Letter to Editor from Superintendent re maintenance, 1851
Herald of Freedom & Torch Light
August 27, 1851
To the Editors of the Herald and Torch:
GENTLEMEN:—A writer in the Cumberland Civilian complains of the management on the Canal at the late breach near Williamsport. He complains that loaded boats were caught on the level. No boat was admitted at the Dam after it was known there was a leak. He says there was a leak on the Friday previous. Certainly there was, and almost every day previous to that, and what is more there have been three or four as bad ones since then. He shows his ignorance of the Canal by making such a statement. He says no effort was made by the Superintendant to check or repair the breach until Monday about 10 A. M.— On Saturday plank were taken to the Stop Lock, and on Sunday morning they were put in, and the House Boats, Scow with the tolls, &c, moved down. The plank could not be put in until the water had run from the level. Also, that I refused to employ boatmen who offered to work.—This is not true; but one boatman offered to work. All persons who applied for work were employed.
Again, that “some days not even six men were at work.” This is not true, as the following statement of the force employed will show:
On Sunday 3d—11 men worked.
On Monday—41 men.
On Tuesday—44 men in the day and 37 until 10½ o’clock at night.
Wednesday—40 men in the day and 32 at night.
Thursday—34 " " and 30 at night.
Saturday—30 men in the day and 28 at night.
Sunday—29, on which evening the empty boats passed up.
I am blamed for not drawing the water off on Friday. Why, Messrs. Editors, if the water were to be drawn off for every such leak, there would be no navigation at all. Such leaks are of almost daily occurrence, and are all stopped as the one was on Friday at the High Rocks.
Dam No. 5 feeds the Canal for 18 miles, which is divided into three levels, the one next to the Dam 7 miles in length, the others 7 and 4. The breach occurred on the 7 mile level next to the Dam, and of course no water could pass on the other two below, yet I am blamed because the water would not stay on this lower levels. The week before the breach it required six paddles of about two feet square to pass water sufficient to keep these three levels up—then how could I with the upper level dry keep the water on the lower ones? Yet Editors gravely assert that “the water was turned off of a level of 20 miles for the purpose of repairing the breach”. Does this Editor know that the longest level on the Canal (from the four locks to Hancock) is but 14 miles? Yet he says he took the pains to enquire of a boatman.
The fact is, everything was done that could be, to repair the breach as soon as possible. All conversant with the Canal know that that part of it made through limestone country, is the most difficult to keep in order, and that heretofore it has been found necessary every summer to draw off the water to repair the limestone sinks. This season it was not done, and in addition which the water has been raised in all levels, which of course has increased the risk of breaches.
JOHN G. STONE,
Sup. Williamsport Division.
John G. Stone
Herald of Freedom & Torch Light
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (Md.); Washington County (Md.), History