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100 Years Ago


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Passenger Traffic

Although a majority of the canal boats hauled cargo, there was a significant amount of passenger traffic as well. The so-called 'express packets,' constructed of lighter materials, could average as much as six to eight miles an hour. These boats were 78 feet long and 15 feet wide, with separate compartments for passengers, crew, and mules. Carrying up to 50 people, an express packet could complete the long journey from Cincinnati to Toledo in 5 days and 4 nights. Captains of these crafts usually demanded the right of way over other boats along the canal, and especially at the locks. This resulted in occasional fights between boat captains, which the lock tender would usually referee.

Lawn chairs would be placed on the deck in good weather. Passengers so inclined had to be alert, for a shout of "low bridge!" would send them ducking for cover. Although the fares varied by locality, a rule of thumb was that long trips cost four cents a mile. Meals and board were included, as were 30 pounds of baggage.  Passenger packets also served as excursion craft on the weekends. Loaded down with partiers and supplies, these boats would proceed at a leisurely pace, or stop, so that those on board could fish or picnic on the banks of the canal. Lockington was a favorite destination, as the men on board could visit a saloon or two while the boat waited to pass through the locks. This activity was also popular for company outings.

School children apparently enjoyed periodic excursions on the canal as well. The May 7, 1852, edition of the "Shelby County Democrat" carried the following news item: "N. R. Wyman (a teacher) is out today with his school in a Maying excursion. They took passage on the canal boat 'Clarion.' Nathan called to his aid a number of young ladies and gentlemen of the place to assist him in discharging his duties. We wish them a pleasant time."

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'Canal' segment written in December, 1998 by Rich Wallace

 

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