Canal Workers

Interviewee:  unnamed former canal barge and maintenance men
Dates of birth/ages at interview:  unknown
Interviewer:  another former canal worker
Interview date:  estimated 1960s or early 1970s
Interview location:  meeting in Upper Black Eddy of the Delaware Valley Professional Association
Interview length:  41 minutes
Time span discussed:  early 1900s

Summary:  An unnamed canal worker interviews a series of other former barge men and canal maintenance men as part of an effort to spur interest in reviving the canal for recreational use. Most of them started working as early as 6 to 15 years old; often because their fathers were working the boat life. Reflections of hauling coal to Philadelphia and New York City bring us insights into the type of work and the life.


Time markers:
00:00 – introduction
01:30 – Bill, single, Upper Black Eddy
01:44 – Abraham Frankenfield, began work at 6 years old, worked 33 years boating
03:10 – John Agnen, worked from 8 years old to 21 years old; Harry, boated from 1900 to 1909, bought own boat
04:32 – Lehigh Navigation Company : how it worked the system of boating; boatman earnings
05:30 – Whiskey John Miller started at 15 years old, story of his name
08:45 – John’s first boat trip to New York City, 13 year old boat boy
10:41 – 300 boats counted as traffic on canal, talk of 1000
12:45 – New Hope’s famous woman on a boat
13:30 – mules
15:15 – locktender’s job, rules not followed
17:00 – too young to work: review of a boy away from home, family, mother
19:00 – day of work on the canal 4 a.m. to 10 p.m.; pumping water out at 3 a.m. for day
20:00 – Frank, maintenance of the canal, two to four men worked a 19-mile section
23:30 – worked from 1903 for 28 years
26:31 – canal closed down October 23, 1931:  these men never forget the date
28:00 – running all night, mules, trying to reach the tow; tow of 5 to 7 boats in a row, 3 tiers
34:20 – tugboats; cost of coal, who sold it
35:50 – living quarters on a boat: washing clothes, cooking , meals; chickens and watermelons “appear” on the boat
38:30 – Frank Sigafoos worked 1903 as a maintenance man Washington Crossing to Bristol
39:20 – Lumberville, Cuttalossa

Tags: , , , , .