MIDDLESEX CANAL and GREAT WEEKEND – 18-20 JUNE 2022

A month or so ago my son Gary and I were “Zooming” and I suggested meeting at the Middlesex Canal Museum in North Bellerica, and exploring the canal which traverses both Woburn and Winchester, Massachusetts, were he and my son, David, live. A plan was hatched, a day picked, and then we realized it was also Father’s Day weekend – what a special treat it became.

As the 18th approached, Gary’s schedule got busy with friends, and it made sense for me to visit the museum on my own, gather material for future exploration, and arrive at his home mid-afternoon Saturday. Ends up that was the right plan – right plan so we could effectively plan canal explorations after my purchasing all the material available from the museum. I headed to Fitzwilliam, and turned east on Route 119, which is still 119 in Massachusetts. I cannot wait for a more detailed study on Route 119. Recently I have started trying to learn about Colonial Meeting Houses, and they are to be found along this route, particularly in Ashby and Townsend. A day’s outing is now “in the works.” I arrived at the museum a few minutes after it opened at noon. As you may have noted, many of my outings are “theme related” – canals, and soon meeting houses.

currently in this amazing restored mill, by the end of the year the museum will be across the street in an historic building on the canal they are restoring. To set the stage, here are some facts from the museum. You can click this image for easier reading.

A great little museum, I was overwhelmed with all the presentations. As you enter, you see this model boat.

Middlesex Canal Museum

the shovel that turned the dirt at the beginning of the canal – oh, keep in mind that all 27.5 miles were dug by hand.

This working model shows youngsters how locks work.

in a number of instances, it was easier in building the canal to build aqueducts over existing waterways instead of trying to incorporate them. Here is a model of the Shawsheen Aqueduct.

Still overwhelmed with this canal marvel, I purchased the books below for study prior to a mile by mile exploration.

I arrived at Gary’s just as I said I would at 3PM. We had a project, and started it. In 1957 I was a contestant on GIANT STEP, a quiz show with Bert Parks. We had found very little on line about the show – only one video. Eventually I will relate the entire tale to you, but I have a recording of the six times I was on TV, and lots of ephemera. Gary and I planned to digitize my recording, and develop an illustrated video to share with the world. So, our first project was to play my record, not touched in over 60 years – now that sounds scary. Here I am with Bert Parks on set in February 1957.

Sons Gary and David live three miles apart although in two different towns north of Boston. I am blessed that I have wonderful children (their sister is in NJ), they all get along, are supportive of each other, and are contributing members of society. Saturday was David and Mari’s seventeenth anniversary, and we picked them up and headed to Cambridge for dinner at Shabu Shabu. They had dinner at the same restaurant in Tokyo – this is unique, like fondue, but you cook what you wish in various broths.

my family ready to eat away.

The Middlesex Canal is an amazing early engineering marvel in the infant United States, and as I dig, more and more information comes to surface. Gary’s town, Woburn, was incorporated in 1642, but amazingly the historical society not established until 2006. They have an amazing number of history videos, and I will be watching The Middlesex Canal: Woburn’s First Interstate shortly after I complete this post.

After brunch with David and Mari on Sunday, Gary and I set out to explore the canal as it passed through Woburn. I am so glad I purchased at the museum the book MIDDLESEX CANAL GUIDE AND MAPS by Burt VerPlanck. We started at the monument at historic Horn Pond – one of the first resort spots in the US.

along the pond there were three sets of double locks, basically along what is now this path. We wondered how many people enjoy this area are aware of its history over two centuries ago.

at the locks for amusement and respite there were taverns, inns, and bowling alleys. The “most pretentious of the Horn Pond taverns” is on Lakeview Terrace. The guide said number 7 is a brown dwelling house, but now it is gray, and still impressive in a “modern neighborhood.”

the step by step guide book is fantastic – “go directly across onto North Warren St., then immediately turn right between the first two buildings onto Wade Place, which is a narrow alleyway built on the old canal bed.”

“… go right onto Middlesex Street. On the left, almost hidden by shrubs, is the canal. The first house on the right, number 5 Middlesex St., was the house of the keeper of the stop gate located nearby.”

if you did not have the guide book you would never know that this hidden depression was a canal two hundred years ago.

“… Continue north on Route 38, passing under Route 95/128 at the traffic circle and immediately turn sharp right at the traffic light, into Alfred Street. A water filled and dredged section of the canal stretches to the North.”

“… Here stands the Baldwin mansion, moved in 1971 from its original location in the nearby shopping center. Now a restaurant, Baldwins was formally the home of Loammi Baldwin, superintendent and chief engineer on the construction of the Middlesex Canal.”

off School Street “… This section of the canal has been dredged and the railroad embankment removed so that the canal and towpath are restored to the original configurations.”

Did I say that I have “too much fun?” There is so much to see, so much to learn, so many places to explore. And, with a focus to the learning and exploration, I find that one thing leads to another and more adventures. And what could be a better way than to share it with family.

This week is Old Home Days in Walpole, with the introduction of my new book – DID YOU KNOW THAT: EXPLORATIONS INTO WALPOLE, NEW HAMPSHIRE HISTORY. Then comes the week before the 4th – not a good time to get out and travel. BUT — then watch out, LADYRAB III and I will get out as will BB1 and BB2 and I.

Thanks for following, luv, RAY

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4 Responses to MIDDLESEX CANAL and GREAT WEEKEND – 18-20 JUNE 2022

  1. David says:

    So I guess this means the Merrimack has another 80 feet to fall from Lowell to the ocean. I guess that is why Haverhill is a big mill town. I suspect Lowell was as well. But there must have been more if the river falls 80 feet in that short distance. Something else to figure out.

  2. Ray Boas says:

    Yes, so much more to explore along those paths as well – plan to join me.

  3. Anthony Kulakusky says:

    Great story Ray.

  4. Steohanie Proll says:

    Thank u for educating me
    About the middlesex canal!
    I grew up and graduated
    From Wilmington high 1972.
    I only hope this history will he
    Shared in the schools! It
    Would be a great field trip.
    Oh wait they dont do trips, do they

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