Tales the Boatmen Told: Recollections of the Morris Canal

Tales the Boatmen Told: Recollections of the Morris Canal

          Tales the Boatmen Told:  Recollections of the Morris Canal, edited by James Lee.  Soft cover, copyright 1977, second printing 199, 327 pages of interesting reading and some black and white photos.

“It has been a good many years since first I was introduced to the Morris Canal by a homemade raft and a long pole. the location of this introduction was the boatyard at Phillipsburg, New Jersey. There in the shadow of Mt. Parnassus, a large rock formation which looms high above port Delaware, I found my land of make-believe. To a boy growing up, it was the next best thing to heaven. I didn’t know too much about heave, except that you went there when you died, if your were good. But I did know about the coal chutes and the canal. What a wonderful place to play! Climbing the mountain, baking potatoes in a fire, rafting on the canal, fishing for sunnies, throwing stones at water snakes, ice skating in season, but no swimming. There were too many leeches, snakes, and too much seaweed. Little did I know that this early introduction was to become first-a playground, second – a hobby, and now-and obsession. I don’t believe there was another canal in all the world that combined the natural beauty of God’s creation with the progressive spirit and ingenuity of man. Most canals followed rivers or streams and had their source of water nearby, but not so the Morris. It left a good supply (Delaware River) and struck out across the rolling hills and mountains of northern New Jersey. By utilizing locks and inclined planes, it climbed 914 feet about sea level on its route from Phillipsburg to Jersey City. This engineering feat made the Morris Canal a marvel to behold, but much more than its machinery and other physical aspects were the people. In 1974 I received a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission which enabled me to conduct and oral history/folklore project among the very few remaining people who had a direct relationship with the Morris Canal. It was the last roundup of primary information from people who boated, worked, played, fell in, or just lived along this wonderful waterway.”

– From the Introduction to Tales the Boatmen Told: Recollections of the Morris Canal by James Lee.

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