When we think about the first days of the Erie Canal as it snaked its way across Niagara County, we think of pastoral scenes of unbroken wilderness, idyllic vistas and quiet waters. This was probably the case for most observers from the 19th century, but to a few, the occasion of a canal boat ride offered little romance.
A certain Mrs. Frances Trollope from England recorded her impressions for posterity in 1832. “With a very delightful party of one’s own choosing, fine temperate weather and a strong breeze to chase the mosquitoes, this mode of traveling might be very agreeable, but I can hardly imagine any motive of conscience powerful enough to induce me again to imprison myself in a canal board under ordinary circumstances…We reached Utica the following day, (drained) by the sun by day and a crowded cabin by night. Lemon juice and water (without sugar) kept us alive. We arrived in Rochester on the second morning after leaving Utica, fully determined never to enter a canal boat again, at least not in America.”
“Our journey now became wilder at every step; the sight of a log hut was an event. Lockport is, beyond all comparison, the strangest looking place I ever beheld. As fast as a dozen trees were cut down, a factory was raised up. It looks as if the demons of machinery, having invaded the peaceful realms of nature, have fixed on Lockport as the battleground on which they should strive for mastery. The battle is lost and won. Nature is fairly routed, and driven from the field and the rattling, crackling, hissing, spitting demon has taken possession of Lockport forever.”
Douglas Farley, Director
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094