Ohio and Erie Canal, Talk:Ohio and Erie Canal
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Ohio and Erie Canal
was constructed in the early 1800s
and connected the Ohio River
and Lake Erie
. The main trunk of the canal was 308.14 miles long and contained 146 locks. Five feeder canals added 24.8 miles and 6 additional locks to the system. The canal carried freight traffic from 1827 to 1861, and then freight traffic rapidly diminished due to the construction of railroads. From 1862 to 1913, the canal served as a water source to industries and towns. In 1913 the canal was abandoned after much of it was destroyed by a flood.
After achieving Statehood in 1803, Ohio was a sparsely populated state of 50,000 persons, scattered and with no economical means of transportation of goods. With no access to markets, agriculture served only local needs and manufacturing was nearly non-existent.
Agitation for a Canal System (1787-1822)
As early as 1787, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had discussed the desirability of a canal linking Lake Erie to the Ohio River as part of a national system of canals
[ Hagerty, J.E., McClelland C.P. and Huntington, C.C., History of the Ohio Canals, Their construction, cost, use and partial abandonment, Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, Columbus, OH 1905 ]
. It wasn't until 1807 that Ohio's first Senator, Thomas Worthington
offered a resolution in Congress asking Treasury Secretary Gallatin to report to the Senate. In 1810, DeWitt Clinton
was appointed to head the Erie Canal Commission. He was unsuccessful in his attempt to get national aid for the construction of a canal connecting Lake Erie to the Hudson River, so he enlisted the aid of Ohio (and its congressional delegation). On January 15, 1812 the Ohio Legislature passed a resolution indicating that the connection of the Great Lakes with the Hudson River was a project of "national concern". President Madison was against the proposal, however, and the war of 1812 ended all discussion.
On December 11, 1816, Governor DeWitt Clinton of New York sent a letter to the Ohio Legislature indicating his state's willingness to construct the Erie Canal without national help, and asking the State of Ohio to join in the endeavor. On January 9, 1817, the Ohio Legislature directed Ohio's Governor to negotiate a deal with Clinton. Due to the cost, however, the Ohio Legislature dallied, and nothing happened for the next 3 years. Finally, in January 1822, in a fit of progressivism, the Ohio Legislature passed acts to fund the canal system and the state's public education obligations.
Survey and Design (1822)
On January 31, 1822 the Ohio Legislature passed a resolution to employ an engineer and appoint commissioners to survey and design the canal system as soon as possible. A sum not to exceed $6000 was allocated for this purpose.
James Geddes, an engineer experienced from work on the New York canals, was employed. Since most of Ohio's population lived along a line from Cleveland to Cincinnati, it was necessary that these areas be served by the main trunk of the canal. Since canals must generally follow river valleys, it was difficult to design a suitable system. Specifically, the bridging the Scioto and Miami river valley's required raising the canal to such an elevation that water from neither river could be used as a source. As a result, the canal was divided into two sections, the Ohio and Erie Canal from Cleveland to Portsmouth which crossed the Licking Divide and followed the Scioto River Valley, and the Miami Canal which connected Cincinnati to Dayton. In later years this second canal would be extended all the way to the Maumee River at Toledo.
On February 4, 1825, the Ohio Legislature passed "An Act to provide for the Internal Improvement of the State of Ohio by Navigable Canals". The Canal Commission was authorized to borrow $400,000 in 1825, and not more than $600,000 per year thereafter. The notes issued were to be redeemable between 1850 and 1875.
The canals were specified to have a minimum width of 40 feet at the top, 26 feet at the bottom, and a depth of 4 feet minimum. These limits were often exceeded, and indeed it was cheaper to do so in most cases. For example, it might be cheaper to build one embankment and then let the water fill all the way to the adjacent foothills, perhaps hundreds of feet away, then to build two embankments. By damming the rivers, long stretches of slackwater could be created which, with the addition of towpaths, could serve as portions of the canal. Where it made economic sense to do so, such as lock widths or portions of the canal through narrow rock or across aquaducts, the minimum widths were adhered to.
Contracts were let for the following tasks:
* Grubbing and Clearing
* Mucking and Ditching
* Embankment and Excavation
* Locks and Culverts
Initially, contractors in general proved to be inexperienced and unreliable. It was common for one job to receive 50 bids, many of them local to where the work was being performed. The chosen contractor, having underbid the contract, often would vanish in the night leaving his labor force unpaid and his contract unfullfilled. This problem was so bad that laborers refused to perform canal work for fear of not being paid. As the bidding process was improved, and more reliable contractors engaged, the situation improved.
Workers were initially paid $0.30 per day and offered a jigger of whiskey. As work progressed, and where labor was in shortage, workers could make as much as $15 per month. At that time, cash money was hard to come by in Ohio forcing much bartering. Working on the canal was appealing and attracted many farmers from their land.
On July 3, 1827 the first canal boat on the Ohio and Erie Canal left Akron, travelled through 41 locks and over 3 aquaducts along 37 miles of canal, to arrive at Cleveland on July 4th. While the average speed of 3 mph seems slow, canal boats could carry 10 tons of goods and were much more efficient than wagons over rutted trails.
Five feeder canals were built to supply water and connect to cities along the route:
* Tuscarawas Feeder (3.2 miles)
* Walhonding Feeder (1.3 miles)
* Granville Feeder (6.1 miles)
* Muskinghum Side Cut (2.6 miles)
* Columbus Feeder (11.6 miles)
Operation (1833 - 1913)
The canals enjoyed a golden period of prosperity from the 1830's to the early 1860's. Immediately following the Civil War, it became apparent that railroads would take the canal's business. 640px|thumb|center|Graph showing the annual expenditures and revenues accrued to the State of Ohio by the Ohio and Erie Canal.
From 1861 until 1879, Ohio leased its canals to private owners who earned revenue from dwindling boat operation and the sale of water to factories and towns. When the state took the canals back in 1879, it discovered that they had not been maintained, and that state lands surrounding the canals had been illegally sold to private owners. In many cases, canals were filled in for "health reasons", only to find a newly laid railroad track on their right of way. Much State land was given away for free to politcally savvy private owners. Nevertheless, some revenue was accrued into the early twentieth century from the sale of water rights as well as recovery and sale of land surrounding the canals.
On March 23, 1913, Ohio's canal system came to an abrupt end. After a winter of record snowfall, storms dumped an abnormally heavy amount of rain on the state. The flood caused the reservoirs to spill over into the canals, destroying aqueducts, washing out banks, and devastating most of the locks.
Notable Persons Associated with the Canal
*As a teenager, James Garfield
worked as a helmsman, driving horses to pull barges along the canal.
| title=Biography of James Garfield
| work=The White House
After repeatedly falling into the canal on the job, Garfield became ill, and decided to go to college instead.
| title=James A. Garfield
| work=American Presidents: Life Portraits
The Canal Today
The remaining watered sections of the Ohio & Erie Canal are located on the summit. The Ohio & Erie Canal is maintained, to this day, as a water supply for local industries. After the flood, a few sections of the canal continued in use hauling cargo to local industries.
The section of the Ohio & Erie Canal from Brecksville Dam (northern Summit Co.) to Rockside Road (southern Cuyahoga Co.) was transferred to the National Park Service in 1989 as part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreational Area.
A lease on the canal lands from the Cuyahoga Valley National Park
to the terminus of the canal has been executed with the Cleveland Metro Parks. Metro Parks manages the adjacent real estate and is developing the corridor into the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation.
The section of the Ohio & Erie Canal still owned and maintained by the Division of Water in southern Summit is referred to as the watered section. This section runs from the north end of Summit Lake south to Barberton, a distance of about 12 miles. Included in this section is the feeder canal from the Tuscarawas River and the hydraulics at the Portage Lakes.
The Ohio & Erie Canal is maintained from Akron by a staff of six Division of Water employees. Like its sister canal, the Ohio & Erie Canal carries a large amount of stormwater. The canals were not designed to accommodate this great influx of stormwater. Most of the siltation and erosion problems experienced today are the result of stormwater inappropriately piped into the canals over the years.
In late 1996, the canal from Zoar to Cleveland was designated a National Heritage Corridor. This designation was brought about through the efforts of many communities, civic organizations, businesses and individuals working in partnership. The Department is working with numerous local communities and organizations to assure the continued development of the Ohio & Erie Canal.
*List of canals in the United States
*http://www.ohioanderiecanalway.com/default.aspx Ohio and Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor
*http://www.photojournalistas.com/Jan_2003/Ohio&Erie_Canal/Pages/pg01.html Ohio and Erie Canal Photo Essay
* http://www.nps.gov/cuva/planavisit/todo/recreation/ohioerie.htm Ohio and Erie Canal towpath trail
*http://www.clevelandmemory.org/SpecColl/canal/canalhist.html The Ohio and Erie Canal in Cleveland
ReferencesCategory:Canals in OhioCategory:Landmarks in OhioCategory:Ohio RiverCategory:National Historic Landmarks of the United StatesCategory:Registered Historic Places in Ohio