Chester Lear

Name of interviewee:  Chester Lear
Date of birth/age at interview:  October 17, 1894/86
Interviewer:  unknown
Interview date:  March 19, 1981
Interview location:  Yardley
Interview length:  1 hour
Time span discussed:  1800s to 1932

Summary:  A whimsical talk by Chester Lear whose family was involved with the canal from the first days. This interview was done in Yardley for the Yardley Historical Association. The attendees were very interested in Yardley and the canal. Chester is a funny older gentleman who talks about the Yardley fire department, his school days, and his work as a woodcutter. The canal is discussed at the beginning and end of the tape, but the history of Yardley as told by Chester can be enjoyed by all.


Time markers:
00:00 – introduction; born in Riegelsville, PA; father managed lock #6
01:45 – Lear family dug the canal; many family members the worked on the Delaware Canal
03:35 – locktenders made $25 a month plus the house and coal; description of family life with father taking care of three children
07:20 – Company boats coal, private boats food, stone, lime; coal distribution buildings in Yardley
10:05 – Louie Leedom bought power house with money from an insurance policy on the past owner
11:20 – Yardley sawmill, logs down the river; town changed with coming of railroad
14:45 – Yardley pond for grist mill; street names, more changes in Yardley, old houses torn down
17:21 – blacksmith shops, drug store,
18:20 – fire companies, pulled pump engine, buying new fire engines; more changes to Yardley
23:57 – the old school
25:14 – leather factory , its smell at the school
25:59 – amusing school stories; dropped out, first job; cut wood entire life
32:56 – when young no toys, swam, fished, skated, played on canal; father religious
36:50 – father tended lock 1896 to 1931; occasional canal parties on scows
38:40 – in 1909 two tugs to replace mules, 1910 stopped, damaged banks, lost time getting up steam at locks
40:00 – canal only transportation early 1900s, brought all goods, history of canal explained
43:38 – Greensburg on Jersey side, Irish families who worked quarries (Wilburtha today)
46:00 – turning different canal boats in Yardley; canal system that could take goods all over the East Coast between upper New York and Pittsburg
50:20 – Yardley’s trolley, 5 cents a ride; ran on electricity
52:40 – canal closed in winter; Chester’s version of the history of discovering coal, floating it down river on rafts, need for canal
57:08 – many captains owned their boats; showing of boat models

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