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Canal Fever

The Ohio & Erie Canal, from Waterway to Canalway

Edited by Lynn Metzger and Peg Bobel, Illustrations by Chuck Ayers

Publication Year: 2009

Original essays on the past, present, and future of the Ohio & Erie Canal

Combining original essays based on the past, present, and future of the Ohio & Erie Canal, Canal Fever showcases the research and writing of the best and most knowledgeable canal historians, archaeologists, and enthusiasts. Each contributor brings his or her expertise to tell the canal’s story in three parts: the canal era—the creation of the canal and its importance to Ohio’s early growth; the canal’s decline—the decades when the canal was merely a ditch and path in backyards all over northeast Ohio; and finally the rediscovery of this old transportation system and its transformation into a popular recreational resource, the Ohio & Erie Canalway.

Included are many voices from the past, such as canalers, travelers, and immigrants, stories of canal use through various periods, and current interviews with many individuals involved in the recent revitalization of the canal. Accompanying the essays are a varied and interesting selection of photographs of sites, events, and people, as well as original maps and drawings by artist Chuck Ayers.

Canal Fever takes a broad approach to the canal and what it has meant to Ohio from its original function in the state’s growth its present-day function in revitalizing our region. Canal buffs, historians, educators, engineers, and those interested in urban revitalization will appreciate its extensive use of primary source materials and will welcome this comprehensive collection.

Published by: The Kent State University Press

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

There have been three canal fevers in northeast Ohio. First came the excitement generated by the building and opening of the Ohio & Erie Canal, beginning in 1825; second was the frequent occurrence of the dis-ease labeled “canal fever” that afflicted canal builders and their families; and the third, still rampant, is completely good for one’s health. Fueled ...

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ch1. The History of the Ohio & Erie Canal

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pp. 3-18

In the twenty-first century, it is difficult to grasp the significance of the canal era to U.S. and Ohio history. The period seems far removed, even quaint in its complexities. However, the canal system that developed in the nineteenth century created a commercial network that revolutionized trade and travel in the United States. Nowhere are these connections ...

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ch2. Building the Canals: The Engineers

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pp. 19-42

When he raised his glass at gatherings, George Washington was known for toasting “Success to the Navigation of the Potomac!” An experienced surveyor and mapmaker, Washington was president of the Potomack Canal Company, chartered in 1785, before he was president of the United States. The canal he championed at the time was to be a bypass around ...

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ch3. Mucking Through: Common Labor on the Ohio & Erie Canal

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pp. 43-60

The State of Ohio was still young and poor when it embarked on construction of a massive canal system connecting Lake Erie with the Ohio River. We honor those who conceived that system, planned it, found funds to finance it, and managed its construction. We know their names.The forgotten man in canal history is the common laborer, the largely ...

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ch4. Natural History, Natural Resources, and the Ohio & Erie Canal

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pp. 61-90

The main purpose of building the Ohio & Erie Canal was to create a route for local agricultural products to reach eastern markets. Indeed, an early 1900s history of Ohio agriculture notes that “the opening of the Ohio and Erie Canal is the most clearly defined epoch-making event in our agricultural history.”1 But the canal had an effect on many natural ...

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ch5. A Traveler’s Tale: Along the Ohio & Erie Canal in 1834: Maximilian, Prince of Wied An Annotated New Translation

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pp. 91-108

A number of travelers chronicled their trips via canal boat along the Ohio & Erie Canal in the nineteenth century. But the trip of Maximilian, Prince of Wied (1782–1867), stands out among them. This German explorer made important early observations about the canal during June 1834, less than two years after the full length of the canal was opened, in October of ...

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ch6. The Hands of the Diligent

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pp. 109-116

A contemporary observer of the Society of Separatists of Zoar, P. F. D., in his essay “Harmony Builds a House” (1832), uses a quotation from Proverbs 10:4 to describe the serendipity the building of the Ohio & Erie Canal provided this struggling group of Germans who, driven from their ancestral homeland by religious persecution, came to settle in the Tus-...

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ch7. Voices on the Canal

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pp. 117-140

The stories of people who lived on and around the canal when it operated as a transportation system add a rich texture to the description of the actual building and operating of the canal. These are the tales of nineteenth-century settlers and travelers, twentieth-century boatmen, and canal-town residents. The latter are from people who bridged the ...

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ch8. East versus West: The Industrial Valley

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pp. 141-160

With the geography of the canal area, could it have been anything but east versus west? A river several hundred feet wide at its mouth at Lake Erie, nestled in the bottom of a valley more than a mile wide and a hundred feet deep, definitely leaves one either “over here” or “over there.” The Ohio & Erie Canal, with its north terminus at the Cleveland wa- ...

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ch9. Railroad Fever and Canals in Ohio

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pp. 161-178

In the post–Civil War era, railroad fever spread through Ohio, where earlier in the nineteenth century, residents had expressed similar excitement about canals and to a somewhat lesser extent about all-weather post roads, tollways, and turnpikes. But by midcentury the citizenry nearly universally embraced the iron horse. Now Ohioans laugh as they read ...

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ch10. William Bennett’s Navarre, the Canal Town

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pp. 179-192

Every small town has a historian, the sage of its history and heritage. In the first half of the twentieth century William Loren Bennett served that role for Navarre, Ohio, located along the Tuscarawas River in northeast Stark County. More than that, he captured on film many of Navarre’s landscapes and buildings, freezing in time the architecture and appearance ...

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ch11. Crossing the Cultural Fault Line: The Historic Landscape of the Ohio & Erie Canal

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pp. 193-208

The landscape of the Ohio & Erie Canal encompasses much more than old locks and quaint canal towns. When the canal was built, beginning in the 1820s, it traversed land from Cleveland to Portsmouth, much of which had been surveyed, sold, and occupied by white settlers for over three decades. In northeast and east-central Ohio, white settlers from New England and ...

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ch12. Rising Water and Waning Support: The Ohio & Erie Canal’s Final Years

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pp. 209-230

“Well, it was in late March, and it had been raining for two or three days.”1 So begins James Dillow Robinson’s personal account of the 1913 flood that devastated Ohio and neighboring states. Robinson, a young worker on a state canal maintenance boat and later chronicler of canal history, could not have known at the time that what he was witnessing ...

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ch13. The Ditch and the Path in the Backyard

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pp. 231-252

In the collective memories of the elders in the cities and small towns along the Ohio & Erie Canalway, canal history is divided into two parts: life before and after the 1913 flood. Although the heyday of the canal was long past before the extensive canal rehabilitation of 1905–09, this work had created some optimism that the old transportation system would survive, ...

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ch14. Saving the “Little Silver Ribbon”

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pp. 253-276

For a generation or two after the devastating floods of 1913, conversations about the Ohio & Erie Canal were mostly nostalgic. People who were present when the packets and freighters floated along the waterway reminisced among themselves and to those who came along later about how great things used to be. Following in their footsteps were the indi-...

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ch15. Reading the Past

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pp. 277-304

The concept of a cultural landscape proposes a unifying theme to suggest that people do not passively inhabit a place, but that their imprint survives in the archaeological record, in oral histories, and in place names as well as in the economies and social systems of present-day groups.1 To read the cultural landscape of the past is to draw on the research and ...

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ch16. Grassroots and Connections

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pp. 305-334

The Ohio & Erie National Heritage Canalway, or simply the Canalway, builds on a long northeast Ohio tradition of recognizing the value of green space. This Canalway is a designation of a lineal swath of land containing historic, natural, and recreational resources along the northern section of the historic Ohio & Erie Canal, from Cleveland to New Philadelphia. The ...

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ch17. Journey to Canalway

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pp. 335-362

This chapter continues the story of the old Ohio & Erie Canal, as the effort to preserve it changed from a grassroots, local initiative to a well-coordinated drive toward national recognition. Canal fever was intense, and the advocates were focused and determined to both develop the corridor and achieve the national designation. Success was in the air. When...

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ch18. Epilogue: The Trail Ahead

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pp. 363-372

When S. S. Dustin wrote about the canal in 1888 as though it were already a historic relic and Pearl Nye sentimentally called it the “Silver Ribbon” in the 1930s, they could never have envisioned the current renaissance of the old canal and towpath. The concept of preserving such historic features developed in the American mind in the 1960s. So the old and ...

Appendix: Interviews for Canal Fever

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pp. 373-374


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pp. 375-376


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pp. 377-382

E-ISBN-13: 9781612775678
E-ISBN-10: 1612775675
Print-ISBN-13: 9781606350133

Page Count: 384
Illustrations: (To view these images, please refer to print version)
Publication Year: 2009