Middlesex Canal Association    P.O. Box 333    Billerica, Massachusetts 01821
Volume 15, No. 2    April, 1977


The annual meeting of the Middlesex Canal Association will take place on Saturday, April 30, 1977, in Woburn. The day's schedule will be as follows:

10:00 A.M. - Winchester Bicyclers will meet at Sandy Beach by the Middlesex Canal marker and, after visiting the Aqueduct site on the upper Mystic Lake will follow the new bicycle path designed by the Winchester Bicycle Committee which follows the Aberjona River, and will bicycle to the Horn Pond parking lot, Arlington Road, Woburn for the ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

11:00 A.M. - Horn Pond parking lot, Arlington Road, Woburn. All members, bicyclers walkers and guests are invited to attend the dedication of the Woburn Bicycle Path, "Towpath Trail".

1:00 P.M. - Lunch on the lawn of the Thompson Library on Elm Street, Woburn, above the Baldwin Green. Coffee will be provided by the Woburn Canal Society, but paper bag lunches must be brought by those attending. (Bring your picnic blanket)

1:30 P.M. - Thompson Library lawn. The annual meeting of the Middlesex Canal Association will take place, including reports, election of officers and directors, and any other business which may come before the meeting.

After the meeting, there will be talks by Thomas Smith of the Woburn Historical Commission, giving the results of his recent research on the life and works of Loammi Baldwin, and by Leonard H. Harmon, chairman of the Woburn Historical Commission and vice president of the Middlesex Canal Association, who will report the latest developments of the canal restoration in Woburn and especially on plans for the summer season for the "Colonel Baldwin", the packet-boat, which will soon be horse-drawn.

TO: W. Hoxie, President

FROM: Historical Commission of the City of Woburn

Dear Will:

In response to your request concerning our time-table of upcoming events in Woburn for the next four months, I have listed our schedule below:

APRIL 30 - The dedication of "Towpath Trail," the Woburn bike-hike-jog route which runs parallel to the canal in the city. Ribbon-cutting at Horn Pond Landing, Arlington Road at 11:00 a.m.

MAY 27 - Launching of the packet, "Colonel Baldwin," at the packet boat landing, Baldwin Mansion, 4:00.

MAY 30 - Canal Canoe Race II - Canoe competition on the Middlesex Canal in North Woburn. Finish at the Baldwin Mansion. Splash-off at 1:30 p.m.

JULY 3 - Maiden voyage of the horse-drawn packet, the "Colonel Baldwin," from Woburn Landing at the Baldwin Mansion at 2:00 p.m.

We hope that you and your "canawlers" will be able to join us in these activities.

Leonard H. Harmon


A petition was presented to 1830 session of the Massachusetts Legislature by John F. Loring, Lemuel Pope, Issac P. Davis, Kirk Boott, Patrick T. Jackson, George W. Lyman and Daniel Parker, asking that they be incorporated as the Boston and Lowell Rail Road Corporation. The Canal proprietors sought to protect their vested interests and filed a Remonstrance. The report of the committee of the legislature follows:


The Committee of both Houses, on Railways and Canals, to whom was referred the petition of John F. Loring and others, for authority to construct a Rail Road from the City of Boston to the town of Lowell, and the Remonstrance of the President, Directors and Company of the Middlesex Canal against the granting of said petition, and to whom was also committed the Message of His Excellency the Governor, transmitting the survey of a Rail Road to Lowell, have had the same under consideration, and respectfully


That it appears from evidence exhibited by the petitioners, that the present average amount of transportation of merchandise, belonging to the large and flourishing manufacturing companies at Lowell, from Boston to Lowell, and in the opposite direction, is equal to sixteen tons per day; and that of goods and merchandise belonging to other persons, about eight tons per day, making in all about 7,400 tons per annum.

There are six stage coaches, drawn by four or six horses each, which pass daily from Boston to Lowell and back, and one which passes each way every other day, making in all, thirty-nine passages, weekly, in each direction. A part of these stages belong to lines which terminate in Lowell, and part to lines which pass through the town to places more remote from Boston. The stages are usually fully loaded, and it is computed that they convey from 100 to 120 passengers daily, from one town to the other, or from 30 to 37,000 per annum. The usual fare is $1,25 for each passenger.

A part of the goods and merchandise is transported by water on the Middlesex Canal, at a cost of $3 per ton, including tolls, freight, truckage to and from the canal, and wharfage. The remainder is transported by land, at an expense of about $4 a ton. The petitioners state that the present roads between Boston and Lowell are bad, being in some parts hilly, and often muddy and in bad repair.

They state that there is reason to anticipate a great increase of transportation between Boston and Lowell, with the increase in the population and business of that place - that there are now the cotton mills in operation, bleaching and printing works, and a machine shop - and that there is room and water power sufficient for 35 more mills, equal to any one now there. They consider these facts sufficient to justify the petitioners in the anticipation of a sufficient income from the use of a Rail Road to indemnify them for the cost of constructing it, and that the business and prosperity of that town will be materially promoted by such a Rail Road.

The remonstrants, on their part, have shown that they have expended a very large sum of money in improving the means of communication between Boston and the Merrimack river, near the town of Lowell, by the Middlesex Canal; and to Concord in New Hampshire, by Locks and Canals on various parts of the Merrimack river, of which they are proprietors in part. These expenditures have amounted to more than $660,000 exclusive of interest, and the income for 25 years has been mostly devoted to extending the works and rendering them durable. The works are now apparently in a state of completeness, from which the proprietors have anticipated being able to make larger dividends of profits than heretofore.

They have therefore regarded the Canal as a valuable property, worth about a quarter part of the original cost with the interest thereon, provided they retain the present amount of business, without any increase. The amount of income derived from tolls on the Middlesex Canal, and the share which belongs to these proprietors in the tolls from the other Locks and Canals for extending the navigation to Concord, during the last season was about $21,000. The proportion of this income derived from transportation between Boston and Lowell was about $4,000.

The remonstrants maintain that it would be contrary to the spirit of legislation in this Commonwealth, to make a grant of authority which might destroy a property thus created under a former grant - that the grant made to the proprietors of the Canal, is in the nature of an agreement with them by the government, to be executed in good faith that if they would extend their survey in opening such a water communication as they have furnished to the public, they should be entitled to receive such remuneration as the tolls or goods transported on the canal will afford. Although it is not expressly stipulated that a similar privilege of transporting the same goods shall not be granted to other individuals, they maintain that such is the implied agreement, and that it is as obligatory as if it were in writing, unless it is shown that some exigency exists, requiring for the public convenience some other mode of conveyance, which they deny to exist in the present case, because the Canal is fully competent to transport all the goods that offer, the transportation is safe and sufficiently expeditious, and the tolls, are moderate. They maintain, that to authorise the erection of the Rail Road, would be to authorise a substitute for the grant already made to the proprietors of the Canal; for it is intended that the Rail Road shall effect the same objects which are accomplished by the Canal, with a difference only in the manner of doing it. The difference in the manner of transportation, they argue, does not deprive the Rail Road of the character of a substitute for the Canal, the effect of which would be to destroy the value of their property in the Canal.

They contend that admitting that the Rail Road would afford an accommodation to the public, on account of the greater expedition in travelling on it than on the canal, this accommodation cannot be of sufficient moment to constitute an exigency which should authorize the annulling of their grant. Their own experience has shown them that the anticipated benefits of such improvements are liable to be greatly overrated. They had supposed that if they could open a direct and safe navigable communication between Boston and Concord, on which merchandise could be transported at a much cheaper rate than it could be by land, that all people would use it. They had been disappointed. Testimony was offered to show that in the opinion of persons who had made enquiries to ascertain the fact, from two thirds to three quarters of the produce and merchandise now transported between Boston and Concord was carried by land, and at a cost considerably higher than the rate of freight by the canal. Similar deductions, they argued, should be made from the estimate of transportation anticipated on the Rail Road, in determining its probable utility to the public, and its promises of income to the proprietors.

The remonstrants also contended on these and on other grounds that the Rail Road is likely to disappoint the expectations of the petitioners, and that therefore the legislature from motives of expediency should refuse to grant them a charter, that unless they were satisfied that the expenditure would be a reasonable and profitable investment they ought not to permit it. Various estimates were presented to show that the income which can be derived from the amount of business likely to be done on the Rail Road, must fall far short of an adequate indemnity for the cost. Testimony was produced to show that the estimate made by the petitioners of the present number of passengers is too high, and that in the opinion of the witness it does not exceed 65 passengers, in both directions per day.

The remonstrants maintained further, that if it should be determined that an exigency exists which will authorize the granting of permission to build a Rail Road, which shall be a substitute for the canal, they will be entitled, on the principles of equity to an indemnity for the injury to their property. This principle had been recognized in several instances by the legislature, particularly in the charters of the Charles River, West Boston, and bridges.

The petitioners in reply disclaim any disposition to interfere with any rights granted to the proprietors of the canal, or to infringe any agreement either express or implied contained in their charter. They say that if it were expected that the Rail Road would afford only the same accommodation which is afforded by the canal, they would be the last persons to ask for it. But it is wanted they say to afford an accommodation which the canal does not afford and cannot be made to afford. The canal is closed between four and five months in every year. During that period it is necessary to transport a large amount of merchandise by land. In the summer time the transportation by the canal is somewhat circuitous, and costs at the lowest rates of toll which the proprietors of the canal can afford, including truckage to and from the canal, and wharfage $3 a ton. The cost of transportation in winter is now $4 a ton, but they say they can contract with teamsters to carry their goods by land through the year, in the present state of the roads, for $3 a ton, and if an improvement should be made in the roads, which may be easily done, they can contract for the carriage for less than $3 a ton. By such a contract they will make a saving of $1 a ton on the amount of transportation in winter by withdrawing their transportation altogether from the canal. By procuring an improvement to be made in the road they will be able to make a further saving in transportation, and by the construction of the Rail Road still greater, and without any further injury to the canal than will result from the adoption of that mode of transportation which they have ascertained would now be most advantageous to them.

They maintain further, that if the Rail Road would be injurious to the proprietors of the canal, the additional accommodation proposed to be afforded to the public, in a more constant and more expeditious mode of transportation and travelling, constitute the exigency which in the general understanding of the legislature in granting charters of incorporation, and of individuals in receiving them, justifies the interference. It is the common case of a new highway which is granted when the public convenience requires it, although individuals are interested in retaining the travel in the old road. The degree in which the public convenience will be promoted by the Rail Road depends on the amount of travel and transportation which will be accommodated by it. The amount of transportation at the present time they contend will be 24 tons a day, which is much more than would be withdrawn from the canal, if any would be. The accommodation of this business did not enter into the contemplation of the proprietors of the canal when they obtained their grant, for it has all sprung up within a few years. It may be reasonably anticipated that in a few years more the amount will be materially increased. But the accommodation to passengers is still more important. The number at present, from the best estimate they can obtain, is 100 or 120 a day, and is every week increasing. The time occupied in the passage is from 4 to 6 or 8 hours. These passengers may be transported by a Rail Road in much less time and at a much less cost. The convenience of the public, so far as they are interested in the communication between Boston and Lowell will be promoted in rendering that communication as cheap and expeditious as possible. The canal affords no relief, or if any it is very small, and therefore it should not stand in the way of an improvement from which those who are interested in that communication would derive great benefit.

The petitioners maintain that under these circumstance it is fully competent for the legislature to grant authority for making such an improvement, and that such an authority cannot be considered as interfering with the privileges already granted to the proprietors of the canal, on the most liberal construction of their grant, and therefore would not entitle them to any indemnity for the injury which they might sustain, in consequence of the permission to make such improvement.

These are some of the principal grounds on which the Petitioners and the Remonstrants rest their respective claims.

The Committee after a careful consideration of these and other arguments offered to their attention, are of opinion that the grant of authority to build a Rail Road from Boston to Lowell would not be an infringement of the rights and privileges granted to the proprietors of the Middlesex Canal, by their charter;

That a well constructed Rail Road between Boston and Lowell would be highly beneficial to that portion of the public who are interested in the intercourse between those two towns;

That the experiment of a Rail Road of an approved construction, built under the direction of an intelligent and enterprising company, on so favourable a route as that between Boston and Lowell, will be extremely useful, by affording in this Commonwealth, a satisfactory test of the value of this species of improvement.

To secure so desirable an object, the Committee ask leave to report a Bill to incorporate a Company for that purpose.

Which is herewith respectfully submitted.

JOHN W. LINCOLN, Chairman.

(The reported bill was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor on June 5, 1830, as chapter 4 of the Acts of 1830. The railroad became an actuality and the decline of the Canal began.)


Despite the bitter objection to the railroad charter, and the obvious damage to the Canal's business, the Canal proprietors were most accommodating to their dangerous rival. Mention has often been made of the fact that the Canal contributed to its own demise by carrying the material for the railroad by canal boat and helpfully depositing the granite ties all along the proposed rail road. A letter from the Canal papers many years later (1842) shows evidence of continuing accommodation.

Boston March 18, 1842

Caleb Eddy, Esq.

Dear Sir,

When you were kind enough to allow us to take your stone from the neighborhood of Nichols' locks on the Middlesex Canal last fall, we took from there and measured.

72 stones - measuring 962 cubic feet - and we agreed to replace them by the same amount of equally good stone.

If it is equally agreeable to you, however, I should prefer to pay you now for the stone such price as you think proper - & sufficient to replace them. Otherwise if you would order them yourself of the person from whom you bought the others you can give such directions as will insure your obtaining as good a lot and we will pay for them when you receive them. We should prefer, however, to pay at once if you have no objection.

Respectfully yours,

Chas. S. Storrow
B. & Lowell R.R.

962 feet at 15/100 is $144.37*

* This notation was added by a representative of the Canal company, and obviously represents the price charged the Railroad.


The past year has been a landmark of rewarding activities for your Association. The Annual Meeting Tour was well attended, and we were particularly glad to welcome Members and Guests from far away places. We shared the excitement with Woburn Canal Society and Historical Commission in the building and launching of the Packet "Colonel Baldwin". Threats to preservation of the Canal heritage were avoided through the fine cooperation by engineering consultants, public officials, and historians of several agencies, communities, and the Boston & Maine RR with your Officers in preparing specifications and agreements for minimum loss during construction of essential public services in Wilmington, Billerica, and Chelmsford. Hadley Park and the Stone Locks are saved for the present by withdrawal of plans for a new Merrimack River Bridge. The Mass. Historical Commission offered a matching grant of funds for stabilization of the Shawsheen River Aqueduct, and the contractor for Section 19 of the Billerica Sewerage Project there assures understanding cooperation when his work begins.

The Association told its story to thousands at the Museum of Science display in September commemorating National Transportation Week, and many visitors there stepped aboard the "Colonel Baldwin" afloat in the Charles River. We kept in touch with other Canal Societies by attending more of their outings and meetings, and your Officers are participating in future planning with the State and both Mystic and Ipswich River Watershed Commissions. There is a growing use by scholars of the Museum collections at Lowell, and our membership grows.

During the year we acknowledged with sincere regret the resignations by three of our most enthusiastic Officers: Nolan T. Jones, Treasurer and Membership, sent to Belgium by his company in September, and now by Mary Stetson Clarke, Corresponding Secretary, and Edwin L. Clarke, Director, retiring to travel. We are grateful to Mr. Malcolm Choate for undertaking the responsibilities as Treasurer, and to Mr. Burt Ver Planck for those of Membership Secretary. Thank you both.

"Life is full of shadows, but the sunshine makes them all." Truly, there have been some shadows, but hopefully, with the approaching Spring, the sunshine will make up for them.

Preservation of our Canal Heritage must continue to be the objective of our Association. This will be enhanced by the bill introduced in the Legislature by Representative Paleologus at the urging of Vice President Len Harmon and Proprietor Thomas Scott of Woburn. The Middlesex Canal Commission to be established would, unfortunately, provide no acquisition or development of sites now, but would be an important intermediate step over a long period. Its passage deserves our encouragement for prospective hearings and enactment this session. With the moving of the National Park Service Administrator to Atlanta we lose a step backward, but we must sustain their interest. MCA must remain alert to detect and to modify if possible every land use management, building, or drainage proposal which threatens further loss of integrity along the Canal. Our committees must remain staffed and eager to respond when a proposal is made. We need additional Members and Proprietors to succeed in our very real goals.

No presiding officer could have enjoyed the support of a more dedicated and enthusiastic Executive Board than has been my privilege for the past three years. As your President, it has been an honour indeed, and a distinct pleasure, to enjoy the companionship of the Association. It is my sincere hope that all of you will continue to sustain succeeding Officers, and that I shall find opportunity to assist you toward achieving your goals. Thank you.



As a result of a request by MCA Vice president and Woburn Historical Commission chairman, Leonard H. Harmon, the Massachusetts legislature will soon be considering the establishment of a Middlesex Canal Commission to study and plan a regional state park.

Originally, the request was for the creation of a Woburn Canal Heritage Park, but, through the efforts of Harmon and Representative Nicholas A. Paleologos of Woburn, the state planning department and representatives of various organizations were invited to participate.

Legislation is now being drafted which will be introduced in the legislature during this session. If it is passed, there will be created a Commission to study the question and investigate the availability of state and Federal funds to acquire or preserve the remains of the Canal.

Since this is essentially the purpose of the MCA, we are delighted with the prospects, and hope that all will inform and alert their representatives.