Marker Text: Route of travel and trade, Pittsburgh to Great Lakes, 1840-1871. Important to the western Pennsylvania iron industry before the rise of the railroads. The only remaining canal lock still stands in Sharpsville.
Location: West of the intersection with PA Route 18 & 518 on Route 518, east of Sharpsville. Erected by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1946.
Second Marker Text: Route of travel and trade, Pittsburgh to Great Lakes, 1840-1871. Important to the western Pennsylvania iron industry before the rise of the railroads. Lock #10, a guard lock, represents the only remaining canal lock.
Location: In front of the park where this canal is located. East High Street Extension along the route going to the Shenango Dam. Project sponsored by: PA Department of Community Affairs State P-500 Bond Program.
For today's posting there are two markers making reference to the same remaining canal lock on the Erie Extension Canal. One marker is near Hermitage, PA at the turn going west to Sharpsville where the lock is located. There is a similar, but smaller marker in front of the park leading to the only remaining lock. The complete masonry remains of Erie Extension Lock number 10 are preserved in a public park with picnic grounds and fishing facilities.
I remember this second marker next to the old canal lock when I was child, since my parents grew up near where this lock is located and as a child I remember visiting the lock, while visiting my grandmother. I have posted some other markers about transportation, roads and ferries, and in the early years of the U.S. transportation methods where important to opening up sections of the nation. The use of waterways, whether rivers, lakes, or canals were frequently the easiest and/or least expensive method for transporting goods and passengers.
When the Erie Canal, crossing New York state from Albany to Lake Erie, had been in operation some ten or twelve years, the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal was shipping from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh on a southern Pennsylvania route. The opportunities offered to those communities with access to a canal did not escape the notice of citizens and businesses in northwestern Pennsylvania.
They began their own campaign to gain their own canal. They wanted a canal that would connect the Erie Canal with the Pennsylvania Main Line, via Lake Erie and the Ohio River, thus extending the infrastructure to support the surge of people moving westward and bringing new prosperity to northwestern Pennsylvania. The construction of this canal would provide a safe and reliable means of moving commercial goods between major eastern and western cities. Around 1838, the building of the Erie Extension Canal was commenced at the old town of Beaver on the Ohio River; it was completed for shipping to the Port of Erie in 1844. The total length of this man-made waterway was 136 miles. Winding through five northwestern Pennsylvania counties, it connected the Ohio River with Lake Erie.
The primary challenge was in overcoming an elevation change of about 1,000 feet over the entire 136-mile stretch from the Ohio River to Lake Erie. That was accomplished through the placement of 137 locks, 72 of which sat between Erie and Conneaut Lake.
This important route of trade and travel from Pittsburgh to the Great Lakes was responsible for the emergence of many towns along its banks, some long forgotten and was vital to the rise of the Western Pennsylvania iron industry before the introduction of railroads. Boats that could carry up to 80 tons of goods over the canal greatly improved travel and opened new markets for local products. Its brief existence helped grow industrial centers like Erie and Meadville, and it played a major role in the development of Girard, Albion, Conneautville, and Conneaut Lake.
The canal is remembered today mostly by 12 roadside historical markers, all dedicated by the state in 1948, that mark various points in Erie and Crawford counties where the canal or its feeder systems were located.
Where this marker is located, is the Shenango River which played an important role in the operations of the Erie Extension Canal. Canal sections exist near the Shenango River Lake near Hermitage only a few miles from here. Well-preserved remains of Lock Number 10 are found in Sharpsville, about a 0.5 miles (0.8 km) south of the Shenango Dam. Maintained for hiking, the Shenango Trail follows the old canal towpath. It runs about 8 miles (13 km) along the east side of the Shenango River from Kidd's Mill Covered Bridge to the confluence of Lackawannock Creek and the river. Canal artifacts and a replica of a canal boat called the Rufus S. Reed, are on display at the Greenville Canal Museum in Greenville, on the Shenango River 72 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.