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Boat families on the C&O Canal (and the role of women and community more details)

and the role of women and community Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


This study addresses to what degree family participation in canal boat operations was driven by economic necessity versus a desire to stay together as a family unit or to participate in that lifestyle. As a parallel focus, I look at how the canal structured the family and community life of the canallers and how this may have changed through time. My research centers on the period from 1870 to 1924, during a transition from independent to company boatmen, and focuses on one community—Sharpsburg, Maryland—where a large number of canallers resided during this period.

To date, the only significant research conducted on canal boat families has been by English scholars. As a result, I open with a section detailing their research results as they relate to this paper. This is followed by a brief historical overview of the C&O Canal, focusing upon events and issues that have a bearing upon the canallers. Using information gleaned primarily from census records and oral history interviews, the next section looks at canal boat families from Sharpsburg relative to the issues raised above. The final discussion draws together the information presented about the C&O Canal boat families and places them within a national context.


Susan Trail

Public domain


Collection Location:
C&O National Historic Park

National Park Service, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal

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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