In Search of Lock 91

One of the interesting things about my discovery of the Miami Erie Canal Lock 38 today in West Chester was the discussion I had with the group from the Cincinnati Museum Center about other canal features in the area.  I was able to tell them about the bike trail on the towpath that started nearby.  (Yes, the one with the geocache that started all this).   I also learned about another feature located in the area of 275/75 near what is now the Champion Window Company.

It’s not clear to me how they became aware of the feature there, but the gentleman of the group showed me pictures of wood planking underwater.   He felt that it was the remains of another lock based on the fact that many, if not all of the locks had wood “floors”.  He told me though, that he had reviewed a canal map, and that all it showed was an aqueduct in the area.  I know however, that aqueducts carried the canal over other water features such as streams and such, and tended to be made of stone.   The wood planking was certainly suggestive of another lock in my mind as well.

Most of the remaining locks from the canal are dry now, and as such, the wood flooring would have long since rotted away.  In this case though, there is still water flowing through the feature, which would have the tendency to protect the wood.

Curious, I headed down to see if I could find the feature for myself.  Unfortunately, I did not, but then, I didn’t have time to look long.    Later though, I decided to take a look at the original plat maps for the canal.   Somewhat to my surprise, I found that the next lock south from lock 38 is lock 91.   Based on the plat map, lock 91 was just south of the Butler/Hamilton county line, which would put it very near where the feature the group described should be.    I’m not sure which map the gentleman reviewed, or perhaps, if I misunderstood his explanation.  In any case though, there was definitely another lock in the area.   Looks like I have another canal mystery to explore!

On another day, I’m going to spend more time with the maps and try to determine where exactly lock 91 was, or perhaps, is.  After that, I’ll go check it out.   If you’re curious, here’s a clip of the plat map showing lock 91:

If you’re interested, here’s where I get the plat maps I’ve been reviewing: Ohio DNR    To open them, you have to have a TIFF viewer and plenty of memory.  The images are huge!  I’ll try to convert snippets to JPG and share them as I explore.

I also need to spend some time understanding the plat maps station designations and how they correlate to more modern navigation mechanisms.   It would also help to know more about how the locks were numbered.  They obviously aren’t sequential along the canal.   I think they were numbered as they were constructed, but I don’t know if they were contiguous.

I’ve learned that there is a collection of canal information archived at Wright State.  Might have to go check that out!

Update: after a bit more research, I found the book: “A photo album of Ohio’s canal era, 1825-1913”  indicates the lock in the Crescentville area was lock 39, not 91.  It also references a Crescentville aqueduct as well as a Port Union aqueduct.   I wonder if the cement structure I found could have been the remains of the Port Union aqueduct.

Looking back at the plat map, the lock is pretty clearly marked 91, but the nearby mill race is marked 39.  It’s also worth noting that the plat maps on file with DNR were traced in 1919 from the original survey results.  I wonder if the 39/91 issue could be an error.   More questions than answers at this point.