The smoothest ride you’ve ever had!
That describes the trip along the restored Ohio-Erie Canal near Roscoe Village. Two horses, Rock and Bill, slowly walk the original tow path as they gently pull a replica of the canal boats that traveled this same route in the early 1800s. Sit back and relax on this forty minute ride while you listen to the captain tell the story of life on the canal.
Two Percheron horses pull the Monticello III canal boat quite easily. The hoggee, or horseman, leads them along the tow path. He uses 150′ of rope to guide them as they pull with great ease this flat bottomed boat weighing twenty-five tons.
In 1803, the need for a canal was evident. They would place a boat carrying goods on the Muskingum River, and it would drift downstream to the spot in Marietta where it met the Ohio River. They had no way to get the boat back upstream, so they had to dismantle the boat and carry it piece by piece to be reassembled. The canal eliminated that problem.
Ground breaking for the canal began in 1825.The canal was built by Irish immigrants, who worked for 30 cents a day and four jiggers of whiskey. The need for whiskey came into play to avoid the condition known as canal fever.
First, the canal was dug by hand to a depth of four feet, then lined with clay to make a sturdy bottom. How did they pack the clay? With a sheep-foot roller – a herd of sheep ran over it to smooth it.
Completion occurred in 1832, seven years later. Transportation at that time gave few choices – either a stagecoach or a passenger boat. Rates for the boats were fifty cents a day, which included room and board, while stagecoach fares were typically five cents a mile.
Often three hundred boats traveled on the canal at one time. Passing became the real challenge as their tow ropes could easily get tangled. This intricate job fell to the hoggees, the boys who guided not only the horses, but also the tow ropes. Quite often they were teenage orphans with no other way to find food and shelter.
Former president, James Garfield, worked as a hoggee in 1847 when he was a teenager. The story was told that Garfield fell into the canal so often, he became ill. After that experience, that young man decided that college would be a better choice.
Captains often lived in the cabin on the boats with their family. The females of the family would be the cooks and do household tasks as they traveled on the canal. All garbage and waste was thrown to the towpath side. So if the cooks needed extra water for cooking they would dip it from the side opposite the towpath.Turtle soup was a favorite treat.
As humorous as it may sound, there was a speed limit for boats on the canal to keep the banks from eroding. Four miles an hour was the limit and they were fined for speeding. Speed was determined by how long it took to get from one lock to the next.
In 1913, a major flood throughout Ohio wiped out the Erie Canal. Parts of it still exist today from Cleveland to Portsmouth. View a bit of history and take the smoothest ride imaginable at Roscoe Village sometime this summer. It’s relaxing!
The canal boat ride at Roscoe Village is seasonal from Memorial Day to Labor Day on Tuesday – Saturday at 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00 and Sunday at 1:00 and 2:00.