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

A Vast Enterprise

 
 
A Vast Enterprise Marker image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, May 21, 2018
1. A Vast Enterprise Marker
Inscription.
A Vast Enterprise

The Erie Canal was a vast commercial enterprise that required an army of men, women, and children to maintain and operate: surveyors, engineers, lock tenders, toll collectors, bridge operators, repair crews, and bank patrollers (whose job it was to find leaks in the canal bank), all earned their livelihoods working on the canal.

By 1845, an additional 25,000 people operated the 4,000 boats that plied the canal. Packets, barges cargo boats, and scows all had crews that included a captain, steersman, cook, deck hands, and hoggees (teamsters who drove mule teams pulling the boats).

This "army” of workers also required thousands of merchants, tavern keepers, hostellers, shopkeepers, liverymen, and less reputable sorts to feed, clothe, bathe, house, and see to all their needs.

[captions] Mule team pulling a string of barges at Newark. A barge near Newark, NY, c.1910. The Middle Lock at Newark. An arch-truss bridge near the Middle Lock at Newark. A quiet day on the canal at Newark, NY. A barge near Newark, NY.

Tales of Three Travelers

Written accounts of travel on the Erie Canal illustrate how different the Canal's passengers could be. In 1832, author Nathaniel Hawthorne used the Erie Canal to visit Niagara Falls. Like Clarissa Burroughs, a native
A Vast Enterprise Marker image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, May 21, 2018
2. A Vast Enterprise Marker
Eastward view.
of New Jersey who traveled the canal in 1835, Hawthorne booked passage on a more comfortable packet, or passenger, boat. Clarissa traveled only from Schenectady to Utica, where she visited the scenic Trenton Falls.

Job Mattison, on the other hand, traveled on a less expensive, much slower freight boat ten years later. Mattison's reason for traveling the Canal also differed. Bound for a cousin's homestead in Wisconsin Territory, the 24-year-old Mattison was trying to decide if he should emigrate west with thousands of other Canal travelers.

What They Wrote

Like other American authors-James Fenimore Cooper, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Mark Twain - Hawthorne wrote about the Erie Canal.

"Surely, the water of this canal must be the most fertilizing of all fluids: for it causes towns - with their masses of brick and stone, their churches and theatres, their business and hubbub, their luxury and refinement, their gay dames and polished citizens - to spring up, till, in time, the wondrous stream may flow between two continuous lines of buildings, through one thronged street, from Buffalo to Albany."

In 1845, Job Mattison sent his family clipped shorthand impressions of the Canal and fellow passengers.

"Met 76 boats to day.... A Syracuse about 8 in the morning, the black legs [gambler] got five dollars of the red haired Englishman playing
Back of A Vast Enterprise Marker image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, May 21, 2018
3. Back of A Vast Enterprise Marker
Generic Erie Canal map. View is westward with the Whitbeck Road bridge.
thimble.

The travel journal of Clarissa Burroughs included descriptions of New York landscapes and Canal infrastructure as well as life aboard a packet boat.

[captions] Nathaniel Hawthorne. George Harvey's 1837 watercolor "Pittsford on the Erie Canal", shows a packet boat filled with tourists and travellers pulled by horse team, a common scene in the early years of the Erie Canal.
 
Erected by New York State Canals.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Erie Canal marker series.
 
Location. 43° 3.16′ N, 77° 7.602′ W. Marker is in Arcadia, New York, in Wayne County. Marker is at the intersection of West Shore Boulevard and Whitbeck Road, on the right when traveling east on West Shore Boulevard. Touch for map. Marker is in Harder Canal Park. Marker is in this post office area: Newark NY 14513, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Rear Admiral Leslie E. Gehres (approx. 1.4 miles away); The Fox Sisters (approx. 1.6 miles away); The Birthplace of Modern Spiritualism (approx. 1.6 miles away); Joseph Miller (approx. 1.6 miles away); Arcadia War Memorial (approx. 1.7 miles away); In Memory of Those from This Community (approx. 1.7 miles away); Mora Motor Car (approx. 2.2 miles away); The Lockville Locks in Newark (approx. 2.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Arcadia.
 
Categories. Arts, Letters, MusicIndustry & CommerceMan-Made FeaturesWaterways & Vessels
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on May 23, 2018. This page originally submitted on May 23, 2018, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page has been viewed 61 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on May 23, 2018, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York.
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