Middlesex Canal Association    P.O. Box 333    Billerica, Massachusetts 01821
Volume 15, No. 3    September, 1977

In early June, Governor Dukakis made a visit to the Middlesex Canal restoration in Woburn, prior to signing the enabling legislation to create the State Middlesex Canal Commission. At the time, the Governor took a brief trial excursion on board Woburn's canal packet, the "Colonel Baldwin". Shown (l to r) Tom Smith, Governor Dukakis, Joe Kopycinski, Len Harmon, and Steve Mills, (bow man).

Gov. Michael Dukakis, Len Harmon, Joe Kopycinski, Fran Ver Planck, and Tom Smith (photo contributed by Nolan Jones)

September 24, 1977

The 16th annual Old Middlesex Canal Walk in Billerica will take place on Saturday afternoon September 24, 1977 at 1:30 P.M. Meet at the Hajjar School, corner of Call and Rogers Streets. From Billerica Center proceed North on Route 3A to the first traffic light, (about 1 mile), bear Right on Pollard Street, (avoiding Route 129) for mile, then turn Right on High Street. After crossing railroad tracks turn Left on Rogers Street. The School is on your left. The walk will cover a 4 mile woodland route over prepared trails, a short stretch along the more obvious remains of the canal. Co-sponsors of the walk are the Appalachian Mountain Club, Troop 55, BSA, whose Scouts will serve as guides, and Middlesex Canal Association, which will provide the lecturer, Lt. Col. Wilbar M. Hoxie, former President of the Association. Canal and camera enthusiasts are welcome. Potluck supper served by Troup 55 Mothers Auxiliary at the Hajjar School at the end of the walk. Supper donation: $1.50. Make reservations for supper by September 20 with Edith Choate, 429 West Street, Reading (944-0219).


As your new president may I say, welcome to you all and also invite you to involve yourselves actively this year in the plans for the canal. The significant contributions of the Woburn Historical Commission in completing the PACKET BOAT and initiating the MIDDLESEX CANAL COMMISSION signed into law by Gov. Dukakis will be hard to duplicate. The big and important work is to implement support for these ventures.

Board member Leonard Harmon has provided the spark plug for these fine undertakings. He has also headed up the Woburn Canal Society whose membership consists of residents of Woburn from Winn St. to Lowell St. in Woburn's Central Square. These members have created a covenant which declares that no building shall ever be allowed on the sections of canal that abut all their properties. Tom Smith, a new Board Member this year, helps Len Harmon to direct a crew of CETA workers to restore the Woburn Towpath and reactivate the Thompson Library on Elm St., above Baldwin Green. They have been most generous to us in hosting regular meetings and Board meetings there. The Thompson Library is the headquarters for Woburn's Historical Commission. A file on Middlesex Canal materials is available there.

It is a tremendous undertaking to make a replica of a canal passenger packet boat and another to launch it and re-landscape the towpath, buy two workhorses (Thunderbolt and Lightfoot) and have them trained and ridden by Lisa Harmon in time for the first series of rides on the July 4th weekend. But it was done! And we congratulate Len Harmon again who has devoted over a dozen weekends to this cause. We also express our thanks to Len's entire family and his faithful volunteers and CETA crew.

In June, the Governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, was pictured all over the country riding aboard the Colonel Baldwin, apparently being towed by a handsome workhorse and ridden by Lisa. However, members of Len's crew were actually poling the boat along as the horse proved too skittish to perform. Other lovely pictures and a fine story appeared in the Thursday, Sept. 1 issue of the Christian Science Monitor. I urge members to send for copies of that issue. There will be no more rides this year, so save up your Sundays next July since that is Len's present plan for next summer.

Please take special pains to read Chapter 403 of the 1977 Acts of the Legislature in this issue. Len Harmon, working with Rep. Nicholas Paleologos of Woburn and Rep. Sherman Saltmarsh of Winchester, with the cooperation of David Carter of the Office of State Planning, established a regional MIDDLESEX CANAL COMMISSION comprising the towns through which the canal passed. With your help, the Canal Commission can become an effective preservation and restoration effort, which indeed has been a basic goal of the Middlesex Canal Association. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) has a plan to have a picture expedition and will take hundreds of pictures of Middlesex Canal lands of today. Whatever information you may have in your attic that can add to the limited store of knowledge we now have, please send it in to Mr. Carter at One Ashburton Place, Boston. Mr. Carter urges that you all lean on your Mayors and Selectmen to expedite appointments of persons to serve on the Commission. One of the first jobs he outlined was for Commissioners to obtain from their respective towns and cities Assessors' maps of all lands abutting the Middlesex Canal. We wish the Commission full speed ahead!

As was suggested by your President at last April's Annual Meeting, an education program to foster new interest in the towns along the canal route has been started. A committee was formed consisting of Mrs. Harry Baldwin of Winchester, Mrs. Dianne Gies, also of Winchester (who embosses our Proprietor Certificates), and Mrs. Sarah Leslie of Woburn, who believes she lives in an Old Woburn Canal Tavern beside Horn Pond. This committee initiated a pilot project of an arts and crafts nature for grades 4, 5, & 6 and hopes to hear back from Woburn, the first City chosen to participate, within another week. If this contest succeeds well other towns will be chosen for a contest at a later time.

At the High School level, an audio-visual presentation such as was given by Mr. Valeriani of Medford High School in 1975 for our October Meeting, will also be promoted at a later time. Careful groundwork must be laid in all cases. The High School contest would be between all the high schools along the canal, with one presentation selected from each. The subject for all contests is of course, the Middlesex Canal. If you are interested in joining this committee, do let me know.

We encourage our members to give Middlesex Canal presents. Mary Stetson Clarke's books on the OLD MIDDLESEX CANAL and THE LIMNER'S DAUGHTER are great gifts available through us or the Hilltop Press, 333 West Emerson Rd., Melrose, Mass., 02176. The prices are $5.25 and $4.50, respectively. The Automobile Guide and Walking tour in the appendix of The Old Middlesex Canal makes this as well as excellent reading a useful tool for all who wish to explore the banks along the canal. The Limner's Daughter gives a warm historical account of life along the canal and its builder, Loammi Baldwin, and his times. Although this was written as a children's novel, it is appropriate for all ages.

Here's looking forward to seeing most of you on our fall walk!

Fran Ver Planck,


The 1803 Middlesex Canal packet boat "Colonel Baldwin" completed its first season of operation over the Labor Day weekend. The horse-drawn packet carried over 2,000 visitors on 63 excursions between July 3rd and Labor Day along a restored stretch of the historic waterway, from the Baldwin Mansion (Rts. 38 and 128) in Woburn to a point just below Nichol's Bridge in North Woburn and return; for a distance of over one mile.

The excursions, which began at 2PM on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays, attracted extensive media coverage. Numerous newspaper articles and television media coverage. Numerous newspaper articles and television spots which featured the packet boat, served to increase the general public's awareness of the Old Middlesex Canal and its potential.

The Historical Commission of the City of Woburn and the Woburn Canal Society were greatly pleased with the response and genuine interest of all who took voyages on the packet and look forward to an even more successful next season of "Middlesex Canal Navigation".


The Middlesex Canal Toll House which was presented to the town of Chelmsford by the late Miss Bessie Hadley, daughter of Judge Samuel P. Hadley, has been moved to a new and permanent location. It was originally located at the Merrimack River end of the Canal, near Middlesex Street in Lowell.

The Toll House was moved from its former location in front of the Town Hall to a position a few hundred yards north on the Town Common opposite the Fire House. It will be placed upon a permanent foundation, be given a fresh coat of paint and new shutters, and will be under the watchful eyes of the firemen.

The Chelmsford Historical Commission is to be officially in charge of the Toll House. To effect the move, the Commission and the Historic District Committee worked with the Board of Selectmen and the Park Commission.


At the annual meeting of the Middlesex Canal Association held on April 30, 1977, the following officers and directors were elected for the current year:

President: (Mrs.) Frances B. VerPlanck, Winchester
Vice President: Joseph V. Kopycinski, Chelmsford
Treasurer: Malcolm C. Choate, Reading
Recording Secretary: (Miss) Janet Lombard, Chelmsford
Corresponding Secretary:     VACANCY
Membership Secretary: W.K. VerPlanck, Winchester


Arthur L. Eno Jr., Carlisle Wilbar M. Hoxie, Reading Marion E. Potter, Billerica
Leonard H. Harmon, Woburn     Clifford R. Jennings, Lowell     Thomas A. Smith, Woburn
Harley P. Holden, Shirley Edward Wood, Dedham


Shown (left to right) Rep. Nicholas Paleologos, chief supporter of the bill; Tom Smith and Len Harmon of the Woburn Historical Commission, who created the original legislation; Dave Carter, Chief Planner of the Office of State Planning (Missing from photo is Fran Ver Planck, President of the MCA). They look on as Gov. Michael Dukakis signs the important Preservation legislation.

Chapter 403
In the Year One Thousand Nine Hundred and Seventy-seven


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

SECTION 1. There is hereby established the Middlesex Canal Commission, hereinafter called the commission, to consist of one member of the house of representatives to be appointed by the speaker of the house; one member of the senate to be appointed by the president of the senate; one person to be appointed by the chief administrative official of each of the municipalities of Lowell, Chelmsford, Billerica, Wilmington, Woburn, Winchester, Medford, Somerville, and Boston; the director of the office of state planning or his designee, ex officio; the commissioner of environmental management or his designee, ex officio; the executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council; and the executive director of the Northern Middlesex Area Commission. Persons appointed from the membership of the general court and from said municipalities shall be appointed for two-year terms. In selecting a person from each of the said municipalities, the respective said municipal administrative official shall give preference to residents who are members of historic commissions or other nonprofit organizations concerned with the preservation and use of the former Middlesex canal.

SECTION 2. The general purpose of the commission shall be the restoration of public use of the Middlesex canal. Said commission is hereby authorized to develop plans for the establishment of a Middlesex Canal Heritage park by acquisition of land, rights-of-way, existing structures and related facilities and land areas of the former Middlesex canal, located in the municipalities of Lowell, Chelmsford, Billerica, Wilmington, Woburn, Winchester, Medford, Somerville, and Boston, as may become available to the commission from time to time by option, purchase, lease or otherwise of the fee in such land or of easements or other contractual rights, including conveyances as may be necessary. In pursuance of said purpose the commission shall have the following powers and duties:

The commission may assess and evaluate remaining features and related structures of the former Middlesex canal for their use in the Middlesex Canal Heritage park, hereinafter called the heritage park.

The commission may prepare, adopt, and implement plans for the restoration of portions of the Middlesex canal and related structures for use in the heritage park. With the approval of the municipalities named in this section, the commission may establish the boundaries of heritage park within those municipalities. Within said boundaries of heritage park the commission may restore and develop such land and water areas and structures as may be available to the commission for recreational and educational uses. Such development may include the placing of descriptive and directional signs on or near the Middlesex canal right-of-way, on private property with the written permission of the owners of said property, on municipal property with the written permission of the respective municipality, on state-owned property with the written permission of the state agency which has jurisdiction over such property, or on property under the jurisdiction of the commission.

The commission shall consider the feasibility and make recommendations to the commissioner of environmental management regarding the establishment, ownership, and operation of a Middlesex Canal State Heritage park.

In accordance with its purposes, powers, and duties, the commission may accept gifts from any source, including gifts of real property or less than fee simple interests in real property, staff services, and other in kind services. The commission may apply for and receive grants or loans from any federal or state agency or any other public or private entities.

The commission shall choose annually from its number a chairman, a vice-chairman, a secretary, a treasurer and an assistant treasurer who shall comprise the executive committee. During the periods of time between regular meetings of the commission, the executive committee shall be empowered to act on behalf of the commission. The full commission shall meet annually and at other times as determined by the executive committee. The executive committee shall meet quarterly, at the call of the chairman or at the call of the majority of the members of the executive committee. A quorum of the full commission or of the executive committee shall be a majority of the members of the commission or executive committee, respectively. All matters shall be decided by a majority vote.

The commission shall report annually, and at such other times it may choose, to the general court, the governor, and the chief administrative official of each municipality named in this section on its activities and plans for heritage park.

House of Representatives, June 29, 1977.
Passed to be enacted, ------, Acting Speaker.
In Senate, June 30, 1977.
Passed to be enacted, ------, President.
July 12, 1977.
Michael Dukakis, Governor


This legislation is a major step forward in the Association's fifteen year struggle to preserve the Middlesex Canal. It is to be hoped that only interested and dedicated canallers will be appointed to the Commission. So far, the indications are favorable: Janet Lombard, our recording secretary, will be Chelmsford's designee, and Woburn has appointed Len Harmon, director and packet-boat captain. Two indisputably excellent appointments! Ed.

by Thomas A. Smith

Perhaps no single tale of the early days of the Old Middlesex Canal is as steeped in local legend as that of the "discovery" of the Baldwin apple. The traditional story is that of Colonel Baldwin encountering the mutant tree in 1793, while on the initial survey for the canal's route. Cutting scions from the tree, he laid out an orchard of trees in his own farmland in Woburn. From these, all Baldwin apples descend. There is another alternate tale which credits the discovery to Baldwin's neighbor, Samuel Thompson. Thompson was the surveyor on the first survey of the canal.

Unfortunately, we must now lay these time-honored tales to rest. We can now document the facts that the apple was not discovered on this canal survey, and was not found by the Colonel.

In 1908, Loammi Franklin Baldwin, the great-grandson of Colonel Baldwin, came across an important set of letters while organizing the Colonel's papers in the Baldwin Mansion. The dates on these letters prove that the apple was known to the Colonel NINE years BEFORE the alleged discovery of the tree in 1793. The letters follow:

Letter to Governor Bowdoin, Boston

"Mr. Baldwin of Woburn presents his compliments to Mr. Bowdoin and begs him to accept a Barrel of a particular species of apples which proceeded from a tree that originally grew spontaneously in the woods about fourteen miles north of Boston.

Woburn, February, 1784"

The Reply from the Governor:

"Mr. Bowdoin presents his respectful compliments to Col. Baldwin and begs him to accept his thanks for ye barrel of apples he sent, for which he is much obliged to him, and the more so, as the apples are ye produce of so uncommon a tree. If Col. Baldwin continues in town, he begs the favor of his company to-morrow evening."

Based on the dates of the two letters, Loammi F. Baldwin realized that the date inscribed on the Baldwin Apple monument, and the inscribed facts were obviously in error. As a director of the Rumford Historical Association which had erected the monument in 1895, he petitioned them to correct the information presented on the stone.

A committee of three was established to investigate the new evidence concerning the apple's discovery. In addition to Loammi Franklin Baldwin, there were Marcellus Littlefield and Judge Edward F. Johnson. The three men investigated all available facts concerning the purported discovery of the apple in 1793, including a State Legislature inquiry done in 1856.

The committee reported back to the Rumford Historical Association that the inscription on the apple monument should be removed, and a new one inscribed. They recommended that the reference to the Middlesex Canal; the date of 1793; and the name of Samuel Thompson be removed, and a new inscription to read:


The Thompson Family, led by Col. Leonard Thompson, would have no part in the revision, however. As they had contributed the bulk of the necessary funds to construct the monument, they would not sanction any move to remove their ancestor's name from it. Letters passed between the committee and Col. Thompson (still on file at the Rumford Birthplace) and the outcome was for the Association to vote to alter the monument's inscription, but to vote also not to implement the change until a later date. As it turned out, that later date was 1975!

In the papers of Col. Leonard Thompson's father, Leonard Thompson, we find an excellent description of the actual discovery itself, and of how the apple first came to the attention of Colonel Baldwin. Written in the year 1880, when he was in his 92nd year, Thompson's account is surely based on personal conversations he must have had with his grandfather, Samuel -- who lived in the same household, and died when Leonard was 26. The account follows:

"My grandfather was a surveyor of land, and while he was on duty one fall day in a pasture in the wood town of Wilmington, near a road called "Butters Row Road" he came across a tree with fine looking apples thereon. The tree was hollow with decay, and a woodpecker had found a place for her nest therein. He said he carried home some of the fruit and gave his brother Abijah some of it, and they procured a lot of scions from the tree and set them round their homes. They gave some to Colonel Baldwin, their neighbor, who valued them so highly that he went into them deeply, and spread them broadcast among his friends, who, having no name for them, gave them his name."

Thus we can see the true story of how the Baldwin apple came to be discovered wild in a pasture in Wilmington on an earlier survey of Samuel Thompson. This story was collaborated by the written testimony of Colonel Baldwin's sons, James Fowle Baldwin and George Rumford Baldwin, who both stated that on numerous occasions, the Colonel had stated that he had received the scions of the apple from Samuel and Abijah Thompson, and later set out his own orchard of 144 trees from the Thompson grafts.

(The foregoing is the text of the remarks of Tom Smith at last April's annual meeting. The findings are so revolutionary and the interest of those who heard him so great, that we asked him to revise his remarks for publication. Ed.)