Published by the Middlesex Canal Association
Vol. 8, No. 1 January 1970
WINTER MEETING * JANUARY 18, 1970
The winter meeting of the Middlesex Canal Association will take place on Sunday, January 18, 1970, at 8:00pm at the Masonic Hall on Billerica Centre (next to the Unitarian Church which is in process of rebuilding).
Colonel Hoxie will speak about the Maine Canals and their connection with General Henry Knox.
After the talk, we will have another "Bring your slides" program, which was so successful a few years ago. Projectors will be available and all are invited to bring slides or pictures of interest to Canallers.
All are invited and refreshments will be served.
BAY STATE HISTORICAL LEAGUE WINTER MEETING IN CHARLESTOWN
Location – Headquarters, new First Baptist Church, No. 5 Monument Square, Charlestown. From north or west head for Sullivan Square MBTA terminal, proceed up and over Bunker St., turn right at Concord, Monument or Lexington St. up to No. Monument Sq. From south head for North Station, then to City Square, Charlestown. Turn right up towards the Monument and Common.
Registration – 10am at the Church. Ample parking at American Legion Hall, left side Chestnut St., just out of Monument Sq. a few feet above the church, opposite an entrance to the Monument grounds. Maps and agenda will be provided. In addition to Bunker Hill Monument and Phipps St. Burying Ground, several restored houses will be open to Leaguers.
10:30am The Naval Shipyard is permitting the group to tour 5 rarely-shown sites, including that of Revere's landing and the first dry dock and rope walk, as well as the Bulfinch-designed Commandant's House.
Luncheon – 12:30 catered luncheon at the Church. Price $2.70. Send reservations by January 13 to Mrs. Richard Creaser, 114 Main St., Charlestown 02129 with check payable to Douglas P. Adams. Persons bringing lunches will be accommodated. No other eating facilities nearby.
Meeting - 2pm at the Church. Following the business session, the speakers will be Mark Donovan, director of the Charlestown office of BRA reviewing the restoration of the Thompson Square Triangle, and Richard Creaser, local historian and author who will describe some of Charlestown's historic past.
REMARKS ON THE IMPORTANCE OF INLAND NAVIGATION FROM BOSTON BY THE MIDDLESEX CANAL AND MERRIMACK RIVER IN THE PRESENT AND PROBABLE FUTURE STATE. OF FOREIGN COMMERCE
By John L. Sullivan
(In keeping with our policy of presenting both current literature on canals and also original sources contemporary with the Middlesex Canal, we are happy to publish in this and the next issue of Towpath Topics a pamphlet by John Langdon Sullivan, son of Governor James Sullivan, and Superintendent of the Canal from 1808 to 1820. This pamphlet, the original of which is in the Association collection, is an optimistic view of the prospects o f the Canal. Ed.)
Inland navigation having from causes incident to a state of neutrality, and great commercial advantages abroad, received but little attention of late years in America, its acknowledged usefulness may be deemed an adequate motive for any member of the community to offer remarks, which his experience and observation may enable him to make, in relation to an object so interesting to the public.
The writer of the following pages has been several years engaged in the construction of works to extend inland navigation by the Middlesex Canal, and Merrimack River; and believes, for reasons subsequently stated, that Boston is peculiarly concerned in their accomplishment and success. He proposes to give a brief description of the very extensive and fertile districts of the country with which an intercourse may be opened; and a view of the great accession of trade to this town to be obtained by the establishment of a system of transportation in that direction, by means of boats, especially propelled by steam engines. Also some account of the river Merrimack and the works thereon, an historical sketch of the Middlesex Canal, with statements showing the amount of the various kinds of produce that have already passed it annually; prefaced by a few observations on the important uses of inland navigation, from well known examples of its effects on other commercial places.
The long period of unexampled success in commerce preceding the embargo, and a great increase of spacious wharves; a great number of additional stores and dwelling houses throughout this town: even where ships lately floated, these buildings now stand a monument of honorable enterprise, and of past prosperity.
The present interruption of trade necessarily throws much of this property out of use, and the question may be expected to arise in every mind – Whether peace will restore that active current of business which produced this state of prosperity? Will it bring back a state of neutrality, with all its advantages? If not; if war with France should follow a peace with England; or if a general peace should be made; By what means may the town of Boston prevent the depreciation of its real estate, the decline of business, (compared with what it was) and the deprivation of many of its inhabitants by emigration to New York, and especially to the western states; to which they are strongly invited by a policy foreign and inimical to the interests of the Northern States?
Fortunately Boston has resources not yet fully developed. Hitherto the skill and enterprise of her merchants have drawn from foreign countries, the riches that have raised the town to a very high rank of opulence and grandeur. It is supposed to contain more wealth in proportion to the number of inhabitants than any other city in the world; and we think it may be made to appear that causes similar to those which have operated so powerfully in favour of New York and Baltimore, may be made to sustain Boston from decline, and even enable it still rapidly to progress.
We will advert for a moment to the local circumstances of the greatest commercial cities in Europe, to examine the causes that seem most to have contributed to their growth. And though not strictly connected with the subject of these remarks, it may not be irrelevant in speaking of the causes of the increase of places, to notice one circumstance in their economy that has a great, though silent effect. It is obvious that wherever great assemblages of men dwell, institutions for the preservation of health are required, both for the reception of the sick poor, strangers who are taken ill, and workmen whom accidents may have injured. Such benevolent institutions exist in every great commercial city, and have great effect in preserving and augmenting the population. The interior towns are continually pouring forth their youth to exert their various industry. The reputation of a city for healthiness, and for the means of speedy recovery from disease or accident, leads to a decided preference of it as a place of residence. The contemplated hospital is to be an institution for this purpose, and while it will gratify the hearts of its benevolent patrons will promote the prosperity and happiness of this metropolis.
The value of real estate in a town situated as this is, will depend on its populousness; and this on the business or employment to be found there; and this again on the extension of intercourse and trade with the back country; the produce of which is here concentrated, and here convertible into the various commodities of other climes, necessary to the comfortable subsistence and improvement of the people.
There is scarcely a commercial city in the world of any magnitude, that does not to its intercourse with foreign countries by the ocean, unite an extensive communication with the interior by inland navigation. For example, Bordeaux by the Garonne and the Languedoc Canal, Nantz by the Loire and the Canal of Orleans, Amsterdam by the Canal of Utrecht and the Rhine, St Petersburg by the Canals of Russia extending to the Caspian sea, and many others might be mentioned in Sweden, Holland, and Italy. But one of the most striking instances of its effects is Liverpool; which, from being a small fishing town, rose with surprising rapidity to great commercial importance, notwithstanding the natural inconveniences of its harbour; in consequence of its relative situation to the Duke of Bridgewater's canal. This great work after exhausting the large resources of its projector, its shares being at the lowest ebb of credit, was finished by a loan from government; and it is well known to have immediately become of immense benefit to the public, and productive of an ample revenue to the proprietor. This Canal commences at the River Mercey, ten miles above Liverpool. It opens a direct communication with the city of Manchester by one level of more than thirty miles; and passing through that city penetrates the county of Lancaster. The success of this Canal gave an immediate spring to enterprise of this kind; others were soon formed to unite with it, connecting several of the manufacturing towns together; enabling them to forward their various merchandize; to receive raw materials and provisions at reduced expence; and to manufacture at lower prices or less cost. Bristol which had before been the most convenient port to Birmingham, began to decline, and London felt the diversion of trade into a new channel. These cities soon found it expedient to have recourse to canal transportation, the advantages of which, notwithstanding the excellence of the roads in England, were now so well realized that scarcely any natural obstacles to canalling were allowed to be insurmountable: Mountains were perforated to give them passage, and rivers were crossed on iron acqueducts often of stupendous elevation; till at length the whole island of Great Britain has been intersected by more than one hundred canals measuring in extent several thousand miles, carrying prosperity into every section of the country.
In the north of Europe, where winter is far more severe than in the New England States, a number of noble and useful works of this kind have been formed.
In our own country, what circumstances have most promoted the growth of our seaport towns? Charleston, (S. C.) communicates with the Santee by a Canal. Baltimore is near the mouth of the Susquehannah. Philadelphia commands the Skulkill and Delaware. But New York, whose growth has been most remarkably rapid, has a more extensive intercourse with the interior by the Hudson. These advantages are so sensibly felt in that city, and through the state, that after a fruitless application to the general government for that assistance which good policy might have prompted it to afford, (as nothing could tend more to increase the value of the national lands, and cement the union of the western with the atlantic states,) the state government it is said has resolved to rely on its own credit and resources, to construct a canal from Lake Erie to the Hudson, (a distance of about three hundred miles) through the middle of the state; probably at the cost of five millions of dollars; a sum though large not to be compared to the advantages it will afford. Some idea may be formed of the trade of New York with the interior, from the fact that above four thousand vessels, that average seventy tons burthen, constantly ply on the north river and make a trip to Troy or Albany about once a week. Let it be recollected that Lake Erie is 250 miles in length and communicates with Lake Huron 200 miles and Lake Michigan 280 miles in length, &c. and from Lake Erie it will be easy to open a communication by water with the Ohio. The benefits of such an extensive range of inland navigation must raise New York to the first rank among the cities of the world. And its neighbours Philadelphia, and Boston, will lose much of their trade by the powerful attractions of this great emporium, unless correspondent measures should be adopted to participate with her in the trade of the interior.
The canals undertaken a number of years ago to unite the Skulkill and the Delaware above Philadelphia, and the Delaware with the Susquehannah were interrupted; but they are now, we understand, resumed. We also see it announced to the public, that commissioners (one of whom is the chief justice of the United States) are appointed in Virginia to ascertain how far the inland navigation of that State may be improved and extended.
Boston, without natural advantages similar to those of the southern cities, has notwithstanding risen, (comparatively) to higher rank and opulence by the enterprise of its merchants in every branch of foreign commerce. But, like other places, this town will find it necessary to have recourse to the means that nature and art have placed within reach. A good harbour alone is not sufficient to command trade; and the active capital of the merchant will be employed wherever profit can be found: witness the great number of ships at New York owned in Massachusetts. Dr. Smith observes with great truth, that "the ordinary revolutions of war and government, easily dry up the sources of wealth which arise from commerce only; that which arises from the more solid improvements of agriculture is much more durable. Agriculture and commerce are inseparably united in this country, and will flourish or decline together. A good harbour, a city where wealth, intelligence, and commercial skill are found; and an extensive, fertile, well peopled back country, are the requisites to permanent and progressive prosperity.
That Boston has such a back country to supply, and to be supplied from in return with produce for consumption and exportation and the materials for building houses and ships, will now be shewn.
This district lying in a direction northwest from this town, comprising about two thirds of New Hampshire, and full half of Vermont, embracing in the latter the counties of Calledonia, Chittenden, Essex, Franklin, Orange, Orleans, and Windsor, and most of Addison, contains at least 136,000 inhabitants; in the former the counties of Rockingham, Hillsborough, Grafton, Coos, and part of Cheshire, containing 150,000 inhabitants, together amounting to a population of two hundred and eighty six thousand according to the last census, is every where increasing. The greater part of the trade of the most western of the counties of New Hampshire, with those of Vermont, now goes to New York, though four hundred miles distant, by Connecticut river which intersects this district. The centre of this range of country is distant only one hundred and fifty miles from Boston; for one hundred miles of which, water carriage may be afforded by means of the Merrimack river, and Middlesex Canal and for the remaining distance there are good roads already formed, or now forming. The town of Windsor in Vermont lies about as far north on Connecticut river, as Concord in New Hampshire does on the Merrimack. The country between is very populous and productive, containing the towns of Hopkinton, Hennica, Ware, Hillsborough, &c. On the highest land between the two rivers, there is a very large pond called the Sunapee Lake, from which Sugar river takes its rise, and runs into the Connecticut not far from Windsor. From the lake, on a small rise of the water there is an outlet eastward into Contoocook river, which joins the Merrimack between Concord and Boscawen. There are other places deemed favourable to a union of the two rivers, but this is thought the most practicable place; the face of the country presents no considerable obstacle to such an enterprise. From Windsor, roads diverge and cross the state to Lake Champlain. From Boscawen the town next above Concord, one turnpike road leads to Hanover, another, after following the river to Salisbury, leads near Plymouth across a well settled country to Haverhill, Coos. At both places they cross the Connecticut by bridges, and continue a northwestern course to Canada. The travel in this direction was great enough to induce the formation of these roads.
We might enlarge on the articles of export from Vermont. Every merchant knows that it supplies vast quantities of provisions, butter, cheese, flaxseed, ashes, &c. and the state is known to contain some of the most useful minerals, especially iron. At Thetford, about eight miles above Hanover, Coperas is made in considerable quantities. Cotton factories are establishing in various places.
Besides the counties on either side of the Merrimack from which great supplies of timber have been and will continue to be brought, we may ultimately calculate on the trade of that part of New Hampshire, lying on Connecticut river, above the Moosilock, or Franconia mountains, and a considerable population that has extended into Canada in that direction. From this district a road is making the notch of those mountains directly to Plymouth by which a saving of fifty miles will be made in the route to Boston. In addition to this the fertile shores of the Winnipisiochee Lakes, must supply a great amount of trade to Boston by the channel of the Merrimack. From this river at Salisbury to the largest of the lakes is 23 miles; there are three intermediate sheets of water from 4 to 6 miles in length, and from 1 to 3 broad. The shores of the whole are computed to measure two hundred miles. A coast of this extent, occupied in a great degree, either with cultivated grounds or well timbered lands, may be expected to afford much business. The fall from the Lake to the Merrimack, as recently measured viz. to Sanburnton bridge within 4 miles of the river, is 48 feet, and the navigation thus far might be opened by 5 locks. From thence to the Merrimack the fall is 183 feet; the ground however is very favourable the greater part of the way for preserving a level nearly to the river, to which a descent might be made without locks; but by one of those methods common to Canals in hilly districts.
Although the trade above described from Vermont and the western parts of New Hampshire has principally gone to New York, still a portion of it has come to Boston by the roads parallel with the Merrimack and the Middlesex Canal; and a part of this by water, as far as that river is now navigable with boats.
This enables us to speak from experience and information of the comparative ease, convenience, and cheapness of conveyance by land and by water. For this purpose we select three principal articles. 1st. Pot Ashes, or other articles by the ton. 2d. Timber. 3d. Cattle or Beef.
And in the first place, Pot Ashes or other articles of merchandize, after being conveyed by land carriage from a great distance, to the town of Merrimack, fifty miles from Boston, are there put on board boats, descend the river twenty-three miles, and thence by the Canal, free of all other expences, for six dollars a ton; and a ton is carried back in the same way for seven dollars. Now it would cost at least thirty dollars to carry and bring a ton the same distance by land. Indeed, if the expence were the same, water carriage would be preferred. This is proved by the fact that goods have been sent to Haverhill, Coos, by Connecticut river, first to Hartford, exposed to the sea risk, and from thence exposed to the hazards of the river: – This circuitous rout is about five hundred miles, generally requiring six weeks, and costing sixty dollars a ton. Connecticut river is easy though hazardous to descend – therefore at present the principal trade takes that course; and wherever the produce of the country is disposed of, the supplies in return will be purchased.
2dly. Cattle, when driven so great a distance as to Boston, lose from 5 to 10 per cent. in weight, and the quality of the beef is much injured. Experiments have been tried to ascertain the difference, and it has been found repeatedly, that when a pair of oxen of equal quality have been separated, one slaughtered 100 miles in the country, and the other driven to market; the former on inspection here has been deemed the first quality, the latter the second quality, making a difference of two dollars a barrel. Hydes both of domestic and foreign origin are carried into the country to be tanned – the expense of the transportation of the first is of course lost. The barrels are made in the country, and sent down empty. Salt which makes but a small part of the weight of a barrel of beef, could it be conveyed eighty or an hundred miles into the interior by water, would, together with the other considerations, make it for the interest of this great branch of trade to kill at that distance. Therefore a decided preference would undoubtedly be given to that rout to market which would afford the farmer and the trader these material savings; besides the expenses of the journey, and of keeping in this vicinity till sold; as well as the loss and disappointment often attending the necessity of selling under circumstances of embarrassment and competition. It is not irrelevant to repeat here, that for every additional barrel of beef that the facilities we speak of would lead to this market, an equal value of some imported merchandize must go into the country.
3dly. In the articles of timber and lumber, so great a saving is made by water carriage, that otherwise they could not be conveyed any considerable distance to market; the greater part of their value is acquired by this facility, which will be apparent to those who may recollect to have seen rafts, containing more than an hundred tons, drawn down the Canal by a single horse. White oak timber was much higher in Boston before the Middlesex Canal was opened, than it has been since: indeed the supply is now so abundant, that a number of ship-yards have been established in its vicinity, and large supplies have been furnished to the navy yard. In fact, the real yellow pine timber was not to be had before, unless from the Southern States.
There is no part of the United States where the best white oak timber can be so easily and abundantly supplied, for the construction of a navy, as from the centre of New-Hampshire, by the Merrimack and the Middlesex Canal. At present it comes from a distance of 100 miles, and in a few years it is probable a still greater range of country will be opened around the Winnipisiochee Lakes, by means of locks and canals. If to this be added the junction of the Connecticut with the Merrimack, the hills of Vermont will contribute to this best mean of national defence. At this moment large contracts for timber are made for the navy.
In the year 1810 a number of cargoes of plank and timber were sent to Liverpool and paid a handsome profit. With due caution, as to the dimensions and quality of these articles, this branch of trade will be very advantageous whenever it shall be renewed.
It results from what has been said, that the Middlesex Canal, and the smaller canals round the falls on the Merrimack, ought to be very good property; and that the transportation by land, as well as the circuitous and expensive rout be the Connecticut to New York, and sometimes to Boston, should be wholly discontinued: and there can be no doubt it will be so when the remaining obstructions to navigation on the Merrimack, which are now trifling, compared with the great works already executed, are removed.
In order that a more correct idea of those obstructions may be conveyed, as well as that the magnitude and importance of the works accomplished be fairly appreciated, it is proposed, in the next place, to give a more particular description of the present state of Merrimack River: and then to shew, by calculations founded on sure data, that the several canals will be both profitable to the proprietors, and highly beneficial to the public.
But as the Middlesex Canal has been in operation several years, and is the most important link in the chain, we shall first give a sketch of its history, and hope to satisfy, even the most prejudiced, that although it has not yielded an income equal to the interest on its cost, and notwithstanding a dividend of profits has not yet been declared, it will, at no very distant period, remunerate the liberality and patience of its enterprizing projectors.
Had the Merrimack discharged its waters into the ocean at Boston, the obstacles to its navigation with boats would have been long since overcome; and its advantages, like those of the Hudson, would have appeared in the greater trade and prosperity of the town. It may now be considered as having its outlet at Charlestown, by means of the Middlesex Canal. The course of the river from the mouth of the Winnipisiochee, and from its western branch, is southeasterly till it comes within twenty-seven miles of Boston; it then suddenly bends to the northeast and reaches the sea at Newburyport. After running in that direction about fifty miles, Concord River takes its course northerly through the county of Middlesex, and in Billerica crosses a level country at an elevation of one hundred and seven feet above the tide at Boston, and thirty feet above the Merrimack, which it joins a few miles below the Middlesex Canal.
This stream being abundantly copious to feed a Canal in both directions, the country between the river and the town of Boston being unusually level, a correct knowledge of the districts to which it would lead, together with a conviction of the public benefits of inland navigation, originated the project of cutting the Middlesex Canal. The projectors were incorporated in 1793. Of its practicability there could be no doubt. But in order to ascertain the precise ground best adapted to its formation, and to make as accurate calculations as the nature of canalling admits of, Mr. Weston from England, well known as an experienced engineer, then at Philadelphia, was employed to survey the ground, take the levels, make his estimate of the expense, and give his candid opinion on the undertaking in general. His Survey and Report (which are on the records of the Corporation) shew that his impression was highly favourable to the undertaking in all respects.
The Canal was thenceforward prosecuted with vigour, and finally completed at the expense of 528,000 dollars, in assessments; and 85,000 dollars, derived from the income; comprehending the expenditure of about 30,000 dollars by the Corporation on the Merrimack Canals and Locks. The Middlesex Canal is twenty-seven miles in length and thirty feet wide. There are seven aqueducts over rivers and streams, and twenty locks. Four of the levels are each preserved for above five miles: the other four, from one to three miles; it terminates in Charlestown Mill Pond, an extensive artificial basin; which, while it serves the original purpose accommodates the rafts and boats. The Corporation owns the mills at Charlestown, and others at Billerica and other valuable real estate. It has also a privilege, of which it has not yet fully availed itself, of converting Concord River into a Canal, twenty-three miles of its extent through the towns of Billerica, Carlisle, Bedford, Concord and Sudbury. The grant of the Middlesex Canal is a perpetuity. The original design comprehended not only a communication with the Merrimack, but the formation of Canals and Locks round the several falls on that river. Unfortunately it was not in power of the Corporation to execute these works at the same time the Canal was forming. In the year 1804 the Canal was opened; and during the years 1805, 6, & 7, the transportation upon it was as great as could have been expected, at its commencement under the circumstances of its novelty and limited communication with the interior, from the obstructions and falls in the river. In the year 1808 the proprietors established a system of management analogous to those of Canals in Europe, provided for the collection of toll in cash, before the delivery of the article on which it accrues, and took measures to commence the works on the Merrimack, necessary to this river's being made navigable for boats.
But in the year 1808 the embargo suspended business, and the Canal of course suffered in common with other institutions. And although in 1809 it was raised, the injurious effects of this measure continued to be felt; the income of the Canal however increased. In 1810, when commerce revived a little, the receipts rose to above 15000 dollars. In 1811, in consequence of the restrictive measures of government, the toll declined again. But as some evidence of the nature of this property, in 1812, notwithstanding the war, and the consequent suspension of shipbuilding, exportation of timber and lumber; and although the works on the Merrimack are not yet fully completed, the income is nearly as much as in any former year. It is reasonable therefore to infer, that by this time it would have been very considerable had peace and commerce been continued to us, and the Merrimack opened.
It is proposed now to shew the present state of Merrimack river, and what are the remaining obstructions to a free navigation of that water by large boats to and from Concord.
Tracing the river down, four miles below Concord, in the town of Bow, there is a fall of twenty-five feet (perpendicular measurement) and one third of a mile long: Here a very durable canal with four locks (including the guard lock) and a dam thrown wholly across the river have been constructed within three years, at the expense of about 19000 dollars, and was put in operation last summer.
Seven miles below this in the town of Dunbarton, we come to Hooksett Falls, sixteen feet high, fifty rods long: Here also a Canal is completed, with three locks, including the guard lock, at the expense of about 13000 dollars.
Eight miles farther down the river, we come to Amoskeag Falls, where Blodget's Canal is situated which, within two years past, has been partly rebuilt, and fully repaired, at an expense of above 7000 dollars. This canal is about one mile in length, it has nine locks and several extensive dams, and has cost a very large sum of money.
Immediately below Blodget's or Amoskeag Canal, commences Union Canal, extending nine miles down the river, for which distance it is entitled to toll, at the rate of 7½ cents a ton per mile. It comprehends six different rapids or falls, three of which (the most difficult) have been rendered completely passable with boats, by means of locks and other works very substantially constructed. The expenditure thereon has amounted to upwards of 17000 dollars.
All that remains to be done between Boston and Concord, is to lock two of the other rapids in Union Canal, (the sixth having a channel already made) and it is thought expedient also to lock Cromwell's Falls, situated four miles further down the river; the legislature having passed an act giving the necessary authority for this purpose. There are also places in the river, where the channels are not sufficiently cleared for passage at the lowest state of the river, and although Wicasee Falls four miles up river from the Canal are passable, it is not improbable that a lock will be erected there to facilitate the ascending trade.
Some statements of the correctness of which every man in business will be able to judge, will now be made, the object of which is to shew that stock in these canals may be justly considered valuable and permanent property.
But as little has yet been said of the country through which the river and the Middlesex Canal pass, it should be observed in regard to the borders of the latter that though they have furnished a considerable portion of the wood hitherto brought down, they are of small moment in comparison with the shores of the Merrimack. From hence we may receive an inexhaustible supply of White Oak timber; Pine timber of various kinds; but as before mentioned especially the Yellow Pine, and Oak plank for ship building – Pine plank for the public bridges, and for exportation – indeed all kinds of lumber of any given dimensions wanted in foreign markets, besides the articles of Staves, Hoops, Hogsheads, Barrels, Hops, Beef, Pork, Butter, Cheese, Cyder, Potatoes, Screwed Hay, Grain, Pot and Pearl Ashes, Masts of a superior quality, Oak and Pine wood, &c.
Pine timber is an article of such vast consumption and importance that a few observations on some of the varieties of the Pine may not be superfluous in this place.
The White Pine (Pinus Strobus) being a very soft wood, is more easily wrought, and is the kind most in use. It is not so good as Pitch Pine for roofs and common floors. Very little White Pine is used in ship building, except for masts; and for this purpose the New-Hampshire White Pine is peculiarly good, being very tough, hard, and strong, from causes incident to the situation and soil in which it grows.
The Spruce (Pinus Metis) is excellent timber for many purposes, especially for spars of ships, being well adapted to this purpose by its lightness and length. It is erroneously called the Yellow Pine by some writers.
The Yellow Pine (Pinus Australis) is the most valuable. The most striking peculiarity of the timber is the thinness of the sap, being only one to two inches thick, and the great proportion of the heart which is the durable part of it; the sap decaying very soon on all Pine timber, unless under water. The Yellow Pine abounds in the southern States, where it affords the several resinous articles, denominated naval stores; great quantities of which were exported to England before the war, as well as of the timber, which sells in the Liverpool market 25 to 30 per cent. higher than other kinds of Pine. It is also brought to Philadelphia and New-York from North Carolina, and was sometimes brought to Boston before the Middlesex Canal was opened. In commerce it is also known by the names of southern Pine, Georgia Pine, and Red Pine, it sometimes acquiring a redness, from certain kinds of soil.
Michaux in his history of the forest trees of America says of this tree, that "in consequence of the abundance and equal distribution of its resinous matter, and its layers being very close, it is more compact, strong and durable, than any other pine; and the fineness of its grain makes it more susceptible of taking a polish; it is especially preferred for the deck and waists of ships." He also mentions that it has been very much thinned throughout the accessible parts of the Southern States. Vast forests still however remain, but are comparatively too far removed from water carriage to allow of their being converted into timber for exportation; but they will still afford vast quantities of naval stores. The process of obtaining these articles is detailed in his work. Turpentine is the pure sap of the tree. Thirty trees commonly make a barrel; one slave will tend three thousand trees. Spirit of turpentine is obtained by distillation; the residuum is the rosin. Tar is obtained from the dead wood. Michaux observes, "it is a curious fact, that the heart of dead wood of this kind acquires double or treble the quantity of resinous matter it had when first separated from its root; the sap part meanwhile decaying. Having cut the dead wood into clefts a kiln is formed somewhat in the shape of an inverted cone; it is then covered with leaves and earth surrounded with boards and sods to exclude the air: fire is applied to the top of the kiln, which is eight or ten days in burning. The tar is collected in the centre, and drawn off by a small covered ditch to the receiving vat. A kiln twelve feet in height, eighteen or twenty feet diameter, yields one hundred barrels. Pitch is made by reducing the tar to one half the quantity by boiling. Tar is made in small quantities in New-Hampshire, but the value of the dead wood for this purpose is not yet understood: Considerable quantities will probably be made when the transportation to market may be effected by water.
Hemp is an article consumed in great quantities. It may be cultivated in New-Hampshire, on the high intervale lands, with more profit than any other crop, whenever it can be sent to market by water. In Canada it is advantageously cultivated, and in the state of Kentucky. It requires a deep good soil; but it vegetates very quickly, keeps down all weeds, and stands very dry weather without injury. The labour bestowed on its culture is confined to the planting, the pulling, collecting the seed, and dressing The first has nothing peculiar in it, but having the field well tilled; and the labour of the latter is in a great measure done by a simple machine; the process is as easy and not very different from that of flax. – See Nicholson's Journal, vol. 23. The Repertory of Arts, vol. 5, page 384. And Memoirs of the Massachusetts Agricultural Society, vol. 1.
Plaster of Paris (Gypsum) has been known about forty years as an excellent manure. The experiments that have been tried in New-Hampshire, on the high intervales and pine lands, which are very extensive, have been invariably successful. From one to two bushels of the pulverized plaster have been usually scattered on an acre of grain or grass, and about a table spoonful put to each hill of corn. The effect is very obvious and lasting; and it has been demonstrated by experiments detailed in agricultural publications, that it is impossible the soil should be injured by it for posterity. Plaster will probably be ground at the canal mills and barrelled for transportation. In this state it will relieve the farmers from the trouble of breaking and grinding it, which has been a serious obstacle to its general use. For a particular account of it, see Massachusetts Agricultural Publications, vol. 1.
Every bulky article of merchandize will be carried up the Canal and river; as Salt, Iron, Sugar, Molasses, Rum, Tea, Coffee, Cotton, Rice, Crates of Ware, Hard-Ware, English Goods, Hydes, Plaster of Paris, Salt-Fish, and many others.