Middlesex Canal Association    P.O. Box 333    Billerica, Massachusetts 01821
Volume 18, No. 1    January, 1980


The Winter meeting of the Middlesex Canal Association
will take place on Sunday, January 27, 1980 at 2:00 P.M.
at the Jenks Senior Citizen Center in Winchester Center
(opposite the Town Hall).

The speaker will be John Debo who will talk about his recent canalling through Britain and show some of his slides of English canals.

A member of the National Park Service, Mr. Debo spent considerable time in England investigating English canals before coming to his present position as Management Assistant with the Lowell National Historical Park.

All are invited to bring their friends for this very interesting program.

Refreshments will be served.


Saturday, April 26, 1980 at 2:00 P.M. at the Charles River Dam. (Detailed directions to the dam will appear in the next issue of Towpath Topics.)


Our Fall Meeting at the Dry Dock No. 1 and the Transportation Museum was a grand memory for us all. Over seventy members and friends attended all or part of this very pleasant day and enjoyed a meal at the delightful Trawler's Restaurant overlooking Boston's skyline on the warm evening out-of-doors. Our disappointment over the fact that our Middlesex Canal part of the Transportation Exhibit was not yet ready for the meeting because of unexpected delay's primarily in funding, concerned us all. Let us hope the pennies can surge in forthwith to make our dreams of a grand exhibit at the Transportation Museum a reality. Our Own Niles Blackburn's beautiful model of a Middlesex Canal lock was a real triumph. Congratulations!

We think our next two meetings should provide us all with two most interesting entertainments. Our announcement of both of these now is to prompt you all to place these dates on your calendars. New member, Mr. John Debo, also Management Assistant of Lowell's new National Historic Park, has agreed to show us all some of his slides of the beautiful English Canals. Since he is a civil engineer he will give us new engineering insights in his presentation on Sunday, January 27, 1980, at 2:00 P.M. at the Senior Citizen's Center in Winchester.

The new Charles River Dam will be the site of our April 26th annual meeting at 2:00 P.M. Mr. Clayton Stokes, Assistant Supt. of the Charles River Dam facility will give us a one hour tour of the dam. This will be followed by reports of our new findings of the Middlesex Canal Commission. Mr. Stokes loves to dream of a reconstruction of some early locks la Loammi Baldwin at this site and of a Middlesex Canal Exhibit to be here in the museum display room. Boats will be locking in and out at this time of year and let us hope for a balmy day as well.

I know you will feel most rewarded by the work of the Industrial Archeology Associates under the direction of Michael B. Folsom, Laurence F. Gross, and Patrick M. Malone. The Middlesex Canal Commission, The Metropolitan Planning Council and the Northern Middlesex Area' Commission have combined efforts with this firm to bring us an updated survey and maps of the route of the Middlesex Canal.

The Middlesex Canal Commission will meet January 15th at 10:00 A.M. at the Thompson Library, 33 Elm St., North Woburn to talk over the recommendations and make further plans for implementing their excellent restoration plans town by town. You are welcome to come to this Commission meeting. If you have extra time on your hands, this is the time to get in on the ground floor of making this study and the canal a resource to the future enjoyment of our citizens, students and curious visitors.

We are pleased that the American Canal Society wishes Middlesex Canal brochures to distribute to its membership. They have asked for a number of copies and I have sent these on to satisfy the widely ranging group of canal buffs.

Dan Silverman is still working on his canal display panels, which when completed will be available to those of us who are ready to give lectures on the Middlesex Canal. Cheers to Dan for this valuable work. Let us know if you too would like to be listed as a Middlesex Canal Lecturer.

We are looking forward to seeing you at our meetings!

Fran Ver Planck


Memorandum of agreement between J. L. Sullivan, Canal Agent and Jonathan Page of Charlestown, Witnesseth That said Sullivan in consideration of the premises gives (conditionally) to said Page the exclusive privilege of taking fish at the Locks in Charlestown & the parts of the Canal adjacent thereto, provided and it is agreed by said Page that the said fishing shall occasion no interruption to the business or passing of the Canal - that the Gates and paddle gates shall not be opened shut or altered, that no damage whatever shall be done to the Locks -- that the offals or dressing of the fish shall not be thrown in the Canal, nor allowed to remain near the same, nor any dead fish - that their (sic) shall be no interference with the business of the Locks Tender, who may take fish for his own family use -- that said Page will cause an account to be taken by the Locktender of the quantity taken from time to time. And he engages to pay two shillings a barrel for those that shall be barreld and one half of the amount of sales of fish not barreld, payment to be made as soon as the fish shall be sold, if sold the present summer otherwise, at the end of the boating season say 1st Dec next.

Boston May 1, 1812

Jon. Page   
J. L. Sullivan

Insurance against Fire

No. 17177.. This Policy of Assurance Witnesseth, That whereas The Middlesex Canal Corporation ******* hath paid the MANUFACTURERS INSURANCE COMPANY, in Boston, Eighty dollars for the assurance of the property hereinafter mentioned from loss and damage by fire:

Now Know all Men by these Presents, That the Capital Stock of the said Corporation shall be subject and liable to make good, and satisfy unto the said Corporation the sum of Eight Thousand dollars on any loss or damage which shall or may happen by fire, originating in any cause, (except public enemies, riots, civil commotion, or military or usurped power)to the following described property - Viz. -
$4000 on their ***** grist mill and granary adjoind. Situate near the properties of the Middlesex Canal Basin in Charlestown *****
$3000 on their new Grist Mill in Billerica now finished
$500 on their new Mill near the grist mill last described
$500 on their ***** adjoining the Saw Mill

{Amount Insured $8000}
{Amount of Premium $80(?)}

Within the term of One Year, commencing at noon on the Eleventh day of March eighteen hundred and thirty five not exceeding, in any case, or under any circumstances whatsoever, the sum of Eight Thousand dollars; such loss to be estimated according to the true and actual value of said at the time the same shall happen.

THIS Policy being made and accepted upon the representation of the said assured, contained in their application therefor, (to which reference is to be had,) it is fully understood, by and between the parties hereto, that if said representation does not contain a full and true exposition of all the facts and circumstances, in relation to the condition, situation, value, and risk of the property hereby insured, so far as the same are material to the risk; or if the situation of the property, or the circumstances affecting the risk, shall be, during the existence of this Policy, altered or changed, by or through the advice, consent, or agency of the assured, so as to increase the risk hereby assumed; or if the said property shall be sold or conveyed in whole or in part; or if this Policy shall be assigned without the consent of this Company; or if any other insurance has been or shall hereafter be made upon said property, or any part thereof, by said assured, or for their use and benefit, without the knowledge and consent of this Company; then, and in every such case, the risk hereby assumed shall cease, and this Policy shall become void.

AND it is provided, that in case of any loss or damage, this Company may, within sixty days after having notice thereof, replace the property lost or damaged with other of the like kind and quality.

AND it is also provided, that in case there should be any other insurance upon said property, made as aforesaid, with the knowledge and consent of this Company, the assured shall be entitled to recover on this Policy no greater proportion of the loss sustained than the sum hereby insured bears to the whole amount insured thereon; and that, whenever this Company shall pay any loss, the assured shall assign and make over to this Company all their right and claim to recover satisfaction therefor, from and against any person or persons, (except other insurers), and shall prosecute therefor, if requested, at the cost and for the use of this Company. And in case of any loss or damage the same shall be paid, without deduction, within sixty days after proof thereof, unless the property be replaced, as herein before provided.

AND this Company agree, that if the assured shall sell the aforesaid property, or any part thereof, before the expiration of this Policy, a proportion of the premium received shall be repaid upon receiving notice of such sale, before a loss happens, reserving, however, three months premium on the sum insured, over and above the amount which would be due at the time of receiving such notice; or the Policy may continue for the benefit of such purchaser, if this Company give their consent thereto, to be evidenced by a certificate of the fact, or by endorsement of this Policy.

N. B. Books of Account, Securities for Money, Evidences of Debt, Money, Jewels, Plate, Medals, Paintings, Sculptures, and Curiosities, are not insured, unless particularly mentioned in the Policy.
>> This Policy may be continued in force after the time herein limited has expired, if the assured pay the premium required, and the consent of this Company is certified.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, The President of this Corporation has subscribed this Policy, and the Secretary thereof has countersigned the same at Boston, this Eleventh day of March in the year eighteen hundred and Thiry Five.

Samuel Hunt (?) SECRETARY     ______ PRESIDENT

(transcribed from original by Robert Winters, March 29, 2009)


The grist mill on the Concord River in North Billerica has been a source of controversy since its earliest days. At the Billerica town meeting of October 4, 1708, the town granted to Christopher Osgood, Jr., of Andover, land on the west side of the Concord River, "provided the said Christopher Osgood do, within two years next ensuing the date hereof, Erect and maintain a good grist mill upon said River at the falls the said land is given & granted to the said Christopher Osgood and his heirs (by the Town of Billerica) so long as he and they shall maintain a good grist mill at said place, and when said mill ceases, the said land shall Return to the said town of Billerica."

Mr. Osgood built and maintained a grist mill. In 1748, Osgood's executive sold the mill privilege to Nicholas Sprake who sold to William Kidder. About the time of the Revolution, the grist mill (as well as a saw mill) were owned by Thomas Richardson, who sold to the Canal Proprietors on March 25, 1794. In 1798, the Proprietors built another set of grist and saw mills on the Concord and for a period all four mills flourished.

In the Middlesex Canal Archives are several letters dealing with the Town's complaints against the Canal Company. And on the opposite page, a copy of an insurance policy on the grist mill.


June 23 the 1826

Mr. Eddy, Esq.    Sir

I have Done the Message to Mr. Wilson from you and he has stopt grinding for the Town and they are Dissatisfied with the proceedings and Lay the Blame to me therefore I wish you to send your orders in Wrighting to Mr. Wilson by the packet when it comes up unless you Do he will Commence grinding ----

From your Humble servant
N. Mears


Mr. Nathan Mears    Sir

I shall be at Billerica in a few days when I shall see you relative to grinding grain. If any damage is sustained by any one who brings grain to the mills in consequence of its being stopped for a few days - you may say to them the amount of Damage shall be paid by the Canal - They may have the meal I have sent up in exchange - or have it at cost in Charlestown without any charge for transportation or if they prefer to send the grain to Charlestown Mills by some boat, I will pay the expense ----

Yours Respectfully
C. Eddy

Boston June 24 1826


Billerica May 24th 1832

The President and Directors
of the Middlesex Canal    Gentlemen

You are doubtless aware that the original grant made by the town of Billerica of the land, mill site and water privileges in said town, now belonging to your Corporation, was upon the condition "that a good grist mill should be there erected and maintained"; and that said land &c should revert to the town whenever there should cease to be such a mill kept up.

Frequent and loud complaints have been made by the Inhabitants that since the mill has come into the hands of your corporation, the condition of the grant has not been complied with. It is alledged that the mill has often been out of repair, and capable of very little useful operation, and so suffered to remain, until the season of its greatest usefulness and necessity, viz. until a dry time, when no other mill in town could run. That on such occasions an unreasonable time has been taken to make the repairs; by which means the inhabitants have been put to great inconvenience, and in a great measure deprived of this accommodation which they had a right to expect. It is also said, that sometimes, and especially of late, there has been no suitable person provided to attend the mill, and that there might as well be no mill, if there be no miller.

You will perceive, Gentlemen, by the inclosed copy, that the town have recently had the subject brought before them, and pursuant to the appointment expressed in the inclosed vote the Committee have proceeded to investigate the subject and we are constrained to say that we are of 'the opinion that the complaints above mentioned are not without foundation. The privilege is, and at the time of the grant undoubtedly was considered of great value, being the only mill site in town upon that stream and that the only stream which would permanently afford sufficient water to keep a mill in operation. The only consideration of the grant was the benefit the Inhabitants supposed they reserved to themselves and their successors, in having an efficient mill always maintained for their accommodation. In this they have certainly failed. At the same time, we are unwilling to believe that the failure to satisfy their just expectations has proceeded from a deliberate plan or determination of the Corporation; we would rather impute it to a want of a correct knowledge of the state of facts; and would the town have reason to expect that measures would be taken to remove just grounds of complaint in future we think the uneasiness and excitement respecting the past would subside.

Should you, Gentlemen, think proper to inform us of your views and determinations upon the subject, we shall be happy to present them to the town in our report. --

You Obd. Serv.t
By order of the Com.ee
Joseph Locke


Billerica Decr. 1st, 1845

Caleb Eddy Esqr

Dear Sir,

You will recollect that Mr. Jonathan Hill & myself called upon you at your home a short time since, as a Committee on the part of the Town with regard to the grist mill at the Canal Mills: in the Committee's report to the Town at the last Novr. meeting you were reported as having made the following remarks: "Mr. Eddy stated to the Committee that when he leased the mill to Messrs Roundy & Wren, that it was fully understood that they were to grind for the inhabitants of Billerica in preference to any other: that he has no intention of depriving the Town of Billerica of this right; but that when the water is low, he has always made it a rule to have the gates to all the other mills shut down: that the present occupants of the grist mill will have to leave after their Lease expires in July next; and he regrets that any difficulty has occurred. But he wished the Committee distinctly to understand that when the water was so low as to ground the Boats in the Canal, that he should then claim the right to the water from the mill; that this right was given in their Charter, and that the Town to be entitled to damage, must have made their claim within twelve months after the Canal went into operation.

Mr. Daniel Wilson your agent at the Canal Mills rose in the meeting and stated that he believed the Committee must have misunderstood you: whereupon the Town instructed their Committee to again call upon you, & Report at the next meeting, which is to be holden on Monday the 8th of Decr. inst. if the above statement is different from what you intended the Committee to understand will you be kind enough to inform them in order that they may report to the Town.

Very Respectfully yours &c
Jno. Eames

At the end of the Canal's operation, the mills and water privilege were sold to the Talbot Brothers on September 22, 1851 for $20,000. These gentlemen built the Talbot Mills and were released, by vote of the town on March 7, 1864, from the obligation to maintain a grist mill contained in the Osgood grant.

WANTED by the Middlesex Canal Commission: a photograph or slide of the Middlesex Canal sign that used to be located on Route 128 and its intersection with Route 38. The Commission wants to borrow a photograph or slide to use as a model for replacement sign. Please call or write Len Harmon, 11 Lowell St., Woburn, telephone 935-3561.