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Interview - Clara Manning (introduction)

Interviewed by Martha Ross Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


The following interview was conducted on behalf of the National Park Service on Sunday, May 26, 1974, with Mrs. Clara Manning of Paw Paw, West Virginia. The interviewer is Martha Ross.

MS. ROSS:       What I want to ask you about, Mrs. Manning - I understand you were a lockkeeper's daughter, and that you lived on the Canal. Is that not true?

MRS. MANNING: Well, yes ma'am. But my parents boated. My grandparents boated. And I was borned, well; I guess I was a girl around 8 years old when my Daddy went off the Canal, from boating. But I was borned up there in Cumberland, at the wharf where they loaded the boats.

MS. ROSS:       I see. Were you born on a boat?

MRS. MANNING:       Yes, ma'am. I was born on the boat that my father run.

MS. ROSS:       I see.

MRS. MANNING:       And his father was a boatsman.

MS. ROSS:       I see.

MRS. MANNING: And my grandfather, on my mother's side, he boated for years, Charles A. Fox, everybody knew 'em. And then, of course, it come around time that my Daddy, he got dissatisfied and didn't wanta' boat, we lived in Cumberland, and he worked 'round different jobs. And then a few years ago well, then, he got the lock down at the Canal tunnel - was called the Old Keefer Lock.

MS. ROSS:       I see. What number lock was it?

MRS. MANNING: I don't know [Lock No. 62]. And then he was there for three-four years, and 'course, I - my husband's people, they had the upper lock of the Canal tunnel. Mr. Polk Manning - everybody knew him well on the Canal.

MS. ROSS:       Uh-huh, I see.

MRS. MANNING: And, 'course his youngest son and I was married, and finally, we just all drifted away from the Canal.

MS. ROSS: I see.

MRS. MANNING: So it's been a long time.

MS. ROSS:       What do you remember about your life on the boat? When you were very

MS MANNING: Oh, I loved it. Oh, I loved it -

MS. ROSS:       (Laughter)

MRS. MANNING: I used to run them ol' planks from the boat to the towpath, and I'd drive them ol" mules and crawl up on the back of the hind mule and ride.

MS. ROSS:       (chuckle)

MRS. MANNING: Oh, I loved it! That was the life, believe me. And then I guess I was a girl 'round between 16, 17 years old. My grandfather, he went to step down off of the lock someway - over on the boat. But he went down between the boat and the lock. And he hurt his leg. And he wasn't able to do for the crew, anything. I guess I'se on there with him about six or eight months, takin' care a'him, doin' cookin' and everything for the crew, an' all like that. But, oh, I loved boatin'. Oh, that was the life!

MS. ROSS:       (laughter)

MRS. MANNING: 'Deed, it was. And you knew so many different people, you know -
locktenders an' boatsmens that - they all had big families. They was just all one great big family.

MS. ROSS:       Yeah.

MRS. MANNING: Wasn't - oh, so-and-so, oh, I don't care about them! I don't want'a meet 'em, and this-'n-that. It was just one great big family.

MS. ROSS:       Yeah.

MRS. MANNING: On that ol' C&O Canal. It was really fine.

MS. ROSS:       Tell me about cooking on the boat, and taking care of the crew and all, when you were -

MRS. MANNING: Well, of course, you just had small cabins, you know. Used to cook and serve, have your meals in the cabin and all. Then, they'd generally have one that did the steerin' and one drove. Lots' a times, when I'd get the meals ready and everything, why, I used to drive - let that fellow come on and eat 'is dinner. But we always had breakfast before we start in the mornings. And then, lots'a times, why, I'd steer while that guy would eat, 'n just change off like that, you know. Oh, it was wonderful. I'd just love to have that time to go over! I really would.


Clara Manning & Martha Ross

Public domain


Collection Location:
C&O National Historic Park

National Park Service, Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Hagerstown, Maryland

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (Md.); Washington County (Md.), History

Maryland, 1824-1938

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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