TRAVELING THE ERIE CANAL


The earliest settlers of the central and western parts of New York State traveled via foot, horse, or teams of horse or oxen, across old trails and paths in the wilderness blazed by Native Americans, trappers and traders, and other earlier settlers. The building of the Erie Canal was a revolution in transportation, one of the first major public works projects in North America, opening up new areas of the state to settlement and development of local resources.

By the time of the 1824 publication Spafford's travel guide, tourism in the modern sense of the word was becoming more commonplace for the "leisure class". This guide was written specifically for sight-seers and pleasure travelers. Other passengers were businessmen, families visiting relatives who'd emigrated within the state (see Joseph G. Klock letters), New Yorkers embarking on their final journey towards the Great Lakes to become the pioneers of the new frontier of Michigan etc., and the immigrants who continued upstate upon arrival at New York City's harbors. The trip described below is from East to West, on the Montgomery County through Herkimer County leg of the journey from Albany to Buffalo, and Spafford points out places of interest to the ladies and gentlemen on deck. The numbers to the left are the number of miles, going west, from Albany. The letter "r." indicates the right bank of the canal, with "l." being the left bank.


A Pocket Guide for the Tourist and Traveler, Along the Line of the Canals, and the Interior Commerce of the State of New York

By Horatio Gates Spafford, Ll.D. (author of the Gazetteer of New York), T. and J. Swords: New York, 1824


38 1/2: County line, Schenectady and Montgomery, near Vedder's Ferry

39 1/2: l. Flint Hill, in Florida, Montgomery Co.; calciferous sandrock

43: The "Two Locks," Nos. 31 and 32; Aqueduct and small Pond, Florida

45 3/4: r. Mear's, Florida, Bridge; and over R., Amsterdam Village, Aqueduct ov. Chuctenunda Creek

47 3/4: Lock No. 33

49 1/2: Lock No. 34; in the Town of Florida, Montgomery County, r. Fort Hunter, Queen Anne's Chapel, and old Mohawk Castle

50 1/2: Schoharie Creek, Guard Lock, Horse Rope-Ferry, and Lock No. 35, on the W. bank of Schoharie Creek

52 1/2: l. "Canal House," an oddity, Smithtown, Glen, Ishe's Kill Aqueduct, and Aries Kill Dam and Guard Locks

55: Voorhees, Lock No. 36, in Glen, r. ov. R., 1/2 m., Caughnawaga; and 4 m. Johnstown

60 3/4: Van Voast's Store, Root

61: Little Aqueduct and Basin; and r. ov. R., Dachsteder's, and Little Nose

61 3/4: l. Anthony's Nose, and Mitchill's Cave, Root, formerly Canajoharie, - Geiss Rock, primitive, the first on the Canal

62 1/2: r. over R., Kanadarox, or Bread Creek

64: Spraker's, Canajoharie, Dam and Guard Locks, Plattekill

66 3/4: Lock No. 37, Canajoharie V. and Creek, Guard Locks, &c. There are Stages, on Tuesday and Friday, from this place to Cherry Valley. r. over River, Palatine Bridge Village, 67 miles from Albany

67: Root's, and Basin, Canajoharie

69: r. over R., Stone Arabia, Palatine, [4 miles]

70: Waggoner's, Lock No. 38, Guard Locks, Otsquaga Creek, Minden

70 1/2: l. Fort Plain V., Minden

72 1/2: r. Bridge to Palatine, l. Devendorf's Hill, Minden

73 1/2: r. Feeder from Mohawk R., from above the Dam, Lock No. 39

74 1/2: r. Dam across R. for Feeder, timber and brushwood of 42 acres used in making it; Guard Lock, op. St. Johnsville, Oppenheim

76 1/2: Crous's, Minden, Lock No. 40

78: r. ov. R., mouth E. Canada Creek

80: Lock No. 41, Danube, Herkimer County, l. Mohawk Castle, Indian Church and Bell, Danube.

81: Nowadaga Creek, Dam, Guard Locks, Towpath 400 feet, Danube

83: Late Gen. Herkimer, slain in the Oriskany battle

84: r. Fink's Ferry; l. E. extremity Fall Hill

85: Lock No. 42, the lower one of the "Five Locks," at the Little Falls, Entrance Fall Hill Ravine, walls of rock 50 to 150 feet l. Fall Hill, 518 feet above Canal, 712 above the tides of the Hudson R., 288 above the Rome summit, Long Level of the Canal, and 144, or 147, above Lake Erie! Scenery a treat, --grand, imposing, and highly picturesque: "all hands upon deck," especially from the Ladies' Cabin: we are approaching the Little Falls. What a tremendous, awe-inspiring scene! Nature has moulded her works, here, on a grand scale, --and soon we shall see, as we may even now, that Art has caught the inspiration of the scene, and well seconded her efforts, in giving to it a sublime effect, and a finish truly admirable.

85 1/2: Lock No. 43, Here we leave the Ravine, and have a view, on the right, of the Old Canal and Locks.

86: Locks Nos. 44 and 45, bank of the river, r. Little Falls, of the Mohawk, Gniess Rock, second primitive tact on the Canal, and the last, going westward. r. over River, Little Falls Village, Herkimer, Town and County. r. Aqueduct, connecting the Old with the Erie Canal, 3 arches, 1 of 70, and 2 of 50 feet each, a Navigable Feeder, and an elegant feature of the Canal. Taken as a whole, the scenery of this Pass, this gorge of the Mohawk, in works of nature and art, is unrivalled on the Canals of this State. Lock No. 46, the upper one of the "Five Locks".

88 3/4: Lock No. 47, German Flats

91 1/2: Lock No. 48, from the Old Canal, German Flats, l. Stone Church, used as a fortress, and Fort Herkimer

92 1/2: r. over River, mouth W. Canada Creek,

93: r. Bridge ov. Mohawk, [and 1 m. Herkimer V.]

93 1/2: The Dug Way; high hill, clay and sand

94: Bridge ov. R., and road to Herkimer Village

94 3/4: Lock No. 49

95: Lock No. 50, Fulmer's Creek Aqueduct

96 1/2: Steel's Creek Aqueduct and Feeder

97: r. Dyger's Dry Dock

97: 1/2 Lock No. 51

97 3/4: Lock No. 52

98 1/2: Myer's Creek Aqueduct, and r. Frankfort V.

98 3/4: Lock No. 53, Frankfort, Herkimer Co., The Long Level, 69 1/2 miles, commences at this Lock, and extends westward through Utica, Whitestown, Rome, Verona, Lenox, Sullivan, and Manlius, into Salina, Onondaga County, terminating there, at Lock 54, 3 Qrs. of a mile E. of Syracuse.

105: Ferguson's Creek, Aqueduct, Frankfort




A paperback facsimile of this travel guide was reprinted as "Spafford's 1824 Guide for New York Travellers", compiled by G. Martin Sleeman, in 1991. The book was published by North Country Books, Inc., 18 Irving Place, Utica, New York 13501. The ISBN number is: ISBN 0-932052-62-2 and cost $9.95 seven years ago. This edition includes a short bio of Spafford, as well as legible early 19th century maps. Mr. Sleeman noted that his facsimile was reproduced from an original copy provided by the New York State Library in Albany.




THE TOURIST'S GUIDE Through THE EMPIRE STATE
Edited & Published by Mrs S. S. Colt, Albany, NY, 1871, p.166-7

At Little Falls may be seen perhaps the most wild and picturesque scenery upon this route. Here there is a bold passage of the Mohawk river and the Erie canal through a rocky defile which affords a view of great beauty.

Fifty years ago a noted stage route from Rochester to Albany led through Little Falls. The road wound along near a precipice by the river side. On one occasion General Winfield Scott was in the stage, when at a sharp turn near the bottom of the hill, a Pennsylvania wagon was seen winding its way up diagonally. The driver saw but one escape from a disastrous collision. However, having no time for reflection, he instantly guided his team over the precipice and into the river, from which the horses, passengers, coach and all were safely extricated. The passengers, following General Scott's example made the driver a handsome present as a reward for his courage and sagacity.

Near the ancient village of Herkimer, lie the fertile and celebrated German Flats, nearly a thousand acres of which were once owned by two parties, Judge Weaver and Colonel Bellinger. These two farms have long since, by a very common process, been melted into one. General C. P. Bellinger married the daughter of Judge Weaver, and thus inherited both farms.





Selections from Spafford's and Mrs. Colt's travel guides were contributed in Memory of E. E. Our thanks again to Kathy Lencki for her assistance in typing Spafford's guide. Kathy is researching Isaac Benjamin (or Benjamin Isaac) HALLETT, who was born 1820/22, in Salisbury. Further information about the Hallett surname is on her own LOVEN-LEWIS genealogy page.




Further Information about the Erie Canal [if links to the outside don't work, please notify us so that they can be removed]:




Discussion transferred from our "Odds and Ends" Section:

Tues 14 Oct 1997
Re: Feb 22, 1997 item about packet boats which immediately follows
From: The Anonymous Angel

"I condensed the following rate info from Spafford's 1824 Pocket Guide for Tourist & Traveler."

Erie Canal Packet Boats

Fare, including board, lodging & every expense: 4/mi
Way passengers: 3/mi [exclusive of board, etc] and dinner - 37; breakfast or supper - 25; lodging - 12.

"These packets are drawn by 3 horses, having relays every 8,10, to 12 miles, and travel day and night, making about 80 miles every 24 hours. They...have accommodations for about 30 passengers, furnish good tables, and a wholesome and rich fare..."

Martha Fri 21 Feb 1997
In an email to James D. Rubins I wrote: "I recently read that later immigrants came up that way via something called "packet boats," traveling up to Albany and then west along the canal. Have you run into any definition of exactly what they were? "

James D. Rubins Sat 22 Feb 1997
They were the barges that plyed the Erie Canal. Most often they loaded near Albany but some did come up from New York City. They were pretty low slung affairs that had to meet certain specific dimentions in order to fit under canal bridges and to pass through locks. They had "passenger" living areas at the back of the cargo holds and when the weather permitted people would sit on the broad top deck. I remember seeing a reconstruction of one during a "Canal Days" celebration when I was a teenager. I believe it was in Canajoharie passing through a lock.

Here's a picture of the wheat barges. The packet barges were similar but had the expanded living area for passengers. Here's a picture of a wheat carrier in the Erie Canal museum in Syracuse.

James always comes through. Then I wrote back:
"I got them all, James. I'll check them out tomorrow afternoon. Always been curious about how people got around. And since you know so much about this sort of thing, any ideas how the early settlers of Michigan (and other points west around the Great Lakes) would have gotten to MI from NY State?"

James's response:
"By my paternal Great Great Grandfather's ship! He was a Swedish sea captain who started in 1830 to run wheat from Lake Michigan ports to Buffalo and then immigrants on the return trip. I haven't spent the time figuring out his routes but they were pretty common. A cousin of mine is typing up his ship's logs from 1830 to 1865. "

10/15/97 "By the way here is some more on the packet boats."  A description of how our ancestors occasionally traveled in "style": The Erie Canal Home Page, recently updated.




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Last Updated: 1/1/98
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