The Ohio & Erie Canal
Canal boats were the original American houseboat. Families were born, lived their lives and often died on the small houseboats and canal boats of America. They moved America west and not just in New York.
In the midst of Ohio, hidden among the towns and the farms are the remnants of the original heart of Ohio. The Ohio & Erie Canal system. Fashioned after New York’s Erie Canal success, the government of Ohio set about to create a canal system of their own. The system started with a feasibility study in 1822 and then launched into several individual canal building projects all going at about the same time. the goal was to connect the Ohio River and Lake Erie and points in between.
In 1825 the Ohio & Erie Canal was started from Akron to Cleveland. At the same time, another canal was started from Middleton to Cincinnati. Several canal sections were eventually brought together into a system that could tie Lake Erie to the Ohio River. Completed in 1832, goods from central Ohio could now go east to New York via Lake Erie and the Erie canal or be sent south on the Ohio River to anywhere on the Mississippi.
This positioned Ohio as a formidable trading partner and for the next 30 years, the canal system played a major role in the growth and development of Ohio. As all good things do, it came to an end with the development and expansion of the railroad system.
By the 1850’s the system had grown to almost 1000 miles of waterways and shipping actually peaked in 1855. After that, the railroad system continued to eat away at the shipping traffic. A large portion of the revenues from the canal system came from water sales to towns and businesses, and by 1903 more money was made by selling water than by shipping goods.
The system floundered along until one final event put an end to the system. In March of 1913 after a winter of record snowfalls, the system was overloaded by spring flooding and erosion all but destroyed the canals. The land was slowly sold off with most of the canal being filled in, often for new train tracks.
But in the little town of Canal Fulton, the history of the canals is preserved. Even now you can enjoy a ride on an authentic replica of a Canal boat. On the St. Helena III, a 25-year-old replica of a 100-year-old canal boat freighter. You can experience first hand the sound and the feel of traveling by canal boat.
Many of the immigrants to early America ventured west by boat. First along the Erie Canal in New York, then along the Ohio system to parts south and west. You can discover this experience for yourself in Canal Fulton, Ohio.