Middlesex Canal Association P.O. Box 333 Billerica, Massachusetts 01821
Volume 21, No. 2 April, 1983
The Middlesex Canal Association was the recipient of a wonderful gift at its January 22nd meeting. Stanley Webber and his daughter, Julia Fielding, presented the Association with a deed to about fourteen acres of land in Wilmington including about three/fifths of a mile of the old canal. The property starts at the old Maple Meadow Brook Aqueduct. Larry Henchey, President of the Middlesex Canal Association accepted the gift.
PRESERVATION OF PART OF THE MIDDLESEX CANAL
1853 - 1983
by Stanley Webber & Julia Ann Fielding
Christopher Roberts in his book, "The Middlesex Canal" recorded in detail the historical background, technical details and the economics of that era as it related to the building of the Middlesex Canal.
Arthur L. Eno in his introduction to Mary Stetson Clarke's book "The Old Middlesex Canal" referred to it as the first illustrated history of the canal. Mrs. Clarke referred to the canal between Route 62 and the Maple Meadow Brook Aqueduct as a beautiful stretch of canal embankment nearly one mile long.
The idea for the Middlesex Canal project is attributed to James Sullivan, the then Attorney General for Massachusetts. The petition, with signatures, is dated November 6, 1792. The charter was signed by Governor John Hancock on June 22nd, 1793.
Ground was broken on September 10, 1794 and the first section of the canal from the Merrimack River to Wilmington was finished by 1801. The rest of the canal, to Charlestown, was completed by 1803.
The demise of the canal was hastened in the 1830's by the construction and opening of the Boston & Lowell railroad. Decreasing business doomed the canal and by 1853 the bridges were removed and the canal filled in beneath them. The last meeting of the corporation was held in 1854, and in 1859 the Supreme Judicial Court decreed that the proprietors had ceased to enjoy their rights. The next year the court ordered that the records and papers of the corporation be turned over to the Clerk of Court of Middlesex County. These materials are now preserved at the University of Lowell's Alumni/Lydon Library.
Before my wife's grandmother died in 1934, she told me that she went to Boston and back on the canal boats. She lived a short distance from the bridge on Butters Row in Wilmington. She was accustomed to travelling on the high seas and possibly preferred riding on water rather than behind the smoke-belching iron horse. She usually travelled with her husband, Captain George W. McIntosh, on the 800-ton bark "Susan Rinks" built on the Mystic River in Medford in 1851.
Captain George W. McIntosh and Mary Ann (Plummer) McIntosh, both born in Maine, were married in New Orleans in 1855. A son was born in Maine in 1857. Twin boys and a daughter were born in Wilmington in 1859 and 1961. Their daughter, Julia H. A. (McIntosh) Crockett purchased a large area in Wilmington containing a part of the canal in 1892 and 1894. The land was inherited by George and Mary Ann McIntosh (Crockett) Webber in 1910. From her the land passed down to me and my daughter.
About 1935 we started a search to locate property lines of the canal. We found that there were descriptions of many parcels of land involved, all sizes and shapes, with no compass directions given. The dimensions were given in rods, chains and links. This jig-saw puzzle was solved many years later when a copy of a sketch made by Loammi Baldwin was found, on which property lines were faintly visible. We then had a competent engineer go over our information to determine if a ground survey was possible. He made the survey and drew plans which were recorded in the North Middlesex Registry of Deeds Plan Book 102, Page 83 and Plan Book 118, Page 92.
There were other problems affecting our efforts to preserve our section of the canal. A study by the Water Resources Commission, in January 1965, recommended that the Ipswich River Resources Management Program acquire designated wet areas in the town. They were to construct three large water impoundment areas or lakes, and bring in water via the canal from the Concord River to provide water for the communities along the Ipswich River. The area to be taken was about 3500 acres. Great stress was placed on developing the area for recreation with no information as to the effect on Wilmington. Having been the Assessor, I was able to determine that 1) the tax base would be seriously reduced, 2) a principal secondary road would be cut off isolating many residents from the town and, 3) part of the canal would be inundated.
The Legislative Committee on Water Resources held a hearing on the bill. I testified as to the effects on the town. The bill passed with a provision that excluded impoundments in Wilmington.
Another bill was filed in the legislature in 1965 to allow the town to take most of the canal adjacent to the aqueduct, along with the land, for a well field. The town needed more water and we were sure that we would lose control of the canal. At the hearing the Town Manager and the Legislative Committee members disagreed and the hearing was recessed. Outside the hearing room our lawyer told me we could "write our own ticket". We did and again preserved the canal.
On the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the town in 1980, it was proposed that we clear the land in order to make a recreational area -- particularly for skating. How that could be done without any water available was a mystery. Again we prevailed.
The Middlesex Canal was certified as a National Historic Site and included in the National Register, as printed in Title I of the National Historic and Preservation Act of 1966. Since my wife bequeathed the property to the two of us, we have discussed and sought advice as to how the canal could be saved for posterity. A suggestion was made that it be given to the Conservation Commission. This was rejected. We decided that the best way to prevent desecration of this landmark was to deed it to the Middlesex Canal Association. The signed deed to the land that had been owned by three generations of one family for ninety years was presented to the Association at their meeting on January 22, 1983.
Indentations of two ropes in rack at bend of canal.
NOTICE OF ANNUAL MEETING
SATURDAY, MAY 7, Wilmington
2:00 p.m. - Canal Walk, Wilmington Town Forest to Bedel's Pond beyond Butter's Row.
4:00 p.m. - Meeting & Refreshments, Friendship Lodge Masonic Temple, Church Street, Wilmington
The 1983 Annual Meeting will consist of two parts. First, there will be a Walk along part of the canal route in Wilmington, starting from the Wilmington Town Forest. MCA Director Nolan Jones will lead this walk and point out some remarkable canal remains: The "S" curve of the Ox Bow, a large boulder with grooves worn by towropes cutting into the stone, Maple Meadow Brook aqueduct, and the 25-foot high embankments built before the days of modern construction equipment. The walk will include the beautiful land generously given to the MCA by Stanley Webber and Julia Fielding. This gift is described in more detail elsewhere in this newsletter.
For the second part of the afternoon, we shall adjourn to the Friendship Lodge Masonic Temple in Wilmington. The business portion of the meeting will include the annual election of officers. Anyone interested in becoming an officer or wishing to suggest a name or two should contact Burt VerPlanck (729-2557). Light refreshments will be available after the meeting.
a. Wilmington Town Forest - from Route 128 in Woburn, take Route 38 North toward Wilmington. Continue 2½ miles to Brewster's Lumber (R); the Town Forest parking area is on the left, opposite Brewster's.
b. Friendship Lodge Masonic Temple - continue north on Route 38 to the intersection with Route 62. Turn right on 62 (Church St.). Friendship Lodge is about 2 blocks ahead next to the Fire Station. (NOTE: The Lodge will be open from 2:00 p.m. on for anyone not going on the walk or only walking part way.)
For my last article as president of the Middlesex Canal Association, I want to refer back to Volume 2, Number 1 of this newsletter. The first article announces a canal hike in Wilmington to be held on May 2, 1964. This May, twenty years later, we shall traverse the same portion of the Middlesex Canal. This time, however, there is a major difference. Almost three-fifths of a mile of the canal corridor we'll be hiking is now owned by the Association! This is the second gift of real estate containing well preserved sections of the Middlesex Canal in two years. We are grateful to Frank Dignon, Julia Fielding, and Stanley Webber for making these gifts possible.
These gifts signify much more than the generosity displayed by three individuals. They reaffirm belief in an idea that more than twenty years ago led to the founding of the Middlesex Canal Association. The idea was that the remaining traces of the Middlesex Canal and its importance in the economic and social history of our area could be preserved and shared with present and future generations. We've been fortunate over the years to have many active members who have given time, effort, and commitment to the Association and to help us fulfill our purpose.
To every member and friend of the Middlesex Canal Association, thank you for your help. I hope you will join us at the Annual Meeting and continue to help us build as an organization committed to progressing toward our goals.
WOBURN CANAL NEWS
Woburn's Loammi Baldwin was renown for his hospitality.
The "wit and beau" of the commonwealth were often to be found seated around his dinner table.
One evening, when the Colonel had a party of gentlemen at his home to dine, he set before them a huge dish of his apples. One of the guests, admiring their flavor asked the Colonel by what name they were known.
"By no name in particular," Baldwin replied.
"Gentlemen - A toast then to the Baldwin apple." his guest offered, and this has been their name ever since.
Happily, toasts to the Baldwin apple (amongst other things) will once again soon be heard in the chambers of the Baldwin Mansion in North Woburn. The "Baldwin Landing" restaurant, a tasteful and elegant restoration of the ancient manor house, which will feature New England cooking, is slated for an early summer opening.
To coincide with the long anticipated renovation and opening of the "Baldwin Landing", the Woburn "canalers" have announced their plans to resume the offering of excursions along the Middlesex Canal in Woburn on the horse-drawn packet "Colonel Baldwin". As in the past, the craft will leave from the landing Sundays in July and August, 2-4 PM.
We hope that all will come down to participate in the activities.
LOWELL CANAL TOUR SEASON BEGINS MAY 28
Lowell National Historical Park's summer tour season featuring the popular Mill and Canal Tour Begins May 28. The Mill and Canal Tour, a three-hour journey by trolley, boat and on foot, highlights the history of Lowell's mills, canals, and people. The tour includes a mill exhibit, working gatehouses, and barge rides on the Northern and Pawtucket canals. Reservations are required for this free tour which will be offered nine times daily through October 10. For information and reservations call (617) 459-1000.
Events planned by other Canal Groups:
APRIL 23. 1983 - Annual Justice Douglas Hike on the C. & O. Canal. For details contact: Nolan Jones, Winchester (617) 729-4234
MAY 6-8, 1983 - Joint Tour of the Pennsylvania Canal Society and the Canal Society of New Jersey, Eastern Division PA Main Line Canal. Contact: Bill Shank, 809 Rathton Road, York PA 17403
JUNE 4, 1983 - "Oldtime" (Canal) Market Day, sponsored by Old Freemansburg, (PA) Assoc. Write C. W. Derr, 117 Main St., Freemansburg, PA 18017
JUNE 4, 1983 - Roebling Aqueduct Symposium and Field Trip, starting at Eddy Farm Resort (Port Jervis, NY). National Park Service Dedication program involved. For complete details contact: Center for Canal History and Technology, 200 S. Delaware Drive, P. O. Box 877, Easton, PA 18042.
JUNE 25, 1983 - Lehigh Canal Festival (with musical program) sponsored by Friends of the Hugh Moore Park at Easton, PA. For more information write: Canal Museum, P. O. Box 877, Easton, PA 18042
JUNE 25-27, 1983 - Champlain Canal Cruise on "Emits II". (All inclusive fare estimated at $300). Contact: Hayward Madden, 5847 Decker Road, Livonia, New York 14487.
JUNE 27-JULY 1, 1983 - Joint trip of Canal Society of New Jersey and Delaware and Hudson Canal Society along the path of the old Erie Canal. (Estimated cost $200). Contact: Nolan Jones, Winchester (617) 729-4234 (Trip is full.)
OCTOBER 7-10, 1983 - Steamship Historical Society Fall Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA, including a two-night cruise on the DELTA QUEEN, Pittsburgh to Wheeling, and return. Contact: Your travel agent about the DELTA QUEEN trip SOON! (Fare: $190 and upward).