Delaware & Hudson Canal Park at Lock 31
It took nearly three years (spring of 1826 to fall of 1828) to build
the Delaware & Hudson Canal primarily with German, Scotch, and Irish immigrant labor with the help of horses, hand tools and unpredictable black powder. Dynamite and matches had not been invented yet. At one time 2,500 men and 200 teams were at work building the canal.
The canal was originally designed to hold four feet of water. But it was not until 1840 when the earthen embankments were fully settled, that it was able to hold that amount for the entire 108 miles. Boats were then able to carry 30 tons of cargo, then 40, and 50 tons with larger boats, and finally 140 tons with the largest boats using hipped sides on the hold openings. The canal was just wide enough for two boats to pass each other, except in basin areas such as here above [L]ock 31, where it was wider for boats to tie up on granite snubbing posts (See one to your right) for the night or wait for another boat to lock through.
Each spring after the ice melted, winter damage to the canal was repaired, and the water level was raised. Boating season
started in early April and ended in late November or December whenever the canal iced over.
It took an average of 10 days to travel round trip
between Honesdale, PA and Kingston, NY on the Hudson River and back to Honesdale,
at a rate of three miles per hour.
The number of boats
operating in the canal varied greatly during the canal's life. In the 1870's more than 1,000 boats made an average of 13 trips annually. In the 1890's only 250 boats operated an average of seven trips. Trains, which ran all winter, were used more and more to transport cargo instead.
In addition to anthracite coal from the mines of northeastern PA, which was the majority of the canal's cargo
to New York City, timber, tanners' bark, animal hides, iron, cement, materials for glass making, finished glass ware, bluestone, and general merchandise were carried on the canal.
Canal company rules
required each boat [to] have a crew of at least three, a captain, who was usually the owner; bowman, who steered with a tiller at the bow; and driver. Frequently, the boat owner's wife was included as one of the three and their young son, daughter, or homeless youth who was rarely paid more than $2.50 to $4.00 a month in addition to room and board, was the third required crew member.
The driver, hoggie, or towboy and occasional towgirl
walked 15 to 20 miles a day and up to 3,000 miles in a single season, kept the team of mules or horses out of the canal and pulling tandem, regardless of weather. When two boats passed each other, it was up to the driver to keep the towlines from tangling. When not walking
the towpath, the driver fed, watered, took care of the team, and pumped water out of the boat. The older the boat the more water had to be pumped. In the short time remaining, the driver ate and slept.
The canal was closed
between midnight on Saturday to the usual Monday opening hour.
"Fifteen lock tenders...were...charged with violation of the Sunday law in locking through canal boats on that day. They were fined and discharged [of their duties]."
, June 27, 1873
Most canal children
did not know how to swim, so when they fell overboard, or when exhausted drivers fell into the canal, they frequently drowned. A hired young driver was worth less than a mule, so which one did the captain pull out first?
"...many of the little [?] are obligated to rise at [?] o'clock in the morning and remain at work until twelve at night, at which time the locks closed."
, June 20, 1839
Canal boats were home to canal families
during the boating season. The forward deck sheltered a grain bin, while the entire middle was taken up by cargo. At the stern (back end) was the small cabin which was about twelve by fourteen feet, housed narrow bunks big enough to sleep three adults, a drop leaf table, and a small stove. Five years was the average life span of a boat, which cost between $400 and $450 to construct in the 1850's. Captains often bought their boats on time from the canal company, paying it off until it was time to buy a new one. Oak was the wood of choice for boat builders.
Captain Jacob Hensberger's boat number 1107 left Honesdale's docks on November 5, 1898 and was the last boat to navigate the entire canal
. (See photo below, on boat left to right: Hensberger, Henry G. Soete, Frank X. Soete, Sr.) Then water was no longer let into the canal and parts, such as this one, were filled in with dirt and garbage, neglected, or built upon. As late as 1915, there were attempts to revive the "ditch" but all failed.