Looking Backward: 'Barge Into Baldwinsville'

Our village marks a milestone this week, when a local landmark celebrates its centennial. One hundred years ago this Sunday, our local lock became the first to open on the Barge Canal. On May 9, 1910, the big iron gates in Lock No. 24 parted for the first time. Officials will observe the occasion here Wednesday, May 12. It's the first of many summer centennial celebrations scheduled by the "Barge into Baldwinsville" committee.

The Erie Canal once bypassed Baldwinsville on its way through upstate New York. When Dewitt Clinton wedded the waters of Lake Erie with those of the Hudson River in 1825, he created a shortcut from the breadbasket of America to the great port of New York City. Residents of towns on the canal east and west of Syracuse celebrated their newfound fortune. But folks in Baldwinsville would have to wait another 85 years for their time to come.

According to one of eight Messenger articles by Tony Christopher on the topic, one disgruntled local citizen was Otis Bigelow. "In speaking of his father's coming to this region in 1813, the late Otis M. Bigelow said, 'My father became attached to the area, which is now Baldwinsville for its location on the beautiful Seneca, and it seemed favorable for a large central city of the future. The Erie Canal was talked of; the supposition was it would take in natural waterways.'

'But politicians got hold of the canal project,' Mr. Bigelow continues, 'and they seem to have kept that hold ever since. Apparently there was more money for them to dig an entire canal (the Erie) all the way. Baldwinsville was left seven miles to the north and the waters of the Seneca River only served to run its mills. Now I learn that these greedy politicians and their descendants are about to turn the river into a canal.' This statement was made in 1904."

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