The laborers on the Junction Canal in Chemung, N.Y., a few days since stuck a placer of skulls, supposed to be those of the red man of the forest, who were sadly routed by Sullivan and his party in this valley. Besides the skulls, other relics of the Revolution were found.
November 18, 1856
First Arrival of Anthracite Coal at Elmira,
From the Wyoming Valley
Celebration of the Event.
Yesterday afternoon, at 1 o’clock, the first boat load of Pittston Coal arrive at our village, over the Junction Canal. An event of so much importance to the business interests of Elmira, as a matter of course, was not permitted to pass by without some manifestation of public joy.
Accordingly, at 2 o’clock, a large procession of citizens - including the entire Board of Supervisors - was formed opposite Haight’s Hotel, and proceeded by Wisner’s Band, marched to Tuthill’s Mill, where they found the boat, Towanda, Capt. May, freighted with fifty tons of anthracite coal, direct from the Pittston mines.
Among those from a distance that were noised in the procession, Charles Minot, Esq., late General Superintendent of the New York and Erie Railroad; Senator Hall, of Hornellsville; Hollis White, Esq., of Niagara Falls; C.C.B. Walker, Esq., of Corning; Col. Overton, Collector of Tolls at Athens, Pa.; John Richards, Esq., and Capt. May, of Pittston.
As many persons as could conveniently get on the boat boarded her at once, and she proceeded amidst the firing of cannon, to the Clinton street lock, where Col. S.G. Hathaway was called out and made a brief but eloquent speech, welcoming the offices of the boat, and congratulating our citizens, as well as those of our sister State of Pennsylvania, upon the important event they had met to celebrate - the final completion an successful navigation of the North Branch and Junction - an event which promises to open a vast trade between the two great States, and yield largely to their resources.
At the conclusion of the Colonel’s speech, cheers were given for the speaker, the Superintendents of the North Branch and Junction Canal, John Arnot Esq., Messrs. Maffit, Shearer and Capt. May.
The boat then proceeded on to the Canal Basin, where Mr. Richards, of Pittston, was loudly called for and responded in a few appropriate remarks. After which the procession again formed and returned to Haight’s Hotel, and there dispersed.
The North Branch Canal was commence in 1828, at Northumberland and completed as far as Nanticoke, a distance of fifty-six miles, in 1830. Sixteen miles more, extending from Nanticoke to the mouth of the Lackawanna, were put under contract in 1830 and completed in 1834. Every foot of these sixteen miles is within the Wyoming coal basin, the greatest known anthracite coal field in the world. Prof. Silliman estimated its contents at twenty to thousand millions of tons. Other competent geologists, afar extended and careful explorations, and making a reduction of one quarter for loss, place it at nine thousand and sixty millions of tons.
By the completion of the extension of the North Branch Canal from the mouth of the Lackawanna to the State line, a distance of 94 miles, and of the Junction Canal from the State line to this place a distance of 18 miles, the whole of this immense deposit is now brought into navigable communication with the entire network of canals that traverse this State, thus ultimately offering the very best and the least expensive mans of supplying the whole of Western New York, and the west generally, with this valuable mineral. We say ultimately, because the advantages of this connection cannot be fully developed till the enlargement of the Chemung Canal is effect; a measure that should urgently be pressed pun the attention of the Legislature at its com in session.
At Towanda, thirty-three miles below this, the North Branch Canal receives the coal, brought to it by a railroad sixteen mils in length, extending to the Barclay bituminous coal field, a deposit of not less than twenty millions of tons of bituminous coal, of treaty purity, and and of unsurpassed excellence for the smithshop, and for the puddling furnace.
These deposits must eventually furnish an immense tonnage for the Junction Canal, in the success of which all our citizens have a deep interest, and which owes its existence to the enterprise and public spirit of a few capitalists, prominent among them is our respected townsman, Mr. Arnot, and Mr. Hollenbeck, of Wilkes Barre, Pa.
The revolution that may be wrought in the course of trade, by the connection now effected, cannot, at this time, be fully appreciated. That it must be extensive and important is apparent when it is considered that Montezuma, by this connection, is brought by canal navigation, as new to Philadelphia as to New York, we are, by the Junction, the North Branch an Pennsylvania canals, but 300 miles from Philadelphia, the navigation of which will commence two weeks earlier, and close two weeks later than will those of our own State.
Friday, November 18, 1856
Correspondence of the Pittston Gazette.
Taken from notes of a Log Book on the
First Trip via North Branch Extension
(From log kept by John Richards Jr., a passenger)
Elmira, Nov. 20, 1856.
Mr. Richart: Dear Sir: - Tuesday morning (Nov. 11,) before daylight two boats loaded each with twenty-five ons of Pittston Coal left the outlet lock, bound for the farthest point of navigation up the North Branch Canal, and, if possible, to Elmira. It was soon discovered that we should breast no “lofty surge,” but, instead, about twenty-five inches of water; the berme and tow-path, like Scylia and Charybdis, staring at the marines from either side, between which it was necessary to steer with the utmost care.
This depth of water increased gradually in our progress when we reached McKune’s lock, three miles about Buttermilk Falls, at midnight, a distance of 14 miles of the Canal, being delayed some hours, and separated from the other half of the “Fleet” by breaks in the Harris narrows. We wish here to thank Mr. Elliot for his kindness and attention, without whose aid we should have have been stranded.
At McKune’s the water was nearly three feet. From this, we passed smoothly along to Tunkhannock aqueduct, on Wednesday, whee to our surprise we were greeted by the Band of that place, followed by a procession of people, and coming on deck the band struck up a martial air, which seemed to send inspiration into those showy and ever lasting hills of Tunkhannock - looking down upon us - echoing and re-echoing and cheering on the programs of the first boat through their mist via the North Branch Canal.
Being law in the season - the old story - the old promise of the completion of the Canal, so long listened to, but so often broken to the hope - “the sixth age” about “shifting into the last scene of all” the sight of a boat freighted coal, floating up the channel, inspired an irresistible feeling of gratification, and I heard a man with gray hairs say “Well I have lived to see a loaded boat come up the North Branch Canal!”
Our Boat went on the same night around that wild Horse Neck to the Dam. Next day, Thursday, we passed the slack water, the village of Meshoppen, Skinner’s Eddy to Laceyville, where we were presented with the “Stars and Stripes.” At night we brought up at the long town of Browntown, and waited patiently the arrival of the rest of the “Fleet,” from which we had been so long separated, and which might have been, for anything we knew, shipwrecked or the horse knocked down.We could, for depth of water, have unloaded one boat into the other at Tunkhannock. The
The night wore off, and the East was turning gray before the Chesapeake hove in sight - moving towards more like a ghost than anything else; and indeed she was ominous like a ghost, for she brought a sudden reversal of my good fortune. It as necessary to unload her cargo into the rival boat just now overtaken. The Captain of the pioneer boat impatient of delay and an advancing rival - the other obstinate as though it as a virtue - the Mules pleased with the exhibition of so much obstinacy, their favorite quality - with all this the day breaking in the East betokened nothing pleasant - the common lot of all explores!!
For a time no commands, no appeal, no threats, no entreaties availed; but at last the unloading was effected, and the pioneer boat, Tonawanda, set sail once more in four feet of water, winding through the rich flats of Wyalusing, where the people came out to greet us with a cannon’s fire and its rolling echo. They placed the cannon on our deck, and we made it answer back our thank for their kind welcome. This cannon we took with us to Elmira.
Passing along the Terrytown narrows we fired over to the resounding shore to give some of the people of that place an opportunity to reverse their long declared opinion on the impossibility of navigating the North Branch Canal. All went on smoothly with the exception of the lock-tender at lock No. 12, - growing old in the service, - who, in his anxiety to lock the first boat through in style, had put across the lock a temporary bridge, and nailing down all the boards but one, on which in crossing, by the”perverseness of matter,” he stepped, and fell some twelve or fourteen feet into the raging canal. But his excited state of mind acknowledged no injury except pretty hard twist of the neck. - We passed on to Standing Stone Friday night, Mr. B. Laporte, Mr. Simon Stevens and others receiving complimentary shots from the deck.
Next day, Saturday, we passed through the pleasant flatlands of Wysox - the canal in the finest order - occasionally rolling the cannon’s echo along the vales. I heard Mr. Rahn tell a lock-tender not to give us more than six feet of water. Here we wish to thank Mr. Rahn, (Sup’t of the upper half of the Canal, under Mr.Maffit,) fir his assistance, notwithstanding had taken no sleep for three nights previous. Soon the village of Towanda appeared in sight, the cannon announcing our approach.
On the burnt bridge, now under speedy repairs, a crowd had gathered to welcome us across the pool. Tying to two tow-lines one skiff, and shooting them over to the bridge, the crowd drew us in fine style to their hospitable shore. Declining any further demonstration which was offered, we went on to Tioga Point, the Packet Boat passing us at Ulster, and its Captain receiving a complimentary fire from our deck.
The next day was the Sabbath. With an eye to the spiritual welfare of our crew, we hesitated about proceeding on that day; but as the good Clergy in that region, for the last 2 or 3 months, had recognized a political religious excitement we thought there might be such a thing as a North Branch Religion Extension feeling, and that a crew which had encouraged to navigate up a canal for years consigned by the general voice of the people along its whole length, to its grave, and placed with the list of projects never to be revived,- that such a crew was sound in the doctrine of a resurrection. In this frame of mind we passed silently and reverently along the beautiful country around Tioga Point, breaking the stillness of the sacred day by no cannon’s echo, - nothing save an occasional blast of the horn to warn a drowsy lock-tender of our approach.
When we reached the residence of Mr. David Shearer (Sup’t of the Junction Canal), Capt. May sounded the horn with a true boatman’s cadence, and shortly Mr. Shearer came on deck in high glee, saying, “Ah, I knew that Juniata horn.” He was formerly engaged on the Juniata Canal, and for some years has been in this region “waiting for the moving of the waters” in the North Branch Canal - “As the mind is pitched the car is pleased,” and if any music ever fell pleasantly on the warm the sound of the Juniata horn awakened joy in his heart.
Monday morning we were one mile from Elmira, when we received word to stop and wait for a welcome. An extra was issued by the Daily Gazette, calling out the citizens to escort the first Boat Load of the Black Diamonds of Wyoming Valley into their city. Meanwhile our Boat was prepared with flags - the mules caparisoned, and true to their natures in compliment to such honor they presented the most indescribable indifference.
At 2 o’clock a procession formed before Haight’s Hotel (a Hotel and a landlord not to be surpassed,) and led by Wisner’s Band, proceeded to the Boat filling the deck to overflowing. A gun manned and drawn by horses followed, shaking the air, and answered back by our gun, which was loaded by the citizens and fired off by cigars. The boat stopped at the Junction of the Chemung and Junction Canals, where Col. G.S. Hathaway, addressed the crowd in an eloquent speech, welcoming the Boat to their borders, as the harbinger of another tie of brotherhood, and another means of intercourse between the Keystone and Empire States, complimenting Mr. Maffit for his industry and perseverance. The boat passed on to the Basin, when the procession re-formed and returned to Haight’s Hotel, where cheers were given for Mr. Arnot, Mr. Hollenbeck, Mr. Maffit, Mr. Shearer, Wyoming Valley, and Capt. May. And the citizens of Elmira may be assured that such a welcome as they gave us will be gratefully remembered by the people of Wyoming Valley.
So ends my Log Book. Grateful for escaping the dangers of a perilous navigation, and thankful for the welcome we received and to Mr. Maffit and his Superintendents, Messrs. Ellio and Rahn, I think of taking a farewell to Boating, and the first train of cars Home.
Yours truly, J.R.
P.S. - Above Tunkhannock, the Canal is in fine order. Below to Pittston some repair is only necessary to make it, another season, capable of floating all Boats that can get into it. Below are the names of places and distances from Pittston to the State line, (as given in Maffit’s Report.)
Names of places Pittston Place to place.
Gardiner’s Ferry5.40 1.65
Buttermilk Falls 10.64 5.24
Osterhouts 17.15 6.51
Tunkhnnock 22.10 4.95
Teague’s Eddy 25.06 2.96
Hunt’s Ferry 26.47 1.41
Mehoopeny Ferry 33.30 6.83
Black Walnut Bottom 41.00 4.44
Skinner’s Eddy 43.90 2.90
Laceyville 44.68 .78
Keeney’s Ferry 46.95 2.27
Browntown 51.37 4.42
Wyalusing 54.43 3.06
Terrytown 56.15 1.72
Homet’s Ferry 59.75 3.60
Rummerfield’s Creek 63.70 3.95
Standing Stone 66.60 2.90
Wysox 70.00 3.40
Towanda 74.65 4.65
Smith’s Mill 80.70 6.05
Ulster 82.32 1.62
Milan 86.80 4.48
Athens 90.00 3.20
State line (con. with
Junction Canal 94.20 4.20
Elmira Star Gazette
December 29, 1928
The Junction Canal
The Junction Canal first organized in 1846, was constructed in 1853 and joined the Chemung Canal in 1854 at a point near the present location of East Washington Avenue and Baldwin Streets. The course was eastward, passing on the south side of the present Lackawanna passenger station, to a point between Lake Street and Madison Avenue; across East Fifth Street to a large basin and dock on Madison Avenue, about 200 feet north of East Clinton Street.
The canal then passed eastward between the present large gas tank and the James Manufacturing Company’s plant, to Newtown Creek. The boats passed across the creek to the east bank of the stream and thence along the east bank of the Chemung River, a distance of about 18 miles to the State Line, near the former “Johnny Cake Hollow,” where it connected with the north branch of the Susquehanna Canal.
There were 11 locks and three dams in the 18 miles of construction. One lock was located a few feet east of Madison Avenue in Elmira.
Abandoned in 1873
The canal was abandoned in 1873, when the locks and feeder dams were torn out. For many years afterward the old canal bed was partly filled with surface wage and the former William Jeffers saw mill on William Street used the old channel to float logs or the mill work.
John C. Greves of the Chemung Canal Trust Company is the last surviving member of the board of directors of the Junction Canal Corporation, which was kept in existence many years after the canal was abandoned.
Among the Elmirans who were boat owners and engaged in freight traffic on the old canal were: Henry C. Spaulding, Peter Morgan, Peter Bigs, George Hulbert, Henry M. Partridge, Isaac Baldwin, John Arnot, Sr., and several others.
Another feature n the canal was a “packet” boat used for passenger service. All boats were hauled by horse or mule power.