Middlesex Canal Association    P.O. Box 333    Billerica, Massachusetts 01821
Volume 17, No. 2    May, 1979

The postponed annual meeting of the Middlesex Canal Association will take place on Saturday, May 19, 1979, at 10:00 A.M. at the Smith-Baker Center, 400 Merrimack Street, Lowell, Massachusetts, for the election of officers and directors, and reports.

At the meeting, the directors will propose two amendments of the by-laws and articles of organization of the Association, in order to qualify it for tax-exempt status under the Internal Revenue Code. The full text of the proposals appears inside this issue.

After the meeting, there will be a talk by Lewis S. Albert, Superintendent of the Lowell National Historical Park. In the afternoon, there will be a 1 hour bus and walking tour of the Lowell Canal system, conducted by National Park Service guides. Full details of the program appear inside.

Because of the necessity of chartering buses, advance registration will be necessary, and there will be a charge of $1.00 per person. The enclosed blank should be filled in, or send name and address and registration fee, BEFORE May 12, to Joseph V. Kopycinski, 116 Main St., Chelmsford, Mass. 01863.


Any members who wish to make nominations are invited to send them to the chairman of the nominating committee, Mrs. Marion E. Potter, RR 2, Box 42, North Billerica, Mass. 01862.

Annual Meeting
Saturday, May 19, 1979
in Lowell


9:30 A.M.                Registration at Smith-Baker Center, 400 Merrimack Street
Formerly the First Congregational Church, opposite the City Hall at the corner of Cardinal O'Connell Parkway
PARKING in the City Hall parking lot. Entrance is by the second street on right (unmarked) after City Hall.
10:00 A.M. Annual meeting. Election of officers and directors. Reports
11:00 A.M. "What's in the Future for Lowell" by Lewis S. Albert, Superintendent of the Lowell National Historical Park.
12:00 M Lunch. Your choice of many varied downtown Lowell restaurants or bring your own.
1:30 P.M. Merrimack Canal Gate House (in front of City Hall) Start of Canal tour by bus and on foot.
National Park Service guides. Tour will last approximately 1 hours.
3:00 - 5:00 P.M. Optional visits to exhibits.
Middlesex Canal Archives - University of Lowell Library (North Campus);
Lowell Art Association - in the Parker Gallery at the Whistler House, Worthen Street. Exhibit; Audubon prints;
Lowell Museum, 560 Suffolk Street. Exhibit: "The Life and Times of Benjamin F. Butler"
 - no canal-buff, but a salt-water sailor and sometime owner of the yacht "America"!

ADVANCE REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED so that reservations may be made for sufficient buses. To help defray the cost the buses, there will be a $1.00 charge. Return the coupon included in this issue with a check for $1.00 payable to Middlesex Canal Association and mail before May 12, 1979 to: Joseph V. Kopycinski, 116 Main St., Chelmsford, Mass. 01863. [added]



This corporation is formed exclusively for charitable and educational purposes within the meaning of section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code, as amended, including:

To acquire, restore and preserve all extant remains of the old Middlesex Canal; to establish a museum devoted to the history of said Canal and of transportation in general; to establish along the route of said Canal a park or parks for public recreational and educational use; to engage in historical research and to publish historical, literary and scientific works concerning said Canal, the area formerly served by it and the era during which it was active; and through such means to educate the general public concerning the early history of the United States.

To solicit and to receive by gift or acquire by purchase, lease, exchange or otherwise such real and personal property as may be appropriate to carry out the purposes of the corporation, and to hold, operate, use, develop, lease, sell, assign or otherwise dispose of such real and personal property.

To carry on such activities as the sale of books and pamphlets, mementoes and reproductions of historical articles or documents, and the transportation of passengers along and about said Canal, and the charging of fees therefor; and in general to do all things necessary or proper to carry out the purposes for which it is organized and to have and exercise all the powers conferred by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts upon a corporation created under the provisions of chapter 180 of the General Laws, as they may be now or hereafter amended.

Provided, however, that all gifts and bequests to the corporation and all net earnings and assets of the corporation shall be used only in the United States of America exclusively for the charitable, historical, educational and scientific purposes for which it is formed; that no part of the activities of the corporation shall consist of carrying on propaganda or-otherwise attempting to influence legislation; that no part of the net earnings of the corporation shall enure to the benefit of any private individual, person or corporation; and that, upon the termination and liquidation of the corporation, its assets remaining after the payment of all its obligations shall be distributed only to another organization with substantially similar purposes which shall at the time qualify as an exempt organization under section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (or the corresponding provision of any future United States Internal Revenue Law), as the Board of Directors shall determine.


Upon the dissolution of the corporation, the Board of Directors shall, after paying or making provision for the payment of all of liabilities of the corporation, dispose of all the assets of the corporation exclusively for the purposes of the corporation in such manner, or to such organization or organizations organized and operated exclusively for charitable, educational and scientific purposes as shall at the time qualify as an exempt organization or organizations under section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (or the corresponding provision of any future United States Internal Revenue Law), as the Board of Directors shall determine.


Tribute to the founders and engineers of our Middlesex Canal is given in the 100th Anniversary special edition of the Journal of Boston Society of Civil Engineers Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers handed out at their recent convention in Boston. MCA Board Member Edward Wood was one of the editors and writers of the historical notes.

Although most of our readers are very familiar with the remarkable achievements of the Baldwin Family, I thought that a brief re-cap of their importance as viewed by today's civil engineers would be of value.

The center fold of the BSCE/ASCE Journal features a photo of the Louis Linscott Shawsheen Aqueduct painting, (permission of our Archives) alongside the Canton R.R. Viaduct, the Mt. Washington Cog Railway and the Hoosac Tunnel - also grand early civil engineering achievements.

Another most famous civil engineer and a Founder of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers was James B. Francis, also honored in the Journal. His hydraulic turbine design is in worldwide use today. Most of his life was spent designing the intricate "Locks and Canals" for the city of Lowell and his works will be the main feature of our Annual Meeting in Lowell.

To enhance your enjoyment of your locks and canal tour I strongly suggest that you buy at the Lowell Museum, 560 Suffolk St. Cotton was King, edited by Arthur L. Eno, Jr. and Lowell's Canal System by Patrick Malone. Both books are packed with fascinating photos and diagrams of early Lowell and the Locks and Canals.

Volunteers are needed! Lowell is splurging and having a Lowell Days, May 4th and 5th. The Middlesex Canal Association has been asked to man a booth or table. Since we have agreed to display some of our unique artifacts at the Memorial Auditorium, it is necessary for some of us to guard this display and also explain our interesting Middlesex Canal story. Please call Edith Hoxie who will coordinate all volunteers for these two days, tel 944-7416.

The Middlesex Canal Commission's new address is the Thompson Library, 33 Elm St., Woburn. Since this building is manned every weekday and is relatively near the mid-canal point, it was deemed appropriate to designate this as the new address.

The $20,000 grant of the Mass. Historical Commission has been signed and already MAPC and NMAC personnel are working with $1,000 monthly allotments (to be reviewed monthly by the MCC) on archeological studies of our canal. Now is the time to send in your information, photos, etc., so this fine group of people will not duplicate efforts already researched. Many of the towns along the canal route are lucky enough to have in their engineers' files negatives of the 1930's or 1940's aerial surveys. These aerial photos are most helpful in delineating traces of the canal in relation to present roads and buildings. So, dig out what you can.

Your President,

Fran Ver Planck

Of special interest are two early Canals mentioned in the 100 Anniversary report of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Vol. 65 Jan 1979 No. 4

LEWISTON MILLS CANAL in Lewiston, Maine. "The Canal system 1.9 miles long includes an upper and a lower canal and three cross canals. The design was so advanced that the canal is still being used in much the same way as it was when completed in 1850. The Engineer was B.F. Perham."

CUMBERLAND AND OXFORD CANAL in Maine, from Portland to Sebago Lake. "The canal was about 20 miles long and had a rise of 265 feet, 27 locks, and a crossing over a small stream on a wooden aqueduct 100 feet long. It operated from 1830 to 1870. The designer was Holmes Hutchinson, engineer also for the Erie Canal.


Middlesex Canal Commission and Metropolitan Area Planning Council members who were present for the signing of a grant contract to study possible canal restoration: (front row left) Pattie Collins, city of Somerville; Frances VerPlanck, Secretary of the Canal Commission and President of the Middlesex Canal Assoc.; Leonard Harmon, Chairman of the Canal Commission, and Director of the M.C.A.; Carla Johnson, former MAPC Executive Director; Emily Tickell of the Canal Commission; and Joseph Kopycinski, archivist for the Canal Commission and Director of M.C.A.; (back row left) State Rep. Nick Paleologos, of the Canal Commission; Stanley Webber of the Canal Commission; Henry Condon of the Canal Commission; Madelyn A. McKie, Wilmington MAPC representative; and Thomas Groux, Winchester MAPC representative.

KNOW all Men by these Presents, that I _____
of _____ in the County of Middlesex, for and in consideration of the sum of _____ to me in hand paid by the Proprietors of the MIDDLESEX CANAL, have and by these Presents do give, grant, bargain and sell to the said Proprietors, a certain parcel of Land, lying in _____ aforesaid, of the length of _____ rods, _____ feet, and of _____ the breadth of _____ rods, _____ bounded as follows:
or the same quantity in such place and in such form as the Directors of the said Proprietors shall choose for the purpose of forming the same Canal in any part of my lands in _____.
To have and hold the same as above bounded or wherever the same shall be chosen by the said Proprietors of the said Proprietors, to the said Proprietors or their Successors in the said interest, to be improved for the purpose of said Canal forever.
Provided nevertheless, that if the same lands granted or intended to be granted herein shall not be improved for the purpose of such Canal within such term of time as has been or shall be allowed therefor by the General Court, then the aforegoing Deed to be void, otherwise to be and remain in force, _____ the Wife of the said _____ in order to relinquish her dower in the premises, both here unto set our Hands and Seals: _____
Dated at _____ the _____ day of _____ in the year of our Lord 179_
Signed, Sealed and Delivered in presence of} _____

by Moses Whitcher Mann
from The Medford Historical Register, October, 1914

The sails of Medford built ships have whitened every sea, but today not one remains in service. We know of but one (possibly two) which were propelled by steam; but these received their engines elsewhere, and never plied on our river. From time to time the tug-boats have come up the Mystic, towing the coal or lumber laden vessels, or assisted at launchings. One even came as far as Auburn street in 1874, towing scows from East Boston with lumber for the earlier houses of Boston avenue, and this was the last to come above Cradock bridge.

But these are not the boats or days of our composite subject, for while the Latter part may doubtless be plural the former must even remain singular - and the circumstances attending them equally singular. Medford's first historian makes no mention thereof. He was then pastor of a Hingham church and was instrumental in securing, for a time, the coming of the second steamboat in Boston bay to that place in 1818.

It may seem incredible today that a steamboat should traverse the entire length of Medford territory (greater then than now) without floating in either the river or the lake, itself but the third in Massachusetts waters, and prior to the second in Boston bay.

But such was the case nearly a hundred years ago, though today no trace of water remains in its course of nearly five miles through old Medford town. Only one year earlier (July 27, 1817) had steam navigation from Boston to Salem made beginning, and proving a failure financially, the Massachusetts was sold, and on the way to Mobile was wrecked. Neither this first, nor the second and smaller steamboat called the Eagle, were built in the old Bay State. The latter made some trips in the summer of 1818 from New Bedford to Nantucket without financial success, and then came to Salem on September 15. The Eagle remained there two days and went presumably to Boston with but two passengers. The following year she made a few trips to Hingham (as alluded to) and in two succeeding years ran to Nahant, Marblehead and Salem, when she was sold and broken up. The Eagle was smaller than the first, being a little over ninety feet long and less than nineteen feet wide.

We now come to Medford's early steamboat days and the third steamboat, the Merrimack, Captain John L. Sullivan, that ran on the inland route and made a continuous voyage treble the length of those of the Massachusetts and Eagle. She was a still smaller craft, less than a dozen feet wide and fifty or sixty feet long, and of light draught, owing to the physical limitation of her route, and fresh shallow water of the Middlesex canal and the Merrimack river. The former had been in operation but fifteen years, and as yet had paid no dividends, when the steamboat Merrimack first ploughed its placid waters.

With a steam service from Boston to Salem and Newburyport, and the Merrimack river navigable to Haverhill, the canal's interests would be endangered, and its enterprising manager set about their defense. A steamboat line on the inland route would open the Merrimack valley direct to Boston, as locks just constructed made navigation possible to New Hampshire's capital. At that time Lowell and Lawrence were not on the map at all.

But how do we know this? Some fifteen years since a Medford man, (now an octogenarian) said: "My grandfather told me that they used to run steamboats on the canal." As his grandfather, Joseph Wyatt, was a master mechanic on the canal in 1827, the story was the more interesting and credible.

For a time persistent inquiry among the aged people long resident along the old canal, failed to throw light on the subject. An allusion in Amory's Life of Governor Sullivan "to many judicious inventions" by the canal manager (the governor's son), led to further search in Boston Public Library. There we found his printed statements of the same, and also that he had acquired a water power in Medford and had begun to build steam engines for use on the canal. This was on the Aberjona river, a quarter of a mile up from the aqueduct that carried the canal over that stream.*

[*This water power was destroyed by the explosion of a keg of powder beneath the dam in 1865, at the instance of the Charlestown Water Board.]

Mr. Sullivan's steamboat Merrimack was of the type of canal boat then in use. He already had some unsatisfactory experience with "a heavy engine from Philadelphia" and had acquired the patent of Samuel Morey's "revolving engine." It was one of this type that propelled this third Massachusetts steamboat through Medford at a time before steam service was established in Boston harbor or but one steamboat had ever been seen there. It is also interesting to note that Morey's patent was signed by the first president, George Washington.

A model of Morey's first engine is now at the University of Vermont at Burlington. In the absence of drawings or illustrations it is difficult to explain its operation, but Morey's engine successfully propelled a boat against the current of the Connecticut near his home, fourteen years before Fulton (who had invented no engine) made continuously successful use of steam as motive power on the Hudson.

There is a certain fascination in the gleaming steel and rhythmic stroke of a modern steamboat engine; but here was one of a century long gone, when the age of steam was just beginning, designed by a man of the backwoods who had little education or mechanical training; an engine of complicated parts and crude workmanship, which accomplished its purpose, and which (we are told) contained some of the features of the modern cycle motor.

It was fitly named "revolving engine," for the vital parts, i.e., the cylinder, piston, cross-head and the frame enclosing them, rotated around a common center shaft which was geared to that of the paddle wheel. The latter was, as Mr. Sullivan said, "within the stern" of the boat. The low-pressure boiler (condensing the exhaust steam) was fourteen feet long, and contained the furnace in which wood was burnt, supplemented with a stream of tar injected therein.

Our search among the aged people was at last rewarded. We had several interviews with one we had long known, at that time over ninety years of age and in possession of her faculties, and her testimony is entirely credible. She distinctly recalled the passing of this steamboat through the deep cut of the canal just beside her father's house, and spoke particularly of the noise and smoke it made. The latter was doubtless resultant upon the tar burning fixture alluded to. Probably at our interview (in 1900) she was (in that locality) the only witness of the scene then living.

Some years later it was our good fortune to find in an English work on the steam engine, an illustrated description of one American - the Morey - engine, such as propelled the Merrimack through Medford and up to Concord, N.H. the following year.

At that time Mr. Sullivan kept a journal of his cruise which is as follows:

June 13.      In the evening set off from Canal Head, Chelmsford, with two boats in tow.
June 14. Overtook a loaded boat and took her in tow.
June 15. Monday at 9 o'clock arrived at Concord, distance 50 miles: passing 21 locks and 3 canals.
June 16. Went with loading to the Upper Landing, 6 miles, in 1 hour 3 minutes, unloaded and returned in 38 minutes.
June 17. Afternoon 5 o'clock. Went up river 7 miles, in 1 hour 15 min., 23 members of General Court on board.
June 18. Morning. Went up river 7 miles in 1 hour 8 min., 32 passengers on board.
Afternoon. Went up 8 miles with 157 passengers and a band of music, in two boats in tow.
June 19. Morning. Towed a loaded boat to the upper landing 6 miles, 20 members on board, unloaded and returned with 91 passengers.
Afternoon. Went up and down the river with two boats with awnings, the Governor and Council and other gentlemen on board, in all 211 passengers.
June 21. Towed Capt. Merrill to the upper landing: loaded and towed him to Turkey Falls, 15 miles: got back at 12 o'clock.
June 22. At 5 in the morning took a party of members up and down the river 7 miles.
Afternoon. Took a party of 215 on board with music.
June 23. Left Concord with two loaded boats in now.
June 24. Arrived at Head of Middlesex.

The three "loaded boats" towed up stream carried thirteen tons each. Justly proud of his achievement, Captain Sullivan wrote the following letter to the Boston Advertiser:

Mr. Hale: The progress of the art of steam navigation is so interesting to our country that I need not apologize for sending you the enclosed extract from the journal of the Merrimack, at the commencement of the regular application of the power on the canal. This boat is of the form and size used on the canals, provided with a single engine of the revolving kind, similar to that in use at the glass factory* at Lechmere Point. She is propelled by a wheel of peculiar construction, placed at and within the stern. The engine and boiler occupy about one-half the boat. She works under all the disadvantages of novelty. Previously to the commencement of this trip, she towed loaded boats up river, against freshet, two and four at a time, faster than they could have been impelled by muscular labor in low water, and at a time when they could not have proceeded otherwise. The object is to give to the canal and navigation the degree of regularity and despatch alone wanting to turn the whole course of transportation from Boston in that direction upon the canal.

June 27, 1819.


[*New England Glass Works, East Cambridge.]

The Massachusetts was built at Philadelphia, the Eagle at Norwich, Conn., but the Merrimack was built somewhere along the course of the canal - not impossibly at Medford. As yet we have submitted no proof that she came to Medford, but we consider that the following is conclusive. The books of record, accounts and papers of the canal company are pre-served in the county offices at Cambridge.* Search in the carefully audited bills of 1818, reveals one of William Phipps for services rendered and date of each entered. He seems to have been a general utility man, as his services were with parties of "ladies," "the cadets," "cleaning the boat," &c., &c. One item under date of August 11, 1818, at once fixed our attention. It is this: "I day to Medford with steamboat, $1.50." The bill bears the check mark of examination and was duly paid. Thus it appears that the little steamboat Merrimack has the unique distinction of steaming through Medford waters on August 11, 1818, one month and six days before the Eagle, (which was but little larger) made her first appearance in Boston harbor.

[*The papers are now in The Middlesex Canal Association Archives at the University of Lowell Library. (Ed.)]

Through this little old town of barely 1400 people with its ship building industry but a few years in progress, close beside, and never far from, but over and across our tidal river, beside our beautiful lake and through the enchanting woodlands that bordered it, to but not into the smaller river then within our bounds, came the precursor of the modern tow-boat, at that time the only steamboat plying in the waters of the old Bay State.

The query will be raised, Why was not this apparently successful navigation of canal and river continued? for had it been, the successful rival, the railroad, had not gained so easy a victory. The answer may be found, partly in the natural conditions then existing and partly in the financial. The Merrimack river, with its many rocks and the sunken logs of the lumber drives, all difficult to remove, was a continual menace; while the artificial banks of the canal were ever in danger from the surging wash created by the boat's paddle wheel. The latter had caused a similar disaster in Scotland in earlier years. With continued repairs at heavy expense, the enterprise has as yet yielded no return on the investment, but rather, assessment of the stockholders. While the New Hampshire legislators and others of those Captain Sullivan treated to a free excursion enjoyed the same, it requires dollars to finance a project and dynamite to remove obstructions. The former were not forthcoming and the latter then unknown. Under more favorable circumstances Captain Sullivan's dream of river navigation might have been realized.


Over the past two summers, many people have asked the Woburn Canalers how they arrived at the names of their two draft horses, "Thunderbolt," who passed away last year and "Lightfoot", his Percheron successor. In response to these inquiries, the editor recently asked Len Harmon and Tom Smith to explain how the duo came by their names.

In June of 1977 after the work horses were purchased, a multitude of names were "kicked around" such as "Trigger and Tony", "Hum and Strum", "Bob and Ray", and "Lisa and Louie". However, none of the combinations seemed to satisfy the historical dictates for such a unique and important task as drawing up the canal a 4-ton packet boat laden with tourists.

Recalling the days of old, when travel was much more hazardous than in the canal days, Tom Smith proposed that the draft duo be named "Thunderbolt" and "Lightfoot" in reference to the noted highwaymen, Captain Thunderbolt and Captain Lightfoot, who once plied their trade along the turnpikes and highways of New England.

Having both fled the hangman's noose in Ireland, the duo arrived in Boston in 1819. Captain Thunderbolt lived the life of a reclusive "Dr. Wilson" in Brattleboro, Vermont, while his young partner "Lightfoot" went about his old craft from his hide-outs in North Woburn in the shadow of the Middlesex Canal.

The draft horse "Lightfoot" is ready to "stand and deliver" for the excursion of over one mile along the Old Middlesex Canal for passengers aboard the 1803 packet boat "Colonel Baldwin", beginning the 4th of July and each Sunday until Labor Day at 2:00.