Published by the Middlesex Canal Association
Billerica, Massachusetts
Volume 9, No. 3    October, 1971

SEPTEMBER 25, 1971

Co-sponsored by the Middlesex Canal Association, Appalachian Mountain Club and Boy Scout Troop 55. Meet at North Billerica at Talbot Mills Parking Lot, near Concord River Dam, at 2 P.M. From Billerica proceed north on Route 3A about 1˝ miles to Lowell St.; turn right onto Lowell St., continue on Elm St. by the Talbot Mills, crossing river where you immediately see parking lot. A 4-mile woodland route over prepared trails, and a short section along more obvious "remains" of the Canal. Scouts will serve as guides. Canal and camera enthusiasts are welcome. A potluck supper will be served by the Mothers' Auxiliary, Troop 55, B.S.A., at the Kennedy School, donation $1.25. Make supper reservations by Sept. 23rd with Edith J. Choate, 429 West St., Reading, (944-0129 after 8 P.M.).

OCTOBER 16, 1971

The Association is joining with the Billerica and Lowell Historical Societies in acting as host to the first meeting of the 69th year of the Bay State Historical League.

9:00 - 11:30 a.m.

Registration including coffee and donuts at the First Parish Church, Billerica Center (on Route 3A). The First Church building of 1797 burned down in 1967 and a replica was constructed in 1970 on the site.

Historical Billerica sites to be visited include the Clara Sexton Memorial (C.1720), headquarters for the Billerica Historical Society. Parts of the Middlesex Canal, used from 1803 to 1853, will also be on the tour.

11:00 - 11:30 a.m.

Business Meeting of the League in the First Parish Church.

11:30 - 1:00 p.m.

Chowder and pie luncheon, prepared and served by the ladies of the First Parish Church.

1:00 - 5:00 p.m.

Tour of Historic Lowell

Stops will include the Francis Gate, Pawtucket Falls and the Swamp Locks of the Lowell Canal System; the Whistler House (C.1825) which was also the residence of Paul Moody, the inventor and James Francis, the engineer; and the new Lowell Technological Institute Library, which houses the manuscript collections of the Middlesex Canal Association and the Lowell Historical Society.

5:00 p.m.

Return to Billerica Center

Participants will be bused to all sites on the program that cannot be reached by foot from the First Parish Church. A charge of three dollars is necessary to cover the cost of transportation and lunch.

Reservations should be made by October 9, 1971. A check for three dollars, made out to the Billerica Historical Society, and forwarded to Mrs. Paul F. Newman, 761 Boston Road, Pinehurst, Mass. 01866, will reserve your bus, seat and lunch.

The following letter and diary extract were published in Volume VII of the Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts.

Brookline, July 20th (1817)

We entered the boat in Charlestown and set off at ˝ past nine; the water gave coolness to the air and the boat being covered, gave shelter from the sun, and the party was too large to have any stiffness; indeed, there was the utmost ease and good humor without sadness through the day. The shores of the Canal for most of the distance are beautiful. We proceeded at the rate of 3 miles an hour, drawn by 2 horses, to the most romantic spot (about 9 miles from Boston) that I ever beheld; you have not, I believe, seen, though I dare say you have had a description of, this spot. Mr. J. L. Sullivan has erected a little building on the banks of a lake most beautifully surrounded by woods and occasional openings into a fertile country. The lake is about twice the size of Jamaica Pond or larger, and has a small wood-covered island1 in the centre. On this Island a bank of music was placed which began playing as soon as we landed. It seemed a scene of enchantment. Cousin Kate who was by my side seemed too much affected to speak. Kate happened to be at Mrs. Quincy's on a visit of a week and went as one of her family. Olivia Buckminister was with us, her sisters declined. I was truly sorry not to have Eliza there. We had Mr. Webster;2 Savage,3 Callender,4 Tudor;5 H. Gray;6 P. Mason;7 Russell Sullivan8 and two of his College friends, – Emerson9 and Sam' May,10 with whom I was very much pleased. Besides the Mr. Sullivans, (were) Mr. Quincy11 and Mr. Amory;12 making in all a pretty large number. Having so many wits of the party, there was no lack of bon mots. The gentlemen played off upon each other, to our no small amusement, most of the time. When their spirits flagged at all we had the resource of music. Five instruments, horns, flutes and a violin were extremely well performed on at intervals thro' the day, and at times we had vocal music from Mrs. Quincy, Mr. Callender and Mrs. W. Sullivan, and occasionally Mr. Webster and young May, who discovered, I thought, true, modest assurance with very good sense. Do you know him?

The ascent of the Canal was altogether new to me and very interesting; we passed 3 or 4 locks, and it was all the pleasanter for having so many children to whom it was likewise a novelty. After we landed and had ranged about a little, the children danced on the green under a tent or awning and we had seats around them. I never saw more pretty or happy faces than the little group presented. After two or three hours passed in looking about us and admiring the various beauties of the place, we entered the building I spoke of in which we were quite hungry enough to relish. Two long tables accommodated the young and old, and there was just room for benches on each side. This was the only time I felt the heat, which was greater on that day (the 18th July), than it has been any other this season. We ladies were therefore glad to leave the gentlemen very soon and dispersed where best it pleased us for an hour. We again collected and re-entered the boat; tables were placed the whole length of it on which were arranged fruit, wine, ice and glasses, and we had very good room on each side of them. Mr. Sullivan made this arrangement thinking it would delay us too long, if we had the desert in the pavilion, for Mrs. Quincy, who had so great a distance to go; however, it seemed to be the general opinion we had set out too soon, therefore we landed again at another delightful spot13 about 2 miles farther down, where we stopped an hour. It was a fine grove, sloping down to another large pond;14 beyond which was seen in the distance the little village and spire of Menotomy,15 – a pretty termination of the view. This was as pleasant an hour as any in the day, and here it was (that) I was particularly struck with May. We were standing on the edge of the pond and observed some pond lilies a little distance in the water, too far to be reached however without going into the water. Some lady expressed a wish to have one. "Is there no gentleman spirited enough to come forward and get them?" said Mr. Webster, "is no one gallant enough! – strange! 't is very strange!" May stood it so far and then darted forward urged on by Mr. W., who said he was glad the days of chivalry were not over, – "very glad to see you have so much courage, Mr. May." "It would have required more courage not to have done if after the challenge I received," said May; "I claim no merit, Sir." "A little farther, Sir," said Mr. Webster, "there is another on your right; one on the other side," &c. May went on till he was up to his middle, and I besought Mr. W. not to urge him farther. "Oh," said he, "it does not hurt a young man to wet his feet; I would have gone myself if it were not for the ladies." May presently came back with his hands full of flowers, which he gave to Mr. Webster, and from him the ladies near received each one. Mr. S(ullivan) came up just then and asked May what had induced him to it. "Mr. Webster's eloquence, Sir," said he. "It never procured me a lily before," said the Orator. "Though it has many laurels," replied May. Mr. W. Bowed, and thus ended this little affair, which I thought your interest in the Col. might lead you to listen to with pleasure.

I have not done justice to Mr. Webster's words and his look and manner, (which) if you have not seen, no words of mine can paint to you. It always delights me to see him, and I never was so much charmed as this day. To all (the) wit and power of mind of all the other gentlemen he super-adds a tenderness and unaffected feeling that is seldom seen is his sex and expecially at his time of life and in his pursuits. I only wish I could see as much of him as Eliza Buckminster does and feel, as she does, that he is her friend. I have the pleasure of his recognizing me whenever I meet him and generally have a little of his conversation. This is quite a digression from my story. Well, we entered the boat again and gently pursued our course a few miles farther when we again stopped near a house16 where coffee had been prepared for us; we did not, however, enter the house, but the coffee and necessary apparatus were deposited in the boat. The children then had another cotillion while the boat was descending one of the locks, which was not so pleasant as the ascent. We then walked a short distance on the shore, got into the boat again, took coffee, listened again to sweet strains, and saw the sun descend and the moon rise in a sky beautifully bedecked by light clouds, and reached our place of debarkation17 just after the last tints of daylight had faded.

1 Horn Pond.
2 Daniel Webster.
3 James Savage, long the President of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
4 John Callender, Clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court. See Loring's Hundred Boston Orators, pp. 257, 258.
5 William Tudor, the founder and first editor of the North American Review, and a founder of the Boston Athenaeum.
6 Horace Gray.
7 William Powell Mason, law-partner of the Hon. William Sullivan, and later Re-porter of the United States Circuit Court.
8 Rev. Thomas Russell Sullivan, son of Dr. John Langdon Sullivan, was settled over the Unitarian Church at Keene, N.H.
9 George Barrell Emerson.
10 Rev. Samuel Joseph May. He was a son of Col. Joseph May, for more than thirty years a Warden of King's Chapel.
11 Josiah Quincy.
12 Jonathan Amory.
13 In later years known as Bacon's Grove, near the present Wedgemere station on the old Boston and Lowell Railroad. Near this grove, in 1819, was a mill owned by John Langdon Sullivan.
14 Upper Mystic Pond.
15 West Cambridge, now Arlington.
16 This was the tavern of the Medford River lock, which stood on the northerly corner of Boston Avenue and Arlington Street, West Medford.
17 On the shore of the Mill Pond in Charlestown, near the present Sullivan Square, which was named in honor of Governor Sullivan.

Quincy. 1817, July 18th. Friday.

Set off early. My mother, Catharine;2 Abby3 and myself in the carriage, my father, Margaret4 and Sophia5 in his gig. We drove to a place in Charlestown on the Middlesex Canal. We found a large party of friends we had been invited to join al-ready in one of the canal boats. They were the families of Mr. and Mrs. Richard and William Sullivan, Mrs. George Sullivan, two of her younger sisters, Jane and Ann Winthrop, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Webster, Mr. John L(angdon) Sullivan, a Superintendent of the Canal, who arranged this charming party, Olivia Buck-minister, George B. Emerson and S. May, two Collegians, and some other young men.

We proceeded up the Canal, and passed through several locks; the banks were beautiful. We passed through the grounds of Mr. P. C. Brooks and along the banks of several beautiful ponds or rather lakes, until we arrived on the bank of the largest denominated the Lake of the Woods.6 This was surrounded by hills covered with trees; and contained a beautiful wooded Island. Here our party disembarked and as we wound our way to a Pavilion situated at the finest point of view, strains of music floated over the lake and a boat emerged from the island and rowed toward the shore. The musicians landed, and, followed by a long procession of children, advanced to an eminence situated between the canal and the lake, and commanding a complete view of both. There the grass had been cut, and the ground levelled under an awning, and here the whole party assembled, the children danced, the band played. The ladies and gentlemen either looked on or wandered on the banks of the lake. The scene was diversified by a canal boat full of passengers coming down the canal from the Merrimac and exchanging salutations as they passed on toward Boston. After an hour or two, a march was played and the company walked in procession to the Pavilion where a collation was prepared. Walking and dancing was resumed, and late in the afternoon we bade a reluctant farewell to the lovely scene and again descended the canal and the locks we had passed in the morning. The band playing and the gentlemen and ladies now and then singing songs.

We again disembarked in a wood7 through the shade of which we walked to the banks of another lake. Some of the ladies expressed a wish for some water lilies. Mr. Webster said, "If I was a young man the ladies should not ask for those flowers in vain!" On which Mr. Emerson and Mr. Sam May dashed into the lake and wading about gathered a great number of lilies, brought them to shore and distributed them, at the great risk of their health as they were obliged to wear their wet clothes the rest of the afternoon. Fortunately, they were attired in black silk or pantaloons which were not injured in appearance. Mrs. Quincy thought it was very wrong in Mr. Webster to make such a speech and cause the young men to run such a risk. We walked farther up the bank of the lake, (and) my mother seated herself on the stump of a tree; C. Eliot and I and some of the gentlemen placed ourselves at her feet and she sang several songs. A return to the boat was sounded and we marched through the woods to the tune of "How sweet through the woodlands." We paused again to take coffee and it was delightful, floating down the canal. The sun set, the moon rose, the band played and the gentlemen sang songs until we arrived at the place of embarkation in Charlestown, where the carriages were in waiting.

After leaving C. Eliot at her father's house in Tremont St.,8 Boston, we returned to Quincy.

1 Miss Quincy was the eldest daughter of President Quincy.
2 Catharine Eliot, daughter of Samuel Eliot, afterward Mrs. Andrews Norton.
3 Abigail Phillips Quincy.
4 Margaret Morton Quincy married Benjamin D. Greene.
5 Maria Sophia Quincy.
6 Otherwise known as Horn Pond, in Woburn.
7 Bacon's Grove.
8 The house of Samuel Eliot, the great merchant and philanthropist, stood on a large estate which made the northerly corner of Beacon and Tremont Streets

by Harry C. Dinmore, Treasurer, Lowell Historical Society

Proprietors of Locks & Canals on the Merrimack River

This corporation was established in 1792 by wealthy merchants and ship owners of Newburyport for the purpose of "making the Merrimack River navigable"; concerned as they were with the importation and exportation of merchandise, and the exchange of goods and the establishment of profitable trading areas.

The Merrimack is not a good "trading" river, with its many falls, rapids, and turns, together with the bar across its mouth. However, maritime commerce was the only way for Massachusetts to thrive around 1800, and with the foreign situation strangling overseas trade, the river appeared to be the best way to tap the goods and trading of the interior of New England. The legislature was encouraging canals and other trading devices.

The worst obstacle in the Merrimack was the 32 foot drop at the Pawtucket Falls, so that the new corporation obtained a charter and all the water rights to make the river navigable at this point. A canal was decided upon, all the necessary land purchased for $1300, and construction begun in 1792 for a 4-lock canal and 1˝ miles of digging. This was completed from above Pawtucket Falls to the Con-cord River by 1796 at a cost of $50,000.

As one of the first completed canals in this country, many mistakes were made, and these contributed to the continuing expensive maintenance throughout its life as a transportation medium. Materials carried were logs, lumber, turpentine, pitch, stone and the produce of the upcountry. The lumber shipments resulted in the establishment of the greatest shipbuilding area in the country in the lower river basin, with ship-yards at Haverhill, Amesbury, Salisbury, and six at Newburyport.

For a brief time, things went well, but within a few years, competition from the Middlesex Canal, and extremely high maintenance costs turned the whole venture into a non-profitable investment. During its first 23 years of operation, the shares, valued at $100., earned a total of only $88. The water-rights were never used for profit, although one of the original founders had obtained an option on them.

It is most interesting to note the names of the early stockholders of this company:

Dudley Atkins Tyng -- Educated at Harvard, Boston lawyer, who, through the influence of Judge Lowell, inherited land in Chelmsford and what is now Tyngsboro.

William Coombs

Joseph Tyler (first Construction supt.)

Joshua Carter

Jonathan Jackson--Educated at Harvard, 1st President of the Corp., Married his boss's daughter, Hannah Tracy, and was the Father of our Patrick Tracy Jackson; Treas. of Harvard, member of Congress.

Oliver Wendell

Warren Dutton

Moses Brown

William Bartlett

George Cabot

Judge John Lowell (Father of Francis C. Lowell)

Christopher Gore

Joseph Tyler started the construction and it was completed by Thomas M. Clark, and operated by Mr. Clark for many years.

Perhaps because of their close business association, and their social ties, these families inter-married for several generations. It is therefore quite easy to trace the family influences that ran through from the original group to found the Locks & Canals to the men who started the Boston Mfg. Co. and the Mills in Lowell. A few outsiders made their way into the charmed circle, such as Kirk Boott, Paul Moody, and the Appletons, but in general, things were kept in the families.

In fact, Thomas M. Clark, the agent of the Canal, was appointed as the man to buy up the necessary land in East Chelmsford--so for $50,000 for the canal and water—rights, and $50,000 for the land, all the assets were placed in the name of the first mill, the Merrimack Mfg. Co.

It certainly was no great task to buy up the original canal shares from the old families, such as Dutton, Jackson, Cabot, Wendell, and Lowell. (And watch the name of Christopher Gore, who turns up in the Boston Mfg. Co., the Merrimack Mfg. Co., and Middlesex Canal and eventually as Governor of Massachusetts.

The Middlesex Canal was conceived in 1791 by James Sullivan, later Attorney General and Governor of Massachusetts. It was chartered in 1793 by Sullivan and a dozen other farsighted men of Medford and Boston, and it had its engineering genius, Loammi Baldwin of Woburn, the Father of the famous family of Engineers.

These men were interested in developing Boston as the trading center of the back country; they correctly foresaw the great advantages of landing materials directly in Boston.

They thereupon embarked on building a 27 mile ribbon of water from Middlesex Village to Boston, following the Ice-age path of the Merrimack River. This involved a really ambitious venture, with engineering techniques never before used; 20 locks, 8 aqueducts, and 50 bridges, with ditches and built up walls. The planned cost was around $600,000--but it eventually cost over $1,500,000. The maintenance and replacement costs were very high.

These men, however, had a much wider vision as to the promotion of the up-country trade--they extended their influence to the improvement of the Canals at Manchester and Concord, and further up-river. Their superior planning resulted in a really successful venture.

By 1803 the first boat went thru and by 1808, the canal was in successful and profitable operations. By 1815 the Middlesex Canal had sealed the fate of the Pawtucket Canal as a transportation medium. It ran its own fleet of boats; and tolls increased, reaching a maximum of $43,000 in 1835.

The back-country trade was encouraged by the up-river canals, and the founding of Lowell in 1823 contributed to the generous earnings.

The only real competition during this period came from the teamsters, who, while charging a little higher rates, furnished door-to-door handling, and single person liability for damage, and all-year transportation. They carried a goodly portion of the finished goods from Lowell, until about 1830.

The names of the men involved in this Canal, up to about 1834 were:

James Sullivan -- later Governor

Jonathan Porter

Jonathan Amory

Samuel Swann

Oliver Wendell

Benjamin Hall

William Appleton

Loammi Baldwin

Abbot Lawrence

James Winthrop

Luther Lawrence

Christopher Gore

Amos Lawrence

The cross-influence of these men with those in the Locks & Canals and the Lowell Mills is most interesting, and suggests either a Community or a Conflict of interests in the subsequent fate of the Middlesex Canal and the building of the Boston and Lowell Railroad.

Thus we see a well-run business enterprise in the Middlesex Canal which contributed greatly to the development of New England, and had real success until about 1835.

Curiously enough, this success was its own undoing, in the end. It defeated the Pawtucket group so completely, that those owners turned to their water-power assets for eventual development and brought the Cotton Mill industrial revolution to Lowell.

The vision of the manufacturing men who came with that group, together with their skills, resulted in the planning and design of the Railroad, which eventually felled the Middlesex Canal, with the final irony of floating to Lowell, the materials, people and the locomotive that put the Canal out of business.

The railroad was chartered in 1830 over the protests of the Canal management. Within a year after 1835, when the first train moved, the canal receipts were down 50% and by 1843, when the Concord railroad was opened, disaster had arrived. The last boat went through in 1853 and the corporation was disbanded in 1859.

With the acquisition of all the shares and water-rights of the Old Company, and all the land needed in Lowell, the Capitalists of the Boston Mfg. Co. in Waltham were ready for their great revolution.

A prerequisite for ownership in the first mill in Lowell, was ownership of shares of the Boston Mfg. Co., and this held for the future developments of the Locks & Canals in Lowell.

Suffice to say, that it would appear that the modern day use of corporate structures to put together "conglomerates" started here in Lowell, with the multiplicity of activities of the Locks & Canals Corp. in the 1825-1900 era.

The Merrimack Mfg. Co. deeded all its land and water-rights to the Locks & Canals in 1825, taking back only its own property and rights. Subsequently, Locks & Canals sold land to new mills together with the necessary "Mill-powers" to operate the machinery planned for that land. (One "Mill-power" would operate 3584 spindles on no. 14 yarn, together with looms to convert to cloth--a total of about 60 H.P.).

By 1845, when all the available "Mill-powers" had been allotted to Mills, the remaining land was auctioned to the public. By that time, however, the Locks and Canals had established a Machine Shop which built all the machinery, and the locomotives for the Railroad; founded the science of Hydraulics in America, planned and built the Boston & Lowell railroad, built all the Mills and Boarding Houses, and through its directors and managers, effectively ran the City of Lowell for over 100 years.

While it no longer is the industrial heart of Lowell, it still owns the Canals, controls their waterflow, and generates all the power possible with that flow; sells power to its industrial customers, and operates a power interchange with New England Power for its over-under power demand.

The Boston & Lowell railroad was conceived by Patrick Tracy Jackson, one of the organizing geniuses of the Lowell and Waltham mill complexes, and he was the first President and General Manager.

The Charter was granted in 1830, and the next few years were spent investigating the latest engineering know-how in railroads. James Baldwin, son of Loammi, was the first engineer, and George W. Whistler assembled the first locomotive.

The capital for building the railroad came from the entrepreneurs of Lowell, and the directorships were completely intertwined with the Locks & Canals and the Lowell Mills.

The very complete engineering studies initiated by Mr. Jackson resulted in a double-tracked grade from Lowell to Boston, with not over 10% rise in a mile, and practically indestructible bridges (they are still in use). The track gauge was set at4 ft. 8˝" to take the English locomotives, and the first one of these came from England, knocked down, with no instructions.

It was assembled in the Lowell Machine shops, who promptly went on to build more and larger engines for use on many American railroads.

The building of the railroad had only one mistake; they used stone ties which were rough on the rolling stock. These were changed to wood when the second track was laid in 1848.


So we follow the complete circle of development from the weak sister of the Pawtucket Canal, developing into the Power base for the Industrial Revolution which was Lowell, with the Middlesex Canal contributing its bit, and dieing out in the face of the railroad. And today--the railroad itself is bankrupt, brought down by highways, trucks, and airplanes!