The start of something big: The Erie Canal’s beginnings

Constructing a lock in Booneville in the mid-1800s was a laborious task. A retired state museum historian will talk on Oct. 3 about the early years of the Erie Canal.

To the Editor:

Over 200 years ago, on July 4, 1817, the first spade dug into the ground and the construction of the Erie Canal was underway!

Who took the first shovel and where? Once built, who was going to maintain it and how? Completed in 1825, the Canal traversed 425 miles of often challenging terrain.

Admirers called it the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Skeptics called it “Clinton’s Big Ditch.”

On Oct. 3, for its first program of the season, the New Scotland Historical Association proudly presents “The Erie Canal’s Early Years.” Our speaker is Craig Williams, Erie Canal expert, retired senior historian at the New York State Museum, and Canal Society of New York State board member.

The program will feature seldom-seen manuscripts from the New York State Archives from the first days of the canal. Williams will provide an illustrated overview of how the people of New York State learned to survey, design, construct, and operate this unparalleled engineering achievement.

New Yorkers were the first to undertake such a massive public work.  As we approach the bicentennial of the Erie Canal, now is an especially good time to better appreciate this truly remarkable accomplishment!


Excavation at Lockport: Building the Erie Canal was an engineering feat. Craig Williams will talk about the canal’s early years at a New Scotland Historical Society meeting on Oct. 3.


The program begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Wyman Osterhout Community Center in New Salem at 7 Old New Salem Road. As always, the association’s museum will open 30 minutes before the start of the program.

Come and hear this informative and timely talk and take in the engaging museum exhibits as well. Admission is always free.

Judy Kimes, publicist

New Scotland Historical Association

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