United States. Inland Waterways Commission.

Preliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report online

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of its construction. Finally, in the column under the head of
"Remarks" are given the causes which are said to have led to the
abandonment of the canal, with other facts regarding it.

o Tenth Census, 1880, Report on Transportation, p. 731; Eleventh Census, 1890,
Report on Transportation by Water, p. 482.
b Hadley, Railroad Transf»ortation, pp. 31-32.



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7. STATE AND PRIVATE CANALS



CANALS IN NEW YORK



The State canal system of New York comprises:

1. The Erie Canal, connectmg Lake Erie at Buffalo with the Hudson
River at Albany.

Miles.

Erie Canal 351. 78

Navigable feeders 3.35

Total 355. 13

The Erie Canal runs through the counties of Albany, Cayuga, Erie,
Herkimer, Madison, Monroe, ^lontgomery, Niagara, Onondaga,
Oneida, Orleans, Saratoga, Schenectady, and Wayne.

2. The Champlain Canal, connecting Lake Champlain with the
Hudson River at West Troy.

Miles.

Champlain Canal 66

Glens Falls feeder 12

Pond above Troy dam 3

Total 81

The Champlain Canal runs through the counties of Rensselaer,
Saratoga, Warren, and Washington.

3. The Black River Canal, extending from the High Falls of Black
River to the Erie Canal at Rome.

Miles.

Black River Canal 35. -33

Black River feeder 13. 47

River improvement 42. 50

Total 91. 30

The Black River Canal runs through Oneida and Lewis counties.

4. The Oneida lake and canal feeder, near Rome, 6 miles.

5. The Oswego Canal, connecting the waters of Lake Ontario at
Oswego with the Erie Canal at Syracuse.

Miles.

Oswego Canal 38

Baldwinsville side cut 1

Oneida River improvement 20

Seneca River towing path 5

Total 64

The Oswego Canal runs through Onondaga and Oswego counties.

6. The Cayuga and Seneca Canal, 23 miles. Cajmga inlet, 2 miles.
The Cayuga and Seneca Canal runs through Cayuga, Seneca, and

Ontario counties.

This system of 622.43 miles is owned by the State of New York, and
by the constitution, Article YII, sections 8 and 10, it is provided that
these canals shall forever remain the property of the State, and that
they shall be improved as the legislature shall provide.

The canals or New York are divided into three divisions and a
number of sections:

210



STATE AND PRIVATE CANALS 211

1. Eastern division, including 3 sections for the Champlain Canal
and 4 sections for the Erie, the dividing line being between Herkimer
and Oneida counties.

2. ^liddle division, including 2 sections for the Oswego Canal, the
Black River Canal, and the Cayuga and Seneca Canal and 3 sections
for the Erie. This division extends to the east line of Wayne County.

3. Western division, including 4 sections for the Erie. This division
extends to Buffalo.

In connection with the description of these canals the following
table, taken from the report of the New York superintendent of public
works, 1905, pages 196-201, is of interest:

?Jrie Canal. — Original canal — Size of canal: Width at surface 40
feet; width at bottom 28 feet; depthof water 4 feet. Lockage 675 o feet.
Locks, number, 83; length 90 feet; width 15 feet. Burden of boats,
average, 70 tons capacity; maximum, 76 tons capacity. Construc-
tion of canal, date authorized, April 15, 1817; date work begun, July
4, 1817; date completed, October 26, 1825. Cost of canal, estimated
at engmeer's prices, $4,926,738; actual cost, $7,143,789. Maximum
dimensions of boats, 78.62 by 14.46 by 3^ feet draft.

Enlarged canal: Width at surface 70 feet; width at bottom 56
feet; depth of water 7 feet. Lockage 654.8 feet. Locks, number,
72; length 110 feet; width 18 feet. Some of the locks are 220 feet
long, available for passing two boats at one lockage. Burden of boats,
average, 210 tons capacity; maximum, 240 tons capacity. Construc-
tion of canal, date authorized,May 11, 1835; work begun, August, 1836;
date completed, September, 1862. Estimated cost, at engmeer's
prices, $23,402,803; actual cost, $44,465,414. Maximum dimensions
of boats 98 by 17^^^ by 6 feet draft.

Champlain Canal. — Size of canal: Width at surface 50 feet;
width at bottom 35 feet; depth of water 5 feet. Lockage 311.5 feet.
Locks, number, 33; length 110 feet; width 18 feet. Burden of boats,
average, 85 tons capacity; maximum, 120 tons capacity. Construc-
tion of canal, date authorized, April 15, 1817; date completed, 1822.
Cost, estimated at engineer's prices, $871,000; actual cost, $4,044,000.'*

Oswego Canal. — Original canal — Size of canal: Width at surface 40
feet; width at bottom 24 feet; depth of water 4 feet. Locks, num-
ber, 18; length 90 feet; width 15 feet. Burden of boats, average, 70
tons capacity; maximum, 76 tons capacity. Construction of canal,
date authorized, April 20, 1825; date completed, December 10, 1828.
Cost of canal, estimated at engineer's prices, $277,000; actual cost,
$565,473.

Enlarged canal — Size of canal: Width at surface 70 feet; width
at bottom 52.5 feet; depth of water 7 feet. Lockage 154.85 feet.
Locks, number, 18; length 110 feet; width 18 feet. Burden of boats,
average, 210 tons capacity; maximum, 240 tons capacity. Con-
struction of canal, date authorized, April 15, 1854; date completed,
1862. Cost of canal, estimated, $1,926,336; actual cost, $4,427,589.
Cayuga and Seneca Canal. — Original canal — Size of canal: Width
at surface 40 feet; width at bottom 24 feet; depth 4 feet. Locks,
number, 10; length 90 feet; width 16 feet. Burden of boats, average,
70 tons capacity; maximum, 76 tons capacity. Construction of canal,
date authorized, April 20, 1825; date completed, November 15, 1828.

« Includes improvements and enlargements to 1875.



212 REPORT OF THE INLAND WATERWAYS COMMISSION

Enlarged canal — Size of canal : Width at surface 70 feet ; width at
bottom 52.5 feet; depth 7 feet. Lockage 86.58 feet. Locks, number,
11 ; length 110 feet; width 18 feet. Burden of boats, average, 210 tons
capacity; maximum, 240 tons capacity. Date authorized, 1854;
date completed, 1862. Cost, estimated at engineer's prices, $811,188;
actual cost, $2,010,320.

Black River Canal.— r-Size of canal: Width at surface 42 feet; width
at bottom 26 feet; depth 4 feet. Lockage 1,082.25 feet. Locks,
number, 109; length 90 feet; width 15 feet. Two locks on Black
River, length 160 feet; width 30 feet. Burden of boats, average, 70
tons capacity; maximum, 76 tons capacity. Construction of canal,
date authorized, April 19, 1836; date begun, January, 1838; date
completed, 1849. Cost of canal, estimated at engineer's prices,
$1,068,437; actual cost, $3,581,954.

Oneida LaJce Canal. — Size of canal: Width at surface 70 feet;
width at bottom 47.25 feet; depth 7 feet. Lockage 60 J feet. Locks,
number, 7; length 110; width 18. Burden of boats, average, 220
tons capacity; maximum, 220 tons capacity. Construction of canal,
date authorized, March 22, 1832; date completed, 1836. Cost of
canal, estimated at engineer's prices, $40,000; actual cost, $450,678.

Oneida River Improvement. — Size of canal: Width at surface 80
feet; width at bottom 60 feet; depth 4h feet. Lockage 6} feet.
Locks, number, 2; length 120 feet; width 30 feet. Burden of boats,
average, 70 tons capacity; maximum, 76 tons capacity. Construc-
tion of canal, date authorized, April 29, 1839; date completed, 1850.
Cost, estimated at engineer's prices, $100,049; actual cost, $368,164.

Under act of April 7, 1903, by vote of the people of the State, the
Erie, Oswego, and Champlain canals (which are really one waterway)
are being enlarged to accommodate and to meet modern conditions.
When these improvements are completed these canals will be
navigated by canal boats (which will probably be propelled by steam)
of a capacit}^ of 1,500 tons and capable of carrying 50,000 bushels of
wheat.

The course of the new barge canal takes it through 170 miles of earth
and rock, 107 miles of canalized rivers, and 68 miles of open water.
From Buffalo the canal will follow the present line of the Erie to Lyons,
about 100 miles, with the exception of a new course taking it out of the
city of Rochester. From near Lyons the new channel will lead
throuojh the Seneca and Oneida rivers to Oneida Lake, which is to
be utilized. From the east end of Oneida Lake, Wood Creek enlarged
will be made use of and with the new channel will connect with
Mohawk River, which will be canalized to Waterford on the Hudson.
Through the earth section the canal will be 75 feet wide at the bot-
tom, 123 feet wide at the water line, and 133 feet at top of banks. In
sections where the canal will be through rock it will be 94 feet wide at
the bottom and 96 at top. The 38 locks in the entire course of the
canal will be 328 feet long, 45 feet wide, and have 12 feet of water
over their sills. Spurs of the barge canal will be built into the two
largest interior cities — Rochester and Syracuse.

In addition to this main line, the Oswego River will be canalized
from its junction with the Erie route to Lake Ontario, furnishing a
waterway from that lake to the Hudson River with only 35 miles of
canal. The Hudson River will also be made navigable from Troy to
Fort Edward and from there a new canal will follow the line of the
Champlain Canal to Lake Champlain.



STATE AND PRIVATE CANALS 213

Up to December, 1907, contracts had been let covering 130 miles
of the new routes, including 28 locks and 15 dams (out of a total of
68 locks and 33 dams to be constructed), and aggregating $23,000,000.
The longest stretches of the new routes contracted for are on the
Champlain route from Northumberland to Fort Edward, and on the
main line along the Seneca and Oneida rivers. Plans and detailed
specifications are practically completed for contracts to cover most
of the remaining sections."

Construction work on the contracts already let is well under way ;
and several locks, including one of the four largest locks near Water-
ford is approaching completion. By way of contrasting old methods
with those of the present, it may be said that 60 men with machines
excavate as much in 24 hours as 400 men on the original canals.

History. — The earUest legislation in the State of New York relat-
ing to the State's providing means for communication by water was
in April, 1787, when the legislature imposed a tonnage tax on ves-
sels of 10 tons and upward passing through the Overslaugh. The
receipts from this tax were intended to be expended in removing
obstructions from the Hudson River. About five years later, in
March, 1792, the Western and the Northern Inland Lock Navigation
companies were incorporated; the former to connect the navigable
portions of the Hudson River with Lake Ontario and Seneca Lake,
and the latter to open lock navigation from the navigable portion
of the Hudson to Lake Champlain. In this early legislation is the
origin of the Erie and Champlain canals, probably the most success-
ful and effective canal projects that have ever been inaugurated in
the United States. In December of the same year an act was passed
fixing the dimensions of the locks, providing for the adnussion of
vessels drawing 2 feet of water when loaded, and also prescribing
the manner in which toll charges should be computed. A later act
fixed the right of these companies as to the condemnation of land.
In March, 1797, the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company was
given permission to raise the sum of $250,000 and its charter v\-as
extended twenty years. It had originally been allowed five years
to complete its work between Schenectady and Wood Creek,
but in 1798 this limit was extended five years. The company
appears to have met \dth difficulties, for the act of April 2, 1802,
provided for a practical reorganization of the company. The comp-
troller was authorized to accept the company's shares for money due
the State and the holdings of delinquent stockholders who failed
to pay up arrears were to vest in the company. In 1806 the time
allowed the company to complete the work down Wood Creek to
Lake Ontario and Seneca Lake was extended five years. In 1808
an act was passed authorizing the company to surrender that part
of its grant west of Oneida Lake.

By 1796 the improvements permitted the introduction of boats
carrying about 15 tons on the route from Schenectady to the Seneca
River, but nothing was done to surmount the falls at the mouth of
the Mohawk or on the Oswego River, and the improvements on the
upper Hudson were abandoned.

In the meantime other legislative acts had provided for the exami-
ncvtion and improvement of the Hudson River, and companies were
incorporated for constructing a canal between Lakes Erie and Ontario

"Annals Amer. Acad. Soc. and Pol. Sci., Jan'y. 1908, pp. 122. 123.



214 REPORT OF THE INLAND WATERWAYS COMMISSION

passing around Niagara Falls, Provision was made for the improve-
ment of navigable streams in Steuben County; the Peconeck River
in Suffolk County; the Black River from Brownsville to Lake Ontario,
and for a canal on the American side of the St. Lawrence River, but
no permanent improvements seem to have been accomplished under
these acts.

In April, 1811, a board of commissioners was created to investi-
gate and report upon the subject of internal navigation. Commis-
sioners were empowered to apply to the Congress of the United States
or to the legislature of any State or Territory, to cooperate in open-
ing a canal between the Great Lakes and the Hudson River, and in
1812 this board was authorized to make an agreement with the
Western Inland Lock Navigation Company by wliich the State
would secure a surrender of all the rights and interests of that com-
pany. The commissioners were empowered also to secure volun-
tary grants of land to the use of the State, and to borrow not to
exceed $5,000,000 to be repaid within fifteen years, and to invest
the sum so borrowed in such public stock or funds as to insure the
best interests of the State in making the contemplated improvement.
The creation of this board and the powers given it appear to be the
first steps taken by the State in the construction of the Erie Canal.
In 1814 the power of the commissioners to borrow money was revoked.

At this time the State was recovering from the effects of the war
of 1812. It was a period of great activity and the desirability of
water communication between the Hudson River and the Lakes
forced itself upon the people of the State. One of the leading advo-
cates of such a waterway was De Witt Clinton, afterwards the gov-
ernor of the State. A memorial entitled ''The New York Memorial,"
written by De Witt Clinton, was circulated and received the signa-
tures of 100,000 petitioners. It called upon the authorities to pro-
ceed at once to construct a canal from the Hudson to Lake Erie,
and its influence was such as to hasten the project. It has been said
to mark the beginning of active progress on the canal. It superseded
the idea of water communication by the Lake Ontario route. The
movement met with powerful sectional and individual opposition,
but its popularity with the masses of the people carried the day.

Another commission was authorized under the act of April 17, 1816,
to consider and adopt measures necessary to effect water comnmni-
cation between the Hudson and Lake Erie and Lake Champlain.
This commission was empowered to receive subscriptions or dona-
tions from the LTnited States, other States or individuals, to estimate
the cost of a canal, and to report to the general assembly.

Between 1813 and 1817 companies were incorporated to improve
the navigation of Bronx Creek; to improve navigation between
Seneca and Ca}iiga Lakes; to improve Catetunck Creek; to con-
struct lock navigation between Seneca Lake and the Chemung River,
and the officials of Steuben County were authorized to raise a specified
amount ($400) each year for improving the navigability of the
streams within that county. The time for the improvement of the
St. LawTence River at Madrid, N. Y., was extendecf to December 31,
1816. Several provisions were made for the improvement of the
Hudson, and an extension of three years was given for the improve-
ment of navigation on the Black River. In 1816 a company was
authorized to provide boat navigation from Schenectady to Cohoes
Falls and thence by a canal around the falls to the Hudson River.



STATE AND PRIVATE CANALS 215

Provision was made in the act that the company should sell its
rights to the State whenever the State should deem it for the public
interest to take it over. The construction of the Erie Canal dates
from the act passed April 15, 1817, by which a canal fund was pro-
vided for the purpose of opening navigable communication between
Lake Erie and Lake Champlain to the Atlantic l)y way of the Hudson.
This fund was to consist of appropriations, grants, and donations that
might be made by Congress, State legislatures, corporations, and in-
dividuals. To provide for the payment of interest on sums that
might be borrowed and for the final redemption of the principal sums
borrowed for construction, a tax of 12 j cents per bushel on salt manu-
factured in the western district of the State was imposed, as well as a
tax of $1 on each steamboat passenger traveling 100 miles or more of
the Hudson River, and 50 cents for every passenger traveling over
30 miles.

The commission authorized by the act of April 17, 1816, was to
continue, and it was authorized to secure title to the property of the
Western Inland Lock Navigation Company whenever the commis-
sioners should deem it for the interest of the State; and to construct
a canal between the Mohawk and Seneca rivers, and between Lake
Champlain and the Hudson River at Fort Edward.

On July 4, 18 17, ^excavation on the Erie Canal was begun at Rome,
and before the end of 1819 this middle section from Utica to the
Seneca River was completed. In April, 1819, the commissioners
were authorized to open communication by canal from Seneca
River to Lake Erie, between the Mohawk and Hudson rivers, and
between Fort Edward and the Hudson.

On October 26, 1825, the first boat passed through from Lake Erie
to the Hudson, and in November, 1825, the completion of the canal
was celebrated in New York City. The canal as originally completed
was 4 feet deep, 28 feet wide at the bottom, and 40 feet across the top.

The importance of the construction of this canal can hardly be over-
estimated in the influence it exerted on the building up, not only of
New York State, but of the entire western country. As is said in
Executive Document 136, Thirty-second Congress, first session, page
279:

Pre\'ious to the construction of the canal the cost of transportation from Lake Erie to
tide water was almost prohibitory. The report of the committee of the legislature to
whom was referred the whole siibject of the canal, dated March 17, 1817, states that at



Online LibraryUnited States. Inland Waterways CommissionPreliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report → online text (page 20 of 83)