I know where to look for lock 91!

I am excited!   I know where to look for lock 91 and I know why I couldn’t find the water feature described by the Museum Center volunteer that day.   I was looking in the wrong place.   In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out In Search of Lock 91 and then come back.   This will make more sense.

One of the things I learned in researching the Miami Erie canal in this area after I found lock 38 in West Chester (you can also read about that adventure) is that the next lock south from lock 38 is supposed to be lock 39.  Oddly though, the plat maps show the next lock south from 38 as lock 91.  The discrepancy didn’t make any sense, and it wasn’t until I started researching lock numbering that I figured out at least part of the equation.

Locks on the Miami Erie canal are numbered sequentially starting, believe it or not, in the middle of the state at the highest point in the canal elevation.  From there, they are numbered sequentially higher as they move away from the highest point, so you’ll find that the lock 38 I’ve reported on is the SOUTH lock 38.  The NORTH lock 38 is in Defiance and was apparently covered over when they built city buildings.

What is interesting though is that the lock numbers in this scheme generally do not match the lock numbers indicated on the plat maps.  It’s not clear to me how the plat maps were numbered, but I speculate that it may be related to the order that the locks were built.  Considering there were 103 locks on the canal, it’s certainly plausible that the Cresentville lock could be 91 as the plat map indicates.  I suspect the more widely accepted “current” designations came later.

Regardless what number you wish to use, there is (was) clearly a lock in the vicinity of the Butler/Hamilton county line near Crescentville, and I suspect the wood that the volunteer showed me is the remains of the lock floor.  Setting out to try to determine an exact location, I was finally able to understand the scaling on the plat maps and then use that the relate them to current map features.

The plat maps are scaled in 1″=100 feet.   Using that and reviewing the beginning and ending maps, I was able to understand that the increasing marker number that runs along the length of the canal actually marks 100 ft intervals from the start of the canal at the north end.  It functions much like a mile marker, albeit with much higher resolution.   For example, lock 91 (South 39) is located at marker 11928 indicating that it’s 11928*100 ft or 1192800 ft from the start of the canal at the north end.  Translated into miles that’s 1192800 / 5280 =  225.9 miles from the start of the canal.  Given that the canal was 249 miles long (not counting branches), that puts lock 91 (South 39) about 23.1 miles from the end of the line at the Ohio River.

Learning all of that made it much easier to scale the old plat maps to currently available topo maps and in fact, I did some graphics work to overlay the old maps onto new ones.

Once I did that, I can see that I was looking in the wrong area.   The remains of the lock would be 100-150 south of Crescentville at the most.  I had been looking much further south than that.  As you might imagine, I can’t wait to get over there for another look around!

I was also able to determine the approximate location for the Crescentville Aqueduct as well.  According to a historical survey, allegedly the abutments still exist.  I’ll be looking for those as well.

Watch for pictures and more details soon!


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.