By Linda Dillman
Lockbourne is celebrating its 19th century canal-era heritage and the launch of the Ohio and Erie Canal Southern Descent Heritage Trail with an afternoon of history, activities, and a chili cookoff.
The driving trail is recognized on the National Record of Historic Places and features 14 historic canal sites along a 100-mile stretch from Buckeye Lake to the Ohio River at Portsmouth. It passes through six counties in south central Ohio, including Franklin County.
The Sept. 25 festivities in Lockbourne are part of a series of kickoff events planned for the coming months, with the last event taking place in Carroll on Oct. 9. Both parking and admission is free.
Located in Lockbourne’s Locke Meadow Park at the foot of an access road at 154 Commerce St., the celebration features live music; activities and games for children, including an exhibit from Slate Run Living Historical Farm; Irish whiskey tasting and presentations by experts on canal history and the southern descent.
The whiskey tasting is a nod to Lockbourne’s past, when saloons outnumbered churches and the William Monypenny Distillery—at one time the largest industry in the village—produced 100 barrels of whiskey a day that was shipped out of town on canal boats.
Amateur chefs are invited to enter their own soul-satisfying chili specialty in a cook-off to determine the first ($100 award), second ($75 award) and third place ($50 award) winners, and secure bragging rights for the year ahead. The entry fee is $20 and visitors can also enjoy unlimited chili tasting—for as long as it lasts—for $10 for adults and $5 for children twelve and under.
For more information about entering the competition, call the village office at 614-491-3161 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline to enter is Sept. 18. Hot dogs, desserts, water and pop will also be available for purchase during the event.
Franklin County Sheriff deputies are setting up a child identification table, along with one of their therapy dogs and both the Hamilton Township Fire Department and Franklin County Engineer will have trucks on display for kids of all ages. Slate Run Living Historical Farm is sponsoring old time children’s games and bluegrass music by the Slate Ridge Bluegrass Band will play throughout the day.
Guided nature walks along the Magnolia Trail will travel the same path that horses and mules took as they towed canal boats in the late 1800s. The trail features diverse wildlife and two main loops to enjoy separately or together for a total two-mile long walk.
The Nye loop is named after Pearl Nye, a famous musician and canal boat captain who wrote lyrics about Lockbourne’s canal and lock systems. He collected the history, music and tales of canal life, having been influenced by his birth on a canal boat in 1872.
The Maine loop is named after the last canal boat to pass through Lockbourne on its way down the Ohio and Erie Canal.
“The village of Lockbourne is proud to celebrate the new 114 mile driving trail featuring designated historic canal locks from Baltimore to Portsmouth,” said Lockbourne Mayor Christie Ward. “The Ohio and Erie Canal Southern Descent trail launch features five stopping points along the way to show the importance of the canals in Ohio’s transportation history. Lockbourne was a major stop during the canal days, as it was the connection point to Columbus.”
Lockbourne is home to canal locks number 26, 27, 29 and 30. It is the only location that contains remnants of the Columbus Feeder Canal, which once provided service to the growing capitol city.
The system of locks throughout the area played a huge role in the transportation of goods and the ability for passengers to travel throughout Ohio for about a penny a mile. The Ohio and Erie canal was completed between 1827 and 1832 and became one of the greatest manufactured waterway marvels of its time.