Published by the Middlesex Canal Association
Billerica, Massachusetts
Volume 10, No. 1    September, 1972

1962        10TH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE        1972

SEPTEMBER 10, 1972 - 2 P.M.

By proclamation of the County Commissioners, September 10, 1972, has been designated as Middlesex Canal Day.

Celebrating its tenth anniversary, the Association will meet on the grounds of the Baldwin Mansion, Routes 128 and 38, in North Woburn. An interesting program has been planned. Lt. Col. Wilbar M. Hoxie, C.E. will deliver the main address. The special guests will be John F. Dever, Jr., Frederick J. Connors, and John L. Danehy, County Commissioners of Middlesex County.

As the main event of the day, Mr. Dever, Chairman of the County Commissioners will formally transfer to the Association custody of the corporate records and papers of the Proprietors of the Middlesex Canal which have been deposited in the County Court-house at Cambridge since 1859. Refreshments will be served and all are invited.


The annual meeting of the Middlesex Canal Association, which was postponed last April, will be held immediately following the Middlesex Canal Day festivities, at the Baldwin Mansion, North Woburn, Massachusetts, on Sunday, September 10, 1972, commencing at 2:00 P.M.


Saturday, September 30th, 11th Annual Old Middlesex Canal Walk in Billerica. Meet at Hajjar School at corner of Call and Rogers Streets, at 1:30 p.m. From Billerica Center proceed north on route 3A to first traffic light, 1% miles, bear right on Pollard Street (stay off #129) for 4 mile, right on High Street. After crossing railroad tracks turn left on Rogers Street. School is on left.

Four-mile woodland route over prepared trails, and a short section along more obvious remains of the Canal. Co-sponsors of the walk are the Boy Scouts of Troop 55, B.S.A., the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Middlesex Canal Association, who will provide a lecturer on the history of the Canal. 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 8p.m.)

[Below] we reproduce one of the interesting gems from the Proprietors of the Middlesex Canal papers from Cambridge. This is a letter from Col. Baldwin describing the boats just delivered to the corporation.

A printed version appears below:

Chelmsford, October 19, 1804


The four canal boats that remained for Mr. Buck to deliver by his con-tract of the 22d of February last arrived at the head of the Canal this day about noon where I was at that time, and agreeably to your request I have inspected them as well as I could as they lay in the water and part loaded with casks. I find them much of the quality of those two we received some time ago. The length of these is 74 feet, which I think (with their square corners) is just right, the breadth at the top as follows, two of them is 9'10" one 9'9" and one 9'8", the height of the sides of two of them is about 3'6" and one 3'4" and the other 3'3". I am satisfied as to the height of the sides, but they appear a little too upright, that is to say the boats are a little too broad at bottom say 9'8", 9'7" or thereabouts. There are twenty knees to each boat. There are no .thwarts yet prepared, he expects to procure them here but I think it would be better to have them 12 inches broad instead of 8 inches as the contract says. The side planks appear to be shrunk some and I expect the boats will leak when loaded down below the seams, there ought to be another thread of Okum made in to follow the present caulking. The oars are short and small--however upon the whol I am inclined to think we had better accept them. The timber and plank appears to be pritty good - the upper plank on the sides or water pieces as they are called, are each of them of one intire piece from end to end that is 74 feet in length without a but (t) joint which I think adds much to the strength and value of the boat. The work seems tolerably well executed for this kind of boat and believe Mr. Buck has earned the money which he is to have for the boats.

I am most respectfully Gentlemen your humble servant.

Loammi Baldwin

Mr. Benjamin Joy to be communicated.

NB - Five years later, in January, 1809, the Proprietors banned any boat built square at the ends from the Canal!


The tenth anniversary of the founding of the Middlesex Canal Association deserves a report of progress.

During the past twelve months, despite the dearth of issues of Towpath Topics, there has been great activity.

Shortly after the last issue was published, the Association, in conjunction with the Billerica and Lowell Historical Societies, hosted a successful meeting of the Bay State Historical League on October 16, 1971. On a perfect fall day, there were over 200 who attended the meeting, took a bus tour of sections of the canal and visited the Canal archives at Lowell Technological Institute.

In conjunction with this meeting, and thanks to the generosity of H. P. Hood & Son, Mary Stetson Clarke's excellent pocket guide to the Middlesex Canal was published and distributed. The first edition is already exhausted and a second edition is now available.

Shortly afterwards, the Massachusetts Department of Public Works announced that, in connection with the relocation of Route 129 in Wilmington, it was going to build a bridge over the canal and also restore some 1200 feet of the canal on both sides of the road crossing. This announcement started a series of editorials, news stories and feature articles and also one of the inimitable Dahl cartoons. The artist was kind enough to give the Association the original drawing and permission to reproduce it.

Next came the dramatic news of the saving of the Baldwin Mansion in Woburn, threatened by destruction because of the exercise of an option by the developer of the adjoining shopping center who needed parking area. The owner offered and gave the building to the just-organized Woburn Historical Commission which raised enough funds to move the historic house across Route 38 to a parcel of city-owned land. There it now sits, appropriately on the banks of the Middlesex Canal, originally conceived and built by its most famous owner and occupant. Subsequently, the house was designated a Historic Landmark.

Then the Department of Natural Resources released its report requested by the Legislature to determine the feasibility of acquiring and restoring the Canal, recommending prompt acquisition of as much of the Canal as possible.

As a result of all this activity from different agencies, the directors decided, instead of separate winter and spring meetings, to combine both into an all-day workshop held at Lowell Technological Institute on April 8, 1972. At this meeting, we heard representatives from each of the foregoing agencies, plus the Metropolitan District Commission, the Lowell Model Cities Educational Component and National Park Service. In addition, Dr. Richard W. Hale, Jr., acting chairman of the Massachusetts Historical Commission, announced that the canal had been recommended for entry in the National Register of Historic Places.

Finally, Representative F. Bradford Morse, just prior to his resignation from Congress and his appointment as Undersecretary of the United Nations, spoke and announced that he was filing a bill in Congress to create a Lowell Historic Canal District National Cultural Park. This bill has since been filed and was co-sponsored by all the Massachusetts delegation in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. There is a great deal of enthusiasm in the Lowell area which bodes well for the passage of this legislation. Al-though the bill as presently written would not permit the inclusion of any of the Middlesex Canal outside of Lowell, it would permit the saving of the guard locks at the Merrimack River entrance, which are now buried under several feet of fill and railroad tracks. Also, if the Park were eventually established, it would be quite a logical extension to connect it to Charlestown by a Middlesex Canal corridor as a satellite park.

Then, on April 23, 1972, to cap the progress of the previous months, the Boston Globe published in its magazine a lengthy article, with pictures, on the Canal and the Association. The article is well-written and accurate and represents many months of re-search on the part of the author, Joan Mahoney.

Finally, on June 8, 1972, the Middlesex County Commissioners, in anticipation of the demolition of the Cambridge Court House, voted to entrust to the Association the Corporate papers of the Proprietors of the Middlesex Canal which have been in the possession of the County since the corporation was dissolved in 1859. These papers have been kept (in excellent condition) in the basement of the Court House and have been available for serious scholars who took the time to get permission (and a guide) to see them.

The Commissioners felt that the Association has established itself as a permanent organization and that, since it has a safe repository for its archives, at Lowell Tech., it was logical to deposit the papers with us. At the present time, they are stored separately in the archives and are gradually being catalogued. When this task is completed, there will be a wealth of material available to students as well as scholars. It will also make easier the life of the editor of Towpath Topics, who will have material for many issues from this one source.

In the past ten years, the Middlesex Canal Association has organized itself, then established itself as an important historical and conservation organization. It has spread the gospel well, so that State, Federal and local officials are well aware of the Canal. It has gathered together an enviable collection, especially its recent acquisition, which is pre-served and available to the public.

This is not to say we can rest on our laurels. On the Contrary, in this time of governmental austerity, there is a good deal to be done to persuade the State and Federal governments that the Canal merits money appropriations. Senator Brooke's office has al-ready expressed interest in Federal participation through the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission. Much more co-ordination and hustling will be needed, but we have made a beginning.

After ten years, it seems appropriate to change presidents. It has been an honor, and a challenge, and at all times exciting, to preside over the Association for ten years. But this seems to be a logical place to change the succession. Therefore, I have appointed a nominating committee to recommend a new resident and a slate of officers and directors.

I am sure that a fresh administration will complete the project which we have set for ourselves.

Arthur L. Eno, Jr.


The Association reports with sadness the passing, on July 1, 1972, of Frederick A. Ewell, one of its founders, its vice president for many years, and at the time of his death, a director.

The Association - and particularly those of us who worked with him for so many years - will greatly miss him.


Another interesting commercial announcement comes from American Canadian Line, Inc., P. O. Box 368, Warren, Rhode Island, which has two boats touring the Hudson River, Erie Canal, St. Lawrence River and even the inland waterway to Florida. For an informative and attractive brochure, write the Company.


Enclosed with this issue is a dues notice for all members. Dues for the year beginning October 1, 1972 will soon be payable. Since the Association has had heavy expenses in the past year, it is depending even more on revenue from dues. It will be helpful if dues can be paid as soon as possible. Even if you do not receive a bill, you can join or renew your membership by sending a check for $2.00 or $10.00 to Middlesex Canal Association, P. O. Box 333, Billerica, Massachusetts.


The Association has procured a number of copies of the Globe Magazine featuring the illustrated article on the Canal. Unfortunately, it will not be possible to distribute a copy to each member of the Association. But a copy will be sent to anyone who missed the original newspaper for a price of 97 cents, plus 3 cents tax, or a total of $1.00, including postage and mailing.


The British Waterways Board, Melbury House, Melbury Terrace, London NW1, England, publishes a monthly "Waterways News." Subscriptions are $5.00 a year. They also publish an annual calendar. The 1972 edition has 12 lovely colour photographs of some of the beauty spots on Britain's canals. The cost is $2.00 postpaid.

The British Inland Waterways Association publishes a bi-monthly bulletin which, including membership in the Association, costs $6.00 a year to: The Inland Waterways Association, 114 Regent's Park Road, London NW1, England.


A group of canal enthusiasts has organized a national organization, the American Canal Society, to encourage the preservation, restoration, interpretation and usage of the canals of the United States, past and present; to cooperate with individual canal societies for actions to be taken on threatened canals, or in the absence of local canal societies, to act as a focal point for action; and to provide for the exchange of general canal information.

It is not their intention to interfere with the autonomy of various individual Canal Societies and Associations in the conduct of their own affairs, but simply to fill a gap in providing a clearing house and distribution medium for canal information and activities on a national basis.

The year 1972 will be a year of formation in which they seek your cooperation in soliciting membership and support. They have plans to issue a newsletter, initially on a quarterly basis, and they are asking individual canal societies and associations to name ACS Correspondents to keep us informed of local activities. Details will be sent to any individual who would like to participate in the reporting of canal events.

Membership dues are $4.00 per year. You can join by sending your name and address, with a check to: William H. Shank, Secretary, 809 Rathton Road, York, Penn. 17403.