Nov 19, 2009

Pioneer of Thorold Recalls Past Canals

The following article (about my great Grandfather) appeared in the Toronto Star on Aug 6, 1932, p.27

John J. Manley Only Regrets He'll Never See Sea Water

Thorold, Aug 6 - On the spot where Lord Bessborough stands this afternoon to open the new Welland canal here, 65 years ago there frequently wandered a barefoot Thorold boy in search of wild strawberries. The man whom that boy has since become is John J. Manley, Wolverleigh Blvd., Toronto, who was born in Port Dalhousie almost 78 years ago, and who has spent almost all his life working on various canals. Because he drove a mule team on the second Welland canal as a youth, and because he was present at the turning of the first sod for the third Welland canal in October, 1871, and because he now is a partner in an engineering concern which blasted 2,000,000 cubic yards of rock for the fourth and latest Welland canal, John Manley feels attached to it.

Of course, he hasn't been able to get a ticket to go in the special visitor's enclosure here today, but he pretends that doesn't matter. Step aside, let the young fellows come along, he says. He can see perfectly well from here, he says; and maybe he can, but he knows that isn't the point and so do you. ''This fuss is all very fine,'' Mr. Manley said today, ''but the Welland canal will never be worth what it cost until we get the St. Lawrence development. We must have the seaway. It will come. I won't see it. A young man today will.''

The government decided at once to enlarge the canal to provide for nine-foot navigation. The 39 wooden locks were reduced to 27 by increasing the lift of each. The new locks were built of cut stone and were each 150 feet long and 26 1/2 feet wide, with nine feet of water on the sills. This improvement, begun in 1843, was completed and the canal was opened in 1845. Nine years later John J. Manley was born in Port Dalhousie, the northern terminus of the canal, and 16 years after that again the young man was driving one of the teams that hauled the sailing vessels through the channel. There was no eight-hour day then, and you drove until the trip was completed. Forty-eight hours was considered good time for the trip. If you were lucky and there was no boat waiting to return, you got some sleep.In 1871 a canal commission, reporting on general conditions, advised the further enlargement of the Welland canal and it was decided to undertake extensive alterations. Locks were called for 270 feet long, 45 feet wide and having a 12 foot depth of water. The contract for Sections 15, 16 and 17 were let to a Thorold syndicate headed by one John Brown, Mr. Manley recalls, and in October of 1871 the first sod was turned without undue ceremony by Thomas Munroe, chief engineer. This was the beginning of the third Welland canal.

The third Welland canal left Lake Ontario at Port Dalhousie and climbed the Niagara escarpment east of the second canal to Allenburg. From Allenburg to Port Colborne it followed the route of the second canal. The depth of water was later increased to 14 feet, but not until 1887 was this depth available throughout the whole canal. Even before the enlargement was completed, vessels were being built on the upper lakes, too large to pass through the locks.

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