. Congress was asked to give finamicial assistance to the enterprise and the people were recommended to invest in its securities. At that time, according to information received from General Mammager Davis, but 400 men were employed dredging in the harbor at Greytown.

That this was the best and only place to cut a canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific there was no doubt at the time, but the time was not propitious for an enterprise of this maginitude. The disasterous failure of the Pammama Canal Company made ordinary people worry about investing in this class of enterprises, and the still more recent failures of the Barrings and the Muriettas have caused capitalists to become so timid that they prefer a 2 percent investment which is safe, to an uncertain 6 percent investment.

Operations were suspended for lack of funds in 1893.



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