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

Volume 41 No. 2
March 2003

Contents:
MIDDLESEX CANAL ASSOCIATION SPRING WALK
MIDDLESEX CANAL ASSOCIATION ANNUAL MEETING, SPRING 2003
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE
LOAMMI BALDWIN IN WORLD WAR II by Howard B. Winkler
A DAY AT THE BAKER - "KEEPING IN TOUCH" by Betty M. Bigwood
RESTING PLACE OF LOAMMI BALDWIN submitted by Howard B. Winkler
THE BALDWINS AS AQUEDUCT BUILDERS FOR THE WATER SUPPLY OF BOSTON by Roger Hagopian
DID YOU EVER WONDER ABOUT THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME LOAMMI? by Howard B. Winkler
1803 - IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR by Betty M. Bigwood
OUR 2002 FALL CANAL WALK by Roger Hagopian
THE MIDDLESEX CANAL MUSEUM AND VISITOR CENTER
FAREWELL OLD FRIEND by Betty Bigwood
GRANT FUNDING KEEPS THE MIDDLESEX CANAL MUSEUM GROWING AND IMPROVING!
HAVE YOU VISITED THE MIDDLESEX CANAL ASSOCIATION WEB SITE YET??
UPCOMING EVENTS


MIDDLESEX CANAL ASSOCIATION
SPRING WALK

Date: Saturday, April 26, 2003
Time: 1:30 pm (Museum and Visitor Center open at 12 noon)
Place: Billerica and Chelmsford

     Join members and friends of the Middlesex Canal Association and the Appalachian Mountain Club for a walk north along the canal from the Concord River Mill Pond. The walk will originate by the Middlesex Canal Museum at the Faulkner Mills on Faulkner Street in North Billerica. It will cover a route-section of an early intercity canal that operated from 1803-1853. Sites will include the large stone with iron rings that anchored the west end of the floating towpath across the Concord River, a guard lock at the Talbot millyard, and the site of Red Lock, which allowed boats to pass between the canal and the Concord River below. The walk will then follow the sometimes still watered canal from Billerica to Chelmsford through a somewhat remote area. If access permits, we will proceed to Riverneck Rd., beyond which the canal has been obliterated by highway construction. If of interest, we may also drive to the site of the locks that accessed the Merrimack River.

     There will be an opportunity for early arrivers to visit the museum; the bookstore will be open and light lunch items will also be available. Meet at 1:30 at the Gazebo by the Mill Pond.

Directions to the Museum/Visitors Center:
From Route 3, take exit 28, Treble Cove Road. Turn towards North Billerica. At about mile bear left at a fork. After about another mile, cross Route 3A at a traffic light. Go about mile to a 3-way fork; take the middle road, which will pass St. Andrew's Church on your left. Go about mile; bear right, then turn right onto Faulkner Street. Go about mile. The Museum & Visitor Center is on your left, and you can park across the street on your right, just beyond the falls.
Telephone: 1-978-670-2740

 

MIDDLESEX CANAL ASSOCIATION ANNUAL MEETING, SPRING 2003

Date: Sunday, May 4, 2003
Place: Middlesex Canal Museum and Visitor Center, 71 Faulkner Street, North Billerica
Time: 3 pm (note: the Museum will be open for those who would like to browse prior to the meeting. The lecture is free and handicapped accessible.)

     Our guest speaker at the annual meeting of the Middlesex Canal Association will be Author J.R. Greene. He will make a slide presentation of the history of the Quabbin Reservoir.

     In 1843 as usage of the Middlesex Canal declined, it was proposed that the waterway be considered for use as an aqueduct to supply the city of Boston with water for its growing population. This idea was abandoned, along with several other plans, and the city, shortly thereafter, chose Long Pond in Natick (Lake Cochituate) as its water source. At the turn of the century increasing demand led to the construction of Wachusett Reservoir, still used in conjunction with today's Quabbin Reservoir.

     J.R. Greene has authored several books, atlases, and articles on the Quabbin Reservoir. He has written two books on the life of Calvin Coolidge, and many books and articles on railroad history and collectible topics. A lifelong resident of Athol, MA, he has been active in government and civic affairs. He makes slide presentations and leads hikes on Quabbin history and is a collectibles dealer as well. His most recent publication, Quabbin's Railroad: The Rabbit, Volume I, recounts the early years of the line which passed through the Swift River Valley, including all four of the towns that were to be taken for the reservoir in the 1930s. Currently Mr. Greene and Middlesex Canal Association board member, Roger Hagopian, are collaborating on a video history of the water supply for Boston as it evolved westward culminating in the construction of the Quabbin reservoir.

Note: The Annual Business Meeting of the Middlesex Canal Association will immediately precede the program. At this time, reports from the officers will be presented, and elections of board members and officers will take place.

Directions: From Rte. 95/128 take Rte. 3 N to exit 28, Treble Cove Rd., L towards N. Billerica 2 mi., R onto Old Elm St., proceed across the river and R into a parking lot opposite Middlesex Canal Museum. 

 

PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE

     First, I wish to thank all those people who responded to our fund raising appeal. The income will help us to complete the National Registry and put up signage.

     The material for the application for the National Registry of Historic Places is coming together. Drafts are being circulated for review among board members.

     Edith Choate donated the color slides taken by her husband, Malcolm, to our collection and I showed selected slides of Malcolm's at our winter meeting in February. A descendent of Prescot Hall, founder of the Salem Historical Society, contacted us about donating Prescot's slide program on the Middlesex Canal. In addition I was told about someone in Wakefield who gave talks on the Middlesex Canal 30 years ago. I have not made contact as yet with anyone there but I am pursuing the leads.

     Our museum is a valuable asset for publicizing the canal and its history. The museum will be open on Saturdays and Sundays from April until October. We have an urgent need for more docents to operate the museum. We try to have two people on duty each time, preferably one experienced person and one "trainee". There was a training session for docents on March 8 at the museum. The folks in the Billerica section of the Middlesex Canal Commission have done a commendable job setting up the museum. Please come and help out by being a docent (see details about the Museum and docents elsewhere in this issue).

     I have no speaking engagements on the calendar right now. If your group or historical society would like a slide show on the Middlesex or other canals just let me know.

     The joint Lowell National Historical Park/ Middlesex Canal Association annual Canal Heritage Days will be on the Columbus Day weekend in October. The American Canal Society will be meeting with us at that time.

(604) 672-7051        Nolan T. Jones, President

 

LOAMMI BALDWIN IN WORLD WAR II by Howard B. Winkler

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     Liberty Ship, hull no. 3060, the SS Loammi Baldwin was one of the 2710 Liberty ships built between September 27, 1941 and September 2, 1945. (The picture is that of the SS John Brown.) These ships of 10,865 deadweight tons were built under the designation EC2-S-C1 and their official name was "Maritime Commission Emergency Cargo Ship".

 

A DAY AT THE BAKER - "KEEPING IN TOUCH" by Betty M. Bigwood

     James Sullivan, first President of the Middlesex Canal Corporation, had a constant public relations problem with the shareholders. He had to please them to keep the money flowing. While the initial cost per share was only two dollars, they were frequently reassessed as the work progressed. The shareholders wanted to see where their money was going, and it became Sullivan's job to show them. On the other hand, Loammi Baldwin was busy in the field resolving the day-to-day issues. Loammi resented having to leave his work, arrange for refreshments (lemonade, cheese and pound cake), and having to waste time dressing up to meet the shareholders.

     In the Baker Library at Harvard, in their special collections department of Loammi Baldwin's papers, one finds numerous written attempts to set up meetings. Sullivan would lament that a note was sent for Loammi to meet them and the shareholders were disappointed when he did not arrive. Keeping in touch was a problem. There were notes from Loammi apologizing that he did not receive the message until a day or two after the meeting was scheduled. Feelings ran high.

     In the collection were about six small rectangular pieces of paper, which contained messages from Baldwin and Sullivan. These had been folded numerous times as if to make a small tube. John Ciriello and I wondered what they were, and then we saw the note saying simply "SEND MORE PIGEONS." We both then knew how some messages were sent. We had not thought about it before we were holding in our hand notes that had been flown between these two gentlemen. It was a special moment.

 

RESTING PLACE OF LOAMMI BALDWIN submitted by Howard B. Winkler

     Loammi Baldwin is buried in the Park Street Burial Ground, just off Woburn Center. His granite obelisk is about 12 feet high, and on the marble tablet is engraved the words:

"To the Memory of the Hon. Loammi Baldwin Who died Oct. 20th 1807 AEt. 63. Erected by his children."

(Most of the inscription on the obelisk is worn away. I found his epitaph, with the help of a librarian, in a book of records at the Woburn Public Library.)

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Granite obelisk at the burial site of Loammi Baldwin

 

THE BALDWINS AS AQUEDUCT BUILDERS FOR THE WATER SUPPLY OF BOSTON by Roger Hagopian

     The early settlers of the Shawmut peninsula, Boston, discovered sources of water in and around the Common near sites such as Water Street and Spring Lane. However, as Boston's population grew so did the demand for water.

     A privately owned company, the Aqueduct Corporation was formed in 1796 for the purpose of transporting water from Jamaica Pond, a few miles outside of Boston. Underground wooden pipes were constructed and, fed by gravity, water was provided to the city. The engineer was Loammi Baldwin, builder of the Middlesex Canal. However, by 1825, the population growth of Boston had rendered the small pond obsolete and the Baldwin Plan was proposed in 1834 by Loammi Baldwin II. This concept dealt with the usage of Long Pond (Lake Cochituate) in Natick twenty-five miles to the west. It was costly and intended to serve the needs of the city for twenty-five years. In 1846 the Massachusetts General Court passed Boston's Water Act and the aqueduct was completed in 1848.

     Incidentally, just prior to this, in 1843, a plan was proposed to abandon the Middlesex Canal and convert it into an aqueduct. Caleb Eddy, agent of the Middlesex Canal Corporation "...with his great business ability and unquenchable zeal had brought the canal to its highest state of efficiency."

     However, with the advent of the Boston and Lowell Railroad "...even the sanguine Caleb Eddy became convinced that ... competition was useless..." Eddy proposed to abandon the canal for transportation and convert it into an aqueduct for supplying water to Boston, which at this time had a population of 100,000 and depended on water from Jamaica Pond and wells, many of which were contaminated. "... I know of but one way in which the canal can be of any use to the public ... discontinue the levels from the Charles River to Woburn Upper locks (Horn Pond) and from Billerica Mills (the mill pond) to the Merrimack River ... The remaining part from the Concord River to Woburn upper locks may then be used as an aqueduct, similar to those used in France and other European countries. From Woburn the water may be conveyed in thirty inch iron pipes ... to a reservoir on Mount Benedict in Charlestown, 80 feet high, thence to Boston over Craigie's Bridge and to Charlestown and East Cambridge. The water of the Concord River was analyzed ... declared ... to be pure, soft, and eminently suitable for the purpose. The scheme was abandoned however, and in 1845 Eddy resigned..."

Sources:
"Bringing Water to the City" by William P. Marchione, The Boston Tab, February 2,1999
The Creation of Quabbin Reservoir by J.R. Greene 1981
Great Waters by Fern L. Nesson 1983

Quotations taken from The Middlesex Canal by Lewis Lawrence, 1942

Extra:
Photos of the Cochituate Aqueduct (c. 1848) from Natick to the Brookline Reservoir
Photos of the Sudbury Aqueduct (c. 1878) from Framingham to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir (Boston)

 

DID YOU EVER WONDER ABOUT THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME LOAMMI? by Howard B. Winkler

From the Bible, King James Version

Hosea 1

8 Now when she had weaned Loruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son.
9 Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.
10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered, and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.

 

1803 - IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR by Betty M. Bigwood

     The Middlesex Canal was completed on the last day of December 1803. John Hancock, Governor of Massachusetts, had signed the corporation into law in 1793, with the canal to be completed by 1803. In fact, in order to comply with the mandate to be finished in ten years there are rumors that the builders had to set the clock back an hour!

     Thomas Jefferson, our third President (1801-9) had Congress issue the funds to buy the Louisiana Purchase for 15 million dollars in April of 1803. This land extended from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from the Gulf of Mexico to British North America. Our flag was hoisted there on December 20, 1803 thereby doubling the land held under Jefferson.

     Also in 1803 Thomas Jefferson asked Congress for funds for an exploratory expedition of the newly acquired lands. He appointed his private secretary, Meriwether Lewis, who in turn asked William Clark to be his associate in command to head up the now famous Lewis-Clark Expedition. They spent the winter getting prepared to leave and set off in May 1804. Their purpose was to search out a land route to the Pacific, to strengthen American claims to Oregon territory and to gather information about the Indians and the Far West.

     Indeed, 1803 was a very good year: a new regional canal, a significant land purchase and the initiation of an illuminating mapping expedition. See www.monticello.org for more information.

 

OUR 2002 FALL CANAL WALK by Roger Hagopian

     Last fall, originating at the Wilmington Town Park, about 40-50 people participated in the semi-annual walk of the Middlesex Canal Association. Among those in attendance were two third grade teachers who are part of the Association's education program in Wilmington, according to board member, Betty Bigwood, herself instrumental in bringing the story of our canal to the public schools.

     Walk leader Roger Hagopian led the assortment of amateur historians, nature lovers, bird watchers, fitness enthusiasts, and hikers from the Appalachian Mountain Club. The walk immediately proceeded along a dirt road which merged into the dry bed of the canal. The book, The Old Middlesex Canal, by Mary Stetson Clarke, describes this location after rainstorms as still retaining the semblance of a waterway. Here is where the canal formed an ox-bow to avoid a swamp and swung back skirting a hill where a tell-tale boulder reveals the grooves from towropes grinding against it as the barges and packet boats were pulled around the sharp curve. As we passed that very hill a huge recessed section reminds us that stone and fill were quarried here for the construction of the Maple Meadow Brook Aqueduct and the long earthen embankments required to maintain the level of the canal high above the wetlands. The walkers were then asked to search through the remnants of stone and boulders for holes and impressions created by drill bits, used for splitting stone. When the group was told that the aqueduct was restored in the 1930s by the WPA, it was suggested by AMC member, Jack Boudreau, that these markings could also be a result of the longer drill bits that may have been used during the restoration.

     The aqueduct contained a wooden trough, which carried canal boats about 10-15 feet above the stream. Trusses supporting the structure were connected to the abutments and a central pier. Evidence of the recessed truss footings are visible near the base of one abutment. The brook itself was dry and the explorers, for the first time in my recollection, were able to walk beneath the aqueduct site and actually pick through stones and debris for glass and metal remains that had been languishing for decades, if not a century or two. In the past this brook had to be crossed with a makeshift ladder-bridge. Again the group became archaeologists and board member, Howard Winkler, was able to salvage a few items for examination.

     Continuing along the dry bed with banks rising 15-25 feet above the wetlands we crossed Butters Row, where the Wilmington monument of the Middlesex Canal Commission is located. Our walk concluded at the Patches Pond, barely recognizable due to low water, from which the extant canal emerges then disappears into a suburban neighborhood and the back yard of MCA and MCC member, Mike McInnis. He talked of the preservation of the canal and wetlands and indicated to the group the famous iron bar protruding from a boulder, believed to have served as a mooring point for boats using the pond as a holding basin.

     Although this walk is conducted every three years each excursion is unique and new discoveries are made on each and every one. Such is the experience of the inveterate canal walker.

 

THE MIDDLESEX CANAL MUSEUM AND VISITOR CENTER

     We hope that most, if not all, of you have had the opportunity to look in on your Museum and Visitor Center at 71 Faulkner Street in North Billerica. After being closed for the winter, we plan to open Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 pm, beginning April 5, 2003, and continuing through September 2003. This year we have some new exhibits and videos, and, as mentioned elsewhere in this issue, the front reception area and gift shop will have a new look. The phone number for the Museum and Visitor Center is 978-670-2740.

     We would welcome anyone who would like to serve as a docent during the open hours. We always plan to have at least two docents present, and will always couple a new docent with an experienced one so that the new one can easily see how it is done. If you are interested in further information about being a docent, call Shayne Reardon at 978-667-1787.

     We look forward to seeing all of you this summer!

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Main exhibition hall of the Middlesex Canal Museum

 

FAREWELL OLD FRIEND by Betty Bigwood

     The Woburn Historical Commission, as a major part of its restoration efforts in North Woburn, undertook the task of researching, designing, funding and building a replica of a typical Middlesex Canal Packet Boat.

     Construction started at the Woburn Public Works Building at Christmas time in 1975. Historical Commission members Len Harmon, Tom Smith, Niles Blackburn and Dick Curran were ably assisted by Frank Farris and Jim Hallet of the Middlesex Canal Association. They worked almost every night and weekend on the construction for a period of five months. At various times they were aided by members of Woburn's Canal Society and the Public Works Department.

     Well over 3000 hours were involved in the reconstruction effort. Many more hours were devoted to the design, methodizing and purchasing of materials. Two grants (from the State and Atlantic Gelatin) financed the $5000 to purchase the materials.

     The dimensions of the Colonel Baldwin were as follows: length, 40 ft. 3 in.; beam, 9 ft.; height, 8 ft.; and draft, 6 in.

     Construction material was white oak for the hull frame; spruce was substituted for pine in the hull planking, since present day pine is too knotty for hull construction. Over 1400 galvanized screws were used in the hull, rather more than the traditional iron nails, for increased durability. The gunwales and exterior decks were all of rough-cut pine.

     The Colonel Baldwin was launched each July and August and boat rides were given for four years (1976-1980). There was a seating capacity of 40 and the boat was horse drawn along a stretch of the Old Middlesex Canal for a trip of over one mile starting at the Baldwin Mansion. Canal packets were traditionally painted "as gaudy as circus wagons," and the Colonel Baldwin was no exception. It was then put on display in the Kiwanis Park for three years (1981-1983).

     Age had taken its toll when the boat was sent to the Woburn DPW yard. After languishing there for a number of years, in the Fall of 2002 it was crushed, placed into a container and sent for incineration. The transom of the boat with the engraved name of Colonel Baldwin and other artifacts are displayed at the Middlesex Canal Museum and Visitor Center.

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"Colonel Baldwin" - replica of an 1803 Middlesex Canal Packet Boat

 

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Donkey hauling boat (Tom Dahill)

 

GRANT FUNDING KEEPS THE MIDDLESEX CANAL MUSEUM GROWING AND IMPROVING!

     The Billerica Plan awarded the Billerica Section of the Middlesex Canal Commission a grant of $500 in May of 2003. With their funding, we were able to join the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau. Although our main objective is to market the Middlesex Canal Museum & Visitor Center more broadly by being listed in their Visitor Guide that has a distribution of over 100,000 inquiries and our brochure being available at the Rte. 495 rest area, we also wanted to help change the perception of Billerica and promote the idea that Billerica has a great deal to offer incoming tourists. We were also fortunate to be included in the Massachusetts Getaway Guide through this affiliation, which really broadened our marketing area. Beginning as a cooperative effort by a group of local business people in 1987, The Billerica Plan is a non-profit partnership between businesses, government, and the community of Billerica, MA.

     The Billerica Section of the Middlesex Canal Commission was awarded a $10,000 grant though Billerica Community Funds this past December. The Town of Billerica, along with 3 local companies that are provided economic development incentives in exchange for substantial community investment, chose the recipients of the grants. Nortel Networks is one of the three companies that contribute to these worthwhile community projects and a company that has encouraged and sponsored a large part of the Museum's development over the last few years. The funds from the Nortel Networks grant are being used to convert our existing, temporary greeting and information desk area into a professionally designed permanent, multi-functioning entrance. This area gives the first and most lasting impression to our visitors. This is where our docents meet the public and inform them what is available during their visit. The docents answer questions the visitors and students may have on tours, videos to play, maps, and printed matter pertaining to the Middlesex Canal and our Museum. Included in this project are bookcases and cabinets that will display reference books and maps, which are used by visitors and students as well as other items with the Canal logo imprinted, as would be found in other museum stores. A new, intimate reading and research comer has been added as well.

 

HAVE YOU VISITED THE MIDDLESEX CANAL ASSOCIATION WEB SITE YET??

     Thanks to some very diligent work by the Association's Webmaster, Robert Winters, the MCA has a very fine website at www.middlesexcanal.org. Robert is always looking for new things and input for the website. You will find there photos, information on scheduled programs and walks, and other things of interest to our members. Let Robert know what you would like to see on the website - information for contacting him is given there.

 

WATCH FOR THESE UPCOMING EVENTS

April 5 - September 28, 2003
Middlesex Canal Museum & Visitor Center will reopen for the season on April 5th. Weekend hours are: Saturday and Sunday 12:00-4:00pm. Exhibits are being designed, changed and added to. If you have visited before, please come back for another interesting tour with new information. Tours for groups are made by reservation during every month of the year and the function/meeting room may be reserved for special occasions. Call 978-670-2740 with any questions.

June 7, 2003 Second Annual Wild and Scenic Riverfest
Towns along the 29 miles of the Sudbury, Assabet and Concord Rivers take part in a daylong celebration. More details will follow describing the participation of the Middlesex Canal Association and Museum & Visitor Center.

October 10-13th - Columbus Weekend
Canal Heritage Days will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Middlesex Canal and the 25th anniversary of the Lowell National Historical Park. The American Canal Society will join in the festivities over the 4-day holiday. The Middlesex Canal will be the focal point. On Sunday, October 12th, the Middlesex Canal Museum & Visitor Center will host various activities. Plans are moving forward and will be posted.

Making log rafts using "dogs" (Tom Dahill)

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Log rafts on the Merrimac River (Tom Dahill)

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