: This image is a reproduction of a photograph depicting a view of the Ohio and Erie Canal at Millersport, Ohio, ca. 1900. At the right edge of the image people can be seen walking on the canal towpath.
The Ohio and Erie Canal was one of Ohio's most important canals during the mid nineteenth century. During the late 1810s, Governor Thomas Worthington and Governor Ethan Allen Brown both supported the development of canals. Both men believed that Ohioans needed quick and easy access to the Ohio River and to Lake Erie if they were to profit financially. Farmers and business owners would be able to transport their products much more easily and cheaply with canals rather than turnpikes. Canals would also possibly open up new markets for Ohio goods.
In 1822 the Ohio legislature created a new Ohio Canal Commission, which eventually recommended two routes: a route that started at Lake Erie, passing through the Cuyahoga Valley, the Muskingum Valley, the Licking Valley, and then to the Ohio River along the Scioto Valley (Ohio and Erie Canal) and a western route along the Miami and Maumee Valleys (Miami and Erie Canal). In 1825 the Ohio legislature approved both routes, and work began immediately. On July 4, 1825, work began on the Ohio and Erie Canal at Licking Summit just south of Newark.
The surrounding swamps were drained to create the Licking Reservoir, today known as Buckeye Lake, in order to supply adequate water for the canal going north to Coshocton and south to Circleville. After the canal route was established, the state engineers discovered that there was a ridge of hills located south of the proposed reservoir through which they would have to cut the canal. Because it was impossible to raise the reservoir’s level, the ridge had to be cut down to the level of the reservoir. This "Deep Cut" marks the deepest part of the canal at 32 feet and runs south from Millersport for nearly two miles.
To finance the canals, the Ohio government relied on loans. Ohio received an initial loan of $400,000 from bankers and businessmen living along the East Coast. The canal commissioners estimated that the Ohio and Erie Canal would cost $ 2.3 million, but it actually cost roughly $10,000 per mile to finish. Although the construction of both canals nearly bankrupted the state government, the canals allowed Ohioans to prosper, beginning in the 1830s all the way to the Civil War.
In 1830 the Ohio legislature earmarked funds for the Miami and Erie Canal's extension to Defiance and Lake Erie; by 1833 the Ohio and Erie Canal was complete. Once completed, however, the state’s canals still faced numerous difficulties. The effects of flooding and freezing could and often did seriously damage the canals. Usually canals in the northern half of the state were drained dry from November to April.
These difficulties paled in comparison to the advantages of having the canals. The cost to ship goods from the East Coast to Ohio and vice versa declined tremendously, from $125 per ton of goods to $25 per ton of goods. Travelers who were willing to trade time for economy could save considerable money by taking a canal boat.
Most canals remained in operation in Ohio until the late 1800s. By the 1850s canals were losing business to the railroads, which offered several advantages. Railroads delivered passengers and goods more quickly, and they were not limited by a water source as canals were. Because of these advantages, railroads quickly supplanted the canals. View on Ohio Memory.
: AL06108 Subjects
: Ohio and Erie Canal (Ohio); Fairfield County (Ohio); Canals--Ohio--History--19th century; Transportation--Ohio--History; Places
: Millersport (Ohio); Fairfield County (Ohio)