History of the Huntington District Corps of Engineers
Huntington District is the youngest of the four districts that comprised Ohio River Division. Although the District’s 45,000 square miles encompasses southcentral Ohio, most of it lies in the mountains of West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. Lying within Appalachia, Huntington District has more flood control dams in operation than any other district.
In postwar years, the Corps of Engineers constructed locks and dams on the Cumberland, Kanawha, Monongahela and upper Ohio rivers. Because these locks and dams required continual operation, maintenance, and supervision, Corps field offices assumed permanency and were called Districts. In the Ohio River Basin, Engineer Districts became active at Cincinnati in 1871; Chattanooga, 1873; Louisville, 1886; Nashville, 1888, Pittsburgh 1894; and Wheeling, 1901 (became Huntington District in 1922).
The Huntington District was established July 1, 1922, when a decision was made to close the Wheeling and Second Cincinnati districts and open the consolidated Huntington District office. Engineer records, office furniture, and families of the Engineer office staff, along with their household furnishings, were loaded onto the sternwheeler, James Rumsey, in Wheeling in late June 1922 to begin the trip down the Ohio River to Huntington. On July 11, 1922, Captain Johnson docked the James Rumsey at the Twenty-sixth Street landing in Huntington where trucks were waiting to move the office equipment and records into the new offices in the Deegan and Noonan Building located in the 1100 block of Fourth Avenue. In the meantime, office staff from the Catlettsburg, Kentucky, suboffice moved to Huntington and opened the District office for business July 1.
Malcolm Elliott, junior engineer at Louisville District who designed huge mitering lock gates for Lock 41 in the Louisville and Portland canal, became Huntington District’s first District Engineer in 1922. Elliott was responsible for construction and operation of Ohio River Locks and Dams 12-32 and slackwater navigation projects on the Muskingum, Little Kanawha, Kanawha and Big Sandy rivers. The twenty-five people who made up the district staff assisted in supervision and recordkeeping.
With the formation of the district came many changes, one of which was the closing of the Catlettsburg (Big Sandy project), Charleston (Kanawha) and Zanesville (Muskingum) suboffices.
The first construction supervised by Huntington District was rapid completion of Ohio River locks and dams that were begun by the Wheeling and Second Cincinnati Districts. The Ohio River locks and dams in Huntington District opened to navigation in 1926. Construction was pushed to complete the locks and dams system down river from Huntington and in 1929, the Corps achieved its goal. The Ohio River canalization project was completed from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cairo, Illinois.
After 1929, the key to growth of river commerce was operation of the locks and dams. In 1931, Major Fred W. Herman, District Engineers, reorganized the Huntington District operations by establishing Engineer suboffices -- Marietta Repair Station, responsible for operation of locks and dame on the Muskingum and Little Kanawha, and Nos. 14-20 on the Ohio; Catlettsburg, responsible for Big Sandy Locks and Dam and Nos. 21-28 on the Ohio; and Charleston, responsible for operation of Kanawha River Locks and Dam in addition to supervision of the modernization program in progress on the Kanawha.
In the spring of 1931, construction began on Marmet and London Locks and Dams. Construction of Winfield and Gallipolis was approved by Congress in 1933.