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Gorham History » Cumberland/Oxford Canal

Cumberland/Oxford Canal

Cumberland and Oxford Canal
1830 -1870
Proposed in 1791
Maine became a state in 1820. Legislature passed an act to create the Cumberland and Oxford Canal
Some Capital was raised in 1821 and the Canal Bank was chartered
Canal opened in the spring of 1830
The construction cost was $206,000
Sebago Lake to Stroudwater
Length 20 miles
Elevation of Sebago Lake was - 260 feet above sea level
Locks 28
Fall was 1 foot per mile
Followed the Presumpscot River through Standish and Gorham then headed toward the Fore River near the Westbrook/Gorham Town Line. The Presumpscot was the "favorite means of travel" by the Indians.
Locks were 80 feet long, built with some stone with strong wooden gates operated by a balance beam
Boats were 60 - 65 feet long, 10 feet wide and drew 3 feet of water empty and 5 feet of water loaded
Boats had two centerboards and two masts (with a 30 foot mainsail) that were raised to sail on Sebago Lake, Brandy Pond and Long Lake
Boats had a blunt bow, square stern and had a flat bottom
Boat was pulled by horse along the canal, poled up the Crooked River and sailed in open water
Boats were designed to carry 30 tons but carried up to 60 tons
Boats had a stern cabin used for cooking, dining and sleeping
Each boat had a crew of 3. The Captain was paid $50 a month and the crew $35 each. The tow horse driver was paid $20 a month.
Boats carried lumber, barrel staves, shingles and firewood to Portland and groceries and provisions on the return trip.
The Canal prospered for 20 years and encouraged the development of the lakes region.
Number of boats - 150
Bankruptcy in 1858 after the opening of the railroad
Closed in 1870
The shareholders received interest on their money but were not repaid the principal

Sources: Sebago Lake Land by Jones
Sebago Lake - West Shore by Barnes
Maine by Judd et al

Abbott Mosher
2011 Gorham Founders Festival

From Images of America: Gorham by David Arthur Fogg
Accessed via Google Books: http://www.worldcat.org/title/gorham/oclc/156849423

Some [areas in Gorham] have continued to thrive, while others are extensions of the village. Through the years of the York-Cumberland Canal, it was possible to go from Sebago Lake to the ocean. The canal route started at Harrison, to the Songo River where the boats entered a series of locks. The canal boats were poled through the twisting Songo into Sebago Lake, set sail through the lake to White's Bridge, poled again the length of Sebago Basin to another lock before entering 20 miles of dug canals. and finally towed by horses to Portland. Over half of the dug canal was located in Gotham. These canals made travel easier then using the rocky roads.

This canal opened in 1830 at a cost of $206,000. Twenty-seven locks regulated by gates were needed to bring the boats down from a 265-foot elevation of Sebago Lake to sea level. The canal was 30 to 40 feet wide at the surface and 18 feet wide at the bottom. Canal boats were from 60 to 65 feet long. IO feet wide, and 5 feet deep. with flat bottoms. The average time for a canal boat to make the trip from Portland to Harrison, a 50vmile journey, was three days. Cost seemed extremely low by today's standards: a cord of hard wood cost 3¢ per mile, a hogshead of molasses 2¢, a barrel of apples 3¢ per mile. and a passenger paid 1¢ per mile. In 1851 the York & Cumberland Railway took business away from the canals. The canal had 20 thriving years, from 1831 to 1851. The canal officially ceased operation in 1872.