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Chenango Canal in Fenton

Lamb_website_smallThe photo to the right is of a man with such devotion to the history of the Chenango Canal and Lock 107, I decided to dedicate this page to him and to those who carry on in attempting to preserve a historic landmark in our town.  We thank Mrs. Francis Lamb for being so generous to donate files and photos of her husband's many years of labor and research and giving us permission to post his work on this website.  Sadly, when Mr. Lamb passed away the work on Lock 107 stopped.  Since then, the Town of Fenton Conservation Advisory Committee has taken on as one of their projects, restoration of Lock 107. 

In the slideshow above, you will see photos taken by Mr. Lamb during his work on the Lock and by myself taken this past May 2014.  He and the Friends of the Chenango Valley State Park began this initiative years ago.   

With Mr. Lamb's initiative, a massive undertaking of restoration took hold.  Due to the efforts of Mr. Lamb, Mr. Tom Hodges and others too numerous to name along with Mrs. Alice DeAnjou, your former Historian, the Chenango Canal Prism and Lock 107 River Road, Chenango Forks, NY 13746 Broome County was listed June 18, 2010 on the National Register of Historic Places.  

For further reading:  Limestone Locks and Overgrowth by Michele A. McFee, copyright 1993 Purple Mountain Press, Ltd. Fleischmanns, NY 12430-0378

For further information visit these websites. 

Thank you for visiting this page.  Please continue to scroll down for more photos and a short history below.
Towpath 1 (1)  Towpath 1 (2)

                                        Photos above: Towpath (Now I-88 between Chenango Bridge and Port Crane) about 1912.
                Below Left:  Dam above Lock 107 in Chenango Forks, NY and photo on right taken in 1900:  Lock 107
U-Dam near lock 107  U_Lock 1900
Photos Below Left to Right:  Lock 107 as it was in operation and mules sent to stable after a day's work.
 U-Lock 107_in operation  U-Mules

  U_dam from hill   U-Flyer

 Dam as seen from Pigeon Hill during operation.
Before the railroads were built, moving people and commerce overland was a slow arduous and oftentimes dangerous endeavor.  Stage coaches, covered wagons, and buckboards drawn by mules, horses and oxen was the best method of transportation.  Canals were used by the English and the Dutch for centuries, but in the Americas, there was no way to get from river to river by boat.  The Erie Canal, completed in 1825, was the first canal built in the United States.  Under Governor Dewitt Clinton, lake Erie in the western portion of New York State was connected to the Hudson River and on into the Atlantic Ocean.  Originally scoffed at and called Clinton's Ditch, the canal became a success and a tremendous boon to the economy of the state.  Commerce could now easily be shipped across the entire state and south to New York City and return.   Some people called it the Eighth Wonder of the World.

People in the southern tier believed that if they had a waterway  from Tioga County to Utica, connecting with the Erie Canal, the benefit would outweigh the cost.  In May of 1837, the Chenango Canal opened carrying cargo and people between the Susquehanna River at Binghamton and the Erie Canal in Utica.   This cut the time to move cargo from one end to the other from approx. 9 days to 4 days.  For the first time, the people in Binghamton and points northeast could travel to the Great Lakes, the Hudson River and the Atlantic Ocean.  All along the Chenanago Canal, small hamlets grew up largely dependent upon this new "modern" mode of transportation.  Port Crane and the Town of Fenton, all the way to the Town of Chenango border in Chenango Forks, grew and prospered as a result.  The Chenango Canal, built 12 years after the Erie, never reached the potential the originators had envisioned.  The trip took 12 hours and passengers paid $1.50 each way to make the journey.  Operating at a loss, the Chenango Canal closed in 1878.

 During the years of operation and especially between 1840 and 1865, Port Crane became prosperous because of the canal.  Hotels, stores, mills, boat yards, repair facilities and dry docks used to work on the boats sprang up everywhere.  When the canal closed, much of the prosperity disappeared.  The first store was owned by Wheeler and Yates who were contractors on the canal.  Only two kinds of boats were used on the canal, packet boats carrying passengers, and barges carrying cargo or freight. 

 The canal or prism as it was sometimes called was 42 feet wide at the top and 26 feet wide at the bottom with banks on either side holding water four feet deep.  On one side, ususally the east side, was a towpath ten feet wide to allow for passage of the drivers, horses and mules.  Mules and horses needed stables.  One such stable was located in Port Crane.  A map from 1876 indicates the property for the stable was owned by Gilbert VanAmburgh.  Gilbert VanAmburgh was a boat builder as well as a stable proprietor.  During the boom years, Port Crane enjoyed prosperity through saw mills, a plaster mill, a brick yard, a blacksmith, canal boat builders, boat repair shops, a wagon and cooper shop, lumber sales, dry dock, cigar manufacturer, several stores, and more.

 The village of Port Crane was named for the Resident Engineer, J. W. Crane, who served under John B. Jarvis, Esq, Chief Engineer of the Chenango Canal.   Daniel Dickinson was the NY Senator for which Port Dickinson was named.  Both villages prospered as ports along the canal.

 Much more information is available at the Historian's Office in the Town of Fenton Offices, or visit the Fenton Free Library on Chenango Street in Hillcrest.
Barbara Guernsey, Town of Fenton Historian
Written:  9/25/2014