Published by the Middlesex Canal Association
Volume 11, No. 2 September 1973
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 22
12th ANNUAL OLD MIDDLESEX CANAL WALK IN BILLERICA
Co-sponsors of the walk are the Appalachian Mountain Club, Boy Scouts of Troop 55, B.S.A., and the Middlesex Canal Association, which will provide a lecturer on the history of Canal. Scouts will serve as guides. Canal and camera enthusiasts welcome. Potluck supper served by the Mothers' Auxiliary, Troop 55, B.S.A., at the Hajjar School, donation $1.50. Make supper reservations by September 20 with Edith J. Choate, 429 West Street, Reading, Massachusetts (944-0129, after 8 p.m.).
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, one mile, bear right on Pollard Street (stay off Route 129) for ½ 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; short section along more obvious 'remains' of Canal.
Another Adams item. Some time ago, Mary Stetson Clarke, in reading the Diary of Charles Francis Adams, discovered that he had spent a great deal of time in 1829 preparing a paper on the Middlesex Canal. The excerpts which follow are from the microfilm edition, by permission of the Massachusetts Historical Society. We are grateful to the Society for the privilege of publishing these excerpts.
SOME WORDS FROM THE PRESIDENT
Our membership and the number of our projects continues to increase. I am happy that offers of help come from all directions. Mrs. Marlene Schroeder of Topsfield has agreed to be chairman of an Education Committee - a new and much needed activity. We have appeals every year for information on the Canal, which sometimes come in bunches (every member of a class will write a personal letter requesting such information). Marlene has not only been answering such requests but also has affirmative plans for such education on American canals by visiting superintendents and other interested school personnel to make available the romantic story within its historic setting of our canal. She is familiar with what has been done by several other states in this area.
Cathy Lawson of Billerica has agreed to be Chairman of the Refreshments Committee and has been promised plenty of help - however, would you like to toss in your particular cookie? Call Cathy at 667-6181.
Nolan Jones of Winchester has agreed to be Corresponding
Secretary; much to my relief he has been energetically filling that role for
several months. He also takes care of other canal organizations' activities, of
which there is a growing number.
We have an active campaign to have the Charlestown Millpond Dam commemorated. Whether this would be by a small park or simply by a marker remains to be seen. A map showing the location of the buried re-mains with respect to present property lines is in use and available, prepared by our own engineers, notably, Burt Verplanck.
The Wilmington site of an improved Route 129 has encouraged development of the Canal in that vicinity. Progress will be reported.
The Canal passes thru some of the finest wetlands one could ask for - also excellent birding country. If someone would like to work on a committee in liaison with the Audubon Society to keep them informed and to request information from them, kindly call the writer at 241-8580, evenings. This could be a worthwhile development. Hope we'll see you on September 22 at the AMC hike thru some of these very stretches.
Douglas P. Adams
The Association has recently received several gifts to add to its collection. Our sincere thanks to Mr. Nolan T. Jones for a set of slides of aerial views of the route of the canal; to Miss Cecilia Payro and Mr. Ernest Payro for their generous gift of six paintings of canal scenes by their father, the late Joseph C. Payro; and to Mrs. Marjorie Lovering Harris for a collection of manuscripts, clippings, and photographs collected by her late father, Frank W. Lovering.
Just before going to press, we have received from Mrs. Frederick A. Ewell her late husband's fine collection of canal maps and material. Mr. Ewell will be remembered by many as a long-time Director and Vice-president of the Association, and we are very grateful to Mrs. Ewell for her generosity.
A Paper on the Middlesex Canal
by Charles Francis Adams
The receipts of the Middlesex Canal arise from three sources. The tolls from the canal, the rent of lands belonging to it, and dividends from other canal corporations in which they are interested.
The following is an account of the receipts from all these for four years last past:
It will be perceived that the first Item is considerably larger during the last than in any preceding year. The second is much smaller, being composed only of rent. In 1825, the sum put down embraces a very miscellaneous collection of proceeds arising apparently from sales of land and of many articles useless to the Canal which in the course of time had accumulated. This is the case in a less degree with the amount in 1826 and 1827.
The third is larger than in any preceding year, and bids fair to increase for the future as will be seen elsewhere.
The Books of the Company go no farther. The present agent knows of none previous to his entering upon his duties. Indeed a great negligence seems to have been prevailing.
The increase during the last year is attributable to the circumstance that the principal part of the transportation for the Manufacturing Companies has been done upon the Canal. The Lowell Factories now afford us more than a third of this Item. It is important that this should be retained by diligence, punctuality and attention. For this will be the sure means of finally destroying the competition which still exists on board.
The Companies have hitherto been willing to pay nearly double our price on account of the interruption during the Winter and they are not yet sufficiently assured of the difference, although the experiment has been so far decidedly advantageous to them. Those formerly engaged in the transportation by land being thrown out of employ for so long a time are making exertions to recover the old Contracts and for the purpose bid a great deal lower than they can possibly carry the goods without loss .... and these the Factories find an interest in encouraging in order to secure them against any rise in our prices. As the Canal and the Factories are in fact mutually advantageous to each other, it is not at all doubtful that they will come to an amicable arrangement sooner or later. And to affect this, Mr. William Appleton has been elected a Director for this year, he being also much interested in Lowell. He in effect will represent that interest, in the Canal. Should nothing occur to interrupt this harmony I can not doubt the final success of the Canal, and the rapid rise of the amount of their receipts.
The second source of revenue is from our lands. The Company holds much more of these than is either necessary or profitable. There is much entirely unproductive, besides subjecting us to the payment of taxes and other incidental expenses. Some lands in Maine, in Charlestown, and in various spots on the line of the Canal. These however will be sold as opportunities occur, to part favourably with them. The productive Property consists of Houses and Mills on the Canal, the rents of which constitute entirely the second Item in the receipts of 1828. Some of this property will improve, and as it is not altogether unprofitable, the Company may retain it consistently with prudence.
The third source of Revenue is from the Stock in other Canals ... From the spot where the Middlesex Canal comes into [the Merrimack River] to the site of Concord in New Hampshire, there are a succession of Falls and Rapids. Canals have been made round all of them by various Companies, and the Proprietors of the Middlesex Canal have thought it for their Interest to subscribe liberally in almost every case.
1. The first of these little works extends round the Wicassee Falls so called, and is owned entirely by us. It is now of little use as the making of a Dam below by the Lowell Companies has so far thrown back the water as to make them passable down by loaded boats while the Act of the Legislature allows no Toles for empty boats passing up, as they are supposed to have been properly taxed when going down. This unlooked for contingency will call for an additional Act of the Legislature, imposing a small duty upon the passage upwards.
2. The second of these undertakings consists of Canals round four or five different spots up the river at short distances from each other, made by the Union and Cromwell Locks and Canal Company. Out of 83 shares, the Middlesex holds 73 and this year received from them $784.75 which is very well. The Agent reports them also as in very good order.
3. The third of these is called the Isle of Hooksett Canal being apparently a removal of the obstruction in the river on one branch of the Stream ... The Middlesex Canal owns 45/100 of the Shares. No dividend has been made this year. The agent reports some repairs.
4. The fourth is the Canal at Bow. This has paid well and regularly for some years, averaging annually about $1300 upon 106 shares for the last four years which is as far as I can trace it. In 1827 it constitutes the whole of the Item of Stock for that year.
5. The fifth is one share of the Middlesex Canal.
I believe there is no more although there are some other Canals on the river such as the Amoskeag Canal - But I presume they did not need any assistance. At any rate, the Middlesex Canal is not interested in them directly.
I believe this statement comprises all the material points relating to the resources of the Canal.
The most famous (and attractive) bridge over the Middlesex Canal was the only one privately owned, which crossed the Canal on the Medford estate of Peter C. Brooks, the author's father-in-law. It was razed in 1935. (Photo from the Lovering Collection).
I shall now proceed to give a view of the Demands of the Canal upon it's resources. To do this, I shall give the average expenditure of the four last years, not including any money devoted to the purpose of new work or extraordinary calls.
The Expenditure divides into three branches: Repairs, Management, Incidental Expenses.
|3. Incid. Expenses:||421.92||481.78||829.71||706.13|
The first Item is large, the present state of the Canal requiring much. Although it is probable that with the present policy it will in a few years be little above the year 1826...
The second Item constitutes the amount paid to the several Officers of the Canal. One thousand dollars goes to the Agent and the rest to the receivers of Toles & ca. I cannot help thinking that this might be reduced by a more calculating and vigilant economy.
The third Item consists of such demands as cannot be regularly classed under other heads, such as taxes upon lands and small contingent expenses to which the Company is subjected. This might also be a little reduced and probably will be as we part with our land.
Judging from these tables, we would be led to deduct the several sums of the second from those of the first and the result would show a balance in those years sufficient to divide for the eight hundred shares $20.00 on a share for 1825, $18.00 for '26, $11.00 for '27, and $20.00 for '28, leaving a small balance for each year.
The dividends have been in fact $15.00 for 1825, $9.00 for 1826, $9.00 for 1827, and $10.00 for 1828.
The Market price of the Stock has been about two hundred and fifty dollars the Share. There was a sale on the 5th of January last of fifty shares at from $235 to 249 dollars...
We must trace the cause of the small Dividends in the History of the Canal. The Property having been so long unprofitable the owners were anxious to realise as much as they could from the proceeds, without expending any more than was absolutely necessary. The consequence has been that as the Canal was built in the first instance with wood, the action of the water hastened its natural decay, and in the lapse of time, the locks and other works became little better than a mass of corruption.
This was discovered at the commencement of the year 1825 and under the direction of the present Agent the Proprietors determined upon replacing the old works, with new and permanent materials. It was in effect building a new Canal.
In the gradual execution of this project, there has already been expended on the line of the Canal:
|for a new Aqueduct over Symmes' River in Charlestown||$7652.45|
|for a Dam at Billerica||3341.37|
|for a Lock at Woburn||9708.59|
These are built of Stone and said to be admirable in point of solidity and durability. Some new wooden works have also been made as the State of the old ones demanded immediate attention, and it is an invariable principle not to close the Canal for a single day in the active season, if possible to avoid it....
In order to meet these extra demands, the Company borrowed of I.C. Jones, who is one of the largest Proprietors – thirteen thousand dollars, which is their only debt – and this has already been reduced to a little more than seven thousand.
To pay this balance and to go on with this plan, it is proposed by the Agent to continue to divide ten dollars upon a share for several years, and devote the surplus to replacing every work make of wood as it shall become rotten, with solid and durable materials.
If it is intended to keep hold of this Stock, this undoubtedly is the only alternative. The Proprietors may regret the inexperience and negligence of the early management, but now their only resource is to repair it.
This policy will gradually make this Canal the most finished in the Country, it will diminish materially the heavy amount of average repairs which presses now so severely, and it will enable the Directors to divide all the profits without consuming part of their Capital as had been done hitherto.
Whether the passing on the Canal will increase in such a manner as to pay for all this in the end must be decided by the opinions of each individual. . . The lumber trade has positively diminished by the stagnation of commerce. But the success of the American System and of the Lowell Factories will be a constant and increasing source of profit. And their success is yet an experiment. Nevertheless we must look to them as the foundation of our best prospects.
I think the Company has full reason to be satisfied with the conduct of their Agent, Mr. Eddy. His activity and his sound views have been of great service and have contributed to the placing the line of these Canals in better condition than they have ever yet been in, and it is desirable that he should be retained in the employment. But I cannot help being surprised at the excessive confidence placed in him. It is to me a matter of great doubt whether any of the Stockholders have any real knowledge of their affairs. I must be allowed to say, that our Agent, who is not interested directly has less inducement to be cautious in the free expenditure of money than would be insured by a prudent check on the part of the actual owners. And although it is very probable that in this individual instance, we may not be losers, yet excessive confidence is never a safe principle, and has already been the source of the misfortunes of this Corporation.
... it seems that this Stock is principally in the hands of large Capitalists here. There are but ninety two or three Proprietors and many of these like George and myself merely nominal. Mr. I. Coffin Jones is largely interested and is disposed to increase rather than diminish his Property in it, believing that as a perpetuity, it will more than counter-balance the smallness of the profit. If I had to have any opinion, it would be favorable to it in this right. But it is only a Property fit for Capitalists – Men who have no immediate necessity for revenue. Perhaps it's condition is on the whole it's safety for in the present rage for Rail Roads and violation of Charters, the temptation would have been irresistable and should Railways yet succeed, this disadvantage will inevitably ensue.
Boston. February 7th, 1829
LOWELL CANAL LOCKS TO BE RESTORED?
Exciting news from Lowell: A proposal is being made by the Human Services Corporation for a series of restorations in preparation for the 1976 bicentennial (and the City's 150th anniversary). The Commonwealth is being asked to fund the restoration and rehabilitation of the locks on the Pawtucket Canal (now intact, although in disrepair), so as to permit navigation from the Merrimack River, around the Pawtucket Falls by way of the Canal, into the Concord River.
If this project is accomplished, there will be working locks and an operating canal practically within sight of the Middlesex.