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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Initial festival celebrates canal

  • History was on display this past weekend — and it was the culmination of a lot of work.
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  • — History was on display this past weekend — and it was the culmination of a lot of work.
    The first Canal Festival was held by the Wayne County Historical Society. The event took place at Delaware & Hudson Canal Park, which is located where lock 31 once allowed boats to pass with goods coming and going from this area.
    A large crowd was on hand during the opening ceremonies, in which many people who played a role in making the park a reality were placed in a "boat."
    The boat was actually the outline of what an actual canal boat looked like.
    Sitting at the front of the boat was Clinton Leet, 91, who has been involved with historical preservation in Wayne County for decades. It was Leet who had the original vision for the park and he also made a significant financial contribution.
    Leet was allowed to hold the rope which was then tied up and officially kicked off the event.
    "The canal was so important to this country," said Wayne County Commissioner Brian Smith. "It helped industrialize this nation."
    The D&H Canal was built between the spring of 1826 and the fall of 1828. It stretched 108 miles between Honesdale and Kingston, N.Y., where it ran into the Hudson River. From there, goods were transported to New York City, where the industrial age changed the entire country.
    The majority of material hauled on the canal was anthracite coal from the mines of northeastern Pennsylvania. That coal was used to power the industrial changes happening in the country.
    Other materials, too, were transported, including timber, tanners' bark, animal hides, iron, cement, materials for glass making, finished glassware, bluestone and general merchandise.
    The boats on the canal were powered by horses or mules walking alongside. One crew member, generally called the driver, walked with the animals up to 20 miles per day, which meant up to 3,000 miles in a single season.
    Page 2 of 2 - The canal had 108 locks because of the 972 feet elevation difference between Honesdale and Kingston. The locks were used to change the water level and lift the boats eight to 12 feet for each lock.
    The locks were numbered in order from west to east from Kingston to Lackawaxen and then from that location to Honesdale. That's how this lock got its name.
    Each one was maintained by a lock tender. That person had to maintain a six-foot water level below his lock.
    The procedure for locking was repeated endlessly and took between 12 and 15 minutes. That meant 29 hours of locking time for each trip through the canal.
    This past Saturday, all of that was celebrated with the opening of the new park. The lock house is also being restored. The outside has been completed but there is a lot of work on the inside.
    "I want to thank all of the volunteers who have given so many hours of their lives to this project," said Tom Colbert, chairman of the Canal Festival committee. "What we have done is polished our heritage and preserved it for the next generation."

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