top of page

Keokuk-Hamilton Dam Museum

Preserving The History Of America's First Great Dam

Our mission is to preserve and promote the history of the Keokuk-Hamilton Dam

by collecting and restoring pertinent memorabilia and artifacts; creating interactive exhibits and informative displays; and educating museum visitors of all ages.



     The Keokuk-Hamilton Dam Museum holds  collections of artifacts, photographs, documents, and books that trace the history of the hydroelectric powerhouse and dam. 

     These collections have been generously donated by individuals and Ameren-Missouri.


   In 1910, hundreds of construction workers began construction of  the dam.  The last piece of concrete was poured on May 31, 1913, nearly two years ahead of schedule. 

   The lock opened June 12 with the first watts of electricity being generated on July 1. 


     Following the widely attended 100 year anniversary celebration on Jun 29 - 30, 2013 of the construction of the lock and dam, community leaders in Hamilton, Illinois and Keokuk, Iowa established  America’s First Great Dam Foundation in 2015 and created the Keokuk-Hamilton Dam Museum.




Hugh Lincoln Cooper was born April 28, 1865 in Sheldon, Minnesota, less than three weeks after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox.


Although he had no formal technical training, through self-study and practical field work, Hugh was employed to oversee the construction of bridge projects.  In 1891, Cooper became interested in hydroelectric power and left bridge-building to learn about the construction and equipment used in harnessing water to generate electricity. He became a hydraulic engineer on his own, eventually forming the Hugh L. Cooper Company, designing a hydroelectric dam across the Mississippi River between Keokuk, Iowa, and Hamilton, Illinois.  Completed in 1913, the Keokuk Water Power Project marked a significant change in hydroelectric generating practice because it employed a wide, slow-moving river to drive its turbines.   (American Society of Civil Engineers)


While at work in Keokuk, Hugh Cooper and his wife, Fanny, became life-long friends with many in the area.  Hugh Lincoln Cooper died on June 24, 1937, and although his gravesite is located in New Canaan, Connecticut, perhaps the most enduring monument to the genius of his ‘life’ and work is to be found spanning the Mississippi River right here in our own city.

hugh cooper.jpg
bottom of page