Tom Little - Introduction ( more details)
Interview of Tom Little
Interviewer: Ed Wesley
Father Had the Best Known Store on the Canal
Ed: I'm talking to Tom Little from Hancock, Maryland, whose father founded one of the best known stores along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. You were starting to tell me how your father came to the store business here in Hancock.
Tom: Well, yes. In other words, in 1879, he got off the boat and turned it over—that 'uz to the captain of it—turned it over to the young fellow he practically raised. And 'course, in the wintertime—he had to sleep on in the boat cabin because the homeplace only had the front part built. And, of course, in later years, after he started the store in 1879, and he sold the—fellow named Charles Myers /Mars [?] —was his name-he sold him the boat and team later. Daddy didn't stop boatin' when he got off, 'cause he had the Enterprise built, built there right next to the store, and they built the boatyard in 1880. In 1881, he paid a thousand dollars to Mitchell & Dawson for the Enterprise.
Ed: So, the Enterprise was a Canal boat?
Tom: —Canal boat.
Ed: He had that built right here in Hancock?
Tom: Oh, yes. Yes, three new boats built there and three of 'em rebuilt. That 'uz back in the '80s.
Ed: Who built this boatyard that you—that was right next to your store?
Tom: Yeah. That's P.E. Dawson and Benjamin Mitchell, Jr. Senior had a boatyard up at the upper end of the town. He had a floatin' boatyard, with these long tracks, you know. And it had dollies, just same as the railroad cars, only smaller.
Ed: And these boatyards were built to make boats especially for the Canal?
Tom: Yeah, they were for Canal boats. The canal boats—well, they're about 14 feet wide, and they're about— Jim Elsber (phonetic), a neighbor here, claims—I think he said they were 92 feet long. I don't know exactly the length, but 'course, they hauled 110 to 120 ton a' coal.
Ed: I think you said earlier that - was your father the first generation from Ireland, or your grandfather come over?
Tom: Well, there was two batches of a little family. Thomas Little was my grandfather, and Pat Little was a single man. He married a Dickerhoff (?) from this country, and one daughter --no, I guess it's his granddaughter--is still living down here at the lock, a mile below here. But that family’s practically all died out except maybe Frank Little’s couple of girls in Baltimore.
Ed: And they both came from Ireland?
Tom: Yeah, they both came together.
Ed: What county did they come from?
Tom: Come from County Cavan, a hamlet called Ballyjamesduff. And that was in 1851 they come over here.
Ed: Did they come over to work on the Canal?
Tom: Well, the Canal was what brought 'em over here. 'Course, they didn't work on the Canal 'cause the Canal was built from here up to Dam No. 6 with the 6-mile or 10-mile above here. It was some years before the Canal was bored through the mountain tunnel and into Cumberland. And some declares it was 10 years; whether it was or not, I don’t know. But anyway, they shipped grain and stuff, 'cause this mill we had over here--big flour mill—they had chutes back in the mill there, and the basin come back against the wall. And the rake of the building come over far enough that a loaded boat could be under the rake of the roof, that they could load the wheat and stuff up in the boats, and that was in the early times, you know.
Ed: They could just send it down a chute into the boat?
Tom: Then later years, you know, why, I don't know whether—they may’ve shipped it in bags later, I don't know about that, 'cause I may've been too young.
Ed: When your grandfather and his brother came they started boating on the canal?
Tom: Oh yes they owned boats.
Ed: And that’s how your father got into it?
Tom: That’s how my father got into the boat business. He had charge of one of granddad’s boats when he was 16 years old. He was running one then.
Tom Little, Ed Wesley
C&O National Historic Park
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (Md.); Washington County (Md.), History