Marker Logo HMdb.org THE HISTORICAL
MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Keifers in Allegany County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Breaking Through a Mountain

 
 
Breaking Through a Mountain Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, November 27, 2009
1. Breaking Through a Mountain Marker
Inscription. The Paw Paw Tunnel stands as a monument to the ability and daring of 19th century canal builders. By building the mile-long cut through the mountain, including the 3,118-foot tunnel, the canal avoided six miles of river bends and steep, rocky cliffs.

Methodist minister and contractor Lee Montgomery began construction in 1836, with estimates of completion in two years. Labor shortages, financial difficulties, underestimating the cost of the work, and a maze of lawsuits eventually forced Montgomery into bankruptcy. Work on the tunnel stopped. In 1850 the tunnel was finally completed, opening the canal from Georgetown to Cumberland.

Hand Labor
Using what we would consider primitive tools, laborers dug through 3,118 feet of unstable shale. Picks and shovels, wheelbarrows, black powder, mule power, and backbreaking labor built the tunnel.

Irish laborers, British and German stonemasons, and a few other nationalities came together to build the canal and tunnel. Occasionally there were clashes between these diverse groups.
 
Erected by Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park - National Park Service - US Dept. of the Interior.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal marker series.
 
Location.
Breaking Through a Mountain Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, November 27, 2009
2. Breaking Through a Mountain Marker
39° 33.004′ N, 78° 27.777′ W. Marker is in Keifers, Maryland, in Allegany County. Marker can be reached from Old Town Road (State Highway 51), on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Located along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath trail, about 500 yards from the parking lot off Old Town Road. Marker is in this post office area: Oldtown MD 21555, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 8 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. West Virginia (Morgan County) / Maryland (approx. 0.9 miles away in West Virginia); Washington Heritage Trail (approx. 1.2 miles away in West Virginia); Paw Paw (approx. 1.2 miles away in West Virginia); Morgan County / Hampshire County (approx. 3.8 miles away in West Virginia); Old Town (approx. 7.7 miles away); Pinoak Fountain (approx. 7.7 miles away in West Virginia); Michael Cresap (approx. 7.9 miles away); Marylandís Liberty Tree (approx. 8 miles away).
 
More about this marker. In the center is a depiction of work on the tunnel with keyed captions:
(1) Surveyors used simple instruments to keep the digging on a true course.

(2) Blasting the unstable shale with unpredictable black-powder was dangerous business; injuries and deaths were commonplace.

(3) Two shafts were sunk in an effort to speed the work. This
South End of the Tunnel image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, November 27, 2009
3. South End of the Tunnel
enabled workers to dig from four directions.

(4) Excavated material was dumped in the hills surrounding the tunnel.

 
Also see . . .  Paw Paw Tunnel. Page with additional photos and history of the tunnel. (Submitted on December 4, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 
 
Categories. Man-Made FeaturesWaterways & Vessels
 
Interior of the Tunnel image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, November 27, 2009
4. Interior of the Tunnel
Section Superintendent's House image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, November 27, 2009
5. Section Superintendent's House
Located south of the tunnel is a house once occupied by the superintendent of this section of the canal.
Paw Paw Tunnel Information Kiosk image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, November 27, 2009
6. Paw Paw Tunnel Information Kiosk
The paragraph on the lower left provides some details of the tunnel:
The single largest structure along the length of the C & O Canal is the Paw Paw Tunnel. The fourteen year construction project at Paw Paw (1836-1850), provided a shortcut for the canal through Sorrel Ridge. This project tested both laborers and the finances of the canal company. The 3,118 foot long tunnel was build using picks, shovels and black powder and is lined with approximately 6 million bricks
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on December 4, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 817 times since then and 41 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on December 4, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.
Paid Advertisement