Middlesex Canal Association    P.O. Box 333    Billerica, Massachusetts 01821
Volume 14, No. 1    January, 1976


Instead of the usual winter meeting, the Association invites all its members and friends to attend the January 25 Parker Lecture to be given by Mary Stetson Clarke.

Funded by a bequest under the will of Moses Greeley Parker, the lecture series presents each year several popular lectures. This year, on account of Lowell's sesquicentennial celebration, a special series of local history lectures is planned. The first will be on "THE OLD MIDDLESEX CANAL" and will be given by Mary Stetson Clarke, a Director of the Middlesex Canal Association and author of the book of the same name.

The lecture will take place in Liberty Hall of the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Sunday afternoon, January 25, 1976, at 2:00 P.M. There is no admission charge and all are welcome. The Auditorium is located in downtown Lowell, on East Merrimack Street, along the Concord River.


Another winter activity is planned for this season: a winter canal walk or ski tour (depending on the weather). Meet before 1:30 P.M. on Sunday, February 1, 1976, at the parking lot across from the Talbot Mills on the west side of the Concord River in North Billerica. Take Route 3A north from Billerica Center, Treble Cove Road or Route 129 (both exits on Route 3). Turn right from route 3A on Lowell Street (across from North Billerica Post Office) and follow Lowell Street to the river. Parking lot is on right at the river 0.75 mile from Route 3A.

Tour will follow a four-mile route in two segments along the northern remnants of the Middlesex Canal. Walk will be held unless it is snowing hard, raining, or ground is muddy. Terrain is best for cross-country skies. Snow shoes can be used and boots are suit-able if the snow is hardpacked that day. For information and status reports, call Nolan Jones in Winchester - 729-4234.


(We continue in this issue the article from the July 29, 1830 issue of the Boston Weekly Messenger, which was begun in the last issue).

No. 4

The union Locks and Canals reach up to the Amoskeag Falls, where commence the Amoskeag Locks and Canals. These are used to pass from one level of the river to another, where the fall is about 50 feet, in a mile and a half. The works, at this point, have been costly. Some of the Locks are admirable specimens of granite work. This property is divided into 5000 shares, and belongs to many individuals. No part of it belongs to the Middlesex Canal; but a large proportion of its shares belong to proprietors in Middlesex. These works are, as the Middlesex, and all works on the river are, under the exclusive superintendence of Caleb Eddy, Esq. by whom the last repairs on these works were conducted. These falls are passed on the east side of the river. On the western side of the falls, are the very extensive Amoskeag Cotton Factories, which are said to be in thriving condition. When the river is full, the rush of waters down this rocky descent, is one of the grandest natural scenes in all of New England. Above these falls the country on the eastern side is strong, hard land, and is gradually improving in Agriculture, but on the western side of the river the country is sandy, unproductive and hilly.

The next level above Amoskeag, extends about eight miles to Hookset Locks and Canal, making 43 miles above the head of Middlesex. Here is a distinct corporation, known by the name of the Isle of Hookset Canal. The original cost of this Canal was about $15000; the whole number of shares 100; of which Middlesex owns 45. The Locks and Dams were originally constructed mostly of wood. About five years ago, the whole work was completely renovated with stone; excepting the lower Lock. The materials for converting this Lock into stone, are all on the ground, and fitted to be put together, which will be done at a slight expense, when the waters are lowest, which is usually at harvest time, and when the Canal is least in use. Repairing, however, does not stop transportation. These works are completely guarded, against freshets, ice, and all other accident. No repairs are foreseen to be necessary, for fifteen years to come; nor is it foreseen that any repairs will be necessary for a century to come, but replacing the gates, which require renewal once in about fifteen or sixteen years. There are some factories here; and room enough for many more. The repairs have been paid for, out of annual income, which has not been less than twelve hundred dollars, nor more than twenty two hundred. The whole annual expense of attendance, and all expense, but repairs, is between two and three hundred dollars.

The next level before coming to Concord extends about five miles to Bow Canal. Here the river falls, in about half a mile, twenty five feet. The Bow Canal is a distinct corporation. The works cost about $21,000 originally. The shares are 157, of which Middlesex owns 106. The works here are four Locks and a Canal. There are five acres of land, a dwelling house and a large work shop, belonging to the Corp-oration. The annual income has been from $1600 to $2500. Annual expenses, exclusive of repairs, about $400. This Canal has divided, annually, ever since it was built, from ten to fifteen dollars a share. Within the next five years some repairs will be needed on these works.

On the eastern side of the falls, there is a site for a manufacturing establishment, very little inferior to that of Lowell, excepting as to its distance from the seaboard. The land lies along the eastern side of the falls, for the space of about three quarters of a mile on the same level with the river, above the falls. From the shore eastwardly, the land rises, very gently, for nearly a mile. The simple, and cheap operation of digging a canal three quarters of a mile, is all that is necessary to establish a water power, capable of moving all the wheels of as many factories, as can stand in a line three quarters of a mile in length. This place is on the eastern side of the river, less than three miles from Concord, and situate in a good agricultural region, wherein clay, granite and wood are abundant. If our country is to grow up, by manufacturing industry, it is probable that this spot will, at some future time, exhibit a busy scene. Competent judges have considered this site, taking all its advantages into view, to be inferior to no place in New England, for using water power.

From Bow Canal to Concord, on one level, the distance is three and a half miles; by the road, two and a half. Concord is the highest point to which boats ascend. Thus, there is now, a water way from Boston to the Merrimack River of 27 miles; and through the Merrimack to Concord 58 miles, making 85 in the whole. And from Concord to the Connecticut, it is certainly practicable to establish a water way or a rail road.

Within the last eight years the establishments at Lowell have used the Middlesex Canal. Less than twenty per cent of the gross amount of tolls have been derived from this source. The income of the Canal has been less affected by the general depression than that of any other property. In 1829 there was a peculiar cause of diminished income from dryness of the season. The Merrimack has not been so low as it then was, within the memory of man; rafting was impracticable; and boat loads were reduced to half the usual weight, and diminished in number; and the passage much prolonged.

Whole amount of tolls in 1828 was 27,453.47
in 1829                     21,545.80
Difference                5,907.67
Amount received on rafts in 1828 5,473.98
in 1829                2,174.49
Difference                3,299.49
Amount received from Lowell in 1828        4,317.20
in 1829         3,732.17
Difference                585.03

From these facts, some opinion may be formed of the probable value of this Canal property, for a permanent investment, unless it should happen that a rail road is established along the banks of the Merrimack. Stock which has given an average dividend of twelve dollars and thirty three cents a share, for ten successive years, may, perhaps, be considered to have established a value relatively to other productive property. It is to be taken into view also, that during these ten years, a heavy debt, for which no value was received, has been paid. That the works have, in many places, been renovated with stone once, and forever. That a canal, and locks, made out of earth, and stone, need little or no repairs; and incur no increase of expense from the increase of carrying. Proprietors of canals do not own the boats, nor the loading, nor the moving power. Rail roads do need repairs. The proprietors must own the vehicles; and the moving power; or if not, those who use railroads must have vehicles adapted to move them. All increase of transportation is accompanied by increase of expense, if the rail road proprietors own the cars and the moving power, and employ the conductors. It is an unsettled matter as yet, what mode of transportation is best adapted to New England. Climate, habit, relative position, and the kind of carrying to be done, and comparative expense of making and maintaining are among the elements which should be taken into the account.

No. 5

Some important measures are contemplated to facilitate transportation to, and from Boston; the experience derived from the water way, between this city, and Concord, N.H. may be of some use in the estimates which are to be made, as to the utility, and productiveness of the proposed measures. As a ton weight can now be carried from one of these places, to the other, more safely, more expeditiously and for less money, by water, than it can be, by land, how does it happen, that the water way produced no dividend for more than twenty years after it was begun upon? How does it happen, that since the completion of the works, the dividends have averaged only twelve dollars 33/100 on $1330 (the cost of each share) or about one per cent; or six per cent on $205.50 a share? Does this disproportion between cost, and income, arise from mistaking in the outset, the number of tons to be carried? or 2d, the injudicious expenditure of money in making the water way? Or 3d, the mismanagement, since the works were completed?

1. There was, undoubtedly, an erroneous judgment, in comparing the value of the object to be gained, with the cost of the means. 3dly. There was a much greater expenditure of money to accomplish the object, than would be required, at this day, thirty-five years ago, canalling was a new matter in the U. S. It was about as new in England, thirty-five years before that time. This inexperience occasioned an expenditure of 25 to 50 per cent beyond that which would be occasioned at present, in doing the same work. 2dly. There has been an erroneous policy in keeping the tolls so high, as to make a competition between the water way, and the common road; they should have been, from the beginning, low enough to secure a decided preference of the water way. Many things are to be taken into consideration in securing a preference to an artificial way, and among them may be mentioned, these; in carrying on wheels there is but one loading, and one unloading. In carrying on a canal or rail, there are several. 1. Loading at the store or place whence the article comes. 2, unloading at the boat or rail. 3, Loading into the boat or car. 4, Unloading from the boat or car. 5, Loading into the vehicle to carry from the boat or car. 6, Unloading at the place of destination. Perhaps these acts may be reduced to four, by, making the unloading from the wagon into the boat or car one and loading from the boat or car into the wagon one. At best the labor is, at least, double that of carrying on wheels. Again the load is brought 25 or 50 miles to the canal, or rail, the vehicle that brought it, must have a return load ready, or there is so much waste of time, and power, as going back empty, occasions. Again if an individual happens to be situated 25 or 50 miles from a canal or rail, and is, when at home, at the same distance from the place of the destination of his wagon load as when he touches the canal, or rail, he increases his distance from the place of destination, in the whole length of way to the canal or rail, even if he goes thither in the shortest line. He must have there as in the other case a return load, or go back empty. Again the time appropriated to carrying an agricultural load to market, is usually that time, which can be best spared from the farm, and when there would be the least to do, if the farmer were at home. Then, all New England is a farming region, which implies ownership of oxen, horses, and wagons. In some parts of the year, these animals are not needed on the farm and can be supported on the road, with little more cost than if they were unemployed at home. Add to this, that he who carries, and buys, and sells for himself, has no commissions to pay. These, and other similar considerations show, that carrying on a rail, or on a canal, must be so decidedly cheaper, than any other carrying as to secure a preference. It is obvious that if a rail, or a canal, extends but a short distance into the country, the inducement to use it will be proportion-ably less strong. An artificial way must extend so far into the country, and carrying upon it must, be so cheap that articles may come on it which would not otherwise bear the expense of transportation to market; or must be such as to weight, and bulk, that they can go to market, in no other way than on a rail, or by a canal.

There is one more consideration not much known, carriage on a rail, or canal, must be paid for in cash. Carriage on wheels, when not done by the owner of the wagon, but on hire, is not paid for in cash; but in a kind of traffic, or barter between traders, and teamsters. Teaming is a distinct profession, or business. The teamster is paid out of the trader's store, at such a reasonable profit, that the nominal price of carrying on a wagon, is about double that of carrying on a rail, or canal, and yet the trader has his carrying done as cheap on wheels, as if he used the artificial way. Let us suppose, that a trader lives at Salisbury, fifteen miles above Concord. He has loads to send to Boston, and loads to bring from Boston. It will be cheaper from him to employ a teamster all the way to Boston, and back, and to pay in barter than to send the load to Concord, and there take to the water, and to have his load brought up by water, to Concord, and thence teamed to Salisbury. Teaming is a very unthrifty business; and the teamsters usually wear out themselves, their cattle, and their credit. It seems to be a curious fact that there should be a class of men, who prefer the slow movement of conducting a loaded team, (in which there is not a pound of power to spare, and in which their horses are always in strain, to the utmost of their strength,) to any steady, regular employment, in one place. There may be some pleasure in moving to and fro, and in arriving at their wonted places of rest, and refreshment. Although it is a common remark that teamsters rarely thrive by their business; yet when they give out, and disappear, their fate is no warning to others; and their places are soon filled by those, who come to the same end.

Against these, and all similar obstacles to profit, rail roads and canals must contend. They can do this no otherwise that by making their tolls so low, as to overcome all competition with the common road; and making by extending these artificial ways far into the interior. It may be taken as a maxim, that a short rail road or canal, never can be profitable! A canal can meet, and overcome the competition with the common road better than a rail road can do it; because, when a canal is prepared for the passage of one boat, it is prepared for the passage of all the boats, that can float upon its waters; without any additional expense; it having nothing to fear but the exhaustion of its summit level (or fountain). Whereas carrying on a rail way, requires more cars, more horses, more men, and more wear of the rail, in proportion, to the increase of transportation.

There is just this difference between the proprietors of a canal, and those of a rail road. The former are like the owners of a turnpike, to whom it is wholly immaterial, who, or what moves thereon, so that there be moving enough to yield a revenue. The latter are like the owners of a turnpike too; but then they must be owners also, of all the stage coaches, wagons, carts and carriages, and horses; and must employ all who drive; and all persons who are necessary, through the whole extent, to load and unload every vehicle.

There is one thing in favour of rail roads, which does not apply to a canal. The former may make a profit from passengers; the latter cannot. It seems probable, now, that rail roads may accommodate passengers better than any other known mode of land carriage. If this mode is practicable for this purpose, and should be preferred to any other, and if there should be passengers enough to be carried, a rail road may be profitable, independently of tolls from tonnage.

The proprietors of the Middlesex Canal came very slowly to the conviction, that they must reduce their tolls, if they would secure a preference for water carrying. Within five years they have reduced the tolls in some instances fifty per cent; their gains have not been lessened but have been increased. They must continue to reduce until they under carry the teamsters. They must make the tolls so low that no teamster can afford to come down; and then they will secure to themselves the transportation upwards. This would be doing no injury to teamsters for there is not one in a great number who might not be employed more to his own advantage. It is believed, that three fifths of all the loads that come to Concord, on wheels, destined to Boston, come to Boston on wheels; and that two fifths only, take to the boats - notwithstanding the price of carrying from Concord to Boston, on wheels, is nearly double of that by water; which is accounted for, in part, as before stated, by the different modes of paying for the carriage. The one is cash; the other traffic, or barter.

If a rail road should be established from Boston to Lowell, and thence to Concord, and from Concord to the Connecticut; and the price of transportation thereon, should be cheaper than on the canal, and cheaper than on the common road, then the canals would be used only for carrying rafts, fuel & c. which could not come on the rail. Before this enterprise is undertaken by any original proprietor in the Middlesex Canal, he will not have profitted much by experience, if he does not first find answers to these questions: What will be the cost? What will be the articles to come, and go, on the railroad? How many tons weight will there be? Will it be the preferred mode for the transportation of passengers? How many will there be of these? How far will it be extended into the interior? We incline to the opinion that no railroad will ever be built from Boston to Concord; but that a rail road, or canal, will, at some time, be made from Concord to the Connecticut. A rail road from Boston to Brattleborough would not affect the canals. The two routes are wide apart.

Until the artificial way is extended north and west of Concord, the true policy of the Middlesex proprietors will be to reduce their tolls, until they get on to their waters, everything that is moving to and from Boston; and induce the bringing of articles which cannot now bear the expense of any transportation. It is probable that such policy will be adopted. This property is getting into the hands of sensible, practical business men. They will find themselves cooperating with an Agent, who is second to no man, in the kind of employment to which he devotes himself; and who has an honorable pride that the institution shall flourish. Among the proofs of his capacity, is the aqueduct before alluded to. The level of the canal is about twenty five feet above the bed of the river, which it crosses. The valley of the river crossed by the canal is about eighty feet wide. The new aqueduct is in the same place in which the old wooden one was. The new aqueduct cost about $8000, and came within about $100 of the first, and only estimate of the Agent. It is just as durable as anything can be, which is made of granite, and earth, and nothing else. The new aqueduct took the place of the old one without stopping the usual carrying on the canal a single day.

Having alluded to a possible extension of an artificial way, from Concord to the Connecticut, we will hereafter add a word on that subject.

No. 6

It is the opinion of some persons, that if an artificial way should be established from Boston to Lake Ontario, or into Canada, it would be the preferable course to connect Concord, and the Connecticut. Such a connection has been in view many years. Recently it has been contemplated, to cross Vermont to Lake Champlain, and to continue on westwardly to Ogdensburgh. Some examination of the ground has heretofore taken place between the Connecticut, and Concord. We extract from a recent work, which is entitled "Internal Navigation of the United States", some observations on this subject. "A route has been surveyed between the Connecticut, at Sugar River, below Claremont, and the Merrimack, near Concord, by the way of Sugar River Valley, and Sunapee Lake; also by way of Black Water River, and the Conticook. -- The summit level here, is the Sunapee, which is an immense body of water, insomuch that no doubt can exist of an ample supply for a canal. Distance of the lake from the Connecticut river, by the path of the survey, is 25-7/8 miles, and from the Merrimack 42-5/8, together making the length of the canal 68-1/2 miles --crossing the lake 3-1/4 -- total 71-3/4 miles. The level of the lake 786 feet above the Connecticut, and 859 above the Merrimack, making for lockage 1645 feet".

A more favorable view of this subject has since been taken; and it is conjectured that the waters of Sunapee lake, may be made to feed a canal made on ground which will require much less lockage.

Another mode of approaching the Connecticut, is by going up the Merrimack to Plymouth, and thence by Baker's river; in this case Connecticut river would be reached at Haverhill.

Still another mode has been thought of, viz. going from the Merrimack into Winnepisseogge lake, and thence to Baker's river, and thence along the last mentioned route. But surveys have not been made with accuracy, as to enable one to speak with confidence of the practicability of either of these two last plans.

It is not known that any survey has been made, in this quarter, with a view to a rail road.

Connecticut river is now boatable from its source up to Barnet. From Claremont (which is the river town on the Connecticut, where the supposed canal from Concord, through Sunapee lake, would come to the river,) up to Barnet, is about seventy miles. Supposing that a canal from the Connecticut to Concord would lead to Boston, from a point down river thirty miles below Claremont, we should open a water communication for three quarters of the whole eastern front of Vermont, about 100 miles; and for the same distance along the western front of New Hampshire. Above Barnet, northwardly, the country is said to be rich and productive, on both sides of the river. The navigation of it is broken by falls; though, it is also said that these may be passed, as those below have been.

Surveys have been made from the Connecticut to Lake Memphramagog on two routes. This lake is in the north line of Vermont, about 50 miles from the Connecticut. From that lake to the St. Lawrence a water way might be easily made, it is said, by the river St. Francis, which flows into the St. Lawrence. The St. Francis is said to be boatable now.

The citizens of Vermont appear to be zealous in making a water way from Lake Champlain to the Connecticut. The distance across, in a straight line, does not exceed, it is said, sixty miles. Some surveys have been made, and a water way is said to be practicable.

A rail road is also said to be practicable. The average distance of the whole State of Vermont from New York, and from Boston, is supposed to be one third in favor of Boston. The distance from the western front of New Hampshire, to these two cities, is still more favorable to Boston. It is the opinion of some persons that if Boston should ever partake in the trade through the great western lakes, it may rather be expected through Vermont, and through the northern part of New York, than by going to Albany and joining there the interior Connecticut towards the west. There is some difference of opinion as to the most expedient route for a western communication, even if we had nothing now to do, but choose the route, and go to work. The argument in favor of a rail road to Albany appears to be, that we should get a portion of the commerce, which goes from Albany to New York; and that we should have the whole of it, in that season of the year, when intercourse between Albany and New York is prevented by the ice. That we should have any part of it, when the Hudson is open, may depend on this: would Boston afford a better market for sale, and purchase, than New York? If it would, would the expense of transportation from Albany to Boston be such as to enable the trader to come to Boston instead of going to New York? It is not perceived that the Boston market would necessarily be preferable; nor is it demonstrated that the transportation would be done, at less cost, than from Albany to New York; nor that it would be done at a cheaper rate by land, than by sea, around Cape Cod to Boston from Albany. If it should prove that the Boston market is not preferable and also that the cost of coming from Albany to Boston is not less than that of going from Albany to New York, a rail road would be unavailing as a profitable mode of communication for Boston. On the contrary, supposing that there is no difference in the two markets, there is some reason to fear, that the rail road would be a new facility to get to the Hudson, from the western part of the state, (Berkshire County); and to the Connecticut on both sides of that river, and thence to New York, if from this point freight down river and by the sound to New York should be as cheap, as carriage on the rail road to Boston. Now, all these are suppositions. Whether well, or ill founded, can never be known, but from experience. As a mere abstract principle, it is true, that one who wants to go to a place to sell, or buy, will go to that, which he considers the best, if the expense of time and money, in going and coming, does not prevent. The argument of commerce during winter between Albany and Boston, supposes two things, viz. - that a rail road can be used in winter, as well as in summer, on which we have no experience; and secondly, that commerce will be carried on between Boston and Albany in the winter, although the communication stops at Albany, in the winter, for the same reason, that the communication between Albany and New York is, at that period interrupted. Much might be said on this winter commerce; but it must all rest in conjecture; and we do not feel strong enough to meet, and contend with those who conjecture differently, while the thermometer is at 90.

We incline to think that experience has proved, that all quick and cheap means of communication, within the attraction of great markets, have drawn business to them. - Could not many instances be pointed out, on a small scale, in our vicinity, in proof of this supposition?

New York is, and Boston people cannot help it, a great market. Exchanges are made there, as quick, and on as good terms, probably, as elsewhere. If the cost of getting to and from New York, is not greater than in coming to Boston, the attraction of this very grandeur will, probably, turn the scale against us.

If there be any worth in these suggestions, our remedy is to go so far to the north, as to get beyond the attraction of New York; that is, to make a communication so far towards the north, that the expense of coming to Boston, will be so much less, than that of going to New York, as to give a decided preference to coming to Boston. This, it is believed, would be doing just what New York has done. There is north of us, an immense magazine of agricultural, manufacturing, natural, and mineral wealth, which will send its treasures to the seaboard, in some way. -- they naturally belong to Boston, because Boston is the nearest accessible point of the seaboard, by any probable artificial way, where the desired exchanges can be made. If every man in Boston were of opinion, that our game lies northward, to the mouth of White River, or above it, on the Connecticut, and we had the money ready to build a rail road for the whole distance it would perhaps be a difficulty, that our money must be laid out, for much the largest portion of the distance, within the territory of limits of another state. Then, can the people of New Hampshire make a canal, or rail road, from Concord to the Connecticut? They are well disposed, but they have not the means. Will Massachusetts capital be added to their means?

If the aforegoing intimations amount to anything, they tend to show, that next after a due northern route to Vermont, by land, or by water, the rail road to Brattleboro is clearly the best project which has been started, for this reason; it avoids the attraction of New York, just in proportion as it inclines to a northern course.

We have a few sentences to add on the decline of Boston.


This year's annual meeting will take place on Saturday, April 24. Save the date for a big event. Canallers from New York, Pennsylvania and other regions have been invited to join us. The main feature of the day will be a bus tour along most of the Canal, banquet and entertainment.

Watch your mail for announcements and reservation blank.


The editor is red-faced to report that the list of officers printed in the last issue was incomplete and incorrect. The correct list is as follows:

President: Wilbar M. Hoxie
Vice President: Leonard H. Harmon
Treasurer: Nolan T. Jones
Corresponding Secretary:   Mary Stetson Clarke
Recording Secretary: Frances B. VerPlanck


Edwin L. Clarke Joseph V. Kopycinski
Harley P. Holden Frederick L. Lawson, Jr.
Arthur L. Eno, Jr. Janet Lombard
Clifford R. Jennings            Marlene F. Schroeder


The Woburn Historical Commission has started construction of an authentic Middlesex Canal packet boat, to be launched on April 19, 1976. The boat will be 40 feet long, 9-1/2 feet wide and 8 feet high, displacing 9 tons.

Volunteer boat-builders would be appreciated to help meet the deadline. Working hours are Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:00 to 8:30 and Saturday mornings from 8:00 to 1:00 at the Woburn Public Works building, North Warren Street, off Winn Street, Woburn. For information and to sign up, call Len Harmon, Woburn, - 935-3561.


Now available is a two volume History of Winchester. Volume I by Henry S. Chapman, Volume II by Bruce W. Stone. Each volume $8.00, two-volume set in slip case, $15.00. Available from the Winchester Public Library.


The water color of the Baldwin Mansion reproduced on the back cover is by Louis Linscott, the celebrated Woburn artist. The original was kindly given to the Association by Mr. Linscott's daughter, Mrs. Virginia Porter.

The surveyor's sketch on the inside of the front cover is from a copy of Field Book No. 5 - Survey of the Middlesex Canal, by students of L. Baldwin who assisted G. R. Baldwin in making the survey in 1829. From the Ewell collection in the Canal Archives.