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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  •  Signs of the grand D&H Canal

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  •  By Peter Becker?Managing Editor? HAWLEY - Traveling the roads today, one would scarcely imagine the grand 19th Century canal that connected Honesdale to Hawley and continued east to the Hudson River, its corridor flourishing with commerce and building communities along the way. Remnants and artifacts exist, here and there escaping the temptation of generations since to pave and fill.?Hawley was an important hub of canal-related industry, its growth and prosperity intwined with the transportation of precious anthracite coal that fueled the nation, as well as conveyance of lumber and other cargo.?Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Canal remnants stand intact right in Hawley. Beyond the often-talked about canal boat basin that explains the broad depression in Bingham Park, a stretch of the canal fairly well preserved exists practically out of sight within the borough limits. In fact, the same section of canal still contains the stone piers of a bridge that allowed townspeople from East Hawley to cross over the water-laden canal bed and get downtown.?An earlier story chronicled how people in 19th Century Hawley got back and forth across what is now the park and commercial stretch along Route 6, from The Settlers Inn to the Borough hall. This whole area, during the 70 years of the canal era, was busy with the transport of coal.The routeThe canal, which started in Honesdale, closely paralleled what we call Route 6, and came into Hawley next to the road in what is now the side yard of The Settlers Inn. The large basin took up the north half of what became Bingham Park. From there the canal continued parallel between Hudson Street and the Lackawaxen River, on its way to Kimbles in Pike County and beyond.?The D&H operated between 1828 and 1898.?The 108 mile canal contained as many locks to lower or raise the boats with changing elevation. Hawley had two locks. Lock #30 parallel to Hudson Street, was a lock to weigh cargo other than coal to determine the shipping cost. Merchants made use of the canal along the route. Lock #29 was east of the Eddy Bridge just before where the river is joined by the Wallenpaupack Creek. Just beyond this, water from the Paupack Falls went over the river in a feeder aqueduct, to supply the canal.?The basin was required when the Pennsylvania Coal Company (PCC) began operation in 1850. At first a subsidiary to the canal company, the PCC had its own gravity rail system, as did the D&H, to bring coal to the canal. At Hawley, before the PCC switched to using locomotive trains in 1863, had to transfer the coal at the basin to waiting canal boats.?The basin was also next to the work yard of a canal boat manufacturer, Levi Barker, who took up much of the southern end of our park.?Downtown Hawley was laid out by the PCC, which sold lots on the flat terrain. This quickly became the towns' commercial district, supplanting the early commercial strip on Hudson Street. The latter was earlier known as the Plank Road, for the wood plank paving the busy thoroughfare. PCC listed it as "First Street."Many bridgesResidents on this side of the river, from "East Hawley" could cross the canal at three points around the basin; on the north side, behind today's Setters Inn; opposite what we call Spruce Street, where the main intersection is today; and on the south end of the basin, where Park Place today joins Hudson Street.?Filled in not long after the canal's demise in 1898, the middle bridge became the entrance to a new road straight to the Middle Creek bridge and downtown. There would need to continue to be a bridge on the southern end, where a pond lingered after the basin was drained, and became a popular swimming hole and winter ice rink. "Tether's Lake" lasted until the 1942 flood washed it out.?Another bridge on Hudson Street crossed the canal to the towpath, near the "S" curve. A fifth bridge spanned the canal at the Eddy, where the road zig-zagged to the Lackawaxen River bridge linking with the end of Church Street.?Just north of the canal bridge above Settler's was a bridge over the Lackawaxen River. A pier can still be seen, at the end of Old Gravity Road. Maps from 1860 and 1872 aren't clear about where the public crossed the Lackawaxen to reach downtown. They could have taken the bridge to what is now Old Gravity Road, or possibly what appears to be a crossing shown on the 1872 map on the south end of what is now Bingham Park.ArtifactsFew eyes have likely seen or been where the northern canal bridge stood, since the canal was closed. The area behind The Settlers Inn's yard is wooded, and narrow, between the Route 6 guide rail and the river. Passengers in cars can barely see the remains of the canal from the highway.?When a proposed recreational trail is finally developed, connecting the Lake Wallenpaupack trail to town, the plan is to continue the hiking path behind Settler's and onto the towpath or canal bed remnants. The Wayne County Historical Society owns a section of this canal remnant after Settler's property. From there, walkers would stay on the highway right-of-way past businesses, and reach the Historical Society's D&H Canal Park, now under development in Palmyra Township, about a mile from Hawley.?More artifacts abound just outside Hawley, some out in the open. Most notably is the Historical Society's canal park, where the 1820's inn served travelers, including canal families. In back is Lock #31, complete with some extant wooden beams. The canal is extra wide here to accommodate parking of boats and boats waiting to go through the lock. Two granite snubbing posts still mark one side where ropes would be slung to slow down the boats. The park also includes a mile of towpath. Volunteers labor to maintain the area, which is not yet formally open.?On the Pike County side, motorists on the Towpath Road enjoy scenery of the river that was enjoyed long ago by canal people, on their lonely trek. The roadway takes up the towpath route and part of the former canal bed. Stone canal wall and lock wall remnants are still visible in places. Canal remnants may also be glimpsed at Kimbles and Lackawaxen. The Roebling Bridge at Lackawaxen is a major artifact, which originally carried canal boats across instead of cars.Lingering storiesWith some imagination, walking the canal remnants can take you back to the days of the long narrow boats, accompanied by the boat's captain and his family. One family member would be on the towpath guiding the horse or mule, pulling the boat along.?The bridge piers behind Settler's still stand. The stones once held a wooden bridge, where residents and horse-drawn wagons or buggies would cross. The expert masonry work of the canal walls and piers, so much done by Irish immigrants who made this their home, bear silent witness to their craft a century plus later.?At the base of one of the piers in the leaves there is found a broken half of an earthen ware jug. One can try and speculate its story. What today would be litter becomes a historic artifact, a shard of a generation past. Perhaps the jug fell from a boat, or was tossed from someone on the bridge. It may have come from the road, but its placement is behind a pier.?Those who went before us made their mark, some of which we still see with our eyes. Their stories of every day life fade with each passing year and decade. So little remains of legacies, and we wonder what we will provide those who are yet to come to ponder what we were like and why we did what we did. We can yet pause to reflect on the testimony of those hard working families and individuals who called Hawley and other local areas home, and made a foundation for what and who we have today. 
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