two thousand twenty
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Submitted by Dick Palmer

Kingston (Ont.) Chronicle, Aug. 24, 1821


There is no subject of public interest, which so much attracts the attention of the northern and mid-eastern people of the United States, as the canals in the state of New York; and of these the great western canal from the city of Albany to Lake Erie, ending at or near Buffalo, is the most important. This, when completed, will be from 310 to 350 miles in length; thereby connecting the waters of Erie with those of the Hudson, and thus uniting the navigable waters of all the western lakes with the Atlantic ocean. The shores adjoining these lakes are of greater extent than the whole of our shores on the Atlantic, from Maine to Georgia, both inclusive. On this canal, the produce of a fertile country, much greater in extent than all the New England states, will be brought to market. The object then to be accomplished by this stupendous undertaking, is of more importance to the eastern, northern, and northwestern states, than any other ever can be; and, when executed, will reflect more honour on the enterprize and character of the state of New York, than can ever be achieved by any other state in the union.

One hundred and five miles of this canal are now completed, and the water let in for public use; beginning nine miles south of the village of Utica, and ending at Montezuma, 96 miles west of that village. The canal is 41 feet in width, and 4 in depth. The first level, beginning 9 miles below Utica, is 69 miles without one lock. On this middle section (as it is called) there are nine locks; of these, 7 fall, and 2 rise. The greatest fall at any lock, is 11 feet; and the least, 6; the greatest rise is 11 ½ feet, and the least 6 ½.

Two basins or harbors have been made by the village of Utica, in the limits of the village, within which a great number of boats can be very conveniently accommodated, for the purpose of taking in and discharging freight. At Whitesborough, Oriskany, Lenox, Canistota and Caneseraga, are similar basins. At Chiteningo is a side cut canal, which runs to the turnpike road. At Syracuse, is the junction of the side-cut canal to Salina, being one mile from the Onondaga salt springs, in which are several spacious basins. At the village of Geddes is a large basin; at nine mile creek is a lock and basin; at a new village, called Weed’s Basin, 7 miles north of Auburn, is an important basin, and a fine situation for a large village, which no doubt will soon rise into commercial importance. At Bucksville is a lock and basin; and at the Seneca river is a large basin above the lock. At all these basins, stores and dwelling houses are now erecting; and all kinds of country produce, together with salt and lumber, are there shipped in large quantities to Utica.

On the middle section of the canal, the deepest cut into the earth is 22 feet, and the highest embankment, 36. There are several aqueduct bridges, constructed of well wrought stone into arches, which carry the waters of the canal from 20 to 30 feet above the level of the streams which pass under it. These are all handsome specimens of workmanship.

It ought to be here noticed, that in erecting the locks and other stone works connected with water, the builders have used what is called water lime, which petrifies, and hardens under water, (like the duke of Bridgewater’s lime.) This lime is found adjacent to the canal in great abundance, and may well be considered a great acquisition in the United States.

It is impossible for the writer to state the number and size of the market boats now in use; yet he can assert, that there are many constantly passing and re-passing up and down the canal. There are two packet boats, the Montezuma and Oneida Chief,* owned by the Erie canal navigation company, (incorporated.) These boats are 77 feet in length, and 18 (13?) in width; are each navigated by seven hands, viz. a captain, 2 helmsmen, one bowsman, a steward, a cabin boy, and cook, and are employed exclusively for the conveyance of passengers. The forward cabin is used for lodgings, & is handsomely finished off with 12 births, each having a good bed or matrass (sic), and every suitable accommodation. Next, and in the center, is a dining cabin, 13 feet by 15, where 25 passengers can conveniently be seated at table; and on the sides of the cabin are settees; so that, with these and matrasses, good lodgings for 30 passengers can be had. More than this number cannot be well accommodated in their boats. Next to this cabin is a gangway and bar, which are rented to the steward at $250 for the season; at which bar passengers are furnished with as good refreshments as can be had on board of our steam boats, and at a cheap rate. Next, and back of this, is a kitchen, with all the cooking apparatus, and lodgings for the crew.

These boats are drawn each by two horses, by means of a tow rope from 6 to 8 rods in length; the horses are harnessed tandem, with a small rider on the hind horse, and are exchanged every 8 miles. Each of these boats passes up and down this section of the canal every day, (Sundays excepted.) The fare of passengers is 4 cents per mile, and includes every expense, except such as may be voluntarily incurred at the bar. The tables are well furnished, and every attention is shown to the passengers, so as to render them perfectly satisfied with their accommodation. The average number of passengers in these boats, for this season, thus far has been about 20 each trip up and down.

These boats pass and re-pass night and day; so that although they are prohibited at greater headway than 5 miles in each hour, yet, in the course of 24 hours, the progress is as great as that of our best stages.

The tow-path on the side of the canal is about 3 feet above the level of the water, about 10 feet in width, and is made hard by gravel.

When two boats meet, each is by law required to turn to the right, and the horses drawing these boats are obliged to turn to the left; so that the horses which turn off from the tow path, must stop as they come abreast of the other horses; the boat being under headway, causes the tow rope to fall slack under water; and in this situation the boat next to the tow-path passes directly over the rope so slacked, and both proceed without any detention, and without any casting off or hitching to. In passing the locks, whether the boats ascend, or descend, the detention at each will not exceed 4 minutes.

In these boats, travellers are regaled by viewing alternately the richest productions of cultivated earth, and the rudest display of forests, hills, morasses and swamps; which together with the rapidity and ease of their passage, makes the whole a delightful stretch of scenery highly interesting, to all who have never before witnessed any thing of the kind.

The canal from Montezuma to Rochester, on the Genesee river, is understood to be in great forwardness; that from Utica to the Little Falls, on the Mohawk, is finished, and the water thus far will be let in next fall; and the remainder down the river to the city of Schenectady a distance of about 70 miles, will be completed in the autumn, but the water will not be let in until next spring; and, from the best information which could be obtained, the whole will be completed within 2 years from next November. Thus, the state of New York will then have effected and completed, that which will redound more to her honor, than any thing which she has ever before accomplished, and more than has been done by any other state in the union. She has, as it were, connected two empires. Those only who best know the great extent of the new world, and that, as connected with this canal, can appreciate the importance of this stupendous work.

*These packet boats, as toll, pay five dollars for each passage, making 60 dollars per week. Market boats pay toll on their freight, at the toll or custom houses on the canal; of which, on this middle section, there are two.


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1 Comment to "Erie Canal in 1821"

  1. Gil Burgess Said,

    It's just great to know that this information is on record.

    Posted on Tue Nov 30, 10:21:00 AM EST


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