Pawtucket and Middlesex Canals
Between 1790 and 1860 America underwent a transportation revolution. Canals, turnpikes, and railroads crisscrossed the nation, dramatically improving inland transportation.
Eastern Massachusetts was an early participant in this revolution. The first effort to improve navigation on the Merrimack River came in 1792 when a group of investors from Newburyport-some of the same families that later invested in Lowell-chartered the Proprietors of Locks and Canals on Merrimack River.
They intended to construct a canal around Pawtucket Falls at East Chelmsford and thereby connect New Hampshire directly to Newburyport at the river's mouth. By 1796 the 1 1/2-mile Pawtucket Canal permitted log rafts and limestone-bearing barges to skirt the falls at the future site of Lowell.
Even while the Pawtucket Canal was under construction, Boston entrepreneurs undertook another ambitious canal venture. Completed in 1803, the Middlesex Canal used 20 locks and 7 aqueducts, over a length of 27 miles, to join the Merrimack River a mile above Pawtucket Falls to the port of Boston. Together these two canals provided excellent transportation. The Middlesex, however, soon became the more prosperous canal, at least until the industrialists from Waltham discovered the Pawtucket Canal's waterpower potential.
Source: Lowell National Historical Park Handbook 140
Did You Know?
There were female and male overseers in the mills of Lowell in the 19th century. In Rev. Henry Miles' book, Lowell As It Was, and As It Is, he mentions that the Boott Cotton Mills has recently opened a new weave room and it is being overseen by two women overseers. More...