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SUBMITTED by Mark De Cracker, Erie's Restoration Interests Everyone, Inc. (14-Oct-2009)

Just the other day I was out cleaning out Clinton Ditch Lock 65 between Lyons and Clyde along Rt. 31. I came across Lock 65 last Winter while doing some research for a program called "15 Miles on the Erie Canal". E.R.I.E. (Erie's Restoration Interests Everyone) has been working on this signage program now for three years. In Wayne County between Newark and Clyde (Galen) we have found 15 sites of historical importance, of those 15 sites we have now put signage up for two stops--#4 at Lock 56 and #7 at Lock 55 and the H.G. Hotchkiss Peppermint Building. When I first found Lock 65 you could barely see the lock and this was in the Winter. The site was full of trees and over grown with grape vines. I have a hard time understanding how we could let something of this much importance to the growth of our great Empire State be let to rot away. Slowly over the summer with the help of volunteers we have finally got most of the trees out. I happen to count the rings in the Ash tree that had been growing in the lock chamber and I counted 55 rings. Why did this tree start to grow in and around 1955? I wonder if perhaps Doctor Ennis of Lyons, N.Y. who was the former President of the Canal Society had cleaned if out? David was very active in trying to save the Aqueduct in Lyons and restoring Lock 56 in 1955. David in your memory I will not let that restoration effort go unheard.

Fast forward, I was talking to Assemblyman Robert Oaks' Administrative Assistant the other night and I asked her if it would be possible to sponsor legislation for historic signage on the Erie Canal. Robert Oaks has been very supportive of our mural program over the last few years. She said we would need sponsorship from both chambers of government to make this happen. I really think the time has come to make this happen--whether the State does this or we as Canal advocates take up the task. This needs to be done! The World Canal Conference is coming to Rochester in 2010 and I can think of no better thing we can do to show the world our historic Erie Canal.

There are many people I have talked to or worked with over the past 20 years on canal restoration to whom I have sent this letter. As Ruth Rosenberg Naparsteck said, "We are all walking the same Towpath". We may or may not know each other, but through our common interest in canal preservation we can make this happen. I got a call from Hugh Pratt a couple of weeks ago about a memorial mural in Montezuma for all the men who were lost building Clinton's Ditch. This signage would not only honor those who sacrifices their lives--it would honor the great efforts of Jessie Hawley, DeWittt Clinton, and the many other boatsmen who once passed through many locks and over the aqueducts of the Erie Canal. Two of these boatsmen were Glen Salisbury and Richard Garrity. Glen and Richard walked this towpath as a job in their youth. I told Glen that before he died that I would never give up tyring to preserve and restore the great Erie Canal.

The first set in a series of videos below is from Louie DeJohn, who as a kid had a great interest in history. The stories of Lockville he has passed on to me and I am passing them on to you. As I told Louie "We will not forget you and Lockville and let the weeds come back". The next video is of the restoration of the Camillus Aqueduct. The last videos are of Richard and Glen. I am asking you all to join me as we again walk the towpath together and honor the great historic efforts of the past.

I am proposing that every site of importance from Clinton's Ditch to the Barge Canal be signed cleared, cleaned out, and landscaped. We must leave this gem to future generations so they never need to get tangled up in vines again.
Towpath Friends

The ole, the ole, the ole Erie Canal
Two young boys meant when they were so young
Their fathers were Canal Boatmen and they are Canal Boatman's sons
They struck up a friendship that lasted until the season was done

Helping the hoagies walk down the towpath
With barges loaded with grain, lumber and coal
Through the locks and over the aqueducts
Off to the east and down the Hudson we'll go

by Mark De Cracker
This summer I have read Bond of Union by Gerard Koeppel watched the play Clinton's Ditch written by Hugh Pratt and Anne Paris, and helped Ruth Rosenberg Naparsteck resell the The Erie Canal book by Peter Spier. I also watched as the waters flow over the aqueduct in Camillus. I commend David Beebe for all his efforts. Now it's time to join together and walk the towpath again and honor all those who walked the towpath before us.


Richard Garrity and Glen Salisbury, Canal Boatsmen

Clinton's Ditch Lock 65

Lock 65 in Galen after clearing

Letter from Glen Salisbury, 3 August 1991


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5 Comments to "Walking the Same Towpath"

  1. John M. Zornow Said,

    I have always wondered why our ancestors did some of the things that they did, including tearing down beautiful buildings, and letting things happen like the old Erie Canal structures.

    Lets put ourselves in their shoes and pick a date. Say 1900. Newark and Lyons are booming villages, bursting at the seams, a great deal of manufacturing. The railroad is taking our products to market but, very expensive because they are a monopoly.

    Albany has the answer--a new more modern wider canal. Just like 1820, we will drive down the cost of shipping. It never really happened because of the advent of motorized trucks. Too late for the beautiful Erie & towpath.

    We have to remember that unlike now when we have plenty of everything, food, shelter, clothing, social security, medicare, medicaid etc., back then just feeding the family was full time. Most people had no time, or cared, to honor, re-live, or preserve the past. Only the wealthy had the luxury to do things that you and I do every day, like preservation efforts.

    Posted on Thu Oct 29, 01:25:00 AM EDT

  2. Gil Burgess Said,

    John Zornow is right. During the time that our "treasures" were being ignored (and then forgotten) there were a great many fewer people who had the free (discretionary) time to work at any preservation efforts.

    Posted on Thu Oct 29, 01:28:00 AM EDT

  3. Seth C. Burgess Said,

    In addition, I might suggest that the community and sense of appreciation for simple things that we aspire to today already existed during those same times, as was the nature of the "meaningful work" such people were "lucky" enough to have (without realizing it, maybe?)...

    While walking around the Genesee Riverwalk recently I imagined a future in which our descendants will be asking these same questions of us--when we leave some of the interesting bridges and roads used by autos today in disrepair...it will happen.

    Posted on Thu Oct 29, 01:29:00 AM EDT

  4. Anonymous Said,

    Walking the Same Towpath…

    I just started to think about that notion when I realized that walking the same towpath is, at least in Wayne County not a trivial view. From the earliest beginnings, through today, that towpath reminds us all of the providential gifts provided by the Erie Canal. For at least 184 years the canal has provided uninterrupted service to our community. Such an impact most be realized in many minds throughout the community.

    I think “Walking the same Towpath…” ideation is well known enough, it only needs to be exploited or in other words use its power to transform our community into a new and wonderful age. Ruth Rosenberg Naparsteck may not have realized the awesome power in that simple expression. It can really galvanize a people to act. To me it is much the same as the “I Love New York” campaign, which really caused great things to happen in our state.

    This article is really quite remarkable. It gives us an insight into that which was, and that which can happen when we close ranks to restore and celebrate our heritage.

    John R. Groves

    Posted on Thu Oct 29, 09:30:00 AM EDT

  5. Videomark Said,

    It’s too late to look back on what or what wasn’t done in preservation efforts in the past. What is important is that we look forward and use our time and energies to remember our past. I witnessed some of that destruction right before my eyes. I was 20 years old and working at Hanover in the summer of 1976. The assembly line stopped when the wrecking ball crashed into the former Fire Station in Newark. I remember looking over at a few of the women as they were wiping tears from their eyes. I never forgot that day, nor should we forget those that walked the towpath before us. Those tears in the future must be tears of joy.

    Mark De Cracker

    Posted on Thu Oct 29, 10:17:00 AM EDT


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