The old route between the Lakes and the Hudson
The completion of the Oneida river improvement re-establishes the ancient war communication between the Lakes and the Hudson, the channel through which troops and ammunitions of war were moved a hundred years ago. In 1813, Mr. Spafford, in his Gazetteer of the State of New York, describes this route as having a carrying place 15 miles between Albany and Schenectady, when the Mohawk afforded a boat navigation, with the aid of two short canals, that at the Little Falls, and at Rome, to Wood Creek, thus extending the navigation through Oneida Lake and Oswego river, to Lake Ontario,m with the exception of two other short portages in the Oswego river; a distance of 203 miles from Schenectady; 218 from Albany, with but15 miles, land carriage; and 393 miles from New York.
According to Mr. Spafford, the canal at Rome, connecting the waters of the Mohawk and Lake Ontario, was completed in 1797. This canal was 1 1/2 miles in length, with a lock at each end. It was fed by lateral cut from the Mohawk, which entered the canal nearly a mile west of the lock at that river. The lift, at the eastern lock, was 10 feet, that at the western, eight feet. Connected with this plan, there were four other locks on Wood Creek, within five miles of Rome. These were made by throwing dams across the stream, raising the water, and opening communication through locks.
The first of these, lifts four feet; the second, six feet; the third, seven feet; and the fourth, eight feet, making in all 25 feet; or 33 feet to the level of the canal. The fourth, above mentioned, is near the mouth of Canada Creek, from whence it was supposed there would be a sufficient depth of water.
Batteaus, carrying from three to 15 tons, and drawing two feet of water, passed the canal at all times; but in times of severe drought, experienced some difficulty below, both in the Mohawk and Wood Creek. A well informed correspondent, (says Mr. Spafford,) computes the number of boats that annually pass these locks, at 300; and that they carry 1,500 tons of goods, produce, &c. The canal at the Little Falls of the Mohawk, completed in 1795, has several locks, and extends the navigation by a fall of 42 feet within one mile.
Mr. Spafford thus states the expense of transportation, from New York to Albany, bulky articles pay about 40 cents per hundred weight; heavy from10 to 20 cents - say common freight, to average 25 to 30 cents per hundred. From Albany to Schenectady, 16 cents. From Schenectady to Utica, 75 cents; and from Utica to Oswego, $1.25 per hundred, including lockage, portage money, &c. - making in all $2.35 to $2.4 cents per hundred weight through this whole distance.
It will be seen that the amount of tonnage, number of boats, and cost of transportation in 1813 on the Oswego route, which was then the only route between the Lakes and the Hudson, bear something of a contrast, compared with the business and rates of freight of the present day.