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Historic Background

Transportation canals in the United states helped connect isolated rural areas to urban population centers. The golden age of historic transportation canals was from 1820 until railroads began to replace canals in the 1850s. Settlers flooded into regions serviced by such canals and the waterways they connected because they could use the waterways to sell their agricultural products and obtain manufactured goods. The Erie Canal connected New York City to the Great Lakes. The Illinois and Michigan Canal connected the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River system. The short two mile Louisville and Portland Canal by-passed some waterfalls to make the entire length of the Ohio River from the Mississippi River to Pittsburgh available to boats or rafts. Pennsylvania combined canals and railroads. New Jersey, Maryland, Ohio, and Indiana also built canals that were enticing to settlers.[1]

Understanding the transportation systems available to ancestors can help genealogists better guess their place of origin. Connect the place where an ancestor settled to the nearby canals, waterways, trails, roads, and railroads to look for connections to places they may have lived previously.

List of Significant Canals

Some of the most significant transportation canals to affect American settlement were:

Chronological List of Most Significant United States Canals Used by Settlers
Name Opened Origin Destination
Champlain Canal 1818/1823 Hudson River (Troy, New York) Lake Champlain (Whitehall, New York)
Erie Canal 1819/1825 Hudson River (Albany, New York) Lake Erie (Buffalo, New York )
Schuykill Canal 1825 Delaware River (Philadelphia, PA) Union Canal (Reading, Pennsylvania)
Union Canal 1828 Schuykill Canal (Reading, Pennsylvania) Susquehanna River (Middletown, PA)
Ohio and Erie Canal 1828/1832 Lake Erie (Cleveland, Ohio) Ohio River (Portsmouth, Ohio)
Louisville and Portland Canal 1830 Ohio River (Louisville, Kentucky) 2 mile (3.2 km) waterfall by-pass
Beaver and Erie Canal 1831/1844 Ohio River (Beaver, Pennsylvania) Lake Erie (Erie, Pennsylvania)
Pennsylvania Canal (Main Line)  1834 Delaware River (Philadelphia, PA) Ohio River (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
Delaware and Raritan Canal 1834 Raritan River (New Brunswick, NJ) Delaware River (Bordentown, NJ)
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal 1836 Georgetown, District of Columbia Cumberland, Maryland
Wabash and Erie Canal 1837/1853 Lake Erie (Toledo, Ohio) Ohio River (Evansville, Indiana)
Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal 1840 Beaver and Erie Canal (New Castle, PA) Ohio and Erie Canal (Akron, Ohio)
Miami and Erie Canal 1845 Ohio River (Cincinnati, Ohio) Lake Erie (Toledo, Ohio)
Illinois and Michigan Canal 1848 Lake Michigan (Chicago, Illinois) Illinois River (Peru, Illinois)

External Links

Cyndi's List - Canals, Rivers and Waterways

Sources

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Canal" in Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canals (accessed 22 June 2009).

 

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  • This page was last modified on 5 December 2011, at 04:03.
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