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Friday, March 24, 2017

The "From Wrightsville To Havre de Grace: Navigating The Canal - Part II" Story

The Lock House of the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal
It was an ordinary day.  Looking at the model display that shows how the locks at the Lock House of the Susque- hanna and Tidewater Canal used to work as they helped move raw materials such as coal, iron ore, flint, lumber and grain from Wrightsville, Pennsylvania into navigable water at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay at Havre de Grace, MD.  
Miniature of the lock
Products including groceries, dry goods and agricultural supplies were then sent the 45-mile journey back to Wrightsville, about 20 miles from my home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Havre de Grace is aptly named, since it means "Harbor of Grace." The miniature lock shows how the flat-bottomed canal boats, which averaged 65 feet in length and hauling as much as 150 tons, made their way by a pair of mules walking in single file at a maximum of 4 mph (any speed faster would have caused damage to the canal banks).  The Lock House was the hub of activity as the canal boats lined up to exit their southern journey, heading for ports of call such as Philadelphia and Baltimore.  
A cutout of the wall reveals the interior of the
original Lock House walls.  Much of the wood for
its construction was obtained from the rafts that
used to journey down the river before the Canal
was completed.
It was built in 1840 from brick and was one of only a few masonry buildings in Havre de Grace.  The Lock Tender lived at the Lock House with his family and received free living quarters as well as his salary for the job.  He was responsible for opening and closing the lock gates to adjust the water level, operate the pivot bridge, repair and maintain the lock, grounds and towpath as well as handle the duties of the toll collector in his absence.  He was on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  There were three Lock Tenders during the lifetime of the canal which operated from 1840 until it closed in 1900.  
This old photo shows mules pulling a canal boat through the canal.
The Lock House also was the business office where the Toll Collector, who was an agent and representa- tive of the Canal Company, acted as a book- keeper, kept track of cargo traveling through the Lock and collected the tolls for the use of the canal.  
Sample of Canal Scrip, or money, that can be used on the Canal.
The first floor office had a scale for smaller objects, a stove, a protecto- graph (check writer) which was used to print the toll on a check to keep anyone from altering the price, an ink well, Canal Scrip (canal currency) which could be used for the toll, a cigar cutter and a cuspidor or spittoon which was a receptacle for spitting tobacco.  
This is a reproduction of the original journal of the Boyce Co.
of Baltimore, MD.  It recorded canal boats that carried coal.
The Toll Collector would determine how much money, or Canal Scrip, was due by how far the boat traveled on the Canal, the items carried and the total weight or total number of items.  Though most canal boats carried cargo, passenger boats also transversed the canal.  
A Packet Boat that carried passengers on the Canal.
They were known as Packet Boars that moved passengers west to the Frontier.  Passengers could enjoy the luxury of sitting on the decks and cabin tops of the boat during the day, eating below the cabin top while sitting on either side of a long table and sleeping, if necessary, on planks that would be strung over the benches to provide bunks.  Our day at the Lock House was both entertaining as well as informative and gave me the chance to walk the grounds and take a few photos of the surrounding area where we often drive for a day on the Chesapeake Bay.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.




Looking out the window of the Lock House toward two bridges that carry traffic and trains across the Susquehanna at Havre de Grace.
A painting of the Lock House that was used on a poster for the Lock House.
Carol Jerry ad Just Sue wait for the next Packet Boat to arrive to take us home.

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