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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Near Phillipsport in Sullivan County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Life on the Canal

Delaware & Hudson Canal

 
 
Life on the Canal Marker image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2019
1. Life on the Canal Marker
Inscription.  At Honesdale, Pennsylvania, coal was loaded onto flat-bottomed canal boats and pulled by mule team to the harbor at Kingston. New York. At the typical rate of three miles per hour, the 108-mile trip took seven to ten days. The majority of the canal boats were operated by owners and their families, in part because the wages of about $3.00 a month made it uneconomical to hire workers. In a time before child-labor laws, young children were put to work, often under grueling conditions. The family lived on the boat for the whole trip, in a cabin about twelve feet square. They slept on straw mattresses, cooked on small wood stoves, ate, and even washed clothes on board — laundry hung to dry on boat decks was a common sight on the canal.

Three people ran the boat — the captain, usually also the owner; the bowman, who steered with a tiller in the bow; and the driver or hoggie, often a child, who led the mules along the towpath. Idyllic paintings and stories of life on the canal fail to mention how hard this work was, and how dangerous. Children, sometimes so tired from leading the animals fifteen or twenty miles a day, occasionally
Marker detail: Loaded canal boat waiting at Lock No. 72 image. Click for full size.
Collection of the Minisink Valley Historical Society
2. Marker detail: Loaded canal boat waiting at Lock No. 72
toppled into the canal and drowned.

The canal boats, usually built in facilities along the canal, were bought by the company, then sold to the operator at inflated prices. In 1847, for instance, a boat that cost the company about $350.00 was sold to the boatman for $400.00 or $450.00, to be paid off in installments. If a boatman could make fifteen trips per season, he could pay off the boat in three years; but because boats lasted only about five years, he'd soon need to buy another one. This arrangement, while it didn't allow the boatmen to get rich, was at least adequate in good times when 1,000 boats hauled more than a million tons of coal. But as railroads gained dominance, fewer boats made the trip. In these lean times company managers often attempted to control prices or output of coal by issuing stop-the-boats orders, reducing the number of trips per season to only eight or ten. Not only did this strategy threaten the boatmen's seasonal pay but it also left them stranded along the canal with no allowance or means of income until the stop order was lifted.

For the most part canawlers were hard-working, respectable people but life on the canal was rough. Newspapers of the day are filled with stories of robbery, fighting, harassment of women and girls walking near the canal and even throwing stones at the lock tenders.
 
Erected by
Marker detail: Recreational uses of the canal continued after operations ceased image. Click for full size.
Collection of the Minisink Valley Historical Society
3. Marker detail: Recreational uses of the canal continued after operations ceased
Delaware & Hudson Canal Linear Park.
 
Location. 41° 37.973′ N, 74° 27.171′ W. Marker is near Phillipsport, New York, in Sullivan County. Marker can be reached from Bova Road 0.1 miles west of U.S. 209, on the right when traveling west. Marker is located along the canal trail at the Bova Road Interpretive Center of the Delaware & Hudson Canal Linear Park. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Phillipsport NY 12769, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Waste Weirs (within shouting distance of this marker); Dry Docks (within shouting distance of this marker); Boothroyd House (within shouting distance of this marker); Locks (within shouting distance of this marker); Canal Basin & Sluiceway (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Lock No. 50 (about 300 feet away); Towpath (about 300 feet away); Ending at Rondout (about 300 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Phillipsport.
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Delaware & Hudson Canal
 
Categories. Industry & CommerceMan-Made FeaturesWaterways & Vessels
 
Marker detail: Boys playing football image. Click for full size.
Collection of the Minisink Valley Historical Society
4. Marker detail: Boys playing football
Marker detail: Vacationers on the Canal image. Click for full size.
Collection of the Minisink Valley Historical Society
5. Marker detail: Vacationers on the Canal
Marker detail: Reconstructed boat cabin image. Click for full size.
Collection of the Minisink Valley Historical Society
6. Marker detail: Reconstructed boat cabin
Marker detail: Lawrenceville Cement Factory coopers pause for a photograph image. Click for full size.
Collection of the Minisink Valley Historical Society
7. Marker detail: Lawrenceville Cement Factory coopers pause for a photograph
Life on the Canal Marker (<i>wide view</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2019
8. Life on the Canal Marker (wide view)
 

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Credits. This page was last revised on November 24, 2019. This page originally submitted on November 21, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 44 times since then and 4 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on November 21, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.   2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on November 24, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.
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