Middlesex Canal Association    P.O. Box 333    Billerica, Massachusetts 01821
Volume 25, No. 2    March, 1987


DATE: Sunday, May 3, 1987 at 2:00 pm.

LOCATION: Crawford Memorial United Methodist Church, Winchester. On Church Street, 0.3 mile West of the railroad overpass at the town center. Approaching from Route 3 (Cambridge Street), turn East onto Church Street and travel 0.7 mile to the church on the left hand side of the street.

PROGRAM: Following a short business meeting, including the election of officers and directors, there will be a talk and movie on the Morris Canal in New Jersey.

The Morris Canal was one of the most ambitious ventures of America's canal building epoch. Built to carry coal and iron from Pennsylvania to the New York markets, its unusual features included 23 inclined planes, up which canal boats could be hauled on rollers by power from water turbines. Along with 23 locks, these planes accomplished a total lift of 914 feet from the Hudson River to the summit and down to the Delaware River. At its peak of activity in 1866 the canal carried nearly 900,000 tons of material.

Our May meeting will include a movie 40 minutes in length, entitled "Famous Tiller Sharks", produced for New Jersey Public Television. The film recreates the history of this remarkable canal system and traces its route from Easton, Pennsylvania to Jersey City. We are doubly fortunate that the film will be shown and discussed by Lance Metz, a historian and staff member of the Hugh Moore Historical Park and Museums of Easton. Lance visited our association in 1985, and we were impressed with his extensive knowledge of canals throughout the East. Some of us also recall his commentaries during tours of the Erie, Black River, and Rideau canals, sponsored by the Canal Society of New Jersey.


As my presidential tenure draws to a close, I would like to thank all those who aided me in my endeavors.

I am particularly grateful to the Board of Directors for their unselfish, professional guidance, and worthwhile knowledge.

I look to the future with eager anticipation in the interesting activities of the Middlesex Canal Association.

Paul P. Pearsall


A new and revised edition of Mary Stetson Clarke's book, "The Old Middlesex Canal" will be published within the next several months by the Canal Museum in Easton, Pennsylvania. The price will be $9.95 plus postage for the soft cover version, and about $20.00 hard cover.

For those who are not acquainted with this book, we reprint the following review which originally appeared in our September, 1974 issue of Towpath Topics. The review was written by the late Arnold H. Barben who was long a member of our Association and had been president of the New York State Canal Society.

Too many canal histories confine themselves to dry correct facts. They are adequate for the record and are accepted as such by the ever growing number of "dyed in the wool" canal buffs.

"The Old Middlesex Canal" by Mary Stetson Clarke not only gives an accurate historical account, but transports one back to the days of that canal. The reader becomes a contemporary of Loammi Baldwin, the Sullivans, and all those who dreamed, built, operated and rode upon this fine waterway.

She has been more fortunate than most authors in that she has available, through the Middlesex Canal Association, the nearly complete records and correspondence of the Canal Company. These had been protected all these years by the Massachusetts State authorities from the inroads of file house-cleaners and other historical-data vandals.

The background of the Canal Officers and the Board of Directors is developed in just enough detail. One gets to know the group that poured so much of their finances and themselves into the realization of the canal in which they believed so fully.

The details of planning, building and operations are explained with an understanding of hydraulics that portray the author's knowledge of canal engineering.

The appendices contain a wealth of information and are in themselves an interesting study. They include: Wm. Weston's 1794 Report; Gallatin's 1808 Report; excerpts from Charles Francis Adams' study of the canal in 1829, and the author's updated "Guide to the Middlesex Canal" for current field trips with locations in reference to today's highway route numbers.

The book is completely referenced to original sources. It has a good bibliography and a very complete index. For the serious student of this canal, nothing has been omitted.

Many fine illustrations, reproductions of original maps and company notices are contributions to the completeness of this account.

Added to the wealth of research material, Mrs. Clarke's considerable experience in writing historical books and her penchant for meaningful, careful research create a solid readable, interesting story that is hard to beat.

If you want to live in the era of the old Middlesex, be a part of the building team with Loammi Baldwin and his men, experience first hand the matters of every day maintenance, worry about the finance and operational problems, and even ride the canal with Edward Everett Hale, David Thoreau, and Noah Webster, you will find that "You Are There", when you read this excellent, all inclusive account of "The Old Middlesex".

Advance orders for the revised edition of "The Old Middlesex Canal" may now be placed. Send your order to W.K. VerPlanck, 37 Calumet Road, Winchester, MA 01890. As soon as the book is published and ready for sale, you will be notified and you may forward a check at that time.


Director Thomas Proctor has generously offered to give the Middlesex Canal Association for publication his paper on the Middlesex Canal. This interesting and scholarly work, complete with detailed bibliography, was originally written four years ago as a university Master's Thesis. After it has been reviewed by the Board of Directors, a decision will be made regarding printing and distribution.

On January 7, Joseph V. Kopycinski died unexpectedly. Joe was our friend, long time active member, Proprietor, Vice President, Director, editor of Towpath Topics, and historian of the Middlesex Canal Association.

Joe was born in Lowell and was graduated from Lowell High School. During World War II he served with the 94th Infantry Division in Europe. He earned B. S. and M. S. degrees in textile chemistry from Lowell Textile Institute, and later a master's degree in library science from Simmons College.

At the time of his death, he was Director of Lydon Library at the University of Lowell and was a member of the Chelmsford Historical Commission and the Middlesex Canal Commission.

Joe took a special interest in the history of the Middlesex Canal and took care of our archives in the special collections at Lydon Library. It was important to Joe that the membership knew about the Canal and he would always take the time to show interesting documents from the files. Joe was making plans to have the special collections moved to the Patrick Mogan Cultural Center which is under construction.

Joe is survived by his wife Catherine and his two sisters.

We will miss him.

A Joseph V. Kopycinski Memorial Fund has been established at the University of Lowell for the benefit of the Special Collections at Lydon Library. The Middlesex Canal Association has made a contribution to the fund. Individuals wishing to contribute may send their donations to Dr. B. Franckowiak, O'Leary Library, University of Lowell, Lowell, MA 01854.


Eagle Scout Christopher Sullivan of Wilmington was honored at the fall meeting of the Middlesex Canal Association, with a plaque thanking him for his contribution to the preservation of the canal. During August 1986, Christopher organized 18 of his fellow Scouts and friends to clean up a section of the canal near Route 129. The Scouts removed trash and planted trees. The Association wishes again to thank Scouts Sullivan and friends for their efforts.


As indicated in the last issue of Towpath Topics, despite signs and obstructions, motorbike riders have been trespassing on our Weber land in Wilmington. We are disturbed by the erosion to the towpath which the bikes have caused, and are hoping to organize a work party from our membership to repair at least the worst eroded areas. Those interested in helping can choose a date for the Work Day at the Annual Meeting. Please volunteer!


Good progress is reported by the Middlesex Canal Commission on its project to furnish signs to be located along the route of the canal. Locations for the stone supporting monuments have been selected in each of the nine communities. Proofs of the plaque designs were received from the supplier for approval in mid-February. The completed plaques should be delivered and ready for installation in the Spring.


Owing to the sudden death of our Director Joe Kopycinski, and his key roll in the program, it was necessary to cancel the winter meeting this year.


Following is a report by James Sullivan and Loammi Baldwin on the operation and finances of the Middlesex Canal Corporation for the year 1805. It is from the Middlesex Canal Association's Archives at the Lydon Library at the University of Lowell.

Page 1

Page 2