Opening of the Blackstone Canal - 10/7/1828
John Brown of Providence initially proposed a canal running from Providence to Worcester as early as 1796. Rhode Island supported this proposal in its legislature, but Massachusetts blocked its passage. It took the Massachusetts legislature another 27 years before the approval would finally be given.
In 1828, the Canal opened a faster and more direct trade direct route from Worcester to Providence than horse and wagon. The cost of construction was $750,000. For twenty years, boats passed through the canal and offered a host of marketable items in flourishing Worcester. Worcester then became the Commonwealth's second largest city.
The first boat to Worcester was on October 7, 1828. This canal boat traveled through Union Street and then to the lower end of Front Street which was spanned by a bridge. Crowds that had gathered on the bridge cheered and cheered as the boat docked. The commerce of practically every needed item, such as cloth, molasses, logwood, lime, books, rum. salt made its way to Worcester over the course of the next 20 years by these canal boats.
Forty nine masonry locks allowed passage upstream 438 feet and along 45 miles. Two horses would pull the narrow boats along the towpath. However, the New England weather, low water at times and other problems did not always make this trip an easy one.
When the Providence to Worcester Railroad was opened in 1847, the canal could not compete with the speed or ease of travel and it closed in 1848.
A Blackstone Canal Conservancy has been established to create a canal boat for the canal. In addition, much of the land of the canal is in private ownership. Membership funds will be used towards creating this boat and working to trigger matching grants to purchase this land along the Canal as it comes up for sale.
Memberships range from $7 for students, $10 individual, $15. for a family to $25. to an organization. Checks can be sent to: Blackstone Canal Conservancy, 16 Ballou Road, Hopedale, Ma. 01747-1833