ABANDONED CANALS


| September/October 1964



This is the first of several articles on the interesting stories of the old canals. They are sent to us by William H. Somers, Box 9, Rome, New York.

Paul Yager and I set out one day to look over the O & W road bed south of Oneida. We were fascinated by the fact that it travelled for many miles way up on the hillside. Then it came down into the little village of Eaton and a spur ran over to Hamilton. Now, there is one point where there are four highways within a few feet of each other: the O & W RR, a county road, the Chenango River and somewhat above the river and a little below the railroad, another waterway, which we found out to be a feeder for the Chenango canal. Now, we are going to talk alot about the canal, but this feeder turned out to be of particular interest to us.

The canal itself ran from Utica to Binghamton. It was supposed to connect the Erie Canal with the Pennsylvania Canal. But the connecting canals in the southern part of the state and in northern Pennsylvania never quite made it. One part would fall into disrepair before the rest of it was completed. On top of this the Chenango Canal had quite a bit of difficulty; mostly that the repair bills were too high. Most of the canals in the East started out deep in debt, and if they did not take in pretty good money from the barges, they were in trouble. The Chenango's big mistake, like many others, was that they started out using wooden locks. They never held up for very long, and by the time they were all in operation, one would give out as soon as another had been repaired. So the job was generally done all over, putting in stone locks.

Well, we decided to go around and see where this feeder went. And go around is what we did. It travels all over the place, trying to keep as level as possible. In one place it goes almost a mile along the road, and then turns and comes back almost to the starting point. This feeder is to the south-west of Hamilton and has water in it almost all the way into the village.

The canal itself went right through Hamilton, but, of course, has been obliterated there. Just enough is left to trace it. On the east side is another feeder, which gets its water from Lake Moraine, a man made lake, which is now a popular resort place for the community. The lake does not have a concrete dam, but is filled in on the open side. There is still a gate house to control the flow of water. Along side the gate house is a spillway which is not used any more. This brings up the important feature of the Chenango, that it is still maintained from Hamilton north to control water into the Barge Canal. Along the way are numerous small dams, which I understand are used to make pools for trout.

It is quite hilly south of N. Y. Rte 5, and the canal does the same thing as the railroad in spots: it travels along the hill sides. It looks very strange so high above the highways, but it is important that a canal keep as level as possible. Of course the locks were expensive, and the mules could not pull again too strong a current.