LIFE ON A CANAL BOAT
THE JOURNALS OF THEODORE D. BARTLEY, 1861-1889
Edited by Russell P. Bellico
Preface and postscript by Arthur B. Cohn
Transcribed from the journals and indexed for the second printing by Barbara B. Bartley
EXCERPTS FROM THE JOURNALS
Bartley on Hazards for His Family
[Friday,June 8, 1877] This morn the weather quite pleasant–the men beg[a]n work on me at 7. George [age 12] built the fire under their boiler. George went off fishing & when he came back while standing in the stern sheets of the boat to throw a shovel aboard fell overboard. Mary saw him go in & screamed out–George was overboard. I was forward hauling the boat. Picked up a boat hook & reached down to him. Told him to take hold.
Bartley on the Blizzard of '88
[Brooklyn, March 12, 1888] This morning when I got up found the windows snowed shut. The snow had drifted & filled in clear to the top of the cabin on the lee side & near halfway to the top of the stable on the lee side. I could hardly get the cabin door open on account of the snowdrift & it was still snowing and blowing a gale. It was as bad if not the worst snowstorm I ever saw. It continued to snow and blow all day & was quite cold. I dug the window out twice, then let the snow bank up full & stay so.
[Tuesday the 13th] This morning still snowing some but not much, though the wind blows strong still–I read most of the forenoon. Afternoon went downstreet. Ferry boats were not running at all. A great many crossed East River on the ice, but some got adrift & tugs had to go for them–wind west–was quite cold at night, & still windy.
Bartley on Life
[Brooklyn, Sunday, April 22 1888] Today the weather was beautiful in the morning, somewhat cloudy in the afternoon. Mary & I went to church at the mission, NY [Coenties Slip]. Got back between five & six. Thirty-two years ago today Mary & I were married in Norwalk, Ohio, at her father's house. How many and how great changes have taken place since that day. I have lost my father [Robert Bartley] & only sister [Evalina Bartley Chubb] & half brother [Charles G. Bartley]. She has lost father, [James Sheppard Felton] mother, [Olive Bowers Felton] & two brothers. The oldest brother, [James] Ransome [Felton], was lost on Lake Erie in a storm 1863, the youngest one, Moses [R. Felton], died  of consumption [tuberculosis] in Texas away from all friends.
Bartley on Mules
[Fort Ann, Friday, Sept. 7, 1888] Started near four–still col[d] but not as cold as yesterday–thick fog. Got to Fort Ann about half past twelve. In locking down in second lock, Mrs. Sudowici's boy came on deck and turned the tiller so rudder caught in the miter sill [stone sill for the lock gates] & I thought nearly the whole transom destroyed but found not much hurt except rudder post cracked pretty badly. Had to go on dry dock to ship rudder–dry dock bill $4.25. We lost about two or two & a half hours. Got through the creek just at dark when just above Milo Johnsons one of the mules acted sick & Percy [Burdue] took him out from the whiffletrees & could not keep him from backing in the canal. He swam across canal 3 or four times & around the boat then stopped over on heel path side. Percy went for Milo J & I launched the boat, went over & when they came we got him out & took him around & onto the boat. He was very sick on the way down to Whitehall but got much better before getting there. I had the other two mules put in Yule's stable. We tied up above the lock about eleven.
Life on a Canal Boat: The Journals of Theodore D. Bartley, 1861-1889, co-published by the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and Purple Mountain Press, provides an extraordinary window into the largely forgotten world of the canal boat era. This 29-year record begins in 1861 with Bartley's purchase of a new sailing canal boat in Whitehall, NY, and traces his adventures with his wife and son aboard two additional canal boats on the canals and waterways of the Northeast. His daily entries and observations are one of the best records ever found of life onboard a canal boat.
Theodore Bartley of Dresden Centre (present-day Clemons, NY) lived during an era of extraordinary expansion of the American economy and rapid technological development. He operated his canal boats along the main commercial arteries linking resource supplies to the new industries of a growing nation. Canada was connected to the Hudson River via the Chambly Canal, Lake Champlain, and the Champlain Canal; the Erie Canal tied the Great Lakes to New York City. Canal boats provided inexpensive means of transportation for bulk cargoes such as lumber, pulpwood, iron ore, marble, granite, and coal. Bartley also transported grain, barrel staves, railroad ties, bricks, clay, sand, barrels of petroleum, and agricultural commodities.
Although Bartley's voyages were most often through Lake Champlain, the Champlain Canal, and the Hudson River, his travels included Canadian ports as far north as Ottawa, Buffalo in the west on the Erie Canal, and Philadelphia to the south through the Delaware and Raritan Canal.
Bartley's journal entries range from dramatic tales of near sinkings during gales on Lake Champlain to descriptions of the lives of ordinary people during the late nineteenth century. Bartley witnessed history in the making: the Civil War, ironclads, famous sailing ships in New York Harbor, Central Park, the theaters of New York City, the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, the first electric lights and telephones, the Statue of Liberty, the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia, the Blizzard of '88, and the grand Centennial Celebration of Washington's Inauguration in New York City in 1889. The journals of Captain Bartley provide an intimate portrait of the life of a canal boat family crisscrossing America during a period of extraordinary change.
The edited journals were published to coincide with the July 3, 2004, launch at Burlington, Vermont, of the canal schooner, Lois McClure, a full-size, working replica of an 1862 canal schooner. Constructed over three years by Lake Champlain Maritime Museum shipwrights and volunteers, this vessel, along with Bartley's journals bring the rich history of the canal boat era back to life.
Barbara Bartley, the great-granddaughter-in-law of Theodore Bartley, transcribed the original 1,500 hand-written pages of the journals held by the Ticonderoga Historical Society. Arthur B. Cohn, executive director of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, served as the project manager and wrote the preface and postscript for the edited book version. Russell Bellico, professor of economic history at Westfield State College, edited the journals into book form. He is author of Sails and Steam in the Mountains: A Maritime and Military History of Lake George and Lake Champlain, and two other books also published by Purple Mountain Press, Chronicles of Lake George and Chronicles of Lake Champlain. The book was partially underwritten by the J. M. Kaplan Fund and the Leo Cox Beach Philanthropic Foundation. The 320-page, large-format book is generously illustrated with 175 historic prints, photographs, drawings, and maps.
Photo by Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
MEET EDITOR RUSSELL BELLICO
320 pages, illustrated, 7 x 10, glossary, 2004.
$22.50, paperback--A Purple Mountain Press original copublished with The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
Copyright © 2004-2006 Purple Mountain Press. All rights reserved.