Erie Canal - A Route West

Built by the State of New York between 1817 and 1825, The Erie Canal (currently part of the New York State Canal System) that runs from the Hudson River to Lake Erie, connecting the Great Lakes to the Atlantic seaboard. Roads were poor, very slow or nonexistent. The easiest and cheapest travel was by waterway. It was 363 miles (584 km) long, 40 feet (12 m) wide, and 4 feet (1.2 m) deep. There were 83 locks along the canal, each 90 feet by 15 feet (27 m by 4.5 m). Maximum canal-boat displacement was 75 tons (68 tonnes). The Erie Canal was the first transportation route faster than carts pulled by draft animals between the Eastern Seaboard of the United States and the western interior, and cut transport costs into what was then wilderness by about 95%. The Canal resulted in a massive population surge in western New York, and opened regions further west to increased settlement.

The original Erie Canal proved a tremendous success and in 1836 New York began to deepen and enlarge the canal to seven feet by seventy feet. This lasted from 1836 and 1862, which coincided with the Irish potato famine, so foreign workers made up the largest share of the later construction workforce. Between 1825 and 1857, New York built eight canals that, like the Champlain Canal (completed in 1823), ran north–south from the Erie. Together, these lateral canals connected much of rural New York to the main waterway.

Ships could navigate up the Hudson River to Albany, NY. The Mohawk River opened the central part of the state. Although the canal was first proposed in 1699, it was not until 1798 that the Niagara Canal Company was incorporated and commenced preparations for building. Governor DeWitt Clinton became the chief sponsor, and in 1817 the first portion of a canal was begun, to connect the Hudson River with Lake Erie (and hence to the rest of the Great Lakes). The easy part was built first, a series of bypasses of rapids on the Mohawk River this section of canal was completed in 1819.

Though there was opposition, and the canal was derisively called "Clinton's Ditch" or worse, "Clinton's Folly," the canal was finally completed in October 26, 1825. Officially the event was celebrated by cannon shots along the length, and by Governor Clinton ceremonially pouring Lake Erie water into the New York Harbor in the "Wedding of the Waters."

The Erie Canal proved to be a stroke of genius, as settlers now poured from New England, Eastern New York and Europe into the central and western part of the state. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Allegheny Mountains was the Western Frontier. The Northwest Territories that would later become Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio were rich in timber, minerals, and fertile land for farming. The Erie Canal was the first serious route for settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains, which had previously been a geographic barrier. Now upstate farms and industries could easily ship their products to the large and growing market of New York City and beyond. Had the Welland Canal, which bypassed Niagara Falls to connect Lakes Ontario and Erie, been built first, instead of in 1833, the history of North America could have been far different, with Montreal, Quebec becoming the main eastern port, instead of New York City.

The Erie Canal, is not very important as a trade route today (supplanted by railroads and highways). The Erie Canal did define the development of trade and commerce in New York State that is used today. The port city of Buffalo, Lockport, where the canal crossed a great limestone ridge, mill-town and beautiful 'Flower City' Rochester on the Genessee, and many smaller cities owe their growth, perhaps even their existence, to the Erie Canal. Connecting canals were also built to Lake Ontario and the larger Finger Lakes.

So what does the Erie Canal and Wayne County, New York have to do with Howland Genealogy?

In the Southern part of Wayne County, the town of Lockville (because of the three locks) grew on the Erie Canal. In 1839, the settlement of Lockville became incorporated as the village of Arcadia. Newark and Lockville both prospered as a result of the Erie Canal. The former village of Arcadia (Lockville) was corporated with Newark on July 21, 1853.

On February 13, 1801, Lydia Ann Hardy as born to Jesse Hardy and Bridget Reed in Wayne County, New York. Lydia Hardy married John Howland, son of Briggs Howland, about 1817 and lived in Maine. About 1830 Briggs and John Howland with their families moved back to Arcadia, New York where Lydia died on July 14, 1838, where she and her son Briggs are buried in the Old Marbletown or Hinkley Cemetery. Shortly after their death, John Howland and his children left New York and moved to Ohio for several years.
"When our subject was 12 his parents moved to Wayne County, NY and there in 1837 his mother died. Later his father, with his children, moved to Ohio, settling in Monroe County. Some time after this our subject, who had for 7 years been working on the Erie Canal, joined the rest of the family in Ohio." ("Portrait and Biographical Album of Jo Daviess and Carroll Counties, Illinois"; Published by Chapman Brothers, Chicago, Ill., 1889; pg. 809)


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