Thursday, 31 August 2017 20:14

The Delaware and Schuylkill Canal Navigation

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The Schuylkill Canal (or more properly, Schuylkill Navigation) was chartered in 1815 and opened in 1825 during the heyday of canal building in the United States.  But it wasn’t the first attempt at building a canal in Montgomery County.


Back in 1792, the Delaware and Schuylkill Navigation Company was founded to build a canal to connect those two rivers.  The plan was for the canal to run alongside the river for seventeen miles, easing transportation and bringing fresh water from the Schuylkill to Philadelphia.  According to the book Old Towpaths: The Story of the American Canal Era by Alvin F. Harlow, the canal would have run from Norristown to Philadelphia (this is, of course, 20 years before the founding of Norristown, so I'm not so sure about that detail).


In our archives at the Historical Society of Montgomery County we have the “Rough Minute Book” for the company.  Familiar names from the Montgomery County – Philadelphia area appear, including Morris and Rittenhouse.  First names are never used (everyone is referred to very properly as “Mr.”), but I would hazard to say they are Robert Morris, wealthy financier, and David Rittenhouse, philosopher, mathematician, and surveyor. 

morris    rittenhouse

At this point you might be wondering how it is you’ve missed this seventeen mile long canal for the entire time you’ve been in Montgomery County.  The canal was never built.  Within a few years, the company was looking for money and, according to the minute book, resolved to seek a loan.  This is the same time Robert Morris himself was having money problems.



Work continued on the canal sporadically until 1798, when it seems to have puttered out completely.

For more about David Rittenhouse the surveyor, check out this blog entry, and if you’re wondering whether or not he was an evil mastermind, check out this one.

Read 906 times Last modified on Friday, 01 September 2017 16:11