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100 Years Ago


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Keeping the Canal in Operation

One can only imagine how difficult it was to design and build the canal system with enough water at its various elevations to ensure that canal boats could efficiently operate. At times, it was as difficult to keep the 300 miles of canal repaired.  Breaks in the canal banks, due to the forces of ‘Mother Nature’ or the action of the boats and the animals, were common. At times, long stretches of the canal were dry. The September 25, 1895, edition of "The Sidney Daily New’s reported, "The Miami and Erie Canal, from New Bremen to Defiance, is perfectly dry. The distance is 75 miles, and the absence of water is an unprecedented condition for any canal in Ohio."

The Canal Commissioners hired men to walk the canal and ride in state-owned maintenance boats, repairing breaks in the canal. Peter Kiefer, a native of Ft. Loramie, worked on one of the boats, cutting grass in the canal bed and repairing the canal bank. He explained the state leased the canal to private operators for a few years, but most operators never repaired their sections of the canal. When state officials realized the private leasing plan was not working, and took the canal over again, it was too late to repair all of the canal.

Repair work on the canal was usually a steady source of business for local contractors. "The Sidney Daily News" of March 25, 1897, carried an announcement that Berry and Sons of Versailles had been awarded the contract to replace 4,500 cubic yards of canal embankment near Newport that had "washed away during the recent high waters."

The dam north of Port Jefferson (shown below), an important structure because it diverted the waters from the Great Miami River into the Sidney Feeder, was rebuilt in 1884, and again in the 1930s.

port jefferson dam operation

'Canal' segment written in December, 1998 by Rich Wallace   

 

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