Dear Journal, I was in the little town of Rome on July 4th 1817, meand about 200 other men were digging this ditch that was going to be calledThe Erie Canal and was supposed to go all the way though New York, by handwith only picks and shovels to help. Day after day all we did was dig,sleep and eat, we needed some action, finally it happened. It was the GreatCayuga Swamp near Montezuma, where we dug all day in it only to find ithad filled back in by the morning, so we pounded posts about 2 feet intothe ground, then put huge retaining walls to shore up the sides of theswamp.
Even though that job was all done, still lots of us suffered from malariabecause of the mosquito infested swamp we had passed, and the men who hadit succumbed to the sickness.
Unfortunately we had another problem and that was the Irondequoit CreekValley. We were forced to build a number of locks in order to go down oneside and up the other. We couldn't make an aqueductbecause there was no aqueduct water supply, but fortunately we were ableto design a great embankment connecting the hills formed by glacier outwashes on either side of valley with fill to carry the canal 70 feet abovethe valley floor.
By then we thought that was the worst of the problems, but it wasn't!Crossing the Mighty Genesee River was the next challenge, because Rochester'srivers were disrupted by flood waters almost every year meaning we'd haveto build huge stone aqueduct all the way across the river which was 800feet across.
Finally the last obstacle was the Niagara Escarpment, which was sheercliffs near Lockport. We had to chisel five pairs of combined locks throughthe stone carrying the canal up or down a vertical rise of 50 feet andconnect it with the Buffalo secion. The double locks allowed two ways oftraffic.
With this final obstacle solved the canal was complete! I felt likeI could sleep for a whole year after all that work!
Special Features of the Erie Canal