The Canals of Providence City: First Canals
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Work began on Providence's first canal in 1860. The diversion point (the location where the water is redirected) was over 2.5 miles away from the town limits. With the Blacksmith Fork River serving as the water source, this early canal provided water to both the Millville and Providence settlements. It is still actively used in irrigation today, and is known as the Millville-Providence Blacksmith Fork Lower Canal. The canal was completed in 1861. Two years later work on the Millville-Providence Blacksmith Fork Upper Canal began. This seven-mile canal was completed in 1865, and it also remains active.
Building a canal is always a labor-intensive process; even more so for those lacking advanced tools or machinery, like Providence’s early settlers. Whenever possible, ox-driven plows helped carve out the initial line, but picks and shovels were always required. A piece of equipment called a “go devil” provided the finishing touch by creating banks out of the loose soil. This machine consisted of two logs joined in a V-shape, and “several yoke of oxen” and a load of men provided the necessary weight force.