Tugboat Captain (name unknown)

Interviewee:  Tugboat Captain, name unknown
Date of birth/age at interview:  circa 1895/73
Interviewer:  Lance E. Metz
Interview date:  circa 1969
Interview location:  unknown, but probably at the National Canal Museum
Interview length:  29 minutes
Time span discussed:   1915 to 1925

Summary: Tugboats in the canal circa 1920 are the main topic and interest of this history.  This unnamed man could have been a son of John A. Free and brother of another interviewee Madeline Free Rilara as she described her brothers becoming tug boat captains in New York.  Tugs replacing mules about 1920 was no doubt an effort to economize by having tugs pull 2-6 boats.  The difficulty at each lock to get several boats through as well as the tug seems to have led to the tug’s demise.


Time markers:
00:00 – remembers the 1903 flood; drove mules on a hinge boat for 2 years
01:21 – became a tug boat captain on the canal; faster than the mules, 5-6 boats
04:01 – dam at Lumberville, feeder from Raritan Canal; Lehigh Navigation and Canal Company owned tugs
04:50 – tug steam engines, coal for power, used 3-4 years, too slow through locks
09:00 – coal delivered to Catfish pond by train near Mauch Chunk (probably Coalport), boats loaded there, carried about 90 tons of coal per trip
10:28 – 108-mile trip from above Mauch Chunk to Bristol; part of trip on Lehigh River
12:01 – winter work as carpenter, odd jobs
12:20 – on river stretch no need for mules to pull, current took boat
13:50 – pulley system for mules forced both to work; harnesses; mule management through the locks
17:14 – ropes, about 100 feet long, ¾ inch diameter
18:08 – license needed for Delaware River tugs, stayed on canal with tugs; Delaware tugs took boats to Philadelphia
20:30 – early 1900s many boats on the canal; boaters hid some coal for home;
21:40 – 7-8 days Mauch Chunk to Bristol, round trip with tug; locks and tenders, mills
27:34 – born in Erwinna, father worked in the boat yard

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