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

Volume 40 No. 1
September 2001

Fall Walk 
Fall Meeting of the Middlesex Canal Association 
President's Message - by Nolan Jones 
Further Note on the Canal Seal 
A Day at the Baker - by Betty M. Bigwood 
Yankee Doodle Days in Billerica 
Wicasee Canal Dam and Lock - by Bill Gerber 
Book Review - The Incredible Ditch: A Bicentennial History of the Middlesex Canal - Reviewed by Linda Barth 
Inspection of Post-Flood Canal Conditions - by Roger Hagopian 
Free Passage? - by Howard B. Winkler 
Middlesex Canal Museum & Visitor Center Opens to the Public 
MCA Spring Canal Walk - by Roger Hagopian 
Canal Heritage Days - by Tom Dahill 



Date: Saturday, October 20, 2001
Time: 1:30 pm
Place: Winchester

Our Fall walk will cover the route of the Middlesex Canal through parts of Medford and Winchester. We will meet at the Sandy Beach parking lot at the Upper Mystic Lakes on the Mystic Valley Parkway in Winchester. Some sites along the way will include the aqueduct and mooring basin there, the segments of canal bed and berm visible off the parkway as we walk into Medford, where we pass the stone wall of the Brooks estate, through which the canal once passed. We will end this portion of our journey on Boston Avenue at the Mystic River, where the canal tavern, inn and locktender's residence are located as well as the site of another aqueduct.

Upon returning to our parking area after the walk those wishing to continue by auto caravan through Winchester may follow or car pool.

For more information please call Bill Gerber 978-251-4971 or Roger Hagopian 781-861-7868



(The Other Half of the Boston, MA, to Concord, NH, Transportation Corridor)

Date: Sunday, November 4, 2001
Time: 2 p.m.
Place: Middlesex Canal Museum & Visitor Center
71 Faulkner Street, North Billerica
Speaker: Bill Gerber

After the Middlesex Canal began operating, late in 1803, attention turned to opening up the interior of New Hampshire for commerce by making the Merrimack River accessible for navigation. The Pawtucket Canal had already opened in 1797, primarily to the benefit of Newburyport, and the building of a canal around Amoskeag Falls in Derryfield (now Manchester) had been attempted, but with less than complete success. But, even with these, practical navigation on the river was impeded by multiple other falls and rapids. Construction of canals and locks was begun to enable boats to bypass these obstructions at more than a dozen locations along the river, and the full corridor was open for service by about 1815.

The talk will address the building of the Merrimack River canals and their use, until their demise in about 1855. These canals contributed significantly to the ability of the Middlesex Canal to compete successfully against the railroads for more than a decade.

Directions: From Route 3, take exit 28, Treble Cove Road. Turn towards North Billerica. At about ¾ mile bear left at a fork. After about another ¾ mile, cross Route 28 at a traffic light. Go about ¼ mile to a 3-way fork; take the middle road, which will put St. Andrew’s Church on your left. Go about ¼ mile; bear right, then turn right onto Faulkner Street. Go about ¼ mile. The Museum & Visitor Center is on your left, and you can park across the street on your right, just beyond the falls.



Our day in the Canal Heritage Days was a great success. We had about 180 people in our Museum and Visitor Center in North Billerica. This was the third annual Canal Days and something of a trial for running a larger conference. Two years ago it was in September, last year in May and this year in August. We apologize for a shortage of inside communication of the event. We will try to do better next time. Our Museum and Visitor Center is very nice and a tribute to the Billerica section of the Middlesex Canal Commission led by Marion Potter, John and Shayne Reardon. If you have not yet visited it I encourage you to do so.

We have not managed to arrange tours to other locations as we had hoped.

Neither have we made any progress this year toward expansion of the entry in the National Registry of Historic Places. The next step is to examine deeds to find out exactly where the canal was located in those areas where nothing is found on the surface today.

Nolan T Jones, President



In the March 2001 issue of Towpath Topics, your editor asked for additional translations of the motto that appears on the Middlesex Canal Company seal:


Only one of our readers responded. Robert W. Hayden of Ashland, NH writes: A motto should be brief. I suggest:

Land and Sea Entwined

In the opinion of the editor, this is a very satisfactory translation!


by Betty M. Bigwood

The Baker Library in the Harvard Business School houses historical collections. Upon arrival we were greeted by the manuscript librarian, Timothy Mahoney, and introduced to their rules for using the collection: pencils only, white gloves, white mat, Styrofoam wedges to keep from overextending the binding of the diaries, weighted string to keep pages open, one folder at a time, locked storage for purses and brief cases, etc. The young librarians have been very courteous and helpful. Yet you should be aware that this is a precious collection and open only on a limited basis for special historical research.

One of its collections is that concerning the Middlesex Canal, listed as the Baldwin collection. It consists primarily of numerous grey boxes, each of which contains folders. Some folders may contain 20 or more letters, which are very interesting but somewhat laborious to read in the old spelling and script. I was both pleased and surprised to discover that the collection is so extensive.

Middlesex Canal historical material is located in a wide assortment of libraries, most of which I have visited over the years. With the opening of the new Middlesex Canal Museum and Visitors Center in the Faulkner Mills in May 2001 and the multimillion dollar restoration of extant portions of the Canal with ISTEA and TEA 21 money beginning shortly, it seemed appropriate and fitting to know what was there.

This particular article was prompted when Nolan T. Jones, President of the Middlesex Canal Association, received a telephone call from the Cronkite Productions Television Studio. They asked if Colonel Loammi Baldwin’s last words were to "cherish the Canal." The studio is undertaking a three-part TV series on American Canals and the Middlesex Canal will be featured. I wanted to verify his last words.

My discovery process was aided considerably by a reference in Christopher Roberts’s "Middlesex Canal." On page 121 is stated the "Last injunctions given in letter, Loammi, 2nd, to J.F. Baldwin, London, Dec. 14, 1807: Baldwin MSS." Indeed, box 16 of the Baldwin Collection, folder 2 titled "Loammi Baldwin II, Letters from London and Liverpool, 1807" contains an assortment of letters written by Loammi II to his father and to his brothers.

From these letters emerges the following story. On July 22, 1807, Loammi II arrives in Liverpool after a long 23-day voyage. He is 27 years of age. This is his first trip to Europe and he is very excited about his new adventure. He is aware that his father is not well and writes him several letters in which he compliments him, saying, "the canal would never have existed without the first Superintendant," and so then so touchingly, "I shall never forget you nor be insensible to the sacred feelings which bind me to you as the best of Fathers and the best of men."

He keeps very busy. He visits several canals and writes home that the American workmanship is in some ways superior to the canals in England: "The locks and gates are better than any I have seen in England." He is fascinated at the courses the canals take – actually under buildings that are supported by arches. He visits mines and expresses alarm at seeing women, working alongside men, dressed in pantaloons.

Loammi II is very short of money, embarrassed that he did not bring a sufficient amount, and has to go to the bank to borrow more. He is fascinated by the well stocked stores and finds an unusually exquisite enamel snuff box. It has a spring, which, when released, allows a bird to pop out, singing and fluttering its wings. But the 250 guinea price tag is far too much for him to spend, and yet you can feel how much he desires it. He does treat himself to a stamp with the letters L and B intertwined and uses it with much delight on the red wax seals of his letters; the seals are still visible today.

He receives a letter from his younger brother James saying that his Father continues in poor health. He wonders if he should return home. Instead, Loammi II writes long letters to his father telling him of his daily adventures and his living style. He has a respectable bedroom and shares a common living room. He arises at 9 a.m., rings a bell, and the maid brings breakfast, which consists of tea and bread, butter and jam.

Loammi II writes to his Father that "I’ve been to Windsor Castle to meet the King and Queen and to say the truth there is nothing remarkable about them." (The King was George III, who reigned until 1820.) Gas lights are just starting to be installed in London and he is fascinated about being able to see the streets lighted at night.

He has brought with him a telescope that needs to be repaired and finally it is for the cost of one pound and sixpence. He also buys a compass and stick – "a very pretty apparatus." He draws pictures of English canal boats and sends them home to his Father with suggestions that perhaps he may want to copy the design. (Actually, the Governor Sullivan packet boat looks very similar to one of his sketches.)

He loves to receive letters from home and asks his family to write as often as possible. But he asks that his family not send cigars again as the shipping costs were six pounds and ten shillings, which he cannot afford to pay. At that time, one paid for delivery upon receipt of a letter or parcel.

There is a war on the continent. Napoleon is at his peak of power and threatens to destroy England. Troops are massing around London and Loammi II estimates that there are 30,000 men ready to resist an attack should Napoleon attempt to carry out his threat. He expresses concern that some Englishmen fear he may be pro-French, which he is not. He wants very much to visit the continent – "this may be my only opportunity" – but there is a French blockade of all the ports, which prohibits his leaving.

On December 3, 1807, Loammi II writes to his younger brother James the following: "The blow, which with melancholy anxiety I have expected for some weeks is at last consummated and my Father, the best of men and the best of Fathers is no more…. This morning, I went to the New England Coffee House to spend an idle hour in reading papers and conversing with my American friends, when Mr. Thayer took me aside, before I had time to be seated saying he had bad news: what they were you can easily imagine as he had read a Boston paper in which my Father’s death had been mentioned." (Actually, Colonel Loammi Baldwin had passed away on October 20, 1807, at five thirty in the morning – 44 days prior to his son’s finding out. Colonel Baldwin was 62 years old at his death; he was born in the Baldwin Mansion on January 21, 1745.)

On December 14, 1807, Loammi II wrote to his brother James thanking him for a letter describing the "interesting account of my Father’s last illness…. Among his last injunctions was that of cherishing the Middlesex Canal and to do all the good we could, all which have made as deep impressions on my mind as if I had mingled with the mournful group that surrounded his dying bed. I am happy to find that his death was attended with no pain and that he died, as we all might suppose, with that composure and self satisfaction that good and virtuous men can only be blessed with." He asks, "Pray send me a small lock of my Father’s hair if any has been preserved, as I wish very much to preserve a memorial to him."

This last letter is written with a pantograph. It is Loammi II’s first attempt to use the instrument, which he describes, "This is written with a patent copying machine and I have in a book the exact facsimile of this letter. When I have used it a little longer I may, if I find it sensible, send you one."

Thus ends the last letter in this folder. I was very moved by these letters, which provided a glimpse into the lives of this talented family at a very private time.


September 15-16, 2001

The theme for this year's Billerica Yankee Doodle Homecoming Weekend is "Celebrating the Arts". Dates are September 15 and 16. The Museum and Visitor Center will be open to the public from 12-4 on Saturday and 12-4 on Sunday. Along with tours of the exhibit, we will be hosting a luncheon for 14 people from the Billerica Twinning Association, our sister city from Billerica, England at 11:30 AM. Free canoe and boat rides will be provided hourly by the Concord River Environmental Stream Team both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The Paré Family will be providing wine, cheese and soda as they do each year on Saturday. Entertainment for the children provided by the Paré Family on Saturday only. Sunday, a walking tour of the immediate neighborhood will be led by Alec Ingraham. Musical entertainment will be by a professional singer/guitarist from the Emerson Arts Umbrella who sings songs about Emerson, Thoreau and Canal songs. A map exhibit and talk by Jerry Van Hook on bicycle trails to historic canal sites will probably take place on Saturday.


by Bill Gerber

On October 20, 2000, President Bill Clinton made an appearance at a Democratic Party fundraising in support of the reelection of Massachusetts Congressman Marty Meehan. As part of the security measures taken to protect the President, the level of the Merrimack River was drawn down so that culverts that passed under the road along his route of travel could be blocked. This low level was apparently maintained over the contiguous weekend so that the culvert obstructions could be cleared away following his departure. Late Saturday afternoon of that weekend, and quite by chance, I noticed that the level of the river was lower than I had ever seen it. I grabbed a camera and went over to Tyng’s Island, the site of the Wicassee Canal Lock and Dam, to see if I could find any evidence of these historic structures. I am almost certain that I found both. I could see at least one and probably both ends of the dam from the south side of the island, and probably the top edge of the lock in the channel on the north side.

Reference the top of the photographs on p. 9 - the island side of the dam, which extended across the main channel of the Merrimack River, was clearly visible and unmistakable. I estimate that the portion that showed above the level of the water was about 5 feet in width and it extended more that 20 feet into the river. The island end of this structure can be found just down the bank from the east end of the Vesper Country Club’s (VCC) swimming pool fence.

Reference the middle of the photographs on p. 9 - the opposite end of the dam, the south shore end, was in the shadows and much less distinct. Likely, demolition work that was undertaken to breach the dam soon after the Pawtucket Dam was built, in about 1824, and again in the early part of the 20th century, has destroyed much of what once existed at that end of the dam. Nevertheless, there still seems to be evidence of it along the shore, which can be seen just in from the left side of the photo. This is just upstream of Forrest Marina’s boat launching ramp, accessible from Route 3A (this is the only such ramp in this area), and immediately downstream of (almost under) power lines that span the river at this point. Actually, there appeared to be two clusters of large stones along the far shore, either of which could have been the south end of the dam. (One might need to swim the route of the dam to determine which is the correct one or how the two relate.)

Reference the bottom photograph on p. 9 - if I truly have spotted it, then the Wicassee Lock is located a short distance in from the west (upstream) end of the island in the channel between the island and the north shore of the Merrimack. The closest point of view from Tyng’s Island was just beyond the west end of the building in which the VCC stores its golf carts. The lock is almost flush against the northwest shore. It is defined by a line of large stones in the middle of the shallows, on the southeast side of a deeper channel that runs against the northwest shore. The line of stones and the deeper channel were the only visible markers, though likely there are other remnants of the old lock that are still submerged.

This should resolve a question I’ve had – at which end of the island was the lock located? The first historical records I found indicated that it was about 1900 feet from the end of the island, which I assumed to be the upstream (or west) end. This would put the lock in the vicinity of the footbridge serving the 4th and 14th fairways of the VCC. But a record I subsequently found indicated that, at low water, the remains of the lock could be seen just upstream of the old Vesper Canoeing Club boathouse. I think that the old boathouse is the present golf clubhouse, so this would put the lock about 1900 feet from the downstream end of the island, where I took the bottom photograph shown on p. 9.

The orientation of the lock (if the lock) is a bit of a surprise; it runs at a fair angle to the main direction of the channel. But this puts it behind a little head of land that might have offered some protection from the damage during ice-out each spring. This would make sense; it is quite similar to what the builders did at Cromwell’s Lock, about 15 miles farther upstream.

If this is the lock, it is not clear how much is left of lit, though it is conceivable that the lock is still somewhat intact. The historical record indicates that this was a wooden lock, made of heavy planks set into the bottom of the river channel, with much earth backfill added to establish the canal and to support the planks. It also suggests the possible use of drop-gates, which may still be somewhere at the bottom. It will be necessary to conduct an underwater survey to determine this. The structure has been completely flooded for most of the past 175 years and, thus far, the historical record has provided no indication of anyone ever having quarried or otherwise demolishing it.

Potential bad news – part of the fill added to carry Route 113 probably covers whatever may remain of the old towpath and may even extend into the original channel. But it is not likely that this reaches all the way to the lock. Likely it now constrains what was a more gradual bend in the channel at the downstream side of the lock.

On a related note, several miles downstream but upstream of Lowell’s Community Boathouse and river walk, there is what appears to be a berm in the river at a fairly constant distance from the shore. The suggestion to me is that this is a remnant of a man-made channel that might have kept canal boats out of the main course of the river current. It may be that this would have allowed draft animals to tow boats along the shore from a point opposite the head of the Middlesex Canal, all the way up to and through, or down from, the Wicassee Lock.

So there you have it. Please go by and take a look and let me know what you think. (I’m a bit out on the limb on this!)


[Pictures to be inserted]
The Wicassee Lock and Dam at Low Water


[Editor’s note: the following is reprinted from American Canals, Vol. XXX, No. 2, with permission of the Editor, David F. Ross.]


Carl and Alan Seaburg and Thomas Dahill,
The Incredible Ditch: A Bicentennial History of the Middlesex Canal
(Medford, Massachusetts: Anne Miniver Press, Medford Historical Society, 2000).

Reviewed by Linda Barth

One of the earliest canals built in the United States, the Middlesex Canal (1803-1853) in Massachusetts connected Boston with Lowell to provide a transportation route for lumber from New Hampshire.

The Incredible Ditch uses a unique blend of contemporary narratives, fictional accounts, old survey maps, and recent aerial photographs to create a fascinating look at this historic waterway. Beginning with a list of over 200 "Workers Who Built the Middlesex Canal," the authors use an amalgam of three accounts of a July 18, 1817 trip to take the reader on a ride from Charlestown to Woburn.

"How the Canal Was Born" is the memoir of Judge James Sullivan, President of the Canal Corporation. In "Diary of a Dig," Loammi Baldwin, the canal’s first superintendent, describes the arduous process of construction, from the 1793 surveys through the last year of the dig (1803) and the opening of a branch canal in 1805. The avid canaller will enjoy descriptions of the little-known bypass canals along the upper Merrimack. "How the Canal Worked" is drawn from Agent Caleb Eddy’s 1835 report, supplemented by general information from standard works.

"Overview" consists of a series of delicately-drawn maps showing the canal as it passed through the varied topography of northeastern Massachusetts. The aerial photographs taken by Nolan Jones are used in "Overflight": the canal is superimposed upon these views of its route through a much-changed modern landscape.

"Closing Down the Canal" is based on Agent Richard Frothingham’s report, and "A Canal Scrapbook" contains excerpts from canal-era authors such as Henry David Thoreau and the New York State Canal Commission, as well as from modern publications.

The book concludes with "Afterglow," which describes the canal after its abandonment, and a final chapter detailing the preservation work done by the Middlesex Canal Association, the Woburn Canal Society, and the Middlesex Canal Commission.

Lovely paintings of locks, bridges, aqueducts, vessels and life along the canal are interspersed with photographs both historic and modern. You can even learn a canal song, "Haulin’ Down to Boston On the Middlesex Canal," written by David Dettinger.

The Incredible Ditch can be purchased from the publisher, or from the Middlesex Canal Association, c/o Osterberg, 79 Nichols St., Wilmington, MA 01887-1625.

by Roger Hagopian

[Editor’s note: The following is from an e-mail message sent to members of the MCA board on April 1, 2001. I felt that members of the MCA would be equally interested in Roger’s observations.]

I thought I'd take a ride with camera and photograph any interesting changes in the water level of the segments of the Middlesex Canal from Winn St. in Woburn to Chelmsford.

Off of Kilby Street the development of a subdivision in a cul de sac penetrating into what had been private property revealed a short, curved, watered (app 200' ) segment of the canal as it deviated from the straight route through Woburn. This may only last a short while or again revert to its "private property locked "status. It is a site that I don't think any of us or anyone in recent times has explored since the development of this part of Woburn.

The next notable site is near 11 Dexter Avenue, a right turn north of North Woburn off Rt. 38. Here a previously dry depression between two homes is now watered.

At Pond St in Billerica the canal is barely discernable as a straight watered channel bordered on both sides by the flooded plain. The north entrance to the North Billerica millpond has flooded above the bridge bottom and the lock flooded likewise.

The greatest images were the flooded sites of the Red Lock basin and channel to the river, which had backed up. The basin was now half full and the channel which ran perpendicular to the canal was watered enough to clearly indicate its alignment. Perhaps due to magnitude of floods in the area since the abandonment of the canal, the banks of the channel had eroded to the point where visual identification of the dry bed was unclear.

Dare I say that this is one of the very few advantages to having an overabundance of water in our region.


submitted by Howard B. Winkler

[Extracted from "The Wonder of Our Waterways" by Dick Warner. Mr. Warner’s article appeared in the Winter 2001 issue of The World of Hibernia, published in Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted here with the kind permission of Sonya Perkins, Editor-in-Chief.]

Last summer I (Dick Warner) was having a pint in a pub on the banks of the Grand Canal in Robertstown in County Kildare. I was talking about canals with an old man, a man with clear memories of the last commercial cargo that was carried on our inland waterways. (It was fifty tons of Guinness en route from Dublin to Limerick and it passed through Robertstown village in July 1960.) The man told me a story, in the slow, witty style of old men in midlands pubs, and I found it fascinating. The gist of the story is that a horse-drawn boat carrying passengers left Dublin early in the morning to arrive in Robertstown in the evening. The passengers and crew were in the old canal hotel that still stands today, having their evening meal. A young man, dressed in the approximate style of a gentleman, came rushing in to the hotel and told the boatsman, or skipper, that he was on urgent business and he had to be in Tullamore in County Offaly by the following evening. The boatsman acknowledged that he would be going to Tullamore the following day and that he could squeeze in one more passenger, provided the passenger had the fare─which, if I remember rightly, was about one shilling and ten pence.

The young man who was in such a hurry then said that he was the son of one of the Directors of the Grand Canal Company and, as such, was entitled to a free passage. That's when the row started.

The boatsman insisted that he had his rules and nobody, not even the Queen of England herself, could travel on his boat unless they paid their fare. The arrogant young man insisted that he was entitled to free transport on the boat.

The argument became hot and heavy and, eventually the innkeeper intervened to try to make peace. He suggested a compromise─why didn't the young man offer to work his passage, and no money need change hands? This was agreed.

Early the next morning the young man presented himself to the boatsman and asked what his duties were. He was told to take the bridle of the towing horse and guide it along the bank. So he got his free trip to Tullamore─but he walked every step of the way!

The moral of this story, and clearly the reason it was told to me, is that it proves that nobody can get the better of a canny old Robertstown boatsman.

But what fascinates me is that there are certain elements in the story that enable a waterways historian to date it quite accurately. It must relate to a period between about 1830 and 1840 and so has survived in the oral tradition of the Robertstown pubs for between 160 and 170 years.



On Saturday, July 7, 2001, the Middlesex Canal Museum and Visitor Center at the Faulkner Mills began opening to the public on Saturdays and Sundays. Shayne Reardon, a member of the Billerica Section of the Middlesex Canal Commission and one of the very strong forces behind the establishment of the Museum and Visitor Center writes the following.

What a wonderful opening we had. Saturday there were probably 20+ people visiting and Sunday 60-70. The Lowell Sun ran an article with a picture of Tom Dahill placing the "Museum Open" sign and Tina and Karen Carpenito looking at Christian Tirella’s display. There was a steady stream of people, some local and some from various states like FL, PA, and NC. Several people who had worked at the Mill went home and brought back items to donate to the meeting room, like a spindle, a spool of thread, an employee award pen and knife, and material sold at the store. We are asking local people to donate pictures, items, and oral histories to be placed in a binder at the Museum & Visitor Center. Be sure to ask when it’s your turn to cover the Museum & Visitor Center.

We will need to have info on the mill as well as the Middlesex Canal, since there were many questions both Saturday and Sunday. There is so much info to gather and type and prepare for the volunteers, but we will get there. The evident pleasure of our "guests" at seeing our Museum & Visitor Center certainly made the efforts by all involved worthwhile.

An 8th grade teacher from Billerica can’t wait to bring her classes to visit; she bought $76 worth of items from the store and thinks she will join us at our meetings – it was so gratifying. John [Reardon] and I ordered more shirts today and will come up with a list for approval to add more variety to the store. This teacher and several other tourists offered suggestions that they would like to see for sale!

Roger Hagopian’s video (we sold a few) is a real draw. It keeps the guests engaged and answers come questions.

Thanks to you all, Shayne


by Roger Hagopian

Our canal walk on April 21st was very well attended. The last two walks have been the best back to back ones yet! We covered the section near Len Harmon's property in Woburn along the Woburn Canal Commission/Society's land, from Route 128 south to Winn Street and back. I led the group on a bypass to Kilby St. where the canal is now exposed where it made a "bulge" deviating from the otherwise lineal route which the Railroad later followed. Because of new development on the site the "bulge" is now exposed (and partly filled in); we walked right in and saw the watered curve of the "bulge" as never seen before due to unprecedented rains and accessibility.

The second portion of the walk was the stretch behind Baldwin Park Tavern that had been restored for the bicentennial in 1976. Probably about a third of the initial participants continued on into this section. (We need to get in there with a chain saw to clear some downed trees that block the path.) And finally, a few people headed off to see where the canal ascended from Horn Pond.

As usual folks were most inquisitive and I think Bill Gerber and myself are getting to know the names of some of our walkers who seem to be attending regularly. I recently attend a bus tour / hike along the never completed Southern New England Railroad. Its builder went down with the Titanic! I promoted our walk on that trip and two fellows showed up on our walk, and there is apparently is an interest for the Mass Bay Railroad enthusiasts to run a bus tour/hike along the Middlesex Canal. I will look into it as they want to have it in the fall.

Apparently the Globe Calendar contained the wrong meeting location for the walk; they had it on Summer Street, and a number of people showed up there. Regrettably, we did not cross paths with any of them and so they went off disappointed. The MCA expresses their apologies to those who did not meet the rest of the group.


by Tom Dahill

On August 11 and 12, 2001, the Middlesex Canal Museum and Visitor Center combined with the Lowell National Historical Park to sponsor Canal Heritage Days. On Saturday there were several talks and activities at Lowell, and on Sunday, several talks and activities took place in North Billerica.

Canal Days were a successful adventure, bringing in 180-200 people on Sunday, and over 250 all told. Busloads of out-of-towners from Lowell mingled with local visitors including many children; in spite of the inclement weather, many took advantage of the canoe and powerboat excursions on the Concord River.

The presentations were met with attentive audiences of up to 50 persons and received intelligent questions throughout. There was a lull about lunchtime, and next time we should introduce a lunch hour to avoid this. Vigorous activity at the Museum and Visitor Center store generated substantial sums for the Center. Many books were sold, as well as t-shirts and candy bars.

A children’s coloring contest was popular, and I believe that they all won prizes! As usual, the TV corner was fully occupied as our growing library of videos gave a variety of outlooks on the history and building of the canal. The lunches were eaten on the premises rather than on the grounds of the schoolhouse, but no complaints were heard. The toilet rooms served the public well. Gratifying was the number of people who examined the exhibits and lingered to ask questions of the Association and Commission members in attendance. The working lock model was a great drawing card for both adults and children and was tended by one of our high school volunteers.

Canal Heritage Days were an immense success, and we all look forward to an even more successful event next year.

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