In 1898, I was a delegate to Washington to get Congress to deepen the Mississippi River. Among my co-delegates were Nathan Cole, John N. Booth, Lloyd G. Harris, Webb M. Samuel, H. S. Potter, with Captain Isaac Mason as Chairman. We were appointed by our Merchants Exchange. We were met at the depot by your uncle, Orville Matthews, who was then the Admiral in charge of the Bureau of Yards and Docks. We had many interviews with the River Committee and on one occasion Mr. Lloyd G. Harris related a story to illustrate our condition. He said at a certain bend of the Tennessee River at the narrowest place the boats would blow a whistle to notify the hotel opposite to churn buttermilk, and have it ready on arrival. In an hour the boat would reach the landing, and get the buttermilk. On this occasion the “John Hopkins” gave the customary notice, when just before reaching the landing she struck a snag and sunk, just as she commenced to blow the whistle, which continued blowing as the boat sank deeper and deeper, the blast becoming more and more faint. The negro at the landing, with the buttermilk, raised up his hands, exclaiming “Afore God! there is the “John Hopkins” just a dying, a dying, a dying for want of buttermilk.”
This story, gentleman, observed Mr. Harris, illustrates our condition. We are a dying, a dying, a dying for want of water and now ask you to give it to us.
A short time before this I was a delegate to the River Convention at Vicksburg, where I was closeted with Mr. Cooley, the Chief Engineer of the Chicago Canal to the Illinois River. With others of a sub-committee, we drew up resolutions for the convention. One of the objections to the pouring of the waters of the Lake into the Mississippi was on the ground of health. Mr. Cooley assured us that by the time the water reached St. Louis it would be completely sterilized. How true this is, is questionable.