Elder and Sister Watts

Elder and Sister Watts

Hill Cumorah Visitors' Sites Mission Statement

"Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life."
3 Nephi 5:13

Sunday, October 10, 2010


When our children were in grade school, they had a yearly musical program where they performed songs that they learned in music class. I was especially impressed by one song that they not only sang, but also added actions. It was the Erie Canal song and when they sang, "Low bridge, everybody down" all of the students ducked as they were singing. Little did I realize those many years ago I would be living so close to the Erie Canal later in my life.  The song was written in 1905 by Thomas S. Allen to memorialize the canal's early heyday when barges were pulled by mules.  Listen to the song at this link.

We have learned while serving our mission here in Palmyra to love and appreciate the Erie Canal.  In fact, each time our family members come to visit we take a ride with them on the Erie Canal.  As you view the pictures of the Erie Canal and our family (narration typed in black), I will explain some of the history of the canal and why it is so important to New York and to the beginnings of our church (typed in blue).
We like to ride the Sam Patch Erie Canal boat that leaves from the Village of Pittsford.  It is a replica of an early canal boat and is run by a non-profit organization.  The Erie Canal was began in 1817 and completed in 1825, opening shipping lanes from the east coast to the Great Lakes.  It was originally 363 miles long, spanning from the Hudson River at Albany to Lake Erie at Buffalo.

Our daughter and her family from Oregon came to visit us in May.  They wait on the bank of the Erie Canal to begin their boat ride.  The boats are now powered diesel engines, but originally they were pulled by mules, horses and oxen driven along a towpath by a young boy called a "hoggee".
When it was under construction it was called "Clinton's Big Ditch" named after New York Governor, Dewitt Clinton, a strong supporter of the project.
The Erie Canal was an engineering marvel when it was built.  It was dug by men using shovels.  Originally it was 4 feet deep and 40 feet wide.

Elder Watts and our newest grandson enjoyed their ride on the canal.
Isn't the canal beautiful? (above) These two grandsons came with another daughter and her family to visit in August. (below)  When first constructed one of the beauties of the Erie Canal was that it cut transportation costs by 95% and fostered a population surge in Western New York State.  New York City became the chief US port.

Our granddaughter (above) and her entire family (below) pronounced the ride a great success!  The canal was also a great success, recently recognized as the most successful and influential human built waterways and one of the most important works of civil engineering and construction in North America.

Below are more beautiful pictures of the canal, now called the barge canal after it was enlarged to carry barges in the early 1900s.

These next five pictures show us going through lock 32.  It is quite an experience as the boat enters an area enclosed by doors on both ends.  When the boat is working its way upstream, as in this case, the lock water is poured in at an amazing rate to bring the water level in the lock up to the same level as the water on the other side of the lock.  Once the water is the same level, the door is opened and the boats continue on their journeys.

The original canal had 83 locks to help the boats navigate up and down the river.  There is a rise of 568 feet from the Hudson River to Lake Erie.
Our two granddaughters from Minnesota (below) came to visit in September and they enjoyed their ride on the canal.  Their ride wasn't as long as Governor Clinton's ride in 1825 when he sailed from Buffalo to New York City.  On that occasion, the opening of the totally completed canal, he ceremonially poured Lake Erie water into the New York Harbor to mark the "wedding of the waters".

Our daughter and her husband enjoyed the ride too, and our granddaughters enjoyed their grandpa.

The building (below) is an original barn from the horse, donkey and oxen days of  the Erie Canal.  The animals would walk for 15 miles on the towpath, a 10 foot path along the banks of the canal.  After 15 miles they were allowed to rest in the barn and new animals were brought out to pull the boat.
Each time we have been on the Erie Canal we have enjoyed the beautiful wildlife.  This blue heron was fun to watch land and sit on the post.  Another one was busy looking for dinner.

This family of ducks were quick to swim out of the way of our boat as we moved through the water.
Lost of ducks make the canal their home. 
The Erie Canal also played an important role in early church history.  As you can see from this map below, Palmyra was an important city along the route of the Erie Canal.  In fact, the original canal was very near the E.B. Grandin bookstore, bindery and print shop where the first copies of the Book of Mormon were published.  Because of the fact that the Erie Canal was finished just 4 years before Joseph Smith approached E.B. Grandin to ask him to print the Book of Mormon, it made it possible for supplies, including Grandin's new press to be shipped to Palmyra for a fraction of what the cost would have been prior to the canal being finished.
It is also believed that Alvin, Joseph Smith's older brother helped build the Erie Canal to make a payment on the family farm. 
One of my favorite miracles in early church history also involves the canal.  Lucy Smith, the prophet Joseph Smith's mother, was helping a group of Saints move from New York to Ohio.  They rode the canal to Buffalo, being stopped on the way because of a break in the canal. When the group arrived in Buffalo, they found that ships were unable to move on the lake because large pieces of ice jammed the harbor. Lucy had faith that the Lord would help them. When the Saints got on board a ship the next morning, she persuaded the group to unite together in faith and pray to the Lord to break the pieces of ice. She explained, “A noise was heard, like bursting thunder. The captain cried, ‘Every man to his post.’ The ice parted, leaving barely a passage for the boat, and so narrow that as the boat passed through the buckets of the waterwheel were torn off with a crash. … We had barely passed through the avenue when the ice closed together again” (Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, pp. 204–5).

This miracle and many others blessed the early Saints as they strived to live the principles of the Gospel.  Learn more about the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ by going to http://mormon.org/.


  1. Being a history buff I found your photographic journey down the Erie Canal interesting and especially how you related it to LDS Church history. The content you provide in your posts is quite fascinating.

    One thing I think that would get you more hits is to put your Facebook badge on your blog.

    You might get more opportunities to proselyte online if you put your Facebook badge on this blog page. Also you need to get the Facebook pages of all the members in the ward you attend on Sunday. Ask them to recommend you to their non-member friends to add on Facebook. Hope this helps get the readership such well-written posts deserve.

  2. Thanks for the tour yesterday. We also enjoy the song about the Erie Canal. In August when we made the drive through "from Albany to Buffalo" our 4 year old sang that song continuously. That's alot of verses.

    I'll pass your page to my mom, who was a good friend of your husband's aunt/uncle. :)