The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
William Newman (Canal boat)

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      by Erik Heyl
The interesting old photograph of the WILLIAM NEWMAN (see cover) moored at Central wharf on her first arrival at Buffalo is reminiscent of the tense activities prevailing at the water front ninety years ago. The Central Wharf went up in fire and smoke in the early 1880’s, the Canal is filled in, and where tugs and tows cane and went in an endless procession there, are now elevated expressways roaring with the exhausts of streams of trucks, buses, and automobiles.

The National Archives at Washington have very kindly furnished the following details concerning the WILLIAM NEWMAN:

First Enrollment: No. 84. Buffalo N.Y. September 11, 1873
Last Enrollment: No. 7. Edenton, N.C. October 16, 1879

Tonnage: 138.94. Length: 92.0: Breadth: 17.0: Depth: 11.4. 2 decks. 0 Masts. Plain Head. Round Stern

Official Number: 80499. Built at Watkins N.Y.

Date of Build: 1872. Rig: Steam Canal Boat. Builder: Noah Squires, Watkins, N.Y.

First Owner: Frank Snell, Corning, N.Y.

Last document surrendered at Edenton, N.C., February 10, 1883, because the vessel was converted into a barge and became exempt from licensing.

The following information is copied from the back of a framed photograph given by the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce to the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society:

"WILLIAM NEWMAN or Buffalo as she appeared November 5, 1873, on her arrival at Buffalo from Troy after running a distance of 345 miles through 72 locks in the extraordinary total time of four days and twenty-two hours or three days and ten hours running time, with a cargo or 121 tons of mounding sand. The WILLIAM NEWMAN was designed and built by a practical canal men in the winter and spring of 1872; of the best white oak, second growth chestnut and pine, well fastened with iron and preserved with salt, and modeled after the best Erie Canal boats now in use. Is 98 feet long over all, 92 foot keel and 17 1/2 foot beam, weighs light, including machinery and water in the boiler, about 75 tons. Her carrying capacity in six feet of water fore and aft is 220 tons. The machinery consists of a simple single upright non-condensing engine, with cylinder 12 inches in diameter and 12 inches stroke of piston with a small donkey engine and pump for feeding the boiler and for fire protection. The engine has a variable cutoff and is well arranged to cut off short and work steam expansively. The boiler is horizontal, return tubular, 8 ft. long and 4 ft. diameter; the boiler and engine occupying no more space than is allotted on the horse boats to a stable, the fire grate is 39 inches long by 40 inches wide; area 10.83 sq. ft. has 34 return tubes, 2 1/2 in. dia., 6 ft. 5 in. long. The crown sheet is filled with Moses Steam Generating Spheres which increases the heating surface to about 220 sq. ft. The boiler is covered with Carver’s ground ash coating and sheet iron. The screw is 4 bladed, 5 ft. in diameter and 6 1/2 ft. pitch; average speed in 6 1/2 ft. of water is 3 miles per hour; in 7 ft., 4 miles per hour and in deeper wide water 6 miles per hr. Cost of hull and machinery all complete $7,000, coal consumption 100 lbs. per hour or 34 lbs. per mile. This style or machinery can be readily adapted to the present canal boats on the Erie Canal at a trifling expense. Average revolutions or the NEWMAN’s wheel is 85; average steam pressure is 80 lbs. cutting off at 1/1 or the stroke of piston receives the great benefit of expansion."

The WILLIAM NEWMAN came to Buffalo via the following route: from Watkins at the south end of Seneca Lake to Geneva at its north end. Then via the Seneca River and Canal, passing Waterloo and Seneca Falls to Montezuma, where the Erie Canal was entered and on to Buffalo.

Presumably from then on the WILLIAM NEWMAN traveled back and forth on the Erie Canal, perhaps even going down to New York. All this is mostly conjecture as there is an absolute minimum or news about the canal craft in the daily newspapers of that period. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the individual canal boats were of small importance; perhaps lack or space in the papers prevented listing their arrivals and departures, as there
were so many of them.

From the enrollments, it is evident that the WILLIAM NEWMAN was transferred to Edenton, N.C., some time in the fall or 1879. And right here her history comes to a stop. What she did down south, where she went cannot be ascertained. All inquiries about her drew complete blanks. No notices or records of her could be located at New Hanover Historical Commission, Wilmington, N.C.; North Carolina Department or Archives & History, Raleigh, N.C.; Library or University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C.; Edenton Public Library, Edenton, N.C.; Wm. Bragaw & Co., Insurance Agents since 1881, Washington, N.C.; and other private sources.

She may have run out of Edenton on the Chowan River or may have run between her home port and various landing places on Albermarle Sound. She may also have run on the Dismal Swamp Canal north to Smithfield and Norfolk. As of the present timed it is simply a case of "You pays your money and you take your pick!"
      Telescope Magazine
      December 1961 p. 223

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William R. McNeil
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William Newman (Canal boat)