Middlesex Canal Association P.O. Box 333 Billerica, Massachusetts 01821
Volume 20, No. 2 April, 1982
NOTICE OF ANNUAL MEETING
Saturday, May 8, 1982
First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church
5 Concord Road, Billerica.
This year's meeting will feature a special presentation to Mr. Frank Dignon of Billerica, who donated a fine section of the Canal to the Association. In addition, we will discuss the recommendations for reuse and preservation of the Middlesex Canal from the feasibility study of the Middlesex Canal Commission. We hope to generate some specific recommendations for the Board to pursue as we develop strategy for the future.
We will have updates on the activities planned for the summer that should be of interest. For Proprietor members, the meeting also marks the annual election of officers for the Association.
The Unitarian Church is located at the Billerica Common on Route 3A, with parking in the Church Yard and behind the Masonic Temple and Town Hall.
So far, spring has been a bit like our Winter Meeting. The meeting took three tries, but it was worth the wait. Thanks to Joe Kopycinski for reserving the room, Fran and Burt VerPlanck for bringing the refreshments, and Fred Lawson for sharing his remarkable glass slides with us. The meeting also featured a surprise treat: an old watercolor painting of the stone locks that was brought in by Neil Cronin. Many members stayed to browse in the Archives for quite a while after the meeting was adjourned.
The Annual Meeting is almost here. I hope you will all be there for the election of officers and to hear updates on canal-related activities for the summer. I am especially looking forward to the Middlesex Village activities that will be part of the Lowell Spring Festival. If you have gone by the Baldwin Mansion in Woburn lately, you may have noticed some work being done on it. The building is being restored and will soon house an elegant restaurant.
This Towpath Topics marks the retirement of Louis Eno as editor. After 20 years of hounding people for articles and meeting deadlines, Louis has decided to relinquish the tow rope and assume a different role as an "occasional contributor". Throughout his tenure, Louis has successfully sought articles of interest to the members. We thank him for his vital contributions to the newsletter and hope that the next 20 years will continue to maintain the high standard that he has set.
As long as I am on the number "20", I would like each member to think about where we stand as an association after 20 years. Organizationally, we are in good shape: nearly 300 members, financially solvent, informative and well-attended meetings. We have been able to increase awareness of the Middlesex Canal, helped stabilize further deterioration of the remaining sections, and recently acquired our first property on the Canal itself.
Where do we go from here? I expect that members will continue to keep the Board aware of developments that may affect the Canal corridor. In return, the Board will endeavor to plan interesting meetings and a lively newsletter. Those are the basics of any effective organization. We are also looking for your suggestions on other programs to undertake. Recent ideas from members have included development of a portable sound/slide presentation for use in local schools, cross-country ski trails along the towpath, and trips to other canals in the Northeast. As an association, we are only as strong as your interest and involvement.
I look forward to seeing you at the Annual Meeting.
Best wishes, Larry Henchey
INAUGURAL TOUR OF THE LOWELL PORTION OF THE MIDDLESEX CANAL
By Joseph V. Kopycinski
On May 31, 1982 the Lowell Regatta Committee will sponsor a tour of the Lowell portion of the old Middlesex Canal. This will be only one of the many activities planned for that weekend.
Tentatively visitors will be transported by train from downtown Lowell to the site of the entrance of the Middlesex Canal at the Merrimack River. Guides dressed in the costumes of the canal days will be on hand at Hadley Field. A replica of the original Toll House will be built and sited. A militia muster and a sound-slide show on the Middlesex Canal will take place at Hadley Field. A walking tour of the historic sites in the Middlesex Village with costumed guides stationed at each site, will take place. To end the tour, visitors will be bused to the existing portions of the canal in Lowell including a 1,600 foot portion off Route 3.
To accomplish this we have already used the services of the City of Lowell, National Park Service, State Heritage Park, Council of the Elderly, Boy Scouts, Carpenters' Union, along with enthusiastic Middlesex Villagers, Middlesex Canal Association Members and a variety of other organizations.
I am fortunate to be working with two dedicated people who proposed this idea, Zenny Sperounis, Chairman of the Regatta Festival, and Wayne Peters. Mark this date down on your calendar as the day to visit Lowell and partake of these events. Currently two complete tours are planned between the hours of 2:00 P.M. and 4:30 P.M. See you there!
THE GREAT BILLERICA DAM CONTROVERSY
by Arthur L. Eno, Jr.
The image of the Proprietors of the Middlesex Canal as a benevolent, quasi-philanthropic organization was shattered in 1859 by a petition to the Legislature signed by the selectmen of Concord, Bedford, Wayland, Carlisle and Sudbury. The petition was a complaint against the flooding of valuable meadow land along the Sudbury and Concord Rivers, allegedly caused by the raising of the dam at North Billerica by the Canal corporation.
The complaint was not a new one. Since 1809 there had been at least five lawsuits against the Proprietors and their successors, none of them successful. The Supreme Judicial Court in 1815, in Stevens v. Proprietors of Middlesex Canal, had decided that landowners who suffered damage from escaping water from the canal were limited to the remedy provided in the Canal act of incorporation, and could not sue under common law. The statutory remedy, which had to be pursued within a year of the damage, was, according to the Court, "a cheap, easy and convenient mode of redress" and consisted of a petition to the Court of Sessions. Unfortunately, that Court was abolished in 1827, and no substitute tribunal was provided until 1840. Nevertheless, when William Heard sued in 1840, seeking damages for the flooding of his land caused by the rebuilding of the dam in 1828, the Court held that the one-year limit still applied. Heard could not recover.
After the Proprietors of Sudbury Meadows were incorporated, they sued to have the dam removed, because its rebuilding in 1828 flooded the meadows. One of their contentions was that the right of the Middlesex Canal corporation to build a dam in the Concord River was limited by its charter to the period allowed for construction - ten years. Chief Justice Shaw wrote the decision of the Supreme Judicial Court, holding that: (1) the Canal corporation had the right to build a dam when required, with no time limit, so that the 1828 dam was legal; (2) the Sudbury Proprietors were limited by their charter to clearing obstructions from the Sudbury River. Their jurisdiction extended only to Concord, where the Sudbury and Assabet Rivers joined to form the Concord. And, in any event, according to the Court, the North Billerica dam was not an illegal obstruction. It is interesting to note that the petition for incorporation of the Sudbury Proprietors speaks only of bars and grass as causes of the flooding.
The next case was brought by another Heard - David - but against Charles P. and Thomas Talbot who had, in the meantime, bought the land and water rights at North Billerica from the moribund Canal Company. Heard's argument, presented by his attorney, Benjamin F. Butler (who was later to be defeated for governor of Massachusetts by Thomas Talbot), was that the Canal's right to flood lands was only for the specific purpose of filling the canal. Now that the Canal was abandoned and another buyer was using the water for manufacturing purposes only, he was subject to the Mill Acts which provided for recovery of damages by injured parties. Again the Sudburyman lost, this time on the ground that, regardless of physical abandonment, the Canal corporation's franchise and charter were still in effect and precluded the plaintiff's recovery.
The Sudbury Proprietors by now were convinced they could not recover through the courts and in 1859 they conceived the plan to solve their problems in the Legislature (which, as we shall see, had not been able to solve them in colonial times). In that year they filed a petition to the Legislature, reciting their complaints: without the knowledge of the upper riparian owners, the Canal Proprietors raised the level of the old Richardson Mill dam three feet three inches; the result was to flood the meadows up-river, and to reduce their value from $100 an acre to $20; this depreciation was wholly chargeable to the Middlesex Canal Corporation; after Boston started tapping into Lake Cochituate for its water supply, because the Lake was one of the sources of the Sudbury River, the Boston Water Board built two compensating reservoirs to keep the flow of water in the Sudbury and Concord Rivers for the benefit of the Middlesex Canal and its mill-owner successors; these compensating reservoirs compounded the flooding of the meadows; and, finally, "We believe that the meshes of the Middlesex Canal Act were woven by the subtle fingers of lobby legislation."
Other supporting petitions were filed by groups of residents of Wayland, Sudbury, Concord and Bedford. David Lee Child, an attorney from Wayland, also filed a memorial supporting the petitions. After lambasting the Canal Proprietors as a "soulless body that has flourished over . . . us with its exultant and humiliating boast" and speaking of "chicanery and corruption of the lobby", "unmerciful hands of wealthy monopolists and speculators", he concludes with a stirring peroration:
"The inhabitants of this Valley and this Town paid promptly and cheerfully their full share of the price of that sovereignty. On a bridge of this stream, now desecrated by tyranny and the meanest rapacity, the first effective resistance was made to our foreign tyrants; here the second martyrs fell, blessing the water with their blood. Was this that their sons might be given up to barbarous spoliation and lingering torture by upstart tyranny at home?"
After this flight of oratory, it is not surprising that the Legislature acceded to the first of the four requests of the Petition: to appoint commissioners to conduct a hearing to ascertain the facts. The remaining demands were equally modest: to revoke the charter of the Canal corporation (which the Proprietors had already requested permission to give up) and to extend the period of time during which both the Canal Proprietors (or their successors) and the Boston Water Board could be sued by the petitioners to recover their damages.
The Special Commission appointed by the Legislature to investigate the matter spent thirty full days in its work. The members visited the river from Sudbury to Billerica on two occasions - one of them traveling the whole distance by steam tug.
Formal hearings lasting 15 days were held in Concord and in the State House. At these hearings, the parties were represented by eminent counsel: the petitioners by Judge Mellen (Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas until its abolition in 1859) and by squire David Lee Child; the Town of Billerica and the Talbots by Judge Josiah G. Abbott, who had recently resigned from the Superior Court. Benjamin F. Butler, Lowell lawyer (who had represented David Heard, a Sudbury proprietor in his suit against the Talbots) at various times represented some of the respondents or acted merely as an "interested party" because he was also a mill-owner in down-river Lowell.
For almost two weeks testimony dragged on. Witnesses from Sudbury, Concord, Bedford, Carlisle, Wayland, Lincoln and Billerica testified to recent changes from the good old days, when they could drive wagons onto the meadows to harvest the hay. Now only an inferior type of grass grew there, and the meadows were so soggy that it could not even be harvested. The damage was caused by the wetness which made access onto the meadows impossible, and by the stagnant water which spoiled the quality of the grass.
One of the plaintiff's witnesses, a Wayland clergyman named John B. Wight, waxed eloquent about the condition of the meadows in 1815, when there was always great excitement about harvesting large crops. "It was", he said. "like a vintage in the South of Europe." Counsel for the respondents gleefully produced a petition to the Legislature in 1816 by David Baldwin and others (including several Heards) complaining that "for a long time past" their meadows have been "almost totally unproductive and useless by reason of the waters remaining on them in the months of June. July and August". This was only one of the many contradictory statements in the case.
When the respondents' turn came, they produced witnesses to prove that there was no substantial flooding; that the level of the dam had not been raised; and that other causes besides the dam produced the flooding. Among the witnesses were Calvin Rogers, the father-in-law of Thomas Talbot, and Luther W. Faulkner, brother of the owner of the Faulkner Mills, also a respondent in the case. But there were also more impartial witnesses. Dudley Foster testified that his meadowland along the river in Billerica was worth the same now as it had been before the first dam was built: ten dollars an acre, a much more modest appraisal than that of the Sudbury proprietors.
The star witness for the respondents was James B. Francis, long-time Chief Engineer of the Locks and Canals in Lowell, who had recently published Lowell Hydraulic Experiments, the bible for the study of hydraulics, and who was to become later president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. It was Francis' opinion that the dam had less to do with the flooding of the Sudbury meadows than the weeds and sand-bars in the river, and particularly the Fordway bar, located just above the North Billerica millpond.
Several witnesses testified to sporadic measurements of the depth of the water at different spots along the river. But since these were done at the request of, and by employees of, the Talbots, the petitioners contended that the measurements had been taken after the mill management opened the gates to lower the water level.
As Ben Butler had promised in his opening argument, the chief witnesses against the petitioners were their fathers and grandfathers. The respondents introduced records of petitions to the Legislature and reports of town meeting action, dating back to 1636, all referring to the flooding of the meadows along the river, and seeking relief. In 1644, 1714 and 1723, commissions were appointed to devise a plan to drain and improve the meadows and to save the hay crop. In 1742, 1763 and 1789, as a result of petitions, Sewer Commissioners were appointed to remove "ye Bars and Stopages in ye River called Concord and Sudbury." A 1793 petition asked to have included in a previous appointment of commissioners the authority to clear obstructions at the Fordway in Billerica. The 1793 Sewer Commissioners were appointed by Governor John Hancock, who would shortly thereafter sign the Middlesex Canal Charter. When the Commissioners "incurred a great expence in and about the Ford Way in Billerica, in opposition to the sentiments of a majority of the proprietors", several proprietors including Ezekiel Howe (landlord of the Wayside Inn) formally protested to the legislature. Clearly, the proprietors were a difficult lot.
But the main witness for the respondents was mathematics. They sought to prove that it was mathematically impossible for the dam to have been any lower when the canal was running. Three feet of water were needed in the canal in order to accommodate the boats. Since barely three feet of water now covered the ledge at the entrance to the canal, the dam could not have been lower in the days when the canal was operating. It was also argued that the bottom of the penstock leading to the Faulkner Mill was now 30 inches below the top of the dam; if the level of the water fell below 30 inches below the present level, no water would flow into the penstock, and all the industries which used the water would be unable to operate. Finally, the deed to the Faulkners from the Canal Proprietors limited their use of water from the river unless the level reached a certain mark on a bolt in a rock still in existence. The petitioners, of course, contended that the present bolt was not the original one, but that it had been moved.
Finally, the testimony ended; it occupies 255 printed pages in the report.
Judge Abbott made the closing argument for the Talbots. He argued that the dam at North Billerica was undeniably legal from 1708, when the Town of Billerica granted land and water rights to Christopher Osgood, Jr., on condition he establish and maintain there a grist mill, until 1798, when the Middlesex Canal Proprietors rebuilt the dam. All the witnesses but one agreed that this consisted only of making the dam tighter, and not raising the height. Then, was the dam raised in 1828? All the petitioners' witnesses agreed that everything was fine before, but wet after 1828. This was probably due to wishful thinking and to the human tendency to look back on the past as rosy. Actually, the complaints started in the seventeenth century, and the physical facts disproved the contention that the dam was now higher than it used to be.
Abbott gave his explanation of the reasons for the flooding at the present time: For two centuries, crops were taken off the meadows and nothing was ever put back on them, naturally resulting in erosion and poor soil; the earlier efforts to clear the river of weeds had substantially ceased; and, finally, the increased use of reservoirs up-river for manufacturing resulted in the concentration of water during daylight hours in the formerly dry summer season.
He insisted that the test measurements showed very little effect above the Fordway if the water at the dam was raised or lowered; but there was a corresponding raising or lowering at the Fordway when water was released into the Sudbury River from the reservoirs up-river.
Finally, Mr. Talbot was an innocent purchaser who had purchased a valuable right which, as far as anyone knew, was a perfectly legal one. It would be unconscionable to deprive him of his purchase by an act of the legislature which would clearly be unconstitutional.
Judge Mellen, responding for the petitioners, pointed out that it was only ex post facto laws making conduct criminal which were proscribed by the constitution.
Mellen repeated the criticisms of the original passage of the Middlesex Canal legislation which, he said, was rushed through the legislature in 1793, at the end of the May session, when the country members had either left for their hoeing and haying, or were anxious to be gone, and when a bare quorum was present.
Survey of Billerica Mills (1859)
Higher resolution JPG Higher Resolution PDF
He pointed out that the Act of Incorporation had been criticized by two Chief Justices as "somewhat loosely and inartificially drawn" and "obscure, confused, and almost unintelligible in its terms."
He claimed that the 1828 dam (with its 11 inch flashboards) was 37 or 38 inches higher than the original dam; witnesses testified that the old dam, which was allowed to remain in the water after the new one was built in 1828, was still visible and that the top was 16 inches below the top of the stone dam and 26 or 27 inches below the top of the present flashboards.
Mellen maintained that Talbot's measurements were set up - he let down the water then sent his people to measure it. The testimony of James B. Francis he dismissed on the ground that, although an eminent engineer, he was not sufficiently acquainted with the facts in the case, so that his opinion in this case "was not worth a pin."
The Committee reported its findings to the Legislature: There was more flooding than formerly and the damage was material. One of the causes was the increased height of the dam, and another was the presence of obstructions in the river. No relief could be had against the Proprietors of the Canal because of the statute of limitations. Up to this time the Talbots could not be sued successfully because the Canal charter was still in existence. But since within the last few months the Canal charter had been extinguished, the Committee felt that the parties ought to pursue their remedies in Court. But if the Legislature did not agree, the Committee recommended increased appropriations for clearing the river of obstructions and the appointment of a committee to negotiate with the Talbots for a reduction in the level of their dam. Finally, if the Legislature did not concur in these recommendations, the Committee made a third recommendation: a special act authorizing the Proprietors of Sudbury Meadows to lower the Billerica dam upon paying to the mill-owners full damages to be ascertained by a jury.
On April 4, 1860, the last day of the session, chapter 211 of the Acts of 1860 was passed, providing for the appointment by the governor of a commission of three members with the "power and authority to take down and remove the dam at North Billerica erected by the Proprietors of the Middlesex Canal" to a level 33 inches below its existing height..." and when the same is so removed it shall not be again rebuilt."
The Talbots and the other mill-owners were stunned by this unexpected result. When they recovered from the shock, the Talbots swung into action to protect their investment. They retained James B. Francis to make more extensive engineering studies and petitioned the Legislature for repeal of chapter 211.
The campaign began with a pamphlet "Statement to the Public" tracing the history of the 1860 Act, pointing out that it had been reported and passed on the same day - the last of the session, and suggesting that the meshes of the Act relating to the tearing down of the Billerica dam were also "woven by the subtle fingers of lobby legislation." The pamphlet quoted the authority of James B. Francis and set forth the argument of the petitioners which would later be made to the Legislature.
On March 9, 1861, a hearing was had before a joint special committee of the legislature on the Talbot repeal petition. Judge Abbott again represented the Talbots and made an argument of 46 pages.
On March 20, the committee reported. Rejecting the argument of the Sudburymen that the flooding of the meadows was dangerous to public health, the committee pointed out that the records of the Secretary of State showed greater longevity of life in Wayland and Sudbury than elsewhere in the State and County. The committee concurred in recommending, as the Talbots requested, a temporary suspension of the Act of 1860, and the appointment of three civil engineers to study the question in depth. The law was passed as chapter 154 of Acts of 1861.
One of the engineers appointed by the governor was Charles S. Storrow, formerly manager of the Boston & Lowell Railroad and Agent of the Essex Company in Lawrence (counterpart of the Locks and Canals in Lowell), a distinguished civil engineer who is not responsible for the engineering and construction of Boston's Storrow Drive.
The committee made extensive tests; 35,000 readings were taken on a regular schedule. Its report speaks of the circuity of the channel of the Sudbury and Concord Rivers, and of the concentrated release of water by the up-river reservoirs in the summer during the day. It concluded that reducing the level of the water at the Billerica dam 16½ inches would result in a lowering of only 8 inches at the Fordway, 6¼ inches at Concord, and would have no perceptible effect on the river in Wayland and Sudbury. The results would be substantially the same if the level of the dam were reduced by 33 inches. But clearing the river of weeds would reduce the level of the water by 6 inches.
Acting on the report of the commissioners, the Talbots now petitioned the 1862 legislature for total and unconditional repeal of the Act of 1860.
Remonstrances were filed against repeal by Concord and other Southern Middlesex communities and their residents. The battle lines were drawn when the Talbots were joined by their Billerica neighbors, 412 of whom signed a petition in favor of repeal - on the ground that removing the dam and lowering the water level in the river would damage their valuable cranberry crops!
On March 13, 1862, little more than a year after the prior hearing, Judge Abbott again presented the Talbots' argument in favor of repeal - essentially the same one as before, but now expanded to 60 pages.
Two weeks later, the committee reported. On the basis of the engineering report of the special commission, it reported that it found no damage to the meadows from the dam. It questioned whether the Legislature should buy and destroy dams and mills (which employed people) in order to encourage agriculture in a small area of the state. It concluded that the 1860 Act had been passed in haste and without sufficient investigation. As a matter of fact, even the claim that 10,000 acres were affected seems to have been an exaggeration.
The committee unanimously recommended repeal and on April 25, 1862, the bill repealing the Act of 1860 was signed by the governor and became law.
Thus ended the battle which, for well over half a century, was energetically waged in Court and in the Legislature. As befitted such an important question, the cast of characters was outstanding: Besides Abbott, Butler and Mellen, other counsel appearing on either side included Rufus Choate, Jeremiah Mason, Franklin Dexter, Sam Hoar and Benjamin R. Curtis, later a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, who resigned to defend Andrew Johnson from the impeachment proceedings brought by Ben Butler for the House of Representatives.
The main battle was over, but there were still minor skirmishes to come: in the 1890s a proposed public health bill gave the state Board of Health the authority to spend up to $10,000 to dredge the bars in the Concord River at Billerica, provided the Board could secure an agreement from the mill-owners to lower the dam during the summer months. The bill did not pass in this form, but the Board was authorized to spend money in dredging and removing weeds from the river.
And in 1902 the legislature voted down a bill to authorize the Harbor and Land Commissioners to spend $25,000 to cut out and remove the Fordway bar.
In the end, after almost constant victories, the manufacturing and mercantile interests won out over agricultural ones. And finally, the controversy was settled for good when the Federal and State governments and agencies acquired most of the meadows as a wild life preserve and for conservation purposes.
BALDWIN LANDING RESTAURANT
There is to be a new Restaurant designed by Robert Neiley who restored the Hammond Castle and the Shirley Mansion. Final legal difficulties concerning parking lot have been ironed out and construction should start very soon. The restaurant is to be called Baldwin Landing and incorporates the beautiful Baldwin Mansion for an historic restoration. Adaptive uses for our old buildings seem the only way to go now. The owners have promised a first class place, and great care will be taken to restore meticulously the inside of the Mansion.
Woburn Canal Park behind the Woburn Library
Work is cleared for a canal park behind the Woburn Library. Since the wetlands must settle for at least a year, work will not start there for a year. If enough money becomes available, a canal dock building like that shown in the Louis Linscott painting will be built there beside the restoration of the old Middlesex Canal. A skating pond is also planned to remind us all of the tales of skating on the canal in the days of old.
GIFT OF RICHARDSON DEED
Albert and Dorothy Richardson are direct descendants of John Richardson, one of Billerica's early settlers. Albert found a deed dated 1951 and signed by Ebenezer Chadwick, President of the Middlesex Canal Corporation, and Canal Directors W. Sturgis and Wm. R. Lawrence conveying Middlesex Canal property to John Richardson. This wonderful document was found in Albert's Safe Deposit Box. It is written on light blue paper with black ink and tied with a standard pink ribbon. It will go to the Archives at the University of Lowell.
Interesting old Billerica names appear in the deed: Sarah, Mary, Samuel and Elizabeth Brown, Oliver Richardson, Thomas Richardson, Issac Wilkins, Ephraim Kidder, Jeremiah Farmer, Benjamin Davis and Dr. William Bowers.
Often mentioned is a place called sheldon's folly (sic) and Content Brook. Thomas Richardson was to take down at his own expense two Middlesex Canal bridges and remove the bridges at his own expense and make a good and suitable roadway satisfactory to the Selectmen of the Town of Billerica, within six months after the discontinuance of the Canal.
We wish to thank Albert and Dorothy Richardson for this great gift.
ALONG THE TOWPATH . . . (people, events & canal notes)
Bill Gerber of Chelmsford has put together a canal trip to England this summer. Leaving Boston June 25th and returning July 11th, the trip features a circle tour of the canals of the Midlands (Avon Canals, River Severn & Worcester Canal) on "do-it-yourself" narrowboats. Participants are encouraged to bring bicycles to visit points of interest ashore. Total cost, including airfare, is estimated at $1370 per person. For details contact Bill Gerber, 16 Princess Avenue, Chelmsford, MA 01863.
Canada's Rideau Canal is celebrating its 150th year of operation. More than 350 different events are planned. First built as a defense against invaders from the U.S. (!), the Rideau links Kingston with Ottawa in a 122 mile, scenic waterway. Each of its 49 locks (most hand operated) is accessible by car, making a fine land or water tour. For more information on Rideau Canal 150, contact: Ontario Travel, 900 Bay St., Queen's Park, Toronto M7A 2E5.
Spotted while wandering in a local bookshop: a new travel book Massachusetts by Christina Robb, a compilation of short driving tours around the State, including a day trip along the Middlesex Canal.
Congratulations to Association member R. A. Southworth for his recent article on Blodgett's Canal in Manchester, published in the newsletter of the American Canal Society.
Until recently, few Americans knew about the Grand Canal of China. Nonetheless, this waterway may be called the granddaddy of all canals. It extends for 1000 miles from Peking to Hangchow and was begun more than 1300 years ago. For canal fans thinking about a trip to China, you may want to include a visit to the Grand Canal on your itinerary.
Closer to home . . . the Mid-Lakes Navigation Co. (Box 61, Skaneateles, NY 13152) is again offering a variety of trips (from 1 to 12 days) on New York waterways, with emphasis on the Erie and Champlain Canals.
The Middlesex Canal Association received a kind word in the newsletter of the D&H Canal Society. The D&H folks received our MCA explorers last fall with fine hospitality and an excellent presentation on their historic waterway.
Please take a minute . . . to recommend a project or speaker for a future meeting . . . to suggest an idea for an article in Towpath Topics . . . or to pass along the names of some friends who may be interested in membership in the Association. If you have any news that might be of interest to other members, please let us know and we shall do our best to spread the word. Send your comments and ideas to Middlesex Canal Association, P.O. Box 333, Billerica, MA 01821.