Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Last week, “Aunt Edna” Smith led us on journey to explore the early days of Lockport history. Today, we continue that journey by looking at more of her reminisces.
Few people today realize that the area where the locks are located was once a ravine where in ancient times water tumbled over the Niagara Escarpment. “Aunt Edna” noted that “one can scarcely imagine how wild and picturesque an appearance it presented in early times. Before the canal was commenced there was a pond in the ravine fed by numerous springs and rivulets flowing from the hillside. The slopes and sides of the surrounding precipices were covered with trees and shrubs, mossy rocks, ferns and wild flowers, reaching to the water’s edge, which was gay with ivy and cowslips.”
In the winter the basin below where the locks would be built would freeze over and become an ideal spot for ice skating. “Aunt Edna” recalled that one skater in particular stood out for his “grace and skill.” That skater was none other than Lockport entrepreneur and local abolitionist Lyman A. Spalding. “A large space would be given him on the ice, where he would display his agility by cutting his name, “true lover’s knots, and all kinds of geometrical and fantastic figures.” Spalding would become one of Lockport’s most prominent citizens.
Another story that “Aunt Edna” related involved a young couple who had recently moved to Lockport so the husband could find work. Her husband, Dr. Isaac Smith, had just attended the woman who had given birth in a run-down shanty near the canal. He sent “Aunt Edna” there to see if she could in any way relieve this girl’s misery in such a place. When she arrived, she found a “young, beautiful, refined English woman” who told her tale of woe to her sympathetic visitor. She had married an Irishman against her parents’ wishes and emigrated with him to Canada. While there, they heard that work was available on the canal in Lockport. They came here and her husband found a job as a common laborer. Their child was born in Lockport soon after their arrival.