“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Tonawanda in Erie County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

The People

Erie Canalway Trail

The People Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Anton Schwarzmueller, August 26, 2015
1. The People Marker
Life on the Canal Boat
The average canal boat owner was a family man, and often his family traveled the canal with him. Living quarters were the cabin under the stern deck and in the small space a woman did her washing and ironing in addition to cooking for family and crew.
Those on board had to duck through a four-foot high opening in order to get from the cabin to the stateroom whose floor was two feet lower. Within were two built-in double bunks, one on either side. A draw curtain ran fore and aft in the center of the stateroom for privacy.

Giving Assistance at Tonawanda Limits circa 1895.
The canal animals were quartered in the stable located at the forward end of the boat. An inside bridge (or cleated ramp) allowed for the animal to come up from their quarters and an oak "horse bridge" led down from the boat to the towpath.
Views showing interior accommodations for animals up front and people in the rear.

Those Who Worked the Canal.
The average canal boatman usually had two boats and six head of stock, either mules or horses. He hired a steersman with whom to alternate shifts and two drivers who cared
Westward image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Anton Schwarzmueller, August 26, 2015
2. Westward
The bridge is NY 384.
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for and guided the animals along the towpath, also in shifts, six hours on and six hours off. The so-called graveyard shift, running form 1:00 to 7:00 am., was lonely and monotonous and downright spooky outside of populated areas. The mules were on the towline 150 feet ahead of the boats, and on dark nights the steersman knew they were out there but could not see them. Usually single, carefree men, the drivers sported a variety of nicknames, just a few of which were Oswego Dutch, Rhode Island Red, Sam Dime and Mule Evans.
South Canal Street at Seymour Street, Village of Tonawanda, 1860s.

Changing Mules on the Erie 1911.
At the beginning of a new shift, a canal boatman's children take a dip while a fresh span of mules is guided to the head of the tow.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: AnimalsWaterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Erie Canal series list.
Location. 43° 1.297′ N, 78° 52.445′ W. Marker is in Tonawanda, New York, in Erie County. Marker is at the intersection of East Niagara Street and Longs Avenue, on the right when traveling west on East Niagara Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Tonawanda NY 14150, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. City of Tonawanda (within shouting distance of this marker); Long Homestead
Eastward image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Anton Schwarzmueller, August 26, 2015
3. Eastward
(about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); a different marker also named The Long Homestead (about 500 feet away); Gastown (about 500 feet away); The Railroad (approx. 0.2 miles away); First Schoolhouse (approx. 0.2 miles away); Lumber Port (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Dam (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Tonawanda.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on August 27, 2015, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page has been viewed 322 times since then and 13 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on August 27, 2015, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York.

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Aug. 9, 2022