Two hundred feet from where you are, in 40 feet of water, are the remains of Lock Six, the headquarters for a locking system of 9 locks that provided river traffic around the rapids and shoals. The river fall of 136 feet in about 37 miles prevented an easy flow of commerce form the Appalachian area to the interior of the country. Early in our history from President James Monroe forward, most all our leaders recognized that the Shoals area was a major obstacle to the growth of our nation. In 1824 surveys were conducted and resulted in the construction of a canal system that opened in 1836. The system included 17 locks, 120 feet long and 32 feet wide. Rains and floods washed debris into the canals. The control of the inflowing creeks into the system and the lack of maintenance funds forced the canal to close in 1848. After the Civil War, beginning in 1875, additional surveys of the Shoals area were conducted to determine the possibility of another canal. The Army Corps of Engineers was in charge of new canal construction. Most of the stones for the construction came from the Brooks Plantation, now Brooks Acres and Saddle Brook. The new canal was widened and the locks were reduced to 9, with Lock Six at the headquarters site. There were numerous Engineers in charge of the Muscle Shoals Canal. Among them was Lt. G. W. Goethals, later known
for building the Panama Canal. The canal ran for 14 1/2 miles from Lock One near Rogersville to Lock Nine near Florence. The 9 locks had a lift total of 85 feet. An aqueduct 900 feet long and 60 feet wide was built above Shoals Creek. The canal opened on November 10, 1890. The headquarters of Lock Six had a significant impact on the development and growth of Killen.
Many workers and suppliers lived in the Killen area. The headquarters area featured fine two-story homes, a post office, a store, and about 40 other assorted buildings. The locks were equipped with a telephone and a railroad. The locomotive #5 is still under the water.
The improvements of the new canal were helpful but were not totally satisfactory. Fortunately, during the 28 years (1890-1918)of the canal operation, technological developments were made to use the river for the production of electricity. The drop in elevation of the Tennessee River now became an asset. Electrical power could be generated in the Shoals area. Improvements in flood control and greatly improved navigation would be additional assets for the high dam construction.
The Wilson Dam was built, and by 1924 the entire canal system was flooded by the lake created by the dam's backwater. Before the water covered the loss, all the buildings were demolished. Lumber from the dismantled buildings was used in some of the houses built in Killen
in the early 1920s. From the era of the Canal, all that remains are the drill marks on the rock lifts along the north side of the river. When there is a dry year and the water elevation is low, tops of a few canal walls can be seen. Those who built the canal and the heritage they left for us will be remembered and appreciated.