Early Transportation Canals of the Merrimack River
by Bill Gerber
Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 at 7 p.m.


This presentation will provide an overview of the Merrimack River as an artery of transportation, and show and describe what remains of the system today. Before they were adapted to power New England mills, the falls and rapids of the Merrimack River were serious obstructions to travel. These impediments, and the absence of good roads, drove more than a decade of efforts to improve river navigability.

Between 1792 and 1848, nine companies constructed 13 canals, incorporating 36 locks, along the main river channel between Concord NH and the sea or, via the Middlesex Canal, to Boston. Lesser improvements were made by a few of these companies at several more rapids. Additional canals were built by still other firms near the mouths of the Nashua and Piscataquog Rivers, and possibly at one or more industrial sites.

An exhibit that will accompany the presentation consists of an eclectic collection of photos (both aerial and on site), plot plans, and blue prints - keyed to map locations - for each of the sites. Working from the materials available, the presentation will briefly describe what remains of the various channels, locks and dams, and note several potential archeological opportunities.

Bill Gerber is a retired Air Force Officer and Systems Engineer with an interest in early canal transportation. He serves as a Vice President of the American Canal Society and as a Member of the Board of Directors of the Middlesex Canal Association (MCA). Mr. Gerber has been researching the Canals of the Merrimack River, as a hobby, for several decades. He has assembled an extensive exhibit of materials. The results of his efforts have been presented at a meeting of the Middlesex Canal Association and to participants at the NPS/MCA sponsored “Canal Heritage Days” over several years.

This is a ONE BOOK Chelmsford program funded by the Chelmsford Friends of the Library