Saturday, November 10, 2012

Canal Boats Under West 4th and Sassafras

-Detail from Ruger & Stoner's 1870 bird's eye map of Erie, PA. Library of Congress 73-694523.
Erie, Pennsylvania was a much different town back in 1870, when the canal flowed underneath 4th and Sassafras Street and emptied into Lake Erie. The bird's eye view of Erie shown above was made by Ruger & Stoner in 1870. The current Bayfront Highway loosely follows the dirt road shown at the bottom of this old map of Erie.

The path of the canal is shown in blue near the center of this drawing. It went under Sassafras Street south of Fourth Street, then under Fourth Street east of Sass. Its path then became parallel to Peach and Sassafras Street until it reached the bay by a series of three locks. West 2nd Street was blocked by the canal between Peach and Sassafras in 1870.

The Beaver and Erie Canal met its terminus at Reed's Wharf, which was also known as Reed's Pier. The was important for shipping, but it was also an attractive nuisance, as these notices in the Erie Gazette will attest:

"On Friday evening, Mr. G. D. Buckley rescued a little son of Dr. McGill from drowning in the canal near Walnut street, above eighth." -May 26, 1870.

"On Wednesday afternoon of last week, a little son of John McCuminskey fell into the out-let lock, and all efforts to save him were unavailable. His body becoming wedged in the 'wicket,' it was 15 minutes before it was extricated."

The Beaver and Erie Canal is just a memory in Downtown Erie. Part of the canal used to run through Gannon University's Intramural Field near 3rd and Sassafras St.

Enjoy more historic facts about Erie, Pennsylvania at: Old Time Erie

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