Middlesex Canal Association
P.O. Box 333, Billerica MA 01821

Volume 38 No. 1
September 1999

THE MCA SPRING WALK -1999 by Roger Hagopian


Date: Sunday, November 7
Time: 2:30 pm
Place: Conference Room, Winchester Hospital Unit in Baldwin I, at 12 Alfred Street in Woburn, next door to the Baldwin Restaurant. (Alfred Street runs east from Route 38, just north of its intersection with Rte. 128.)

For this meeting, the seventh in the series of events celebrating the Bicentennial Decade of the Middlesex Canal, Dave Dettinger, a Proprietor and Director of the Middlesex Canal Association, has prepared a biographical account of Col. Loammi Baldwin and his sons. Dave's focus is not on Baldwin's central role in the construction of the Canal or the incidental contributions of his sons; this has previously been presented. Rather, it is on their influential role in a host of other civic enterprises. Col. Baldwin's ingenuity, energy and perseverance, coupled with an impressive military record, set him apart as one of the outstanding citizens of his day, and caused him to be elected to important offices and to be consulted on numerous projects throughout his life. His example inspired his sons to apply themselves to urgent civic projects, mostly those with an engineering flavor, and they became as prominent and as respected as their father. The span of their activities is amazing, covering states from Maine to Georgia and west to Ohio and the Mississippi, along with two provinces of Canada. The public is cordially invited to attend this program. Refreshments will be served following Dave Dettinger's talk.


Date: Saturday, October 23 (rain date October 24)
Time: 1:30pm
Place: Middlesex Canal in Billerica

This will be a joint AMC-MCA Middlesex Canal walk. It will be an easy three to four mile guided tour along a section of the Canal towpath from the summit level at the Mill Pond in Billerica, toward the southeast. The introduction will include a brief overview of the history of the Canal, a look at the floating towpath anchor and the Lowell Branch guard lock, and a Q&A session. Meet at 1:30 pm at the parking lot opposite the Talbot Mill/Cambridge Tool Works, along Faulkner (a.k.a. Rogers) Street near the Concord River mill dam in North Billerica.

Trip leaders:  Roger Hagopian (781-861-7868), e-mail removed.
Bill Gerber (978-251-4791 - before 9pm), e-mail removed.


On August 21, 1999, an exhibition celebrating the Bicentennial of the building of the canal and its future entitled "Charlestown and the Middlesex Canal, 1795-1855" opened at the Bunker Hill Museum in Charlestown. Presented by the Charlestown Historical Society, the exhibition features illustrations by Thomas Dahill from the publication The Incredible Ditch, authored by Carl and Alan Seaburg. The exhibition is dedicated to the late Carl Seaburg.

Also included in the exhibition are preparatory drawings, maps and materials related to the book and other materials reflecting the activities of the Middlesex Canal Association and the Middlesex Canal Commission.

The Museum is directly opposite the Bunker Hill Monument on the Square. The exhibition is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm, through October 24, 1999.


Activities of the Association and the Board continue at a high level. The contract with Public Archaeology Lab (PAL) was supposed to be completed by June 3Oth. Because of problems with errors on the GIS maps that we had supplied in the beginning plus higher priority projects at PAL, they have not yet completed the draft report and our final review has not been done. We hope that these tasks can be completed by the end of September. Although we hired PAL to do the work, it has required a lot of time and effort for several of us. Submission for the National Registry means continuation of effort for a year or more.

Some of us have been discussing our sponsoring a World Canals  Conference (WCC) when the restoration being conducted by the Middlesex Canal  Commission is completed in 2003 or 2004. We have held one meeting with the  Lowell National Historical Park to explore that possibility. Joan and I went to  the WCC in Lille, France, in June. Putting on a conference of that scope in our area would require the cooperation of the Lowell Park, the city of Lowell and other  towns and cities along our canal route. Our membership has been almost constant for several years. We  really need to attract/recruit more members if we are to do larger projects  like a World Canals Conference. Our letter requesting donations is in the mail. We hope that many  of you will be able to make contributions to our funds. This is the first  time that the Association has asked for donations this way. Please be as generous as you can. We have listed events at other canals in Towpath Topics from time  to time The latest copy of the American Canal Society bulletin has just arrived, providing a long list of events recorded elsewhere in this issue. As a result  of our belonging to several other canal societies, we have gone to some of these events and we car recommend them.

Nolan T Jones, President

by Nolan Jones

The World Canal Conference in 1999 was held in June in Lille, France, and LaLouviere, Belgium. There were about 150 canalers there. Since most of the canals in the area are still carrying some commercial traffic there was a strong flavor of "multi-use" in the conference. There have been recent surveys to determine the use of the canals for boating, fishing, walking, biking and commercial barges. Not long ago the maximum size of barges was increased from 350 tons to 1350 tons which then requires expansion of parts of the canal network.

The conference was co-sponsored by the University of Science and Technology, Lille (USTh) so the first sessions were held in their facilities. We moved to Belgium at mid-point. During the four days we were greeted by four mayors or deputies, we had three boat rides on canals, we saw four lift "locks"; the Ronquiere, Belgium, huge inclined plane; the new high Stepy-Thieu lift "lock" (73 meter lift) and we visited several canals. In addition we had great food.

The World Canals Conference in 2000 will be September 10-15 in Rochester, NY. The WCC in 2001 will be May 12-30 in Ireland.

by Roger Hagopian

On a picture perfect day in early May, a medium4o-small group of Middlesex Canal enthusiasts proceeded to explore the route of the old Canal covering West Medford into the southern part of Winchester.

Our walk began at Sandy Beach in Winchester on the Mystic Lakes, where the Canal bed leads to the site of the Symmes River Aqueduct. Here we examined the assortment of cut stone, remnants of the abutments that supported the Aqueduct. Originally, when built, this structure was of the wooden trough style, typical of the other aqueducts of the Middlesex Canal. However upon reconstruction, the entire structure was built of stone, the remains of which mostly lie today in the Winchester Town Forest. The Aqueduct was destroyed in the early twentieth century in order to free up the river from ice jams at that location.

The Aqueduct site is located at the upper end of the Upper Mystic Lake and now forms a third lake where the river once passed through marshland. This lake was formed in the mid-nineteenth century when a dam was built between the Upper and Lower Lakes, thus flooding the river plain above it. Across the river we noticed the berm, or bank, of the Canal, which led to the site of the Oardner double (consecutive) locks heading north. Returning south less than 100 feet from the Aqueduct site, our group checked what appeared to be an old excavation site protruding from the canal bed. It is actually the dry holding basin where passenger packet boats and barges awaited passage through the aqueduct and locks.

Walking down Mystic Valley Parkway toward Medford, we attempted to locate the exact route of the Canal. This was not an easy thing for the Parkway, railroad sewer line, and glacial terraces formed by the recession of the lakes all obscure most of the Canal route. According to New England Magazine, in 1898 the sewer line was built in the bed of the Canal in this area. We did follow the older of what eventually became two sets of sewer manhole covers, at which point we returned to the Parkway. A small portion of berm was visible at one spot, and at the Winchester-Medford border the bank remains quite high as the road descends southerly. One possibility is that the Canal may have used the glacial shelves as towpaths at certain locations.

The portion of the Canal that leaves the MDC Parkway land and enters the alignment of Sagamore Avenue in Medford is quite clear, with berm, towpath, and bed exposed. Here the walk became a stroll through the community of West Medford. Along the way we passed the site of the elliptical stone arch canal- accommodation bridge built on the estate of Peter Brooks, through whose land the Canal once passed.

As Sagamore Avenue became Boston Avenue, we continued to follow the exact and very straight course of the Middlesex Canal. Upon reaching the site of the Mystic River Aqueduct at the Somerville (formerly Charlestown) border, we deviated from the Canal route to view the old Canal House, the inn tavern, and locktender's house for Gilson's Lock nearby. This early 1800's, two-story structure is now a private dwelling and was moved from its original site near the lock and aqueduct.

The aqueduct itself was a wood trough type with three piers. The crude stone abutments still exist, supporting the embankments that lead now to the present bridge. For years the aqueduct itself existed as a road bridge after the construction of Boston Avenue.

Alter viewing the Middlesex Canal Commission monument (one of nine, located in each town through which the Canal passed), our group, composed of the inquisitive newcomers blended with seasoned canal veterans, completed what was again an historically educational and very casual excursion.

by Howard B. Winkler

Benjamin Thompson, who was to become a world-famous physicist, and Loammi Baldwin, who was to become superintendent in charge of the construction of the Middlesex Canal, were both born in Woburn, and were classmates at Harvard. At the time of our War of Independence, Thompson was a Loyalist and commissioned as an officer in the British army. Baldwin was an officer in the American army. Thompson eventually went to England, became well-connected, and, during his travels on the Continent, was introduced to Karl Theodor, Elector of Bavaria, who hired him to implement civic reforms. He worked there for 16 years and was ennobled to the rank of Count of the Holy Roman Empire. He took the name of Rumford, New Hampshire, now Concord, where he had lived with his wife and child before abandoning them.

In 1876, the King of Bavaria had a statue, created by Caspar Zumbusca, erected to the memory of Rumford, in gratitude for his good works on behalf of the people. It is located on Maximilian Strasse in Munich, Germany. In 1899, Marshall Tidd, a citizen of Woburn, had a replica cast. It stands of the grounds of the beautiful Woburn public library. There is also a statue of Baldwin in Woburn, located on Route 38, just beyond the northern end of the cloverleaf at Route 128.

The photos on the opposite page show the statues at the Woburn public library and at Munich, as well as the inscriptions on each. The Munich photos are by Alan Adolph, and the Woburn photos by the author.


[The following is an excerpt from the book A New England Boyhood, by Edward Everett Hale, published by Little, Brown, and Company in 1893. We thank Betty Bigwood for calling this to our attention.]

More methodical excursions out of town took forms quite different from what they would take today. At our house the custom was to deride canals in proportion as we glorified railroads. All the same, I think in the summer of 1826 - still recollected as the hottest summer which has been known in this century in New England - it was announced one day that we were going to Chelmsford, and that we were going by the canal. I have no recollection of the method by which we struck the Middlesex Canal; I suppose that we had to drive to East Cambridge and take the General Sullivan there. The General Sullivan was what was known, I think, as a "packet-boat," which carried passengers daily from Boston to the Merrimac River, where the name "Lowell" had just then been given to a part of the township of Chelmsford. Mr. Samuel Batchelder, the distinguished engineer and manufacturer, to whom New England owes so much, was one of my father's most intimate friends. He was engaged in some of the first works at Lowell, and, by way of escape from the heat, father had arranged with him that the whole family should go down to the tavern at Chelmsford and spend a few days.

The present generation does not know it, but travelling on a canal is one of the most charming ways of travelling. We are all so crazy to go fifty miles an hour that we feel as if we had lost something when we only go five miles an your. All the same, to sit on the deck of a boat and see the country slide by you, without the slightest jar, without a cinder or a speck of dust, is one of the exquisite luxuries. The difficulty about speed is much reduced if you will remember, with Red Jacket, that "you have all the time there is." And I have found it not impossible to imagine that the distance over which I am going is ten times as great as in fact the statistical book would make it. Simply I think a man may get as much pleasure out of a journey to Lowell on a canal which is thirty miles long as he may out of a journey of three hundred miles by rail between Albany and Buffalo. But this leads into metaphysical considerations which do not belong to the boyhood of New England.

What did belong to it was a series of very early reminiscences which have clung to me when more important things have been forgotten. Fullum, of course, was of the party. He would spring from the deck of the General Sullivan upon the towpath, and walk along collecting wild flowers, or perhaps even more active game. I have never forgotten my terror lest Fullum should be left by the boat and should never return. When he did return from one of these forays he brought with him for us children a very little toad, the first I had ever seen. My mother put him in her thimble he was so small. Not long after we heard that a delicate friend of hers had taken cold because she put on her thimble when it was damp. With a child's facility, I always associated the two thimbles with each other; and I think I may say I never see a little toad now, without imagining that he is carrying the seeds of catarrh or influenza to some delicate invalid.

We stayed at the old tavern on the Merrimac, which, I suppose, was long ago pulled down. A story of that time tells how Mr. Isaac P. Davis, who was, I think, one of the proprietors of the locks and canals which made Lowell, went to this same hotel with a party, and inquired what they were to have for dinner. The keeper said that a good salmon had come up the river the night before, and he proposed to serve him - with which answer Mr. Davis was well pleased. Later in the morning he said he should like to see the salmon. But the man only expressed his amazement at such folly on the part of a Boston man. "You don't suppose I would take him out of the water, do you? He is in the water at the foot of the falls, and has been there since last night. When it is time to cook him, I shall go out and catch him."

by Dave Dettinger

The Lowell National Historical Park celebrates two Canal Days each year, one for the Pawtucket Canal, which crosses the city of Lowell, followed by one for the Middlesex Canal, which ends at the Merrimack River in Lowell. This year the second day, June 20, featured two speakers; the first was MCA Proprietor Dave Dettinger, and the second was Brad Parker, a Thoreau scholar.

Dave's topic was a biographical account of James Sullivan, President of the Middlesex Canal Company and later Governor of Massachusetts. Sullivan was the prime mover throughout the launching of the Middlesex Canal venture, construction and operation. A man of remarkable energy and foresight, he devoted himself to various civic enterprises, of which the Canal is the most notable.

Dave had originally prepared his talk as the fourth in a series of annual events to celebrate the Bicentennial Decade of the Middlesex Canal and delivered it in Woburn in November 1996, where it was well received, leading to its inclusion in the Park Service Program.

In 1998, Dave had been invited by the Park Service to participate in Pawtucket Canal Day, where he presented his research into the early history of the Pawtucket Canal. This topic had also been previously presented as part of the Bicentennial Decade observance by the Middlesex Canal Association in September 1997. At one time the Pawtucket Canal had been viewed as a competitor by the Middlesex Canal Company, but it was never successful and was soon abandoned. It later became the central source of waterpower for the mills of Lowell.


In the preceding article, Dave Dettinger describes his participation in this event; he presented a fascinating account of the life of James Sullivan, including his participation in the Middlesex Canal Company. The second event on the National Park's program was a costumed presentation by Thoreau scholar Brad Parker. Parker entitled his talk “Henry David Thoreau remembers a week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers." Acting as Thoreau, he described a rowing expedition on the two rivers and the Middlesex Canal from Concord, MA deep into New Hampshire.

Following the presentations, the Park Service conducted a Canal and River Cruise for members of the Middlesex Canal Association and their guests. In the late afternoon, on a lovely warm day, the group set out by trolley from near the Visitor Center to board the boat on the other side of the parking lot. We cruised through the Francis Gate, built to stop any potential flooding of the city of Lowell, and the Francis Lock, which raised us to the level of the Merrimack River above the Pawtucket Dam. We then went into the River, and up to the approximate junction of the Middlesex Canal with the River, where a wreath was ceremoniously tossed into the River by MCA Secretary Bruce McHenry. The participants then opened their picnic baskets and enjoyed supper on the trip back to the parking lot.

(mostly from "American Canals," Bulletin of the American Canal Society)

October 9-14, 1999. C&O Canal Thru Bicycle Trip. Contact: Tom Perry (301-223-7010).

October 15-17, 1999. Canal Festival, Walnutport Canal Assn., Walnutport, PA. Contact (610-767-5817).

October 21, 1999.  Hugh Moore Historical Park and Museums and Pennsylvania Canal Society Fall Lecture Series #2 "Palmerton, PA: Then and Now," Betsey Burnhauser, 7:30pm, Two Rivers Landing Auditorium, Easton, PA. Contact: National Canal Museum (610-559-6613).

October 22-23, 1999. Pennsylvania Canal Society fall field trip. Boat and bus tour of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Contact: Zip Zimmerman (215-493-5525).

October 22-23, 1999. Can. Society of Indiana Fall Tour. Indianapolis; details to be announced. Contact: CSI, P.O. Box 4008, Ft. Wayne, IN 46804

October 24, 1999. C&O Canal heritage hike near Cumberland, MD. Details to be announced.

October 26-31, 1999. D&H Elderhostel: "Five Favorite Romantic and Industrial Landscapes in the Hudson Valley," Williams Lake Hotel, High Falls, NY. Contact: Delaware and Hudson Canal Historical Society, P.O. Box 23, High Falls, NY 12440 (914-687-9311).

October 30, 1999. Deer Creek Halloween walk, Wabash & Erie Canal Park, Delphi, IN. Contact Dan McCain (765-564-6297).

October 30, 1999. Halloween at the Canal, Camillus Erie Canal Park, Camillus, NY. Details to be announced. Contact John Settineri (315-672-5110).

November 13, 1999. Symposium on D&R Canal history and technology. Prattsville Mill Complex. Canal Society of NJ, NJ Historical Commission and D&R Canal Commission. (908-722-7428).

November 18, 1999. Hugh Moore Historical Park and Museums and Pennsylvania Canal Society. Fall Lecture Series #3, "The Johanna Furnace Iron Plantation", Susan Fellman Jacob, 7:30pm. Two Rivers Landing Auditorium, Easton, PA. Contact: National Canal Museum (610-374-8839).

November 20-21,1999. Open house at Leesport Lock House, 10am-4pm Saturday; noon-4pm Sunday. Contact: Erin Clouser, Berks Co. Heritage Center, Wyomissing, PA (610-374-8839).

November 28, 1999. C&O Canal Continuing Hike Series, from White's Ferry down, beginning at 10:30am. Contact: Pat White (301-977-5628).

November 28, 1999. Last Minute Holiday Boutique, 11 am-4pm, D&H Canal Park Visitor Center, Cuddebackville, NH. Contact: Neversink Valley Area Museum (914-754-8870).

December 4, 1999. C&O Canal Association Annual Frostbite Hike, location TBA. Contact: Ken Rollins (804-448-2934).

December 11-12, 1999. Christmas Boutique at the Susquehanna Museum, Lock House, Havre de Grace, MD. Contact: Bob Magee (410-272-0819).

December 26-27, 1999. Annual Christmas Walks, Wabash & Erie Canal Park, Delphi, IN. Contact: Dan McCain (765)564-6297.

December 31, 1999. C&O Canal New Year's Eve hike. Details TBA.

September 10-15, 2000. World Canals Conference, Rochester, NY. Contact: P.O. Box 227, East Rochester, NY 14445.

May 12-30, 2001. Ireland 2001 and World Canals Conference, a Canal Society of New Jersey tour including a cruise of the Royal Canal and the World Canals Conference in Dublin. Contact: Bill McKelvey (908-464-9335).

For additional information please call Nolan Jones (603-672-7051).

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