By Peter Becker
HAWLEY - The 108-mile Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Canal had two special locks where boats not making the entire trip would have to stop to determine the freight charge. One of those "weigh locks" was at Hawley, PA; the other was 100 miles east, at Eddyville, NY.
This special lock in Hawley was located in the canal section running parallel to lower Hudson Street.
The D&H Canal which began in Honesdale and extended to Rondout, NY on the Hudson River. The D&H operated between 1828 and 1898. Primarily used to ship anthracite coal mined in the Lackawanna Valley, the D&H helped fuel the Industrial Revolution and supplied the New York market. Towns along its route, including Honesdale and Hawley, owe their major development and prosperity to shipping of coal.
What we know as Hudson Street was nicknamed "Plank Road" as it was paved with timbers and was the main thoroughfare. It lined the commercial district of Hawley before the downtown was developed south of the Middle Creek. Hawley's streets were officially known by numbers, and this was First Street. The name of Hudson came later, when a new naming system came into use around the end of the 19th Century.
Hudson of course, relates to the legacy of the D&H.
There were 108 locks on the canal, although that did not mean there was one lock per mile. Their spacing was uneven, following the changing terrain. The locks, made of stone and lined with wood, accommodated one boat at a time. Gates would close, and the water level raised or lowered depending on the boat's direction, to adjust for changing elevation.
In Hawley there were was one weigh lock and two regular locks, the latter numbered Lock 30 and Lock 29. The regular locks each had a 10 foot lift.
Coming from the direction of Honesdale and nearing Hawley, a canal boat would pass through Lock 31 just west of Hawley, where there was an inn for canal boat crews and other travelers. Wayne County Historical Society is currently undertaking a restoration of this site. In Hawley, the canal widened into a large basin in what is today Bingham Park.
The D&H carried its own coal on boats from Honesdale, having arrived on its gravity rail system from the Carbondale area mines. At Hawley, beginning in 1850, the Pennsylvania Coal Company (PCC) had its own fleet of canal boats where coal, brought on its own gravity railroad, would be loaded on boats in the basin.
Levi Barker carried on a productive trade next to the basin making canal boats.
The canal then narrowed again, hugging First Street (Hudson) on one side and the Lackawaxen on the other.
Just after the "S" curve on First Street, the canal widened into another but smaller basin, for the weigh lock.
Boats that were not going the full length would go through the weigh lock; other boats would pass it by and enter Lock 30 (known as Hennessey's) just after the weigh lock.
Hawley had begun to wane as a boat center when the PCC shifted to transferring its coal to Erie steam locomotive trains, one the railroad was constructed from Lackawaxen in 1863. After that, only three boats continued to be loaded with the PCC coal, which was taken only to Rosendale, NY along the canal rather than the entire route.
These coal shipments were weighed first in the Hawley weigh lock, to determine the freight charge. Once the boat entered, the lock master emptied the lock of water, allowing the boat to settle on scales. to calculate the weight and thus the charge.
Transferring coal onto boats or onto a waiting steam train at Hawley lasted until 1885 when the Erie & Wyoming Valley Railroad took the place of the PCC gravity system. The D&H Canal would continue operation from Honesdale for another 13 years, but at Hawley, coal was passed through by steam train straight from the mines, fast outpacing the mule-drawn canal boats.
After Lock 30, the canal was narrow once again, passing under the Eddy Bridge.
Still parallel to the Lackawaxen where the river starts to bend on its way out of Hawley, boats would pass through Lock 29 (Conklin's). From there, boats headed to Kimbles and along the towpath to Lackawaxen, crossing the Roebling Viaduct (built in 1847 and now a motor vehicle bridge), entering New York State.
Several structures still standing on Hudson Street date to the canal days. Immediately above the site of the weigh lock is a private residence, 720 Hudson Street, that had served as the D&H telegraph office. It was built in 1854 as an office for the Canal Company Paymaster.
Near the building was the lock tender's house, a harness shop and a mule barn.
The D&H Canal served as an early and important line of communication for the marvelous telegraph age. In 1848, the D&H granted permission to a company out of which developed the Western Union Telegraph Company, to use its towpath for poles and lines. That line began at Lake Erie and passed through Carbondale, down the D&H gravity railroad, connecting with the canal at Honesdale.
In addition to coal, merchants would utilize the canal to ship their goods. Lumber was an important commodity shipped on the D&H. Christian Dorflinger, who founded his cut glass manufacturing empire in White Mills in 1865, had his orders carefully packed in straw in wooden boxes, and shipped on the boats that passed through the village.
Farnham & Collingwood was a major lumbering concern in the Wallenpaupack valley in the late 19th Century. Their saw mill was at Wilsonville, where the Wallenpaupack River was dammed to create a large and powerful waterfall to turn their wheels.
The 1872 map of Hawley shows that Farnham & Collingwood kept a lumber yard along the canal, sandwiched between lower Hudson Street and the canal, just east of Lock 30 and the weigh lock.
A time traveler from the present would not feel completely out of sorts, with many familiar landmarks that would be found in their late 19th Century glory, including the nearby Eddy Hotel (Cora's 1850 Bistro) and Bellemonte (Hawley) Silk Mill.
The canal in this section, however, is all but erased. Today, Settler's Village occupies the site between Hudson Street and the river. Modular homes have replaced the mobile trailer homes that were found there in the 1970's and 1980's.
[Editor's note: The Wallenpaupack Historical Society is planning a new book on the D&H Canal based on old newspaper accounts. Watch for the announcement.]