Middlesex Canal Association
P.O. Box 333, Billerica MA 01821

Volume 37 No. 2
March 1999

THE BUNKER HILL MUSEUM contributed by Kathryn Downing
VOICES FROM THE PAST contributed by Thomas Raphael
THE BALDWIN FAMILY by Thomas Raphael
1998 FALL BUS TOUR AND WALK by Roger Hagopian

Sunday, April 25, 2:00 pm
at the Wilmington Arts Center
219 Middlesex Ave. (Rte. 62), Wilmington

     The Middlesex Canal Association will hold its Annual Meeting, which will begin with a brief business meeting chaired by President Nolan Jones.  At this time, officers for the year 1999-2000 will be elected.  Also, one topic for discussion and possible vote is a proposed moderate increase in dues to keep up with our growing responsibilities.

PROGRAM: Following  the business meeting, there will be a special program on the planning and design of the proposed Middlesex Canal Park at the Concord Mill Pond. The program will explain the latest plan and the various options being considered. The presenters will be Architects John Ryther and Beatrice Bernier of ICON, both of whom have been involved in the planning and design.  They will show large sized plans and designs as they explain the various concepts.  Chairman of the Middlesex Canal Commission Tom Raphael will explain how the Park fits in with the overall plans for the Canal. [See Tom Raphael's article elsewhere in this issue.] Light refreshments will be served after the program.

DIRECTIONS: The Wilmington Arts Center is on Rte. 62, one mile east of the junction of Rtes. 38 & 62.  It is directly across from the Congregational Church, a large white building with a tall spire.  From Rte. 128 (195), take exit 35. Go north on Rte. 38 towards Wilmington for 3.6 mi. to Rte. 62.  Turn right and go I mi.  The Arts Center is on your right.  From Rte. 193, take exit 40 to Rte. 62.  Go 1.3 mi. west on Rte. 62 to the Arts Center, which is on your left.

Saturday, May 1, 2pm

     Our Spring Walk will cover the route of the Middlesex Canal through Medford and Winchester.  We will meet at the Sandy Beach parking lot at the Upper Mystic Lake on the Mystic Valley Parkway in Winchester.  Our walkers and some vehicles will be shuttled down to the Boston Avenue crossing of the Mystic River, where we will begin our tour.

     Some sites along the way will include the stone remains around the aqueduct site there, the Canal Inn and tavern on Canal Street, and stone walls of the old Brooks Estate through which the Canal once passed.  The walk will then follow the first visible remains of canal bed and towpath north of Boston, ending at the basin and aqueduct just beyond our parking area.

contributed by Kathryn Downing

     On February 25, an appreciative gathering of the Charlestown Historical Society met at Bunker Hill Community College to watch Roger Hagopian's video A Journey Along the Middlesex Canal projected on a large screen.  After the video, Thomas Raphael, President of the Middlesex Canal Commission graciously answered questions.  It was pointed out that Bunker Hill Community College was a particularly appropriate site in which to have a presentation on the Middlesex Canal, since the college occupies what was once part of the Mill Pond and Lock No. 1 lies buried beneath the college's grounds.

     As the 200th anniversary of the completion of the Middlesex Canal in Charlestown in 1803 approaches, interest in the Canal is arising anew in Charlestown. The Bunker Hill Museum, operated on a seasonal basis by the Charlestown Historical Society, is in a period of renewal, with the assistance of the National Park Service and the City of Boston.  The Irish History Committee of the Charlestown Historical Society is now hard at work mounting a display about the Irish in Charlestown; James Sullivan, first President of the Canal as well as Governor and Attorney General of Massachusetts, will play a prominent part in this display.

     If you would like to learn more about the Charlestown Historical Society and the Bunker Hill Museum, or if you have ideas about how we can properly celebrate the upcoming bicentennial of the Canal's completion in Charlestown in the year 2003, please contact Kathryn Downing at the Middlesex Canal Association.


     The Middlesex Canal Commission's project for the proposed design of a park and museum at the North Billerica Mill Pond is proceeding apace.  We expect to have a report on that at our Annual Meeting in April [see announcement on the first page of this issue].

     Our project to expand the entry in the National Register of Historic Places is also proceeding with the Public Archaeology Laboratory, Inc., from Pawtucket, RI. Roger Hagopian, Bruce McHenry and I have spent several days with them, driving/walking the Canal route and gathering town assessors' maps.  The Phase II meeting with PAL will be in early March.  The project is to be completed by June 30, 1999.

     There is more going on now to preserve the remnants of the Canal than at any time since the Middlesex Canal Company was dissolved in 1859.  These activities require money.  In the early days (1794-1824) the Middlesex Canal Company regularly dunned the stockholders for additional funds.  A few months ago our Board decided that we should solicit contributions from our members, the first time in the history of the Middlesex Canal Association.  So you can expect a request for a contribution in the mail in the next few weeks.  A very generous grant from the estate of one of our long time members in Chelmsford allowed us to start the project with PAL.

     We lost one of our authors and a board member, Carl Seaburg, about Christmas time.  His Memorial Service will be at the First and Second Church, Unitarian, at Berkeley and Marlborough Streets in Boston on April 10 at 2pm.  Carl was co-author of the recent book The Incredible Ditch, published by the Medford Historical Society and available from us.

     Our next outside invitation was from the Charlestown Historical Society and Bunker Hill Museum on February 25, 1999.  Roger Hagopian and Tom Raphael represented us.  They showed Roger's video A Journey along the Middlesex Canal on a wide screen TV in the Bunker Hill Community College auditorium, which happens to be very near the southern terminus of the original Middlesex Canal.

1999 February 21
Nolan T. Jones, President


     The contractor, ICON INC., for the Phase I Concord River Millpond/Canal project has reached the preliminary design review stage and is scheduled to complete the design by May 1999.  An estimate of the cost for the acquisition and construction is expected in time to apply for the funds in the 1999 TEA-21 (successor to ISTEA) Transportation Enhancement cycle.

     The GIS (computer) mapping of the canal route, which will help us to verify the exact location of the canal relative to today's owners and abutters, was available in November 1998.  This mapping is essential for establishing ownership for purposes of easements, rights-of-way, options to purchase and acquisition of properties before actual restoration or construction can proceed.

     This mapping is also essential for the concurrent project of the Association to register the remaining portions of the canal (non-visible and built-over) in the National Register of Historic Places.  The contractor, Public Archaeology Laboratory, is also compiling a complete bibliography and resource of original records, publications, articles, photographs and maps, which will be cross-indexed and placed on computer discs.

     Information is being collected from all the Historical Societies and Commissions in the nine cities and towns through which the canal passed, as well as from all individuals we can reach through the Commission and Association. If you have or know of anyone who has information relative to the canal, please contact either:

Nolan T. Jones, President, c/o Middlesex Canal Association
Thomas Raphael, c/o Middlesex Canal Commission

by Bruce McHenry

     PAL, Public Archaeology Laboratory, our contractor, has been busy gathering data for the Survey of the Middlesex Canal.  Matthew A. Kierstead has been the lead on the project.  Phase I has been completed; this included a report of the orientation meeting with the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC), the established scope of work, a "windshield survey" of the Canal conducted by Nolan Jones and Roger Hagopian, and a preliminary bibliography containing 47 entries plus 9 map atlases.

     On March 4 we will review the work of Phase II.  This will include a list of areas and properties to be surveyed, an outline of a narrative history, and representative draft inventory forms.  Many of the members of the MCA Board of Directors have been helping out getting the assessors' maps of the 9 cities and towns that the Canal ran through.  We have made some interesting discoveries with the help of Matt.

     Phase III is where the intensive research of the selected properties begins. This will involve a lot of field work on the part of Matt and the others at PAL.  This work will lead to a comprehensive list of surveyed properties, a draft narrative history of the Canal and a draft list of all areas and properties along the Canal recommended for National Register nomination.

     Phase IV is the final stage where all the survey forms, maps, photos, and other documentation is put into final form suitable for use in our National Register nomination.  We are pleased with the work so far. We will report on our progress in this vital Project in future issues of Towpath Topics.

by Betty Bigwood

     Cranberry Estates, a subdivision trust owned by Bresnahan, Callahan and Tighe, donated to the Middlesex Canal Association 20,529 square feet of land off Wedgewood Road in the Town of Wilmington.  Payment of back taxes, a sum of $841.31, by the MCA was part of the agreement.  An additional $296.89 was paid for title examination, recording fees and certificates.  This is a landlocked piece of property with no development potential, but it contains a good section of canal.  Its assessed value is $5700.

     David Allan Fitch, an attorney from Billerica and a past President of the MCA, donated his time and expertise to bring about all the legal work necessary for the title transfer.  What starts out as a simple procedure frequently, as did this, ends up taking far more time and energy than one anticipates.  Our Association is indeed most fortunate to have David to help us.

     This represents the second land donation in Wilmington.  The first sections of canal were given a number of years ago by Stanley Webber and Julia Fielding.  This property contains beautiful stretches of canal, and we are most grateful.

     Donation of land has merit both to reduce the owner's tax base and as a charitable tax deduction.  We hope there will be additional people of generous spirit who will make gifts of land containing sections of the Middlesex Canal, parts of which are already on the National Register of Historic Places.


by Alan Seaburg

     CARL GERRARD SEABURG, a director of the Middlesex Canal Association and one of the authors of the recently published Bicentennial history of the Middlesex Canal, The Incredible Ditch, died on December 16, 1998, in Raleigh, North Carolina, while visiting family.  A Service of Remembrance will be held at the First and Second Church of Boston on Saturday, April 10, at 2 pm.

     Carl was born in Medford on October 18, 1922, was educated in its public schools, and then went to Tufts University, were he earned an A.B. and a B.D. in 1945.  Ordained into the Unitarian Universalist ministry that same year, he served churches in New England and then, from 1971 until his retirement in 1985, worked for the Unitarian Universalist Association in Boston as its Director of Information and Archivist.  In 1991 he was awarded an honorary D.D. by the Meadville/Lombard Theological School in Chicago; at his death a scholarship in his name to help students study for the ministry was established at the school by his family and friends.

     Chief among his avocations was that of writing and he wrote hymns, poetry, historical studies, biographies, and also edited several widely used religious anthologies.  During his life he published 15 books and, at the time of his death, was working on several additional projects.

     His historical publications included, beside the Canal volume, a popular history of Boston entitled Boston Observed, two biographies of nineteenth century Boston business leaders, Thomas Handasyd Perkins and Frederic Tudor, which he co-authored with Stanley Paterson (their friendship started in the second grade) entitled Merchant Prince of Boston and The Ice King; and the histories of Medford and Nahant, Medford on the Mystic and Nahant of the Rocks, the first with his brother and the second with his friend Stanley.

     Carl was a life member of several organizations, including the Medford Historical Society, the Bostonian Society, the Kilvert Society, and the Massachusetts Historical Society, he was also a Proprietor of the Boston Athenaeum and a supporter of many environmental and educational causes.  While he never married, he was beloved by three generations of family members and a host of friends and colleagues.

by Alan Seaburg

     Last autumn while I was in Bloomsbury for several weeks, I discovered on the wall of my bedsit but one print, a reproduction of John Constable's "Flatford Mill" which he had worked on in 1816-17. That mill was once situated on the lower stretch of the River Stour in the green English countryside of Flatford in Suffolk, or, as this area came to be called by those who have admired the artist's many drawings and paintings of it, "Constable Country." The painting depicts two canal boats, one of which with a couple of men in it has just navigated the lock by the mill, while the other is being poled by a man to the towpath.  There wait two lads, one on a horse that has been pulling the boat and the other kneeling by the bank with the rope that connects the boat to the horse.  I thought:  the Stour in its own way is but another "incredible ditch." How appropriate.

     So I took the hint from this bit of chance and bought Michael Rosenthal's study of Constable, read it, went viewing the Constables on display in London's marvelous museums, and discovered that the artist often painted canal scenes.  An immediate example is "The Leaping Horse" which he painted in 1824-25 and which can be seen at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Of this work he wrote that it is about "a canal and full of the bustle incident to such a scene where four or five boats are passing with dogs, horses, boys & men & women & children, and best of all old timber-props, water plants, willow stumps, sedges, old nets, & & &."

     Other canal paintings to be enjoyed include his "Flatford Mill from the Lock" (1810-11), "A Water-Mill" (1812), "Landscape, Boys Fishing" (1813), "Boat Building" (I 814), "The White Horse" (I 819), "A View on the Stour near Dedham" (I 822), and "A Boat Passing a Lock" (I 824).  His interest in canals was a subject that extended throughout his painting career.

     Another lifelong characteristic was his attraction for the ever changing beauty of clouds in the sky for which he always saved extensive space on each canvas.  I came to appreciate this feature of his canal scenes and to realize how significant a part of everyday living for canal folks was veining the clouds above them.  For sure I would have been watching the games played by clouds and weather if I had been Constable painting near the Stour.  If only he could have once painted the old Middlesex Canal.

contributed by Thomas Raphael

     The following items appeared in the old Boston newspaper Columbian Sentinel on Saturday, December 29, 1821.

     The Proprietors of the Middlesex Canal, are hereby notified that their Annual Meeting for the choice of Officers of the Corporation, and for transacting any other business which may legally be brought before them, will be holden at the Massachusetts Bank, on WEDNESDAY, 16th day of January next, at 12 o'clock, M.
Per order,
Clerk of the Corporation
Boston, Dec. 22, 1821

     In consequence of the damage and injury the Middlesex Canal sustains by taking Ice therefrom.  All persons are hereby forbid entering within its limits with cattle, carts, sleds or otherwise for the purpose of cutting or carrying away any Ice from the same.
JAS.  F. BALDWIN, Agent Mid.  Canal.
dec 22

by Dave Dettinger

     The featured topic for the sixth annual event to celebrate the Bicentennial Decade of the Middlesex Canal was the boats that plied the Canal and their mode of operation.  Two presentations were given at the meeting on November 1, 1998, at the Baldwin I building adjacent to the Baldwin Mansion (now Restaurant) in Woburn.

     The first talk, presented by Proprietor Dave Dettinger, reviewed the boating practices over the entire period of Canal construction, operation and dissolution, beginning with early working scows and progressing to refined designs to match the need of Canal users.  These included freight barges, packet boats and rafts of logs bringing down timber from New Hampshire forests.  Rules, over 30 in all, were developed to govern traffic on the Canal; they dealt with such matters as speed limits, priority of passage, locking procedures and "passports" for determining tolls.

     With experience it was discovered that there was an advantage in setting up separate companies to provide boating service, rather than to rely on the Canal Company itself.  Traffic flourished briefly and competition resulted, but ultimately the railroad superseded boat service entirely.  Incidentally, steam propulsion was tried but, as was the case with other canals, proved unworkable.

     The second talk, presented by Len Harmon, a founder of the Woburn Canal Society and an Honorary Director of the MCA, focused on the design and construction of a packet boat, the Colonel Baldwin, in 1975-76.  A replica of the gaudy packets that provided "luxurious" transportation for travelers of the early nineteenth century, it carried visitors on the watered section of the Middlesex Canal for many summers, towed by a sturdy farmhorse.

     Len's photographs illustrated each facet of construction and brought home to all the magnitude of effort demanded of his team.  At this time the Colonel Baldwin is being restored and will soon be back in its honored place in Kiwanis Park in Woburn beside the Canal, where all can see and admire it.

by Thomas Raphael

     Recently I was asked what was known about Loammi Baldwin's ancestors, and not knowing about them, I sent out an inquiry to the group of advisors and consultants to the Middlesex Canal Commission.  Mrs. Margaret Ingraham responded with what proves to be accurate information on Loammi's father, grandfather and great grandfather.

     Loammi's great grandfather, Henry Baldwin, is reported to have come from the area of Devonshire, England as a freeman in 1652 and settled in Woburn, Massachusetts.  He had married Phebe Richardson in England in 1649 and had a son Henry [Jr.] born in England, and two other sons born in Woburn, John (b. 1656) and Daniel (b. 1659).

     Henry Baldwin [Jr.], Loammi's grandfather, had three sons, Henry [III], who died in Woburn on 20 December 1763, and David and James.  James was father to Loammi Baldwin, who was a Member of the American Academy and a friend and correspondent of Count Rumford.

     The name Baldwin is an ancient one and has been traced back beyond A.D. 672, when Baldwinus was consecrated bishop of North-Elmham, England.  Some 42 persons named Baldwin were listed as graduates of New England colleges and several New Jersey colleges by 1826.  There was no reference as to the possible relationship of any of these to each other, but Baldwins who know of ancestry back to this period may be interested that this information came from Genealogical Register by John Farmer, pp 23-24, published by Carter, Andrews & Co. A copy is available from Margaret B. Ingraham, 48 Pleasant Street, Billerica, MA 01862.

by Roger Hagopian

     This event was a combined effort of the Middlesex Canal Association and the National Park Service, held at the National Park Visitor Center in Lowell.  The program began with a talk on the history of the Middlesex Canal given by MCA president Nolan Jones, followed by a discussion of the preservation and restoration of the waterway presented by Thomas Raphael, Chairman of the Middlesex Canal Commission and board member of the MCA.

     The guest of honor that day was Lance Metz, the director of the new National Canal Museum in Easton, Pennsylvania.  The highlight of his presentation was a video containing oral histories of the last surviving canal boatmen and locktenders on the Pennsylvania canal system.  Also included were rare motion pictures of the last years of canal operation in America using mule-drawn barges and manually operated locks.

     Following lunch our tour left the Visitor Center, filling a bus chartered by the National Park Service, thanks to the efforts of Canal Historian and Park Ranger Dave Malone.

     Our first stop was at the site of the northern terminus of the Canal at the Merrimac River at Middlesex Village, now in Lowell, where the railroad and industrial buildings have obliterated any sign of the three locks and basin.  We continued to the grounds of the Mount Pleasant Country Club, through which the watered and landscaped Canal now passes.  Here we examined a residential backyard that had been formed by the dry bed of the Canal.  Entering Chelmsford, our group walked briefly along the Canal towpath north and south of Brick Kiln Road, where the route is part of a large wetland area, having thus far been spared the hatchet of development.  At the North Billerica millpond we visited the anchor rings supporting the floating towpath across the Concord River and the only remaining lock.  Passing the new High Street Canal monument and the former King's Corner Tavern, we arrived at the most impressive landmark of the Middlesex Canal - the Shawsheen Aqueduct abutments and pier with their concave tops to accommodate the wooden trough through which barges once passed.  Our last stop, behind the Route 129 Plaza, was a residential development in progress, abutting the dry Canal bed.  Depending on the results of current litigation, this may result in the destruction of yet another beautiful rural piece of history.

     So much was accomplished due to the efficiency of the bus/walking tour arrangement that, perhaps, if funding permits, other such events could take place covering the very numerous Canal sites from Charlestown to Lowell.


[Editor's note: the following was submitted by Howard Winkler, who saw it in the November/'December 1996 issue of ITS World.  A call to the Martin van Buren National Historic Site in New York State revealed that letter is apocryphal, but is actually contemporary apocrypha.  It was written by one or some of van Buren's enemies in the Whig party to try to discredit him by making him look backward-looking and out of touch with the times.  Of course, in the long run, it didn't hurt, since van Buren later became President of the United States.  It is also interesting to note that van Buren was Governor of New York for only 71 days, at which point he was nominated, but never confirmed, as ambassador to Great Britain.  Howard Winkler proposed printing the letter as a fable about the resistance to change.]

April 1832
Dear President Andrew Jackson:
     The canal system of this country is being threatened by the spread of a new form of transportation known as railroads.  The federal government must preserve the canals for the following reasons:

     As you well know, Mr. President, railroad carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by engines, which in addition to endangering the life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside setting fire to crops, scaring livestock, and frightening women and children.  The almighty never intended that people should move at such breakneck speed.

 - Martin van Buren
Governor of New York

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