Miami & Erie Canal Lock No. 37
Connecting the Maumee, Miami and the Wabash Rivers for economical transportation was advocated by George Washington as early as 1773. Captain John Riley surveyed the route in 1820. After further surveys, the Ohio legislature in 1825 authorized commissioners to begin the Miami-Maumee Route. Work started June 21, 1825, at the Miami River and was completed as far north as Dayton by 1829. by 1845 the canal now known as the Miami & Erie Canal was open. The canal extended from the Miami River to Lake Erie at Toledo, then from Toledo, westward to Fort Wayne and Lafayette, Indiana.
commerce flourished along the canal until the 1850's when competition from the railroads emerged. Packet (Passenger) Boats were discontinued in 1862. Bby 1870 the Wabash & Erie Canal into Indiana was completely abandoned. The Miami & Erie lingered on until major repairs were authorized and completed between 1906 and 1909, only to be all but destroyed by the floods of 1913.
The floods caused heavy damage in Defiance, by 1917 most of the bridges across the canal in the downtown were removed. The canal was gradually filled & drained.
Operation Of The Lock
The double-gate lock may seem a simple idea, but it took thousands of years of canal building before the prototype was invented around 1400 ad. Basically, the canal lock serves as an elevator to raise or lower a boat from one level to another. The following describes the operation of a typical gravity fed lock, like lock #37, for a boat traveling downstream. The process is reversed for a boat traveling upstream.
1. When a boat arrives from upstream, both gates are closed. A small wicket within the upstream gate is opened and water is allowed to flow into the lock until the water level in the lock is equal to the level upstream.
2. The upstream gate is opened and the boat is towed (via mule or horse) into the gate.
3. The upstream gate is then closed. A wicket is opened in the downstream gate to allow water to flow out of the lock. This lowers the water level in the lock to the level downstream.
4. The downstream gate is opened and the boat is towed out of the lock downstream to continue on its journey.
Towed by horse or mule teams, passenger packets made speeds of six miles an hour. A trip from Defiance to Cincinnati took six days and five nights, and cost a little more
Barges and freighters could carry between fifty to eighty tons of cargo in their holds and on their decks. Typical cargo included wheat, coal, flour, ice, livestock, and just about everything else that was bought or sold. Travelers on a budget usually booked passage on a freighter, usually at a lower rate than the passenger packets.
Work boats traveled between way stations to provide various maintenance tasks along the length of the canal.
Commercial canal boats were all much the same size - about 14 feet wide by 75
feet long. This was the maximum size that would safely fit into the locks. All
canal boats also had to be built so that they could pass under any bridge ten
feet above the water level.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Waterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the The Miami & Erie Canal series list. A significant historical date for this entry is June 21, 1825.
Location. 41° 17.184′ N, 84° 21.799′
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Defiance County War Memorial Flame (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Defiance County Veterans Memorial (about 500 feet away); Courthouse Clocktower Bell (about 500 feet away); Navy Armed Guard and Merchant Marine Memorial (about 500 feet away); Veterans Memorial (about 500 feet away); a different marker also named Veterans Memorial (about 500 feet away); War Savings Stamps (about 500 feet away); VFW Veterans Memorial (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Defiance.
Credits. This page was last revised on May 12, 2021. It was originally submitted on May 10, 2021, by Craig Doda of Napoleon, Ohio. This page has been viewed 364 times since then and 4 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on May 10, 2021, by Craig Doda of Napoleon, Ohio. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.