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Middlesex Canal Association    P.O. Box 333    Billerica, Massachusetts 01821
Volume 33, No.2    March, 1995


Saturday, April 29, 2 pm

Meet at Baldwin's Restaurant, 2 Alfred Street, Woburn, MA.

The restaurant was the home of Loammi Baldwin when he was Chief Engineer during the building of the Middlesex Canal. The canal is adjacent to the restaurant. This walk will include a visit to Baldwin Green, the statue of Loammi Baldwin, and the canal boat replica as well as a walk of about three miles along the towpath. Trip leader: Nolan Jones, (603) 672-7051.

Directions: Take Route 38 north from Route 128 at Exit 35. Alfred Street is the right at the first traffic light. Park in the restaurant's lot.


Sunday, May 7, 2pm

Following the brief Annual Meeting of the MCA, Nolan Jones will present an illustrated talk on "Navigating the Narrow Canals of England and Wales." The location of this meeting will be announced at a later date.


We had a great meeting on January 29th in the Congregational Church in Billerica. It was a joint meeting with the Billerica Historical Society and 112 people attended. We enjoyed seeing old glass lantern slides of scenes of the Middlesex Canal.

In conjunction with the completion of his revised guide, Burt Ver Planck and I had compiled the names and addresses of all the 85 neighbors of the Middlesex Canal in Billerica. We sent invitations to them to the January 29th meeting and several attended. Regularly we meet people who live on the canal and don't know it. We would like to get to know our neighbors better.

Delivery of the meeting notice was erratic. The notices were mailed bulk rate at the Woburn (018xx) Sorting Center, as usual, on January 9th. Since I had not received my copy by meeting time I spoke with several people at the meeting. Those who lived in 018 ZIP zones had received their notices the same week they were mailed. Two people from 021 ZIP codes had received theirs promptly. Later two people in 017 ZIP codes phoned me that they did not get the notice until after the meeting. I received my own copy in 03031 ZIP code on February 7th, four weeks and a day after they were mailed. We are looking into the matter.

In the meantime we will try to announce events farther ahead of time. Our Spring Walk will be on Saturday April 29 (announcement in this issue) and the annual meeting will be Sunday, May 7, place not yet arranged. We plan to continue to contact and work with the Historical Societies and Historical Commissions along our route.

We have received three requests for the loan of artifacts to museums. We own two shovels and an oar, although the oar is missing. If you know of any artifacts that might be available for short or long term loan for exhibit, please let us know.

There seems to be some movement in programs that may fund some preservation of the Middlesex Canal. Board member Tom Raphael attended a meeting of the Bicycle Coalition of Massachusetts (BCOM) recently. He submitted selected pages from the Middlesex Canal Heritage Park Feasibility Study as a proposal for a bicycle path.

Nolan Jones

contributed by Burt VerPlanck

The Middlesex Canal bicentennial ground breaking festivities were a great success last September at the Concord River Mill Pond in North Billerica. Our Association and the Billerica Historical Society jointly sponsored the event which was held in conjunction with the town of Billerica's Yankee Doodle Weekend. A general description of the festivities, which included a parade as well as the ground breaking ceremony, was covered in the previous issue of Towpath Topics. Therefore, for this issue we include only the following letters of appreciation sent to the main participants by the chairman of the Bicentennial Committee. We believe these convey the spirit of team work and cooperation which made the efforts of the participants seem so satisfying and the results worthwhile.

September 27, 1994

To: MCA Bicentennial Participants
From: Burt VerPlanck, Chair Bicentennial Committee

I thought our Bicentennial Celebration went off very well in spite of the weather. The success was due to all of our efforts and I wanted to let you know how very much I appreciate what you did.

Those many Committee meetings we had during the spring and summer are behind us now, thank goodness. But lots of good ideas were generated and finally resulted in Saturday's performance. It was too bad the Minutemen had a conflict and could not join us. I would have preferred to have had Dave Dettinger's canal song sung and played by Paul Wiggin again, but having it played from a tape was a satisfactory substitute.

One of the happiest things about putting on the Bicentennial was having Sidney Bowhill involved. It was he who suggested that the Canal Company officials should arrive in a carriage. He also contributed excellent ideas about staging the performance, music, and sound amplification. Sidney procured the equipment for the P.A. system, and taped and played the music. He also made early contact with William Martin re permission to use the Cambridge Tool & Mfg's parking lot and furnished us with police barriers borrowed from the University of Lowell. And vitally important ... it was the generator in Sidney's mobile home that was our only source of electric power for the sound system. Thanks to Sidney for his many valuable contributions!

As usual, Betty Bigwood came through in outstanding fashion. She made the necessary contacts with Velma Emery and Curt Curtwright to have their surrey and horse be our entry in Billerica's Yankee Doodle Parade as well as in our ground breaking reenactment. Betty arranged the procurement of the large banners for the parade. They also served as signs, marking the site of our ground breaking ceremony; and by removing some letters, can be used again for future occasions.

Betty advocated months ago that a sketch of some sort be made to illustrate the floating towpath in order to show people where it went and how it worked. So I asked Tom Dahill, art Professor at Emerson College and the artist who will illustrate Carl Seaburg's book on the Canal. Tom produced, in impressive Van Gogh-like colors, a beautiful 3 x 4 foot acrylic painting, showing a horse on the floating towpath, towing a work boat as it would look from the site of our ground breaking ceremony! It was much admired. Thank you, Tom Dahill, for your talent and great generosity. (A photograph of the painting appears on p. 15.)

Betty did so much on the big day to make things go smoothly. She aided Velma and Curt in getting the horse and carriage to the parade and then to the ground breaking. She helped get our costumed actors back to their cars after the parade. She saw to it that our somewhat damp people at the Mill Pond had doughnuts and coffee. She also had sandwiches. She decorated the "crowd control barriers." And finally after the show was over and nearly everyone had gone, she insisted in staying with Fran VerPlanck until the rental company finally came to recover their folding chairs. Betty's care, conscientiousness and follow-through on details meant a great deal.

Dave Dettinger's big contribution was writing the script for the ground breaking ceremony and then playing the part of Thomas Richardson. He certainly has theatrical talent! Almost as important for me was Dave's taking over and handling the entire work to do with procurement of the 5 costumes for the "actors." He did all the arranging with the costume place, picked them up, distributed them and returned them after the event.

Carolyn Osterberg took over the responsibility of manning our booth or tables and for selling books, maps, posters and notepaper. She managed to get all the items into her little car along with tables and chairs and to engineer the erection of a canopy over the table when it began sprinkling in earnest. At one o'clock her entire operation was moved from outside Billerica High School to the ground breaking site in No. Billerica.

Carl Seaburg spent both morning and afternoon helping Carolyn, for which we are very grateful. Carolyn did something all of us should emulate; she recruited 2 or 3 ladies from our membership list to help her during different periods of the day. For me it was great not having to even think about the sale of books, etc.!

Tom Raphael offered lots of practical advice and ideas at our numerous committee meetings. Also he took over the project of finding out what a shovel of 200 years ago looked like. Then, using a reasonably old shovel of mine, he modified the handle to match that of the original Canal shovel in the archives at Lowell. One of my big regrets is that, as "master of ceremonies," I failed to point out to the audience that the shovel was a replica of what had actually been used in constructing the Canal. Tom made an excellent Loammi Baldwin when he arrived at the site in costume and participated in the ground breaking ceremony.

Horse and carriage
The horse and carriage, with (1. to r.) Tom Raphael as Loammi Baldwin, Wil Hoxie as James Winthrop, and Curt Cartwright as the Carriage Driver.

Packet boat model
The Billerica Historical Society 's packet boat model, with Len Harmon, Honorary Director of the MCA.

Wil Hoxie, as always, was a ready source of Canal information and details useful to the Committee. Wil sketched a to-scale plan of the parking lot/ground breaking site, which was very helpful in planning the ceremony. For educational purposes he made a 2 x 3 foot drawing of a mitre gate which was hung on the fence above the lock remnants in the yard of the Talbot Mill. Wil handled the procurement of 2 portable toilets for the ground breaking occasion. I am grateful to Wil for his contributions and I will always remember seeing him arrive, along with other costumed Canal Company officials, in that picturesque carriage.

I am especially appreciative for all the things that were done by Dave Barber, Bill Gerber, and Roger Hagopian on that busy, rather hectic Saturday. They arrived early. Dave and Bill started by setting up Dave's thirteen star Colonial banner on the peninsula to mark the location of the southerly anchor for the floating towpath. They set up our various signs. Using shovels, they drained rain water from a low spot in the pavement caused by torrential rains the previous day. Later they served as guides to answer any questions and to direct parking of cars, etc. After the show was over, they stayed on to be sure everything was picked up. Thank you, Roger, for providing the capacity of your station wagon to help Fran and me transport many things between Winchester and the Mill Pond.

Fran VerPlanck's contributions should not be forgotten and neither should that of Gerry Bigwood. Both, on successive days, played an important role in spraying the poison ivy. Twenty minutes after Gerry finished on the first day, the heavens opened in a substantial thunderstorm. Fearing the spray had been washed away, Fran with my moral support, returned to the site the following day and sprayed it again, using equipment borrowed from Tom Raphael. Fran also, of course, attended our many Committee meetings serving light refreshments and giving advice and comments. She gave help where it was needed at the site during the "big day," and welcomed people, etc.

Although Nolan Jones and Edith Choate were unable to be there on the 24th, both contributed to the success of the day, Edith by sending out publicity to the newspapers. Nolan attended many Committee meetings and procured white baseball caps with the MCA logo for use in identifying Canal knowledgeable guides at this ground breaking ceremony and on future walks.

Although I worked and worried a great deal, the most satisfying think which I had to do with was seeing the ground breaking site (Cambridge Tool & Mfg's parking lot) cleaned up of weeds, poison ivy, truck loads of brush and tree limbs. It was a frustrating few days, but through the efforts of State Rep. Bill Greene, prisoners from the Billerica House of Correction with tools borrowed from the Town, finally cleared up the bank of the Mill Pond. Our Proprietor Bill Rouseo and teenage boys from his school in Lowell similarly cleaned up the bank of the Canal. So now we can see a lovely view of the pond as well as the little stub end of the Canal.

It was good to see Howard Winkler so soon after his operation, and Jean Potter, too, at the ceremony. Also I felt we were honored to have Louis Eno, Marion Potter and Len Harmon there, too.

Sincerely, Burt

September 28, 1994

Dorathea MacNeill, President
Billerica Historical Society

Dear Bunny:

In spite of the rainy weather, I thought the Middlesex Canal Bicentennial went off very well last Saturday.

On behalf of the Middlesex Canal Association, I wish to thank you and the Billerica Historical Society for joining forces with us and making the Bicentennial a success. I am sure the Canal was introduced to a lot more people than would have been the case had either one of our organizations done it alone.

I appreciate the many things you did: attending all those committee meetings during the spring and summer, enlisting the help of Rep. Bill Greene in cleaning up the ground breaking site at the Mill Pond, coordinating with the Yankee Doodle Committee, making those elegant signs with the help of your computer, and best of all getting the Farmers to make a canal packet boat model.

Your boat model float decorated with lovely flowers and our carriage with costumed Canal Company dignitaries certainly must have brought the bicentennial to the attention of the parade viewers. It is great that the model can be kept in your museum and will be available for educational programs at schools.

Sincerely, Burt VerPlanck

September 28, 1994

Mr. Philip Farmer

Dear Phil:

I want to congratulate you and your son Nick on the excellent 6 ft. long model of a canal packet boat you built for Yankee Doodle Weekend.

In early July when we met in front of Baldwin's Restaurant, I could hardly believe that you could really build such a model in a mere 2 1/2 months, on top of your other obligations. But there she was last Saturday all complete and riding on a trailer in the parade!

I understand from Bunny MacNeill that your model will be on display in the Billerica Museum and that it will be available to schools for educational programs. We in the Middlesex Canal Association are pleased to think that your model is sparking new interest in the Middlesex Canal in Billerica and that it will continue to do so in the future.

Sincerely, Burt VerPlanck


We note with sadness the passing of our beloved Mary Stetson Clarke. She died at home in Scituate, Mass. on November 12, 1994 at the age of 82.

Mary and her husband Edwin were for many years active directors on the Board of the Middlesex Canal Association. She is best known by us and by canal buffs generally as the author of The Old Middlesex Canal, which was published in 1974 and is currently in its second edition. It is a comprehensive history of the Middlesex Canal, complete with illustrations, facsimile documents, extensive bibliography, and a guide for following the route of the Canal.

Mary lived most of her life in Melrose, where she and Edwin raised their family of two daughters and a son. Mary was active in various organizations in Melrose, including the library of which she was a trustee for 21 years, 7 as chairman. The Mary Stetson Clarke Trust has been established there in her memory. Also, she was an active member of the Melrose Conservation Commission, Trinity Church of Melrose, Melrose Historical Society, the local chapter of the American Association of University Women, and the League of Women Voters. She graduated from Boston University in 1933 with a bachelor's degree in English literature and did graduate work at Columbia University. She was elected to the Collegium of Distinguished Alumni of Boston University's College of Liberal Arts.

Mary was 40 when she started writing books. She was the author of several books of historical fiction and nonfiction. Nonfiction books, in addition to The Old Middlesex Canal, included Pioneer Iron Works (still used as a text for guides at the Saugus Iron Works), and an anthology about her ancestors, The Russells in America: 1640-1988. Her historical novels included Petticoat Rebel, Bloomers and Ballots, Limner's Daughter (early years of the Middlesex Canal), Piper to the Clan, The Glass Phoenix, The Iron Peacock, and A Visit to the Iron Works (for children).

Upon moving to Scituate 5 years ago, the Clarkes discovered that their daughter's church in neighboring Norwell is built on land given to the church some 350 years ago by Cornet Robert Stetson, one of Mary's ancestors. She also is descended from Caleb Stetson, minister of this church from 1848 to 1868. So, with her sense of history and considerable quiet pride, Mary joined the First Parish Unitarian Church in Norwell, and it was there that her memorial service was held.

Mary Stetson Clarke was an inspiration to all who knew her. Her memory and the influence of her writing will continue for many more years. But members of our Association and her other friends will miss her warm friendliness, caring, intelligence, wisdom, and gracious charm.

by Alec Ingraham

[The following is copied, with permission, from the Yankee Doodle Times, Vol. III, No. 3, the newsletter of the Billerica Historical Society.]

The Shawsheen Aqueduct, located adjacent to Route 129 at the Billerica-Wilmington town line, is one of the most imposing reminders of the skill and ingenuity employed in the construction of the Middlesex Canal. This structure functioned much the same as any bridge enabling travel over the Shawsheen River, but instead of having a deck of asphalt or cement, the aqueduct's piers supported a wooden trough through which the waters of the Canal passed above the Shawsheen.

The original plans for the Canal called for a 620-foot aqueduct to span the Shawsheen lowlands. The proprietors of the Canal Company, however, modified the design by permitting the construction of 30 to 35-foot embankments extending on each side of the river's channel. This reduced the length of the structure to 188 feet and necessitated the erection of two stone abutments and several central piers upon which rested the wooden trough.

Work was completed on the aqueduct in 1801. The dry wall construction was accomplished without the benefit of mortar. Since the narrowness of the passage above the Shawsheen permitted only a single boat to cross at one time, basins were provided at each end of the aqueduct to allow crafts a place to wait their turn while maintaining a smooth traffic flow.

It appears that the aqueduct may have been rebuilt twice before 1842. Each time the embankments were extended and the span eventually reduced to 40 feet. The wooden trough eventually rested upon two granite block abutments (30 feet in height and 50 feet in length) and a single granite block central pier (6 feet in width, 30 feet in height, and 20 feet in length). All masonry was set without mortar in a rough approximation of an English bond (alternating one row headers with one row stretchers). In addition a 6-inch outcropping channel was cut in each latitudinal face to accommodate the fitting of wooden support braces.

By 1852 the Canal Company had failed and the aqueduct ceased to be useful. Nevertheless, the story does not end here. Although the wooden sections were removed or rotted away, the abutments and central pier endured. Seventy years later the east abutment and central pier were deeded to the Billerica Historical Society in the memory of George B. Whitcomb. This is so noted by the sign at the site.

In 1967 the American Society of Civil Engineers denoted the Middlesex Canal as a National Civil Engineering Landmark and chose the aqueduct as a suitable local to position a brass plaque commemorating this designation. Five years later entire remains of the Canal were placed on the National Register of .Historic Places.

Shawsheen Aqueduct

The remains of the Shawsheen aqueduct as drawn by Peter R. Woodbury of the Billerica Historical Society.

At this time, however, the structure was beginning to display the ravages of time and civilization. Many of the large blocks had been dislodged and were resting in the river bed. During the construction of the sewer main in the vicinity of the aqueduct the Town of Billerica managed to secure a HUD block grant to aid in the work. Part of the funds were designated to rebuild the aqueduct and that portion of the grant was administered by the Billerica Historical Commission. In 1978, E. C. Blanchard Company of Lynn completed the task of lifting the stones from the river below and positioning them as accurately as possible in an effort to duplicate the original design.

The sewer easement skirted the west abutment and a coordination of the two efforts was needed to insure the integrity of the structure. With the cooperation of Mary Burns Lucia, whose property abutted the easement, stairs, a fence, and an inscribed boulder were erected on the west bank.

This year the Billerica Historical Society is featuring the aqueduct and millpond on its annual Christmas ornament, in dedication to the efforts of all those involved in the construction and preservation of the Middlesex Canal. The sale of each ornament not only will provide the purchaser with a treasured memento but also will assist the Billerica Historical Society's efforts to preserve the Town's rich history for the appreciation of future generations.


Clarke, Mary Stetson; The Old Middlesex Canal; Melrose, Mass. The Hilltop Press, 1974.

Merrimack Valley Textile Museum and Historic American Engineering Record; The Lower Merrimack River Valley: An Inventory of Historic Engineering Sites; Edited by Peter M. Molly; Washington, D.C., United States Department of the Interior, 1976.

Roberts, Christopher; The Middlesex Canal. 1793-1860; Vol LXI of the Harvard Economic Studies; Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1938.

Town of Billerica; Historical Commission Records, 1977-1978.


T-shirts and baseball hats with a Middlesex Canal design are now available for sale. Light blue T-shirts in Medium, Large, and Extra Large sizes are $10. White "baseball" hats are $5 and are size-adjustable. Please add $1.50 for mailing each item. Make checks payable to the Middlesex Canal Association. Order shirts and hats from Nolan Jones, 16 Courthouse Road, Amherst, NH 03031.

Other things for sale:

      Middlesex Canal notes and envelopes $3.00 + $1.00
  Bicentennial Posters $10.00 + $2.50
  "The Old Middlesex Canal" book by Clarke      $9.95 + $1.50

Order these from Burt Ver Planck, 37 Calumet Road, Winchester, MA 01890


Two views of the Old Middlesex Canal are depicted on a special limited edition Christmas ornament produced by the Billerica Historical Society.

One side is a picture of a canal boat being towed from the floating towpath at North Billerica with the mill village in the background. The scene was originally painted by J. Warren Barton in 1825 and is now owned by the Society.

The other scene shows the Shawsheen River aqueduct as it appears today - a view taken from the downstream side. This towering stone pier and its surrounding structures, designated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as a National Civil Engineering Landmark in 1967, is located at the Billerica-Wilmington town line on Route 129, Salem Road.

The ornament was designed by the Billerica Historical Society as one of a series of historic Billerica scenes. It is the 12th in the set.

Ornaments can be obtained by contacting the Billerica Historical Society, Box 381, Billerica, MA 01821, or call Mary Pasho at (508) 667-9792.

SOME COMMENTS ON Mr. Fulton's Communication
[See Towpath Topics, Vol.33, No. 1 (the previous issue)]
contributed by Howard B. Winkler

After reading the Communication from Robert Fulton, I have tried to understand his logic and to reproduce his performance figures.

First, I was struck by the tension between spending of government moneys on civilian and military endeavors. One hundred and eighty-eight years later our nation has yet to resolve this conflict. See page 11, previous issue, paragraph near top of page that begins: I hope....

Fulton calculates the cost advantage of canals as compared to roads. He postulated the construction costs of a hypothetical canal from Columbia, Pennsylvania on the Susquehanna River to Philadelphia that is about 74 miles due west. A canal length of 100 miles was assumed to allow for the expected inability to follow a direct route. He estimated canal construction at $15,000 per mile, so the total construction cost would be $1.5 million.

The operating and maintenance costs for the canal and boats according to Fulton is $1.00 per ton. He estimates that the cost of operation and maintenance for canal operation is $5 per day, see table in previous issue, and that one horse and a two-person boat crew can transport 25 tons a distance of 20 miles in one day. At 20 miles a day it would take a canal boat laden with 25 tons, five days to cover the 100 miles between Columbia and Philadelphia. Transporting 25 tons at a cost of $25 gives a per unit cost of $1 per ton.

It is to be noted that the labor costs shown in the table do not seem to include any fringe benefits such as medical insurance, retirement, life insurance, social security, etc. In that age, Americans had no choice but to live sick and die young.

The cost of the wagons plus horses is $10 per ton. The horse and wagon charge or to use Fulton's term, the cost of carriage is $1 per barrel. Each barrel weighs 200 pounds. Using a conversion factor of 2,000 pounds per ton results in a per unit cost of $10 per ton as stated by Fulton. He does not report on the length of time to transport the goods. The wagons would have to travel a little less than 15 miles a day to cover the distance from Columbia to Philadelphia in five days.

Fulton states that a wagon could carry 30 barrels and at 200 pounds each the total load would be 6,000 pounds or three tons. The turnpike charges $3 per wagon so the cost of the wagon and horses has a per unit cost of $1 per ton. It is assumed that this charge includes amortization of construction costs as well as operations and maintenance costs. So the total cost for road transportation is $11 per ton (= 10 + 1).

Fulton sets the canal toll at $6 per ton to pay for construction costs and also have a cost advantage over the road. (I suspect he had already generated the set of numbers and knew that $6 per ton would meet the cost advantage requirement.) The cost to move goods on the canal would be $7 per ton, $6 for the construction costs and $1 for the operating costs. Merchandise could then move between Columbia and Philadelphia for $3 per ton less (= 10 - 7) on the canal than on the road, according to Fulton. (I believe that Fulton forgot to add in the $1 per ton for the cost of the wagon and horses. If this is correct, then merchandise would move for $4 per ton less (= 11 - 7).)

Road construction costs from Columbia to Philadelphia are $444,000 based on a distance of 74 miles and construction costs of $6,000 per mile. Fulton indicated that the road gained five percent per annum from its investment or $22,200 (= 444,000 * .05).

For the road to earn this amount at $1 per ton, then 2,200 tons would have to be carried every year according to Fulton. If the same tonnage is moved along the canal, then the canal would earn $133,200 (= 6 * 22,200).

This revenue would result in a gain of 8.88 percent (= [133,200 / 1,500,000] * 100) for the canal owners. Fulton indicated that the gain is only 8.5 percent, see p.13. He does not address the amortization of the construction costs. It can be shown that if the investors were content with an 8.5 percent gain, and if the canal earned 8.88 percent, then the debt could be retired in 39 years.

In summary, then investors in canals could realize an 8.5 percent return on their investment as compared with only five percent for investors in roads.

Fulton also provided some figures on the comparative load that can be pulled by horses over roads and along canals. The total number of horses needed to pull the load along a road is

no. of horses = tons * (wagon / ton) * (horses / wagon)
= 25  *   (1 / 3)   *   n

Fulton indicates that four or five horses per wagon are needed. If four horses are used, i.e., n = 4, then the above expression shows that a total of 33.3 horses would be needed to move 25 tons, see Case 4 in the table that follows. If five horses are used, then a total of 41.7 horses would be needed, see Case 6. Fulton arrived at 40 horses which is Case 5, see p.13. This is not a satisfactory answer because it results in 8.33 wagons and 4.8 horses per wagon to pull 25 tons. Eight wagons could be used with four or five horses each, but this would only allow for the transport of only 24 tons, see Cases 1 and 2. If nine wagons are used with four of five horses each this would allow for delivery of 27 tons which is too large a load as shown in Cases 7 an 8. It is possible to obtain whole numbers of horses and wagons and meet the load requirement of 25 tons, if the load per wagon is increased one-eighth ton or by one and one-quarter barrels, see Case 3. For Case 3, the horses per ton is 1.6 and this is equal to the horses per ton for Fulton's finding, see Case 5. Overloading cargo vehicles is nothing new. It is to be expected that the wagons in Fulton's age were overloaded as trucks are today. The economic advantage, resulting from overloaded trucks today, is probably just a continuance of old business practices.

Case No.   No. of Wagons   Horses per Wagon   Horses per Ton   Total No. Horses   Tons per Wagon   Tons

1 8 4 1.33 32 3 24
2 8 5 1.67 40 3 24
3 8 5 1.6 40 3.125 25
4 8.33 4 1.33 33.33 3 25
5 8.33 4.8 1.6 40 3 25
6 8.33 5 1.67 41.67 3 25
7 9 4 1.33 36 3 27
8 9 5 1.67 45 3 27

In summary, to move 25 tons along a canal would require one boat and one horse, and to move the same cargo along a road would require eight wagons drawn by five horses each.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Floating Towpath - painting by Tom Dahill

Painting depicting the floating towpath on the Concord River Millpond at North Billerica, by Tom Dahill (see article on p. 3 ff.)

by Roger K. Hagopian

As usual, the weather cooperated with us as the Middlesex Canal Association covered the Billerica, Chelmsford, and Lowell sections of the waterway with Bill Gerber and Roger Hagopian as guides. A crowd of about 60 to 80 people gathered at the parking lot across the street from the old Faulkner and Talbot Mills. Here they viewed the iron anchor rings attached to a granite stone which held the floating towpath bridge in place, enabling horses to pull barges across the Concord River millpond.

The group then crossed the street to the millyard, where the guard lock remains were examined by many of us who crawled right down to the lock. Walking along Faulkner Street to Lowell Street, we directed some people through the brush to see the site of the Red Lock, which connected the Canal with the Concord River. The stone wall of the turning basin was clearly visible there.

Along Lowell Street, the remains of a culvert were visible, which allowed us the opportunity to explain the significance and necessity of culverts of which there were eighteen, according to the Hoxie Map of the Middlesex Canal (see your small Middlesex Canal brochure). Like a mini aqueduct, a culvert enabled the Canal to traverse a small brook or stream.

As the group continued on towards the Chelmsford line, we entered a stretch of Canal passing through swamp land, shaded by tall pines. Heading towards Riverneck Road, we found ourselves in the midst of one of the larger wildlife habitats along the Canal, pleasing to nature lovers as well as historians.

The second phase of the walk proceeded via caravan to the terminus of the Canal at Lowell (originally Chelmsford), where we examined the railroad culvert through which our canal still manages to trickle down to the Merrimac River.

Bill Gerber then took a smaller group to the Canal monument at Hadley Field and to the Mt. Pleasant Golf Club, where the watered, landscaped Canal leads south into the Great Swamp.

As always, our walk included seasoned members and inquisitive guests, bringing with them a spirit of camaraderie in keeping the Middlesex Canal a viable piece of American history.


The winter meeting of the Middlesex Canal Association was held with the Billerica Historical Society on Sunday, January 29, 1995, at the First Congregational Church in Billerica. Well over 100 people attended, and the mixing of the two societies provided a lot of interest for those who were there.

The speaker was Fred Lawson, one of the original incorporators of the Middlesex Canal Association, which actually started as a committee of the Billerica Historical Society back in 1961. Fred, dressed suitably for the last century, brought along his "magic lantern" to show large format glass lantern slides of photographs, maps, and paintings made of the Middlesex Canal during the 1920's and 1930's. Starting with the Canal extension now marked by Canal Street in Boston, Fred mixed the maps and pictures to take the audience all the way to Lowell and up into New Hampshire. We were all struck by how much was still left in the early 20th century, how much more has now disappeared, and what a wonderful record these glass lantern slides provide today.

Following the formal presentation, the members of the two societies and their guests enjoyed a protracted refreshment hour discussing Fred's presentation and the programs of both.


As all readers can easily see, we had a large number of contributions for this issue of Towpath Topics. This makes your editor's job much easier!

Please feel free to submit articles or notes of interest to our readers to the editor, Martha L. Hazen, 15 Chilton Street, Belmont, MA 02178, telephone: (617) 484-3634. Articles can be submitted in hard copy, by e-mail (in ASCII format) to "", or on either size floppy disc in ASCII or WordPerfect (up to version 5.2) format.

And many thanks to all the contributors to this issue!


These are canal-related events being sponsored by us and by the other canal organizations who send us newsletters. For further information please contact the listed person or Nolan Jones, (603) 672-7051.

March 11 -- Blackstone Canal Conservancy Meeting, "The Middlesex Canal", by Nolan Jones, 1pm, Blackstone Electric Co., Rt. 116 at Rt. 146 in Lincoln, RI.

March 16 -- Spring Lecture Series, "Canal Inclined Planes Around the World by Bill Moss, 8 pm, HMHPM at Lafayette College, Easton, PA, (610) 250-6700.

April 20 -- Spring Lecture Series, "Carrying Coal to Honesdale--the Delaware and Hudson Canal Gravity Railroad", by John Buberniak, 8 pm, HMHPM at Lafayette College, Easton, PA, (610) 250-6700.

April 29 -- Middlesex Canal Association (MCA) Spring Walk, 2 pm, Baldwin's Restaurant, northeast corner of Route 128, Exit 35 (Route 38), Woburn. Leader, Nolan Jones (603) 672-7051.

April 29 -- Pennsylvania Canal Society Spring Field Trip, Upper Division of the Lehigh Canal, PA. Contact: Albright Zimmerman, 1361 River Road, Yardley, PA 19067.

April 29-30 -- Worcester, MA, Canal Gala.

April 29-30 -- Virginia Canals & Navigation Society Annual Meeting, Eagle Rock, VA, a 10-mile batteau voyage to canal sites. Contact: Nancy Dunnavant (804) 748-6764.

May 5-7 -- Canal Society of New Jersey Field Trip, Chenango & Erie Canals, Utica to Syracuse, NY. (Trip full)

May 7 -- MCA Annual Meeting, "Navigating the Narrow Canals of England and Wales", by Nolan Jones, 2 pm, location to be announced.

May 20 -- Canal Society of New York State Spring Field Trip, Erie Canal west of Rochester, NY. Contact: Anita Cottrell, Route 2, 7206 Jamesville Rd, Manlius, NY 13104.

June 3 -- Canal Fest, Riverbend Farm, Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park, Uxbridge, MA.

June 16-24 -- James River Batteau Festival, Lynchburg to Richmond, VA. Contact: Sue Pechman (804) 947-6105.

August 1-3 -- Cruise #1 Roundtrip on the Erie Canal, Syracuse to Buffalo, D&H Canal Historical Society, PO Box 23, High Falls, NY 12440-0023. $449.

August 18-20 -- Summer Cruise on the Emita II, Erie Canal--Syracuse to Buffalo, Canal Society of New Jersey. (Trip full)

September 25-27 -- Fall Cruise on the Emita II, Erie Canal--Syracuse to Buffalo, Canal Society of New Jersey. Contact: Linda House, 214 No. Bridge St, Somerville, NJ 08876, $449.

Oct 2-6 -- International Historic Canals Conference & First Annual Southern Canals Conference, Augusta, GA. Contact: Augusta Canal Authority (706) 733-2635.

October 7-9 -- Cruise #2 Roundtrip on Champlain Canal, Troy to Whitehall, D&H Canal Historical Society, PO Box 23, High Falls, NY 12440-0023. $449.

June 27-30, 1996 -- World Canal Conference, Birmingham, UK.1


We send "Towpath Topics" to several other canal societies and they send their newsletters to us. The names of the newsletters, the names of the society, contacts where known, and the membership dues are listed below for the information of our members.

"American Canals", Bulletin of the American Canal Society, Charles W. Den, Secretary/Treasurer, 117 Main Street, Freemansburg, PA 18017. Membership $15.

"Canal Currents", The Journal of the Pennsylvania Canal Society, Charles W. Den, Secretary, 117 Main Street, Freemansburg, PA 18017. Membership $15.

"Along the Towpath", C&O Canal Association, Information Officer, Helen Shaw, 8721 Burning Tree Road, Bethesda, MD 20817 (301) 365-1933. Member-ship ?

"Bottoming Out", The Canal Society of New York State, 311 Montgomery Street, Syracuse, NY 13202. Membership $10.

"Towpaths", The Canal Society of Ohio, 550 Copley Road, Akron, OH 44320. Also, Canal Society of Ohio Newsletter, Scott Bieszczad, Editor, 987 Mulberry Street, Perrysburg, OH 43551. Membership ?

"The Locktender", Hugh Moore Historical Park and Museums, Inc., PO Box 877, Easton, PA 18044-0877. Eight levels of membership -- Mule Driver $20.

"The Prism", the Newsletter of the Blackstone Canal Conservancy, One Depot Square, Woonsocket, RI 02895. Membership $10.

"D & H Canal News", Delaware and Hudson Canal Historical Society, PO Box 23, High Falls, NY 12440-0023, (914)687-9311. Membership $20.

"On The Level", News from the Canal Society of New Jersey, PO Box 737, Morristown, NJ 07963-0737, (908)722-9556. Membership $10.

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