Beaver and Erie Canal - History


Construction of the canal was meant to complete a transport network through northwestern Pennsylvania that would connect Lake Erie with the Ohio River; the Main Line of Public Works, a canal which joined Philadelphia to Pittsburgh; and the Erie Canal, which connected Albany, New York, to Lake Erie.

The Beaver Division, begun in 1831, extended 31 miles (50 km) from Beaver along the Beaver River and the Shenango River to Pulaski. In 1836, work began on the Shenango Division extension of 61 miles (98 km) from Pulaski to Conneaut Lake, and in 1838 contracts were awarded for the Conneaut Division to Erie, 45 miles (72 km) further north. Taking over the Conneaut Division from the state in 1843, the Erie Canal Company finished construction in 1844, when the entire length of the three divisions became open to traffic.

Two east–west canals connected to the Beaver and Erie. New Castle, which the Beaver and Erie served, was the eastern terminus of Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal, which ran 91 miles (146 km) west to the Ohio and Erie Canal in Ohio. Another east–west canal, the French Creek Feeder, brought additional water into Conneaut Lake at the same time it provided a transportation corridor. It ran 25 miles (40 km) from near Meadville, where it connected with the Franklin Line canal of 22 miles (35 km) running along French Creek to Franklin. At its southern terminus near Beaver, the Beaver and Erie was linked by the Ohio River to Pittsburgh and the principal east-west Pennsylvania transportation system of the time, the Main Line of Public Works.

Bringing new business to communities such as Conneautville, which shipped timber and hay to Pittsburgh, the Beaver and Erie Canal was heavily used in its early years but was hard to maintain. Competition from railroads and the collapse of an aqueduct over Elk Creek in Erie County led to the canal's abandonment in 1872.

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