Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Opinion

May 25, 2013

CANAL DISCOVERIES: Canal shortened time and distance

(Continued)

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — After 1825, the benefits of opening the Erie Canal became immediately evident. The flow of goods into and out of this area became commonplace and affordable. The Erie Canal also brought many new settlers to this part of the state. 

With a shortage of bank currency, the Holland Land Company even accepted wheat, cattle and other goods, in exchange for settlers’ land purchases. With the arrival of the canal, real money also flowed into the area and solved a lot of problems inherent in trying to use barter for purchasing.

By 1828, a number of men in the area had profited to a great degree from canal construction and land speculation. These men began building substantial homes of canal stone, brick, and lumber. Fireplaces were usually built in each room. Saw mills grew up along the creeks and finished lumber homes replaced the old log cabins. After the opening of the canal, lumbering became one of the leading industries in the area. Oak lumber from Niagara County was shipped to the Atlantic seaboard. The longer timbers were used in ocean-going vessels and the shorter timbers were cut into staves for barrels. 

With a cheap way to transport crops, Niagara County became the leading fruit area in the state. Cooper shops were busy making barrels for apples to be shipped on the Erie Canal. Also, “Evaporators” and “Dry Houses,” became common and apples were first dried and then stored in barrels.

Carol Sheriff, in her book, The Artificial River, noted that all manner of consumer goods were making their way into Western New York after the opening of the Erie Canal. The Batavia newspaper in 1824 ran the headline “Oyster! Oysters! Beautiful Oysters!” The editor noted, “Let us remember that Providence is the author of the ocean, and DeWitt Clinton the Projector of the Erie Canal.” 

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