New book explores Ohio Canals southern leg

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 Messenger photo by Linda Dillman
 Author David Meyer’s new book on the Ohio and Erie Canal begins in Lockbourne, where a feeder canal branched off to Columbus and the main canal continued to Ohio’s southern border. Many of the Lockbourne’s locks are still intact, including Lock 30-where the book begins-located in a Lockbourne park, and two along Canal Road.

 

Author David Meyer and the Canal Winchester Area Historical Society are teaming up again to publish "Life Along the Ohio Canal in the Scioto Valley," a companion piece to Meyers’ earlier work on the canal system.

One hundred and seventy-five years ago the Ohio and Erie Canal opened all the way from Lake Erie to the Ohio River at West Portsmouth. The canal was created by thousands of men working mostly by hand to establish a short-lived, yet critical transportation system. Meyer follows the path of the canal as it traveled near the Scioto River from Lockbourne south through Pickaway, Ross, Pike, and Scioto counties.

Meyer’s latest book offers a fascinating insight into how the lives of people were impacted by the canal as it traversed the state and offered a new mode of transportation for people and commerce. It is filled with photographs, maps, and images related to the development of the canal in central Ohio to the southern border of the state.

"I try to use as many resources as possible when writing a book," said Meyer, "such as the Ohio Historical Society, local experts, and historical societies up and down the sections I’m studying. Many towns, of any size, often have people who have a particular interest in the canal system and I seek them out. Thankfully, there seems to be more interest now in preserving canal sections.

"During my research, I sometimes find maps no longer exist of the canal as it went through a particular village, so I use tools such as fire maps created by insurance companies at the time to fill in where documents are missing. I also take the actual canal plats and recreate maps, which takes me many hours to make, included in the book."

Meyer said his goal in writing the book was for it to serve as a coffee table-style publication for people with a general interest in days gone by and not as a heavy-handed research document. Anecdotes, such as an argument over the location of the canal and an aqueduct through Circleville, are peppered through out the book.

According to Meyer, although there was a lock in Portsmouth at the Ohio River (one of the last to be constructed which regularly filled with silt), it was rarely used in favor of canal boats exiting into the Scioto River from the canal and then exiting into the Ohio River or turning around and heading back up the canal.

He also reported the southern section of the Ohio Canal was not as economically successful as the northern portion, which featured a stronger connection with east coast commerce. However, pork was a popular commodity for transport along the southern route and there was an affinity with southern businesses.

"This is about the boatmen, the people living along the canal, and how the canal impacted their lives," Meyer said. "People don’t have to read the book straight through. They can take little chunks at a time and chew them up and learn not only about their history, but also the history around them.

"I’ve been working on this book for six to seven years. I write as a hobby and have a full time job. This is intended as a commemoration for the 175th anniversary of the finish of the canal in the southern part of the state and because it is a special year for canal buffs. It also serves as a guidebook. If someone took the book and went to a site, they could figure out what it looked like when the canal was in operation."

Meyer’s previous books include "Life Along the Ohio Canal-Licking Reservoir to Lockbourne and the Columbus Feeder," "Fifty Six Miles Into the Hills-The Story of the Lancaster Lateral and Hocking Canals," "Boats on the Ohio Canal-1839 to 1855," and "Collector of Tolls on the Ohio Canal System."

Copies of "Life Along the Ohio Canal  in the Scioto Valley" are available for $25 plus shipping from the Canal Winchester Historical Society, P.O. Box 15, Canal Winchester, OH, 43110 in November.

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