Middlesex Canal Association P.O. Box 333 Billerica, Massachusetts 01821
|Volume 45 No. 1||
45th Annual Old Middlesex Canal Fall Walk
Date and Time: Sunday, October 29, 1:30pm
Directions: Meet at the Sandy Beach parking lot off the Mystic Valley Parkway by the Upper Mystic Lakes in Winchester. The walk will follow the route of the Middlesex Canal through parts of Medford and Winchester. Sites along the way include the aqueduct and mooring basin, those segments of the canal bed and berm visible off the parkway, and the stone wall of the Brooks estate, in Medford.
This walk is jointly listed as a Local Walk of the Boston Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC).
Historic Bicycle Tour of Middlesex Canal
On Sunday, October 15, 2006, the Somerville Historic Preservation Commission, the Middlesex Canal Commission and the Middlesex Canal Association will sponsor the 4th annual historic bicycle tour of the southern portion of the Middlesex Canal. The Canal was the "big dig" of the end of the 18th century. Completed in 1803 after 10 years of construction, the Canal connected the Merrimac River in what is now Lowell with the Charles River at Sullivan Square in Charlestown. In many ways it served as a model for later canals including the Erie Canal. The Canal remained in operation for 50 years, providing both passenger and freight service, but could not compete successfully with the Boston and Lowell Railroad which began operation in the 1830’s.
The ride will meet at the Canal marker on the Sullivan Square MBTA station at 9:00am. From there we will ride about 28 miles to the Canal Museum on the Millpond in North Billerica. We will make a lunch stop in Woburn. We recommend that you bring a lunch, but it will be possible to buy a sandwich there. We should get to North Billerica in time for anyone who wants to catch the 3:07pm train back to Boston. The ride will then follow the northern section of the Canal another 10 miles from North Billerica to Lowell and catch the 5:00pm train back from there.
The route is pretty flat and level and we will average 5 miles per hour, so the ride will be an easy one for almost any cyclist. Along the way we will stop at a number of remnants and restored sections of the Canal, as well as the mansion of Loammi Baldwin, the chief engineer of the Canal (who discovered the Baldwin apple while building the Canal), the two remaining aqueducts (which carried the Canal over rivers and brooks), and the northern end of the floating towpath that was once used for towing boats across the Concord River in N. Billerica.
The ride will be led by Dick Bauer of the Somerville Historic Preservation Commission and Robert Winters of the Middlesex Canal Association and will go ahead rain or shine. For more information, contact Dick at 617-628-6320 (e-mail removed) or Robert at email@example.com. Additional information and updates will be posted at http://www.middlesexcanal.org.
We can almost see the light in the end of the tunnel on our application for the National Registry of Historic Places. The Mass. Historic Commission has reviewed the final submission and we will be having public meetings in November. Tom Raphael and Susan Keats have labored long and hard on this project.
October is dues month. We hope that everyone will be renewing shortly.
We have talked about a campaign to recruit new members but have not organized anything yet. We propose to have a speakers’ bureau and that is a work in progress.
Far too infrequently do we take the time to thank all our volunteers for a good job - well done. The outstanding accomplishments by the Middlesex Canal Association would not have been possible without your endless contributions.
Shayne and John Reardon with the Billerica section of the Middlesex Canal Commission continue to cover our superb Museum in North Billerica - what a gem! Tom Dahill has come up with another wall mural depicting the Middlesex Village - just before the descent into the Merrimack River - it’s huge and the children love it! Jean Potter, Tom Dahill and Betty Bigwood continue the Education Program where students come to the Museum after having had several lessons in their classroom - it is well received - the students are our future. Roger Hagopian, Robert Winters and Bill Gerber lead our Spring and Fall walks - Bill took on the additional task of leading students along the Butter’s Row section of the canal as part of the Education Program. Tom Raphael has almost finished the National Registry application which will put the entire canal on a definitive map. Tom Raphael, as chairman of the MCC, continues to work on all the details of the Middlesex Canal Park at the Concord Mill Pond. Robert Winters keeps our web site up to snuff - there is a wealth of information there. Robert also produces Towpath Topics, our excellent newsletter.
Howard Winkler, as treasurer, keeps us honest and our books in order. Jean Potter is our new secretary. Wilbar Hoxie continues to be our historian and frequently serves as a docent at the Museum. Roger Hagopian continues to edit programs in CD and DVD format for viewing at the museum, for purchase, and for local TV. Alan Seaberg is going to chair a committee to arrange for interesting programs to be on call as the need arises. Neil Devins provides us with up to date memberships reports and frequently docents at the museum.
A few years ago David Dettinger did an excellent piece of research on the extension of the Middlesex Canal through Boston. This served as a nidus for our approach to the Central Artery Project to have some feature recognizing the canal in Boston. A few months ago there was an agreement - we will now have a Canal park - 30 by 30ft at the end of Canal Street as it enters New Chardon St - now a bit of rubble, but plans are in the making. We are thrilled.
We have had the support of our Senators and Representatives in raising funds - especially Rep. James Miceli. The Museum and the Canal Park plans would not have been possible without his support.
I have now served as President of the MCA longer than any other. I am proud of each of you and thank you for all your efforts.
Nolan Jones, MCA President (603) 672-7051
Short Biographies of James Sullivan and Loammi Baldwin
from Dictionary of American Biography, c. 1999; used by permission of Oxford University Press, New York;
contact made by Howard Winkler, Treasurer.
SULLIVAN, James (22 Apr. 1744 - 10 Dec. 1808), lawyer and politician, was born in Berwick, District of Maine, then part of Massachusetts, the son of John Sullivan, a schoolteacher, and Margery Brown. After being schooled at home by his father, he studied law starting in 1765 with his older brother John Sullivan, a future revolutionary war general and public officeholder in Durham, New Hampshire. James Sullivan commenced the practice of law in the hamlet of Georgetown, District of Maine, in 1767. In 1768 he married Mehitable Odiorne. The couple had six children, among them William Sullivan, who became a noted Federalist politician.
Upon his marriage, Sullivan moved to Biddeford, District of Maine, and rapidly gained prominence and prosperity there as a skilled attorney. Later in life he supplemented his income from legal fees with investments in lands, including those in the Yazoo Territory in 1795, and in emerging manufacturing corporations. In 1772 Sullivan and his family moved to Limerick, District of Maine, where he became king’s counsel for York County. Soon caught up in the revolutionary movement, he was elected in 1774 and 1775 to the Massachusetts Provincial Congresses, where he played leading roles, and in 1775 to the state’s Committee of Safety. Although he did not serve in the Revolution’s military forces, he contributed to local defense measures and served throughout the Revolution as a member of the lower house of the state legislature. Because plural office holding was not then barred by law, in 1776 he became one of the original justices of the Massachusetts Superior Court of Judicature, the state’s highest court, on which he sat until 1782. In addition, he served briefly from 1779 as one of three admiralty judges in Massachusetts.
Aspiring to statewide political office, Sullivan moved to Groton, in Massachusetts proper, in 1778 and then to Boston in 1783. A member of the convention that in 1780 wrote the state’s first constitution, he led a successful effort to secure representation in the lower house of the Massachusetts General Court for every town in the state. As a result, by 1812 the Massachusetts House of Representatives was by far the largest in the United States, with more than 400 members. After the new state constitution went into effect, Sullivan helped in the legislative sessions of 1781 and 1782 to revise the statutes of Massachusetts. Although he was elected to the Confederation Congress for annual terms in 1782 and 1783, he did not attend, thus revealing the relative insignificance into which service in that body had fallen. Instead, Sullivan joined those working for a new national government. Upon release to the public of the work of the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, Sullivan, then serving a one-year term on the governor’s council, published a series of influential essays, signed "Cassius," advocating ratification of the new Constitution. Yet to his mortification, he was not elected a member of the 1788 convention that narrowly ratified the Constitution in Massachusetts. After his wife’s death in early 1786, Sullivan later that year married Martha Langdon, the sister of noted public figures John Langdon and Woodbury Langdon.
By now an increasingly influential public figure, Sullivan had become associated with the political faction surrounding Samuel Adams and Governor John Hancock, to whom he was a close adviser and whose frustrated vice-presidential aspirations Sullivan promoted in 1789. In 1790, resigning the position of Suffolk County probate judge, which he had held, since 1788, he accepted appointment as Massachusetts attorney general. By the mid-1790s, frustrated by the exclusion of rising figures like himself from the governing Federalist elite of the state, he was one of the most prominent members of the state’s emerging Democratic-Republican party, devoting much effort to building the party’s structure and making its case in the press. Yet he was widely admired by opposing politicians for his moderation, his skills as an attorney, and his knowledge of the law. For example, in 1795 he tried to quell the violent acts of a Boston crowd protesting the recently concluded Jay Treaty, the centerpiece of Federalist foreign policy. Also, unlike many of his party colleagues, he took an early dislike to the French Revolution. For such partisan moderation, he continued to hold the state attorney generalship, even under Federalist state administrations, until 1807, when he became governor. Except for brief service in 1796 as U.S. agent representing the nation before the international commission established to determine the boundary between Maine and Canada, his career remained solely that of a Massachusetts statesman.
While Sullivan was a frequent newspaper polemicist, most of his contemporary and enduring prominence stems from his writings in political economy and the law. His first extended work, published in 1791, was Observations upon the Government of the United States, which, dealing with suits against states by individuals, contributed to successful efforts to adopt the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In 1792 he published his second extended work, The Path to Riches: An Inquiry into the Origins and Use of Money; and into the Principles of Stocks and Banks, in which he analyzed money’s role in the economy and defended a government’s authority to terminate corporate and bank charters for the public good. The book was particularly distinctive in attacking excessive wealth and in linking opposition politics to envy of those in power. This work, along with a notable opinion on bank charters issued when he was attorney general, can be seen as the platform for Sullivan’s career-long effort to replace private banks, which he saw as preserves of private privilege immune from public oversight, with a state bank, a measure popular with merchants and finally achieved in 1812, after his death. In 1795 Sullivan published a history of his native District of Maine and followed that work in 1801 with The History of Land Titles in Massachusetts, an authoritative and influential legal treatise used by, among others, Supreme Court justice Joseph Story when teaching at the Harvard Law School. At the time of his death, Sullivan left incomplete a history of Massachusetts criminal law.
From the mid-1790s Sullivan was consistently spoken of or put forth as a Democratic-Republican candidate for governor. He first ran for governor in 1797, losing narrowly in a three-way race. Although Federalist governor Caleb Strong seemed to have a lock on annual elections, in 1804 Sullivan ran for the office again. This time he polled strongly in his native Maine and, although once again losing, made a better showing than any previous candidate of his party, greatly enlarged the Democratic-Republican vote totals, and brought into being a genuine statewide party organization. Losing again narrowly in 1806, he finally secured the post in 1807 and resigned as Massachusetts attorney general.
Sullivan’s election as governor coincided with difficulties associated with the detested embargo of 1807, which greatly injured New England’s commerce. While a member of Thomas Jefferson’s party, Sullivan had to steer a moderate course in the Bay State. Much to the administration’s chagrin, to alleviate the embargo’s effects Sullivan granted many special certificates for the import of flour into the state despite the embargo’s restrictions on commerce. True to his moderate principles and the precariousness of the Democratic-Republican party in a normally Federalist state, he also urged the development of domestic manufactures to replace lost foreign trade, and he resisted attempts to radically reform the state’s judicial system. Reelected with a sharply reduced margin in 1808 and facing a legislature once more solidly Federalist, he died in office before he could complete his second term.
In addition to his multifarious legal and political endeavors, Sullivan maintained a lifelong involvement in religion, culture, and internal improvements. He served as president of the Middlesex Canal Company from 1793 until his death and was a vigorous champion of internal improvements in and near Boston. He was an incorporator of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1780 and a founder of the Massachusetts Historical Society. While he was a defender of religious dissenters in the District of Maine, he was also a leading layman in the affairs of the Congregational church community. Sullivan suffered mildly from epilepsy throughout his life. He died in Boston.
A multifaceted, self-made, "new man" of the revolutionary era, Sullivan was unusual for a universally respected man of his skills in limiting his career to the affairs of his own state. Yet he was in every way a nationalist, trying to steer Massachusetts, home of some influential Federalists who considered secession a solution to the state’s difficulties, on a moderate course while protecting its vital interests. He should also be seen as one of the earliest professional politicians in the nation. He helped build a state party organization from nothing, served as an advocate of the interests of those outside the conventional circles of power and preferment, and sought and held public office with gusto.
• The principal collection of Sullivan’s papers is possessed by the Massachusetts Historical Society. Thomas C. Amory, Life of James Sullivan, with Selections from His Writings (2 vols., 1859), is an unusually fine nineteenth-century biography. The standard study of Sullivan’s political party in Massachusetts is Paul Goodman, The Democratic-Republicans of Massachusetts: Politics in a Young Republic (1964).
JAMES M. BANNER, JR.
BALDWIN, Loammi (21 Jan. 1745 - 20 Oct. 1807), civil engineer, was born in Woburn, Massachusetts, the son of James Baldwin, a carpenter and shopkeeper, and Ruth Richardson. (Some sources give his birth-date as 10 Jan. 1744.) After attending the local grammar school, Loammi was apprenticed in the carpentry trade. As a teenager Baldwin worked in the family’s stores in Woburn and Boston. By 1767 Baldwin was engaged as a pump maker and cabinetmaker, in addition to helping in the family stores. In 1771 he and his friend Benjamin Thompson, later Count Rumford, attended the lectures of Professor John Winthrop at Harvard College and conducted home experiments based on these lectures. Largely self-taught, Baldwin focused his studies on mathematics and hydraulics. He married Mary Fowle in 1772. They had five children.
At the beginning of the American Revolution, Baldwin enlisted in the Continental army as a major and was soon thereafter commissioned a lieutenant colonel. He was later promoted to the rank of colonel of the Twenty-sixth Army Regiment and served in Boston, New York, and New Jersey, participating in the attack on Trenton of 25 December 1776. Health problems led to his resignation, and he received an honorable discharge in 1777.
Upon returning home to Woburn, Baldwin served in the Massachusetts General Court in 1778-1779 and again from 1800 to 1804. In 1780 he was appointed sheriff of Middlesex County, a position he held until 1794. His first wife having died, in 1791 he married Margery Fowle, her cousin; they had two children.
In 1793 Baldwin began his association with the Middlesex Canal, one of the nation’s early important civil engineering projects. Chartered in 1793, this 28-mile waterway connected the Merrimack River with the Charles River and Boston. Designed to assure Boston its commercial position with inland New England communities, it cut through Baldwin’s native Middlesex County. As one of the first artificial waterways to be built in the United States, and not a simple river improvement project, the Middlesex influenced the design of later American canals.
Baldwin played an important role as a promoter of the canal, as well as its principal engineer. As an investor, Baldwin had a financial interest in the company’s success. This financial interest in the company was not atypical for engineers in the period. Listed as one of the chartering members of the canal, Baldwin served on the board of directors as first vice president. As a director from 1794 to 1804, Baldwin assisted Samuel Thompson on the first survey for the canal. After an early survey was deemed inaccurate, Baldwin was appointed superintendent of the Middlesex Canal in 1794, despite his lack of professional canal experience. With this position Baldwin’s reputation as an engineer became intertwined with his financial interest in the company. Soon after his appointment, the board of directors sent Baldwin to study canals in Pennsylvania and Virginia. He was also ordered to secure the assistance of William Weston, the famed British canal engineer, then working in Pennsylvania. Baldwin lured Weston to Massachusetts in July 1794 to consult on the canal and also to train Baldwin and other canal employees in the proper use of his surveying tools. Baldwin rented Weston’s tools and completed the formal survey for the Middlesex Canal with this equipment.
As superintendent Baldwin supervised the plans and construction of the canal. During the construction, five of his sons worked in various jobs on the canal. Although the initial locks were made of stone, after 1799 the uncertain financial condition of the canal company forced Baldwin to switch to wooden locks. Finally, in 1803, the entire 28-mile canal, 3½ feet deep, with twenty locks and eight aqueducts, was completed and opened for traffic. In the next two years, 1804 to 1805, Baldwin designed the Medford Branch Canal, a quarter-mile canal, with two locks, connecting the Middlesex Canal with the Mystic River.
The success of the Middlesex Canal assured Baldwin’s engineering reputation and made him much in demand for other civil engineering projects in New England. In 1796 Baldwin consulted with the Proprietors of Locks and Canals, a private corporation for a bypass canal on the Merrimack River, the future location of Lowell, Massachusetts. He also designed and consulted on the construction of another bypass canal at Amoskeag, New Hampshire. In addition to canal engineering, Baldwin completed surveys for turnpike companies, including the new Concord, Stony Brook, and Montreal companies. He also surveyed and designed the town of Baldwin, Maine. He supervised the Boston harbor construction of the India Wharf, designed by Charles Bullfinch, and designed mill races and other river improvement schemes. Baldwin, however, is most closely associated with and was most proud of his work on the Middlesex Canal. Not only was this one of the earliest artificial waterways built in the United States, but its dimensions were later copied by the engineers of the Erie Canal, which itself became the American canal engineering standard.
In addition to his civil engineering work, Baldwin supervised his Massachusetts estate and achieved fame as the developer around 1794 of the "Baldwin" apple. Also called the "Woodpecker" and "Steele’s Red Winter," this apple was popular for its taste and suitability for shipping.
Baldwin stands as one of the first and most influential civil engineers in New England in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. His combining of financial investment with engineering skills was typical of American engineers of the period. His work on the influential Middlesex Canal and the training of his sons, as well as his work throughout New England, secured his reputation. In addition to Loammi, Jr., four other sons, Cyrus Baldwin, Benjamin Franklin Baldwin, James Fowle Baldwin, and George Rumford Baldwin, all worked as civil engineers for canal and railroad companies.
Baldwin was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Harvard College awarded him an honorary masters of arts degree in 1785. He died in Woburn, Massachusetts.
• There are large collections of Baldwin papers at Baker Library of Harvard University, and at Clements Library of the University of Michigan. Both collections include professional and personal accounts. The collection at Harvard includes many reports and documents of the Middlesex Canal. For information on Baldwin’s work on the Middlesex Canal, see Christopher Roberts, The Middlesex Canal, 1793-1860 (1938). There is some information on Loammi Baldwin, Sr., in George L. Vose, A Sketch of the Life and Works of Loammi Baldwin, Civil Engineer (1885), although most of the book is devoted to his son. See also Frederick K. Abbott, The Role of the Civil Engineer in Internal Improvements: The Contributions of the Two Loammi Baldwins, Father and Son, 1776-1838 (Ph.D. diss., Columbia Univ., 1952). For information on the development of civil engineering in America and the role of the engineer promoter, see Daniel Hovey Calhoun, The American Civil Engineer: Origins and Conflict (1960). For additional general information, see Richard Shelton Kirby and Philip Gustave Laurson, The Early Years of Modern Civil Engineering (1932).
Frances C. Robb
Continuation of Discussion of the Name General Sullivan for
a Packet Boat
by Howard B. Winkler
In the April 2005 issue of Towpath Topics, I wrote that the name General Sullivan for the packet boat line drawing by Louis Linscott may, indeed, be correct, and that the title, General, referred to Attorney General James Sullivan. In the October 2005 issue of Towpath Topics, Fred Lawson wrote in response to my article, "The first packet boat was the George Washington; the second was named Governor Sullivan for the founder of the Middlesex Canal Corporation, according to company records." Based on further review, I still think that there may have been a Packet Boat General Sullivan, and, if not, then the Packet Boat Governor Sullivan may have been initially named the General Sullivan and then renamed.
In his letter Fred Lawson mentions, "The History of Woburn" as the reference where Louis Linscott said he found reference to the Packet Boat General Sullivan. I looked in The History of Woburn by Samuel Sewall, c.1868, but could not find any citations for packet boats. I did find two citations to the Packet Boat General Sullivan in Legends of Woburn by Parker Lindall Converse, c.1892. Perhaps this was Linscott’s source.
There is no question that there was a Packet Boat Governor Sullivan. See the reproduction of a newspaper advertisement from the AMERICAN TRAVELLER, Boston, Tuesday morning, June 8, 1830, at the bottom of the our home page www.middlesexcanal.org.
I have found three references to the General Sullivan, and I have to assume that they are all independent. These are to be found in Converse’s book, in Edward Everett Hale’s memoir, A New England Boyhood, cited in my previous article, and in "The Old Middlesex Canal" by Arthur T. Hopkins found in The New England Magazine, January 1898. Thus, a packet boat with the name of, or referred to as, General Sullivan cannot be so easily dismissed.
Hopkins wrote, "Of the passage boats there were at first two, one running up and one running down daily. Fifty cents was the fare, no tickets being issued. Later when the amount of travel proved insufficient to warrant two boats, one was removed, and the General Sullivan [author’s italics] ran alone."
If there was a packet boat General Sullivan, it could have operated from the opening of the canal in 1803 to 1807 in which year Attorney General James Sullivan was elected governor, or beyond if the directors delayed renaming the boat. "Sullivan was elected governor on April 6, 1807, inaugurated on May 29, 1807, and served through his re-election on April 4, 1808 until December 10, 1808 [when he died]. Thus he would have served 18 months as governor." (Reference Librarian, State Library of Massachusetts).
With the naming of a packet boat the Governor Sullivan, there is the possibility that the persistence of memory has caused it to be remembered and recorded as the General Sullivan because he was so well known by this former title. According to The Cyclopedia of American Biography, c.1898, Sullivan was Attorney General for 17 years. During his term as Attorney General he "was frequently brought to the test in this connection, especially in the famous Fairbanks and Selfridge, murder trials ...." I propose that he was a well-known Attorney General, but little known Governor.
In preparing this response to Fred Lawson’s letter, I went to the Patrick J. Mogan Cultural Center in Lowell to look through the Middlesex Canal archival holdings. I looked in treasurer’s reports and directors’ reports folders for the years 1803 to 1808, and found no references to packet boats, and the folder for packet boats, unfortunately, was empty. This is not to say that other researchers cannot find references, and I look forward to more information as it comes to light.
In the meantime, the name of General Sullivan for a Middlesex Canal packet boat remains a possibility.
Wm. Weston to Aaron Dexter
Foreword by Dave Dettinger: -- When canal activity began throughout the eastern seaboard at the end of the 18th century, there came a demand to capitalize on the experience in Europe, especially in England. In 1792 Robert Morris of Pennsylvania invited William Weston, a British expert, to supervise the construction of canals there. When the Middlesex Canal Company heard of his presence, the directors sent Loammi Baldwin in 1794 to gain his assistance in surveying and related matters. On this trip Baldwin also visited the Patowmack Canal, then being constructed under the direction of George Washington, with whom he had had served at the Battle of Long Island and later at the famous crossing of the Delaware.
Baldwin found that Weston was fully engaged in various projects at the time and was reluctant to divert his efforts to Boston. However, Baldwin was ultimately able to enlist his services by playing on a desire by Weston’s wife to visit Boston. Weston arrived in July to participate in the survey which determined the final route of the canal.
Subsequently Weston’s advice was sought on other aspects of canal construction to which he responded by letter. One of these letters dealt with the design of locks; it is reprinted here as first published in Towpath Topics in April 1993. It was addressed to Aaron, a professor of chemistry at Harvard, who served as a member of a committee with the (then) three superintendents of construction "to make a contract with some persons to lay stones for the locks"; they had requested his advice. Dexter soon after became a director of the Middlesex Canal Company and served as president for a time beginning in 1809.
New York May 12, 1795
Your favour of the 16th of March, having been forwarded to Virginia by Mr. Breck (to whose care it was addressed) and after a considerable detention there, was returned to him prevented its reaching my hand until Monday last; I mention this circumstance that no imputation of delay may be affixed on me.
I shall endeavor to answer your several queries with as much conciseness and perspicuity as I am able. First with regard to construction of Locks with Wood. The perishable nature of that material is so self evident and insurmountable an objection to its use, that it seems almost unnecessary to adduce any other argument against it. But when it is considered in a very few years there will be a necessity of totally rebuilding all the Locks on the Canal; that then recourse will be had to a more permanent material; that at least two years will be requisite for their erection; that the consequent interruption of commerce during that period will occasion the loss of two years dividend on the whole capital of the work, and that the public will suffer materially by being obliged to convey their produce through a new channel. When these arguments are well weighed and when calculations are made on the real loss eventually sustained by the Stockholders; I have no doubt but the idea of Wodden Locks will be abandoned.
The next material proposed to use is stone. Adverting to the nature of the stone you mention I must pronounce it totally unfit for the purpose. The irregularity of its figure and its extreme hardness would render the expense of working it in a proper manner infinitely more expensive than brick. Having made many experiments in England with this material, there is not so great a disparity between the wages of the Mason and the Bricklayer as in this country and where this stone has been of a free nature, I can determine with certainty that is more expensive and tedious to erect locks of this material than with brick. My reasons for preferring Locks of Brick are from their being more economical, and of greater durability and strength. The idea of building Locks without a mortar or using it partially, is so different from the custom invariably observed in all countries, that I cannot recommend a deviation from a practice founded on the basis of experience. The queries relative to the form of the chamber, counterarch, thickness of the walls &cc. I would answer with great pleasure, but that it would be of no service to you as no adequate idea of a construction of a Lock can be conveyed by description alone. I will furnish you with a Plan Elevation and Sections when I am informed what are the dimensions of the boats proposed to be used on the Merrimack Canal, without this information it is impossible that I can lay down proper rule for your guidance. I had written some Months ago to Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Sullivan for this purpose, had I received any answer, I should in this have forwarded to you every explanation in my power to enable you to carry on the various works to the best advantage. I am anxious that no errors should be committed in the execution, the minutiae of canals, the slopes, pudling, punning, ramping(?) &c require some previous experience to know when they are necessary and where they may be dispensed with, being unaquainted with the mode in which your works are carrying on, I cannot judge of the propriety or impropriety, all that I can assure you is that you may at all times and as often as you please have my opinions on the subject. Being engaged to direct the works in the state of New York for a few Months, I request the favour of your directing your letters to the care of General Schuyler at Albany.
I am gentlemen
with great respect, Yours &c
Epilogue: -- No brick lock was ever built; Baldwin rejected that idea. The triple locks at the Merrimack River were built of stone according to Weston’s directions, but the time and expense were so great that, despite Baldwin’s objections, the Board insisted in 1799 that most of the locks on the route to Charlestown should be of wooden construction; only those adjacent to rivers were built of stone.
Locks to Sleep By
contributed by Dave Dettinger
Tired of counting sheep? Try 66 locks. Take your time -- say, two weeks -- and take along a passport; you’ll be doing it in three different countries. Where may you ask? The answer: between Vienna and Amsterdam, a total of 946 miles by water.
The first 8 locks are in the Danube River in Austria; you’ll sleep after the first of these. The next 9 are in the Danube also, but in Germany.
Now one enters the Main-Danube Canal, completed in its modern form in 1991. (King Ludwig of Bavaria had a smaller version built during the 19th century.) Here you’ll encounter 16 locks, of which the topmost have lifts of 82 feet apiece.
The Main River contributes the largest number of locks, 34 in all, ranging from 9 to 25 feet in lift. The Rhine contributes none at all. (Take that, you Lorelei!) Holland adds 2 more in the Holland-Amsterdam Canal. That makes a grand total of 66.
The above data was collected by Dave and Carolyn Dettinger during a riverboat cruise in 2004. Some other observations:
1) The vast majority of lock gates are of the conventional miter type, as invented in the early 16th century by Leonardo DaVinci in the design of a canal for the Duke of Milan. A few appear to be drop gates that can be sunk out of the way.
2) There was never a lock tender in sight at any of the locks we passed. Our daytimes were spent touring the Medieval-age towns along the waterway and gaping at the castles and monasteries perched high above the river banks.
3) To pass under some of the bridges it was necessary to lower the wheelhouse of our boat and clear the top deck.
4) Radio, radar and GPS kept everything moving smoothly.
Restoring the Canal
by Thomas Raphael
The Middlesex Canal Commission was formed by the Massachusetts General Court in 1977 to " return the canal to public use". Now, almost three decades later, you could reasonably ask "what has been accomplished?" The answer involves many events and people which I will cover very briefly for background, then explain the current status.
The early events centered in Woburn where the historic Baldwin House was saved by being moved and then a canal packet boat was constructed and operated in the stretch from Alfred Street to School Street, by the then Chairman of the Commission, Len Harmon. This was followed by a $50,000 archaeological survey of the route of the canal and resulted in the publication in 1980 of the "Middlesex Canal Heritage Park feasibility Study. The study recommended that granite markers with brass plaques showing the general route of the canal be placed in each of the nine communities. These were installed by 1985. It further recommended that the canal be preserved.
In 1985, under the efforts of the new chairman, Tom Raphael, the commission started the task of the actual restoration of the extant segments of the canal. A five phase program was proposed base on the potential for significant construction funding through the new Federal Highway Enhancement program which specified old canals as eligible. The area around the mill pond on the Concord River in Billerica, the source of the water for the canal, was selected as the first phase. Public meetings were held, conceptual plans were developed, proposals were presented to the Town and the owners of the properties, Cambridge Tool and Manufacturing Co. The project was approved by the Massachusetts Highway Department which administers the Federal Funding. A contractor was selected and design work started. Unexpectedly, Cambridge Tool was purchased by Pace Industries of Arkansas, delaying plans several years, and later by Leggett & Platt, with further delays. Now, ten years later this project is close to moving ahead.
Two major conditions have to be met. First, a new owner must be found for the dam creating the mill pond. The dam was built by the Middlesex Canal Company in 1828 by Loammi Baldwin and was passed on to the Talbot Mills and then to the Cambridge Tool and Manufacturing Co., as the mills changed hands, however, the dam was not included in the sales to Pace Industries and Leggett & Platt and remains in the hands of the private families of the former owners of Cambridge Tool and Manufacturing.
The second condition is the drafting of the four permanent legal easements for mill property with Leggett & Platt for the two locks and the two ends of the floating towpath across the mill pond., and pending the dam ownership. The Commission has proposed to accept the dam and the legal documents are now being negotiated. Perhaps actual design will start by the end of the year.
In the meantime, the Commission and the Association have established a museum and visitor’s center in the Faulkner Mill by the mill pond and signs have been erected at all the significant street crossings and some sites of the canal in Billerica. Plans are being formed to extend the signage program to all the remaining eight communities.
In an upcoming issue of Towpath Topics we will explain what progress is being made to preserve the rest of the canal remnants.
The National Register of the Middlesex Canal
by Thomas Raphael
The long awaited Nomination to Amend the the 1972 National Register of the Middlesex Canal is about to reach the final stages with public hearings this Fall. There will be three hearings in Billerica, Winchester and Medford to which the property owners and abutters of the canal route will be invited to comment and approve the submission.
The original Nomination included only the existing canal segments in Woburn, Wilmington, Billerica, Chelmsford and Lowell. The prism of the canal in Charlestown, Somerville, Medford and Winchester had been built-over early in the mid 19th century and was not accurately known. The 1980 "Middlesex Canal Heritage Park Feasibility Study" of the Industrial Archaeology Associates, recommended that old maps and deeds should reveal the location of the canal in these areas and that they should be included in the National Register to preserve the history of the canal.
In 1999 the Public Archaeology Laboratory (PAL) of Pawtucket, RI was hired to conduct a two part comprehensive survey in parallel, one above ground and the other of archaeological archives covering the full range of resources associated with the canal. This became the basis for the amendment but also revealed what work remained to be done.
In 2002, work was started to complete a map of the exact location of the canal using current Assessor’s Plates and lots as the basis of the maps. Old maps and deeds in the Registry of Deeds in Northern and Southern Middlesex County, and the local libraries and Historical Commissions, finally gave up the critical information and a 34 page Map Book has been computer generated of the complete canal in relation to the current lot owners.
As a result, the current Nomination to Amend the National Register is in the hands of the Massachusetts Historical Commission for the legal processing and submission to the National Park Service.
Middlesex Canal Association - Speakers Bureau
Alan Seaburg, Chair
Dave Dettinger’s suggestions for organizing a Speaker’s Bureau are as follows: Needed would be a list of the talks that people are prepared to give, and do give, ground rules for dealing with outsiders to the Association, a list of equipment needed by speakers and a central person who would be the contact person, and who could keep track of who spoke where and for how much. There was a discussion by the MCA Board about charging for the talks. $150 was the suggested rate, based on what other societies have to pay. Dave further suggested creating a brochure which would include the general background of the canal, which we could send to local historical societies, other canal societies, any other interested groups, and our membership.
Dave made motion "that the Middlesex Canal Association establish a Speaker’s Bureau with a director and assistants as needed. His/her responsibilities will be to collect information on canal related presentation topics in the form of descriptive paragraphs, together with biographies of speakers who are prepared to present them. A central task is to maintain a log of presentations, including title, date, audience, and location; other aspects may be worth recording as well." Howard Winkler moved its acceptance and Jean Potter seconded it and the motion was carried.
Speaker: Dave Dettinger
David Dettinger is a retired engineer living in Winchester. He joined the Middlesex Canal Association in 1962 and has been an active member ever since, serving as an Officer and Board member. He specializes in studies of the historical background of this and other early canals in the East.
Facilities needed: Dave uses an overhead projector for his illustrations. A sound system is desirable but not necessary in small settings.
Honorarium: [to be negotiated]
Contact: Dave Dettinger, 3 Penn Road, Winchester, Ma 01890-3435
Talks developed for the MCA audience:
(1) "James Sullivan, a Man of Action" for the MCA on Saturday, 6/19/96 96, in Woburn.
(2) ‘"From Transportation to Power: the Story of the Pawtucket Canal" for the MCA on Saturday, 9/27/97, at Lowell.
(3) "Boats and Boating on the Middlesex Canal" for the MCA on 11/1/98 in Woburn
(4) "Colonel Loammi Baldwin and His Sons; Talent for a New Republic", for the MCA on 11/7/99 in Woburn.
(5) "The Patowmack Canal" for the MCA on Sunday, 1/29/06, at the Museum in North Billerica,
Talks for other organizations:
(1) "The Middlesex Canal: A Waterway through the Mystic River Valley", for Mystic River Association on Wednesday, 2/6/02, in Winchester.
(2) "The Canal That Bisected Boston: Extending the Middlesex Canal" for the MITRE Retirees Association on 12/3/02 in Bedford.
Summary: In 1803 a canal was completed through Middlesex County joining the Merrimack and Charles Rivers, thereby enabling a commercial waterway that extended 80 miles from Boston as far as Concord, New Hampshire. The first long canal in the United States, it was dug by hand for 27 miles and included 20 locks, plus aqueducts, bridges and landings as it passed through towns such as Woburn on its way from Charlestown to present-day Lowell. Soon after, boats hauled across the Charles could be towed through Boston to the waterfront by virtue of a sea level canal. Until superseded by the railroad, this waterway was the chief avenue for access to the North Country, and it played a strategic role in establishing Boston as a center of commerce.
(3) "The Middlesex Canal" for the Wakefield Retired Men's Club on Wednesday, 7/9/03, in Wakefield.
(4) "The Old Middlesex Canal" for the Lynnfield Historical Society on Tuesday, 4/27/04.
Speaker: Howard Winkler
Howard Winkler is a retired engineer, lives in Arlington, and has been Treasurer of the Middlesex Canal Association for 18 years. He is a also past president of the Arlington Historical Society.
Facilities needed: PowerPoint or slide projector and screen.
Honorarium: $150 to be paid to the Middlesex Canal Association.
Contact: 10 Sleepy Hollow Lane, Arlington, MA 02474, 781-646-7310, H o w a r d W i n k l e r @ middlesexcanal.org (no spaces).
Talk before the Middlesex Canal Association:
(1) "Building the Middlesex Canal in the 21st Century" (Nov 2002) Describes construction of the canal as a modern engineering project.
Talks before the Arlington Historical Society:
(1) "Arlington on the Edge" (Nov. 2001) Presents the geographical, geological, botanical, zoological, historical, municipal, and cultural items of interest on and near the perimeter of Arlington.
(2) "Dead and Buried" (Oct. 1999) History of Arlington’s Old Burying Ground, Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Prince Hall Cemetery, and St. Paul’s Cemetery.
Project Ideas and Volunteer Opportunities
There are plenty of projects just waiting to be undertaken by any of our members and proprietors. A sampler of projects follows. If anyone is interested in any of these or other projects, contact Bill Gerber at <bill_gerber at bostonbbs dot org>.
During the summer months, assist with opening the museum on weekends and interpreting its exhibits to visitors. Conduct sales of whatever items are of interest to visitors.
Assist with school field trip visits to the Middlesex Canal and the Museum.
Pick up and continue Dave Dettinger’s research into the Mill Creek Canal, that provided the Middlesex Canal with access to the Haymarket Square area and out into Boston Harbor.
Research and write a report about the canals of East Cambridge (who built them, when & why, interests served, how boats were moved from the Middlesex to East Cambridge & return.
Research and write an article about the "Canal Bridge", between Boston and Cambridge (where the Museum of Science is now located).
Research and write an article describing how bands of log rafts were brought down the Merrimack River, disassembled and locked through at Middlesex Village, reassembled and brought down the canal to Medford, Cambridge or Boston. (Was the channel, formed by a berm that parallels the east shore of the Merrimack, built to support this activity?)
Research and write an article describing the development and use of the "Raft Locks", i.e., the extended-length Guard Locks that were built on either side of the Mill Pond at the Concord River.
Research and write an article describing Middlesex Canal Company’s efforts to make the Concord River navigable, and the results of same. (What portions were used, by whom, when and for what purposes.)
Exhibits: (Also see suggestions under other categories, below.)
Build an exhibit to explain how the Middlesex Canal was surveyed and why it was so important, both to the canal and, more broadly, to American Civil Engineering.
Build an exhibit "How the canal worked - on the river & overland". (e.g., boats were rowed, poled or sailed on the river, and assisted past the river canals by tow animals. On the Middlesex, they were towed, probably using livery animals (rent-a-critters). Where did they come from? How often were they rested, watered and fed, and "swapped out"? How were the boat crews housed and fed? Explain the system of assessing cargos and collecting tolls, to include the use of "landings" along both the river and the Middlesex Canal, and how tolls were collected.
Copy art from all available sources - e.g., as referenced in Lewis Lawrence and listed in Andover Gallery’s survey of Merrimack Valley art and artifacts, and "other". Prepare suitable portions of same for museum exhibit.
Copy and catalog all (or any portion of) available historical references to the full complex of interrelated canals (e.g., Mill Creek/Boston, the East Cambridge "four", the Middlesex, the Medford Branch, the Merrimack River Canals (Wicasee, Cromwell’s, Moor’s, Co’os, Goff’s, Short’s, Griffin’s, Merrill’s, Blodgett’s & Amoskeag, Hooksett, Bow (at Garvin’s Falls) and Sewall’s Falls; also Pawtucket and North Canals), the tributary canals (Nashua, Piscataquog, Head Brick, & any other industrial canals). Also "improvements" made to lesser falls and rapids (e.g., Hill’s, Taylor’s, Cromwell’s, Wicasee, Hunt’s, Varnum’s (aka Deer Jump??), Parker’s, Peter’s, Bodwell’s, and Mitchell’s.
Copy and catalog all (or any portion of) available historical references to companies that used the canals - e.g., the Merrimack Boating Company, the Union Boating Company, the Boston and Concord Boating Company, and the Boston Steamboat Company; and all of the "transients" to the extent they can be identified.
Add to the three items above - all references to the canals that can be found from the newspapers of the towns through/by which the canals passed, for the period in which the canal was in operation (from the time of incorporation to the time of dissolution).
Build a database of available information from available lock site and landing ledgers (boats, owners, cargos, dates of passage, tolls charged, etc.) Assess for: numbers of boats vs. year; cargos carried up and down vs. season & year (how it changed with time); owners; etc, etc.
Catalog ‘Timelines’ (the archaeological survey company) artifacts from an archaeological dig at the Baldwin Mansion site. Develop a museum exhibit to display same.
Work with Billerica Rescue or Police (whoever!) to recover whatever iron objects might be buried in the bottom of the Billerica Mill Pond that might have come from the Floating Towpath. Map out the location from which each object was recovered. Similarly, measure, describe and map out any underwater timber crib structures, and/or heaps of stone that might be found in the Mill Pond or along the shore. Analyze and build a display to exhibit same.
Organize and conduct a survey of submerged structures on the Merrimack; e.g., in the "lakes" behind Essex, Pawtucket and Concord Mill Dams. (This might begin with a sonar scan of the areas of Parker’s, Peter’s, Hunt’s, Wicasee, Taylor’s and Hill’s Falls; also the Billerica Mill Pond for remnants of the floating tow path; with follow-up dives on anything interesting found.)
Organize and conduct an archaeology "dig" at Moor’s Falls: (a) in the lower lock site to document the size and construction of that lock, and to catalog, measure and photograph (and/or otherwise appropriately describe) whatever components are found; and (b) at the site of the lock tender’s house.
Same at Cromwell’s Falls: (a) in the lock; and (b) at the site of the lock tender’s house if it can be located.
Same at Wicasee Falls, to the extent that worthwhile objectives can be identified.
Partial List of Resources (links will be available at www.middlesexcanal.org):
1) Mogan Center - The original records of the Middlesex Canal Corporation and other Middlesex Canal materials are archived at the Mogan Center at UMass/Lowell.
2) The Middlesex Canal Museum in N. Billerica has a collection of materials relating to the canal’s history.
3) Carl Seaburg’s Middlesex Canal papers
4) Library of Congress - American Memories
5) Google Books is a great resource for online access to rare books, including a wealth of material relating to the Middlesex Canal
WORLD CANALS CONFERENCE
by Nolan Jones
Bill Gerber and I went to the World Canals Conference September 12-14 in Bethlehem , PA. There were about 150 people plus 40 6th grade students from Rochester.
The technical sessions were divided into three categories -- Heritage, Restoration and Economic Benefit. Roger Squires spoke about the canal side developments along the restored canals in the UK. There are several areas where the town/city centers have been greatly improved.
Field trips included the National Canal Museum, Hugh Moore Park, Lock 11 on the Delaware Canal, Plane 9 on the Morris Canal and the derelict Bethlehem Steel Works.
The 2007 conference will be in Liverpool, England.
(consult www.middlesexcanal.org for additional events and updates):
Sun, Oct 15, 9:00am: Middlesex Canal Bike Ride. (See above)
Sun, Oct 29, 1:30pm: Fall Walk. Meet at Sandy Beach, Winchester. (See above)
Sun, Nov 5, 2006, 2:30pm: MCA Fall Meeting at the Museum (N. Billerica). The featured speaker will be Bill Gerber.
Note on the people of the Middlesex Canal Association - The Middlesex Canal Association is an organization not only of purpose, but of people. Many members, proprietors, officers and directors have known each other for a very long time. Some members have been with the Association since its founding over forty years ago. In September, Edith Hoxie passed away. Edith was the wife of Colonel Wilbar Hoxie, long-time Board member, historian, and former president of the Association. Board members Tom Dahill, Jean Potter, and Alan Seaburg accompanied Colonel Hoxie to the Maine coast to scatter Edith’s ashes. At times like this, I am reminded of all the caring, dedicated, and expert people I’ve met during my short decade as a proprietor and director. We should all be so fortunate as to have friends like these who are dedicated not only to the preservation of history but to each other’s needs in good times and bad. -- Robert Winters, Editor
An Apology and an Invitation -- We did not publish an issue of Towpath Topics for Spring 2006. In the future you should expect an issue each spring and fall (and an occasional special issue). Members, proprietors, and others are encouraged to submit materials for possible inclusion in Towpath Topics or on our website. Please send any contributed articles and/or photos to Robert Winters, Editor, at 366 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139 or (preferably) via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are now putting together an e-mail list for announcements. If you would like to be added to the list, provide your e-mail address in your membership renewal or send it to webmaster Robert Winters at email@example.com.
Middlesex Canal Association Officers and Directors: 2006-2007
Nolan T. Jones, President
William E. Gerber, VP
Howard B. Winkler, Treasurer
Jean Potter, Secretary
Neil P. Devins, Membership
Arthur L. Eno, Jr.
Fred Lawson, Jr.
Betty M. Bigwood
Thomas H. Dahill, Jr.
Roger K. Hagopian
Wilbar M. Hoxie
Thomas Raphael, Middlesex Canal Commission (MCC)
Shayne M. Reardon
Alan L. Seaburg