Timeline of the Erie Canal
Gen. George Washington visits Mohawk Valley waterways - his interest was part of the early recognition of the commercial and strategic value of a canal to the west to unite, develop, and populate the young nation.
First short canals built in Mohawk region and the first settlers reach Pittsford and surrounding areas.
Jesse Hawley, a Geneva merchant temporarily in debtor's prison, publishes a series of 14 persuasive essays on the economic benefits of a western canal in Canandaigua's "Genesee Messenger"; much U.S. inland trade flowing through British Canada rather than U.S. seaports is a growing concern.
NYS Legislature authorizes $600 for Judge James Geddes to make an initial land survey for a canal along the Hudson River to Lake Erie, 571 feet above the tidewater at Troy; his survey supports the feasibility of a 350-mile inland canal.
Pres. Thomas Jefferson, when approached for federal aid to the canal, says, 'It is a splendid project and may be executed a century hence ... but it is a little short of madness to think of it at this day.'
Legislature creates a 7-man Canal Commission and appropriates $3,000 for a detailed survey, Commissioner DeWitt Clinton visits Pittsford as part of a study trip to western New York.
Legislature passes first law authorizing and funding a state run canal; center of Pittsford begins to move from Mile Post area to present village location in anticipation of canal being built and construction of state east-west road nearby.
War of 1812 and fighting in western New York bring canal planning to a halt for several years.
Canal project appears to be dead due to political opposition, although the war affirms the strategic need for better western transport.
DeWitt Clinton rallies pro-canal forces; Legislature authorizes further surveys and cost estimates, new canal commissioners appointed, including Clinton.
Canal law and funding passed; DeWitt Clinton becomes governor; first excavation begins July 4th at Rome for a canal, known as Clinton's Ditch, 363 miles long, 40 feet wide, 4 feet deep, with 83 locks 90 feet long by 15 feet wide, and paralleled with a 10-foot wide towpath.
2,000 to 31,000 men and 700 horses at work building the canal; first canal trips in the Utica-Rome area.
Monroe County organized out of Ontario County, 9,000 men at work on the canal.
Canal opened in the Pittsford area. Canal navigation between Rochester and the Mohawk Valley starts.
Stone aqueduct across the Genesee River in Rochester opens to carry canal boats to the west; canal navigation extends from Brockport to Albany; Rochester becomes the county's first boom town.
Canal completed to Buffalo and officially opened Oct. 26 by Gov. Clinton; total cost is $7.7 million Gen. Lafayette visits Pittsford.
Canal fever grips New York and tolls reach $1 million in the first season; Important freight haul from Buffalo to Albany reduced from 3 weeks overland to 8-11 days by canal boat; freight rates drop 90%; upstate land values, commerce, agriculture, and population begin to "explode".
Pittsford Village incorporated as canal stimulates local economy; Pittsford known as the community with "six churches and six saloons."
Rochester is the flour milling capital of USA. Monroe County farms produce more than one million bushels of wheat.
Canal and locks are enlarged to accommodate heavy traffic. Canal produces excellent financial returns and fosters far-reaching economic development and population growth in the whole Great Lakes Basin. New York becomes the 'Empire State' and New York City the county's principal seaport; 5,000 canal boats at work during the Civil War.
Tolls abolished on the canal; railroads take passenger traffic leaving canal mostly for freight; Pittsford becomes an important coal-refueling stop for steam driven canal boats.
1905 - 1918
Canal and locks enlarged and strengthened to handle motorized canal boats and barges at a cost of $155 million; canal re-routed around upstate cities such as Rochester.
Era of horse or mule drawn canal boats ends.
Source: The town of Pittsford Home Page. http://www.pg1.com/pittsford/erie_canal.html