The building of the Miami and Erie Canal and the Grand Reservoir brought to the frontier people of New Bremen and vicinity, their first commercial work, and opened a market for the products of agriculture, which before the canal had had practically no cash value.
Lack of markets, malaria fever, and the very large amount of sickness which accompanied the opening of the wilderness, had greatly retarded settlement. Subcontractors, who engaged to excavate from one to five miles of the canal bed, found it difficult to secure workmen. As whiskey was believed to neutralize the effects of the fever, the subcontractors were compelled to supply it to their hands in “jiggers” (2 oz.). In these days of prohibition and alleged intemperance, it is interesting to know that the contractor who could offer the most jiggers (sometimes as high as sixteen a day) secured the most workmen.
The opening of the canal was a big day for New Bremen, a day of festivity and rejoicing. The Canal banks were lined with interested onlookers, who watched the old boat as she was slowly drawn up the canal, from the direction of Piqua, and pulled into the New Bremen locks. New Bremen became a busy, bustling town. Hundreds of sixty and eighty ton freight boats traveled up and down the canal. Passenger boats carrying forty and fifty people made the trip to Cincinnati in a day and a night.