Teamsters, Dock Wallopers and Child Captains
The first of Port Henry's many iron furnaces was erected just west of here in 1822. Throughout the 19th century new furnaces, crushers, concentrating plants, and casting houses were added to increase production.
The key to the success of Port Henry's waterborne commerce of heavy freight was that the boats arriving with holds of anthracite coal from the south could be reloaded with iron ore. Travelling with full loads in both directions allowed canal boats to remain competitive after the railroad arrived in Port Henry in 1875. The ore and the fuel for the furnaces were transported by canal boats, which often were docked here by the hundreds.
Iron ore required iron men to move it about. On the plank road from the ore beds, teamsters sweated to brake and steer their horses, who pulled 7-or-8 ton loads. "Dock wallopers" maneuvered 500-pound wheelbarrows loaded with ore up gangways to dump their load into the canal boat holds. Four men loaded two 100-ton boats a day.
Following a decades-long decline in traffic on the Champlain Canal, the State of New York tried to make it more competitive by enlarging it. The Champlain Barge Canal opened in 1916 with modern locks that necessitated larger piers for the massive steam tug-pulled barge trains of the 20th century.
Chained to the Deck for his own Good
Walter C. Witherbee
Successfully managing the technologically complex and financially mercurial workings of an iron business required the toughness of the canal boat captain, teamster, or dock worker. Walter C. Witherbee was one of the three generations of his family who steered the Witherbee-Sherman Company. (Courtesy of Special Collections, Feinberg Library, SUNY Plattsburgh.)
[Background photo reads]
Bay State Iron Company and Port Henry Furnaces, circa 1867, courtesy of the Moriah Historical Society.
Erected by New York State Canals and Lake Champlain Basin Program.
Location. 44° 3.126′ N, 73° 27.153′ W. Marker is in Port Henry, New York, in Essex County. Touch for map. Marker is in Powerhouse Park along Lake Champlain, between the parking lot and the lake, off Dock Street. Marker is in this post office area: Port Henry NY 12974, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Powerhouse Park (within shouting distance of this marker); Daisy Godfrey (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); The 1929 Lake Champlain Bridge (about 500 feet away); The 2011 Lake Champlain Bridge (about 500 feet away); Site of First Blast Furnace (approx. ¼ mile away); Shore Line (approx. ¼ mile away); Site of Porter's and Lewis's Mills (approx. ¼ mile away); Champlain Academy (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Port Henry.
Also see . . .
1. Connecting Railroad and Dock in The Iron Trade Review, Sep 2, 1909, p.419. (Submitted on October 15, 2017, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. The Magnetite Mines Near Port Henry, N.Y. in The Engineering and Mining Journal (1913). (Submitted on October 15, 2017, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. Champlain Canal in a 1908 Historical Review of Waterways and Canals in New York. (Submitted on October 15, 2017, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Categories. • Industry & Commerce • Man-Made Features • Waterways & Vessels •
Credits. This page was last revised on October 16, 2017. This page originally submitted on October 15, 2017, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 81 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on October 15, 2017, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.