Friday, December 26, 2014
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
>>>> Pizza Party Minutes, Topog. Unit, Dec. 7, 2014 <<<<
-- Ian McKay, BG, CS, CE, TE;
-- Lt. Col. James Duarte;
-- Major Greg Webster;
-- Lt. John Proctor;
-- Lady Heidi Webster, Unit Hostess;
-- Lady Margaret Mathews, Treasurer;
-- Lady Jennifer (by cell phone).
After the camaraderie and the lunch, the following items were put forward and discussed:
1. It was suggested by Ian McKay that the unit should make every effort to make the historic houses / organizations in the state of Conn. aware of the unit, it's purpose and what it is capable of doing. It was agreed that Ian McKay would gather together the contact information for such historic places and then a unit flier would be put together and sent to all the historic, houses and parks in Conn. This will be done when the flier and list of houses and other historic places are approved by Major Webster;
2. Make arrangements to view the 4" plank lumber, cut and dried a few years ago, for the purpose of building a couple of gun carriages. Also make arrangements to view the fourth cannon barrel and look into sending the cannon barrel and plank lumber to Fort Trumbull. On the day following the meeting, B. G. Ian McKay, Major Webster, and Lt. Proctor visited the storage area at the Ledyard Courthouse. Discussions with the Ledyard Mayor's office revealed that the old storage areas had been torn down and the 4" in. lumber and the 24 pdr. gun had been moved to the Nathan Lester House. It was agreed that Ian McKay would contact the Ranger at Fort Trumbull to see if we could store the lumber in the wood storeroom, and if we could bring the fourth cannon barrel into the fort. Meanwhile the Mayor's Asst. would clear the way for the Ledyard town to donate the gun barrel to Fort Trumbull. Ian McKay, and Lady Mathews visited Fort Trumbull that afternoon, but found the fort closed, and no-one in the fort offices. A copy of this report will be sent to the Fort Trumbull Ranger's office when approved;
3. Copies of the latest maps, plans, and drawings were provided to Lt. Col. Duarte, Major Webster, and Lt. Proctor;
4. The unit treasury is now -- $1,032;
5. No action will be taken on making up a final decision on next year's (2015) Topog Unit Event schedule until after the Proposed Brigade Event List Meeting in January. Other activities (Fort Adams, Fort Taber, Paid Unit activities , etc.) must also wait until after the Jan. Mtg. The event list for 2015, is beginning to look rather full. Major Webster reported that he had been in contact with Fort Tabor office.
6. A couple of new ideas for special activities in the coming season was discussed. At the present these ideas are just that; ideas. They will be discussed further after the Jan. Brigade Meeting, and a further Pizza Place meeting sometime in Jan. or Feb.;
7. The new tent fly has been purchased and delivered. It is somewhat larger than the old fly. The old flies tent poles, ropes and pegs will be used with the new fly. Ideas about what the old fly will be used for, are asked for. As it presently is, the old fly is still good for shade, but not good for rain;
Major Webster indicates that he is in negotiations with the Pine Point School in Stonington CT. to conduct a 45 minute to one hour presentation on the Topographical Engineers. I have drafted a letter to them telling them what we do and suggesting a $100.00 donation to us. We will see what happens.
Major Webster has indicated that he will be contacting the president of the Ekonk Grange again this year to see if they are interested in us doing our annual (so far) presentation for $125.
Ian McKay, BG, CS, CE, TE
Connecticut River Canals #4
Of all the canals associated with the Connecticut River, the most important and the longest was the Windsor Lock (WL) Canal. It was located about 12 miles upriver from Hartford. The canal had a length of 6 miles, and it was built between 1827 to 1829. It was opened for navigation somewhere in 1829. The chief engineer of the project was Canvass White. White was a well-known engineer at the time, who had learned his trade on the Erie Canal, and later became the chief engineer for the Lehigh Canal and the Delaware Canal, and was one of the contributing engineers on the Union Canal.
The purpose of the WL Canal was to provide a safe passage up and around the Enfield Rapids and Falls. This obstruction in the river was indeed a wicked one and the canal was badly needed to extend the navigation of the Connecticut into the upper river area. This canal is still in use by the pleasure craft on the big river and has, by so doing, survived all other canals associated with the Connecticut River. In addition to the pleasure craft, the canal still supplies water to the factories at Windsor Mills. Unchanged is the old towpath and visitors will find that the canal is little changed in the century and half that has gone by since the design and construction of the work.
Prior to the construction of the canal, Warehouse Point, at the city of Windsor was considered to be the head of navigation on the Connecticut River. One of the main reasons for the building of the canal was the anticipated rise of the city of Windsor as a major, booming inland river-port. Unfortunately the dream was really never brought into realization, however, the peaceful and rural world of the Connecticut River Valley was changed in such a way, as little else could have done.
The late Stewart Holbrook one of the most knowledgable of the Connecticut River historians wrote the following about the canal;
“What the Locks did was to bring all river traffic to a halt, briefly, and in doing so gave rise to taverns on both sides of the river to cater to the Captains and crews of the boats, as well as, to the passengers, drovers, and the army of river drivers who accompanying the rafts and booms of logs that were cut far up the Connecticut River in Vermont, and New Hampshire, and floated downriver to the mills.”
If you have ever seen a crew of reckless men, catlike in their movements, running and leaping on the rolling deck of a million feet of spruce logs as they rode such down the river highway, you would also be able to see the spirit and violence, in their off-time, when it came to adult play and / or fighting. These people worked hard for their money, drank hard, and played hard in the same way. Considering this aspect of the river-men you can further understand their actions when the met the powder-men who were just as tough as any river-men. These were the men who moved the tons of explosives downriver from the Hazard Powderworks, at Hazardville several miles from Enfield. The powder was packed in twenty-five pound kegs, and twelve hundred kegs was the usual load to be loaded onto the barges for the trip downriver. There were not a great deal of accidents in this movement of the powder, but the possibility was always there, just one careless action away. The task of working that closely with the possibility of a quick and agonizing death led to the toughening of any men working with the powder transfer and frightened away all but the hardiest of them.
Then, the rival settlements were almost immediate in their coming into existance at Windsor Locks, Windsor Hill, and Point Rocks. This spreading of low groggeries, rowdy dance halls, and the inevitable dens of harlotry doing business cheek and jowl with each other resulted in the oft circulated saying that there was little that could not be found, that men wanted at Windsor Locks. Adding to all of that, overhead the intoxicating fumes of the distilleries at Warehouse Point tainted the air.
Warehouse Point is located in the heart of the region in which tobacco is king. It was said that the very finest broadleaf tobacco was grown there. A favorite legend that was told around, was that General Israel Putnam, a favorite folk hero of the state, returned from a trip with, “. . . three donkey loads of Havana Cigars.” which were greeted by the inhabitants and river-men with such enthusiasm that a tobacco grower, one Simeon Viets from Suffield imported a professional from Havana, to show the women of Suffield how to roll a cigar. Up to that point cigar-smoking had not been thought to be quite respectable. However, the cigars put on the market by master Viets caught on within a very short time with those who frequented the adventures of the surrounding hangouts. The deluxe brand of the cigars were known as Windsor Particulars, however, these were more expensive and less affordable for most people who were smokers. However, the Short Sixes or “Twofers” as they were known were within the financial reach of everyone sporting the rock bottom price of two for a penny!!
>> Harry Sinclair Drago, “Canal Days In America,” (Bramhall House, New York, MCMLXXII;
Ian McKay, BG, CS, CE, TE
Saturday, December 6, 2014
>>>> South Hadley Falls Canal #2<<<<
Soon the question arose that there must be a better way to reach the Upper Connecticut River for use of the navigation for this long stretch of inland waterway. The immediate idea was the South Hadley Falls Canal. Obviously, it was to overcome these navigation concerns and provide comparative free passage to the upper river that a series of short, home made Yankee canals were built, most of them antedating the steamboat.
The first -- And it was New England’s oldest and second shortest man-made waterway -- was the South Hadley Falls Canal, a few miles downriver from the present city of Northhampton, Mass. Work on it began in 1793 and it was completed in the following year. Although the canal was no more than two miles long it was an important addition to the navigation of the Upper Connecticut River.
The canal was designed and constructed by men who from long experience with poling flats up that stream and portaging around the falls were well acquainted with the river’s tantrums. However, no-one among those who labored there, had any engineering training, and so having no technical knowledge to assist them in devising a means to lift a canal boat from the Lower River, over the falls, a matter of some fifty feet, they had to depend upon their native ingenuity, which proved to be more than equal to the task.
In fact, upon completion, the canal was regarded as a very noteworthy achievement. English visitors, familiar with the canals in their own country, where the topography of the land made deep cutting unnecessary, regarded with wonder the vertical cleft forty feet deep and three hundred feet long that had been cut through solid rock. In 1926, Alvin F. Harlow wrote the following about this canal:
“The little South Hadley ditch was noteworthy also because it built the first inclined plane in America -- two hundred and thirty feet long with a vertical lift of fifty-three feet. The face of the plane was stone, covered with heavy plank. The body of the car (which was raised and lowered at will) was a watertight box with folding gates at each end. Two water wheels sixteen feet in diameter on either side of the channel at the head of the plane were operated by water from the canal, and pulled the car up or let it down, according as the gears were shifted. Boats floated directly into the car: the gates were then closed behind it and the car emptied the water through sluices at the sides. The carriage was then pulled up or let down the plane on three sets of wheels, like big wagon wheels, graduated in size so as to hold the car exactly level.” (1)
The inclined planes used many years later on the important Morris Canal in New Jersey operated on the same principle although deriving their power from another source.
The canal was at once profitable, but soon became the target of fishermen saying the dam prevented the salmon and shad from reaching their spawning grounds in the upper river. Farmers also complained that the dam was flooding their lowlands and causing outbreaks of malaria. The town of Northhampton also opposed the company and in 1800 petitioned the legislature for the removal of the dam. The canal company countered by offering to lower the dam and eliminate the inclined plane, in return for the privilege of conducting a lottery in the amount of $20,000. This was done. The remodeled dam was destroyed by a spring flood two years later. A second was destroyed in like manner, and in 1823, a third dam was swept away. Coupled with this latest disaster was the distressing fact the upper river business was declining due to the expansion of Springfield and many businesses upriver. As a consequence, the canal company decided not to go to the expense of building still another dam, and restricted its operations to supplying water power to the small mills along its raceway and channel.
At Bellows Falls, Vermont, a canal only a mile long was cut around one of the meanest stretches of the Connecticut River. Short as it was, its nine locks overcame a drop of fifty feet and opened navigation upriver for 120 miles. This operation was very successful.
>> Harry Sinclair Drago, “Canal Days In America,” (New York, Bramhall House, MCMLLXXII)
See Alvin F. Harlow, Old Towpaths.
Ian McKay, BG (by brevet), CS, CE, TE
Canals, Bridges and River Clearance Specialist