THE MORRIS CANAL

As much as we’d like it to, summer vacation doesn’t last forever! Now that our students are back on campus, we’ve put away our summer projects and started getting back into the groove of the semester, and that includes jabbering on about the history of Centenary University!

On October 9th, the library will be hosting a talk on the Morris Canal given by Tim Roth, Vice President of the Canal Society of NJ. The Morris Canal, a system of waterways that traversed New Jersey from the Delaware River in Phillipsburg to the west, to Newark and later, the Hudson River in Jersey City to the east. Its purpose was to carry loads of coal and iron across the state to New York. The system utilized existing bodies of water, manmade waterways, locks, and water-controlled inclined planes. The Canal was in existence from 1824 to 1924, and in that time it was a place of commerce, travel, and recreation for those who enjoyed walking the towpaths (paths that mules walked as they tugged Canal boats along) or ice-skating in the winter months.

In Hackettstown, the Morris Canal crossed High Street and Hope Street (now Route 46), and ran parallel to Buck Hill, Grand Avenue, and Rockport Road before meandering to Route 57 in Port Colden.

1880s-1890s Hackettstown overlay Morris Canal

This picture was taken from Centenary Collegiate Institute between 1883 and 1895. The view looks to the Northwest, towards Great Meadows. In the center is Buck Hill, or Malvern Hill, as stated by the caption on the back of the photograph. The blue line shows the path of the Morris Canal. By the 1870s, the Canal was seeing less and less use due to new railroads and highway systems.

page from The Story of CCI

From the booklet “The Story of C.C.I.”, c. 1910-1930

Professor Leila Custard’s Through Golden Years recalls the Morris Canal as a place for students to go skating and hiking. The Canal, only 5 blocks from the school, was a welcome retreat for students.

There is so much fascinating history about the Morris Canal – the water-powered inclined planes used rails and cables to pull boats up and down hills in a way similar to how a roller coaster pulls trains up to the first peak on a coaster’s track. The Canal is also why there are landlocked towns and municipalities with ‘Port’ in their names (Port Murray, Port Colden, Port Morris) – they were ports on the Morris Canal!

We will be learning all about its construction, use, and its second life as a Greenway for hiking on October 9th at 7 pm in the Library. We’d love to see you there! (For info on the talk, please call us at 908-852-1400, ext. 2345) If you’d like to learn more about the Canal but can’t make it to the talk, come check out one of the several books we have on the topic!

 

Custard, Leila Roberta. Through Golden Years: 1867 -1943. New York: Lewis
Historical Publishing Company, Inc, 1947. Print.

Goller, Robert R. The Morris Canal: Across New Jersey by Water and Rail. Charleston, Arcadia Publishing, 1999. Print.

Kalata, Barbara N. A Hundred Years, A Hundred Miles. Morristown, Morris County Historical Society, 1983. Print.

Veit, Richard F. The Old Canals of New Jersey. Little Falls, New Jersey Geological Press, 1963. Print.

 

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