The survey of the route by the State in 1839; the incorporation of a private company; the building of the canal by this company, and its final abandonment.

In 1846 the Junction Canal Company was incorporated for the purpose of constructing a navigable communication to unite the canal systems of the States of New York and Pennsylvania, the waterway to extend from the Chemung canal at Elmira to the northern terminus of the North Branch canal at Athens, Bradford county, Pennsylvania.

Unlike the Cayuga and Seneca, and the Oneida Lake canals, which, after being built and operated for a while by private companies, soon passed into the hands of the State, the Junction canal was under the management of an incorporated company during its entire existence. It was known locally as "The Arnot canal" or "Arnot’s canal," from John Arnot, of Elmira, the chief stockholder.

As we have seen in the story of the Chemung canal the subject of connecting the waters of New York and Pennsylvania by means of a canal from the Susquehanna to the head waters of Seneca lake had received early attention. After the completion of the Erie canal there soon followed the construction of the Cayuga and Seneca, and a little later the Chemung canal, which formed a water communication from the Erie at Montezuma to Elmira, the southern terminus of the Chemung route. The Junction canal was the last link in the chain of communication between the canal systems of the two States.

In 1839 the inhabitants of Chemung county became so solicitous for the State to undertake the making of this connection with the Pennsylvania canals that they petitioned the Legislature for favorable action. It was claimed that such a connection would afford the shortest, cheapest and most feasible route, through which the internal commerce between central Pennsylvania and central and western New York could be carried on. It was argued that thousands of tons of coal would be brought over this route from the great anthracite coal region of the Susquehanna to supply the cities, the flourishing villages and the salt works of New York, and that there would be an extensive interchange of commodities between the citizens of those States, which would be highly advantageous to both.

Interest in the proposed canal was intensified by the action of the Pennsylvania Senate in appointing a committee to confer with the authorities of New York State concerning the building of a waterway from either the Chemung or Chenango canals to connect with their systems. The conference was held in Albany, in April, 1839, and had the effect of bringing about the enactment of a law (chapter 306) by the New York Legislature, which says that "the canal commissioners shall cause a route for the continuation of the Chemung canal to be surveyed, from its present termination near Elmira, in the county of Chemung, along the valley of the Chemung river, to the State line near Tioga Point, at the termination of the North Branch canal of Pennsylvania." The law also directed the commissioners to transmit to the Legislature at its next session a report of the survey, with an estimate of the cost of construction.

An act (chapter 292) had been passed by the Legislature of 1838, authorizing a survey from the Chenango canal to the State line near Tioga Point. An account of this survey and of the subsequent attempt to open a canal along this route has been given in the chapter describing the Chenango canal extension.

Pursuant to the act concerning the Chemung extension the report was submitted to the Legislature of 1840 by the canal commissioners, who stated that Joseph D. Allen, a civil engineer, had been appointed by them to make the survey and estimate of cost for a canal of the following dimensions: depth of water, four feet; width at bottom, twenty-six feet; width at water-surface, forty-two feet; the banks to be three feet above the surface of the water, with slopes of two feet horizontal to one perpendicular, in front and rear; the width on top of the towing-path bank to be twelve feet, and the width on top of the berme bank, seven feet; the locks being estimated on plans for composite, stone and wooden structures.

Preparatory to the survey, an examination was made of the land from Elmira to the State line, and as it appeared to be proper to have a survey made on each side of the river, the engineer was directed accordingly. The lines surveyed passed over land favorable for the construction of a canal and the engineer was of the belief that there would be no rock cuttings upon either of the routes.

At the beginning of the south route two lines were traced from the Chemung canal across the Chemung river to a point upon the south shore, where it was proposed to locate a guard-lock and to pass out from the river. The first line commenced on the north bank of the river at the terminus of the Chemung canal and passed directly across the stream, the plan being to construct a dam in order to form a pool. The line then led along the south bank in the channel of the stream to a point about half a mile below the terminus of the Chemung canal, where the two lines united in the main south line and left the river. The other line began at a point one mile above the termination of the Chemung canal, and then, after passing through the east side of the village of Elmira, crossed the river below the bridge in the pool of the proposed dam and joined with the first line.

From here the canal on the south line would traverse a broad interval and then, bearing around a little to the left it would approach Mill creek. Crossing this stream, the channel would occupy the immediate bank of a branch of the river, flowing around the westerly side of Big Island, and continuing along the smooth, flat ground for a distance of half a mile, another stream, Seely creek, would be crossed upon an aqueduct, the line from here extending to a hill on the south side of the Chemung valley. Continuing along the foot of the hill the line reached Bentley creek, which was to be crossed by an aqueduct, and twenty chains further on, at the village of Wellsburg, a portion of the canal would occupy the river, requiring a high embankment with slope wall protection, then after occupying the river flat for a distance of three miles, it would again encounter the stream. Leaving the latter, the canal would extend over an alluvial flat at the foot of an elevated plain, thence in the river again for thirty chains, subsequently leaving the river, the distance from this point to that proposed for uniting with the North Branch canal at the State line being seventeen chains. The shape of the ground was in all respects favorable for forming the contemplated connection, being a regular flat, forty chains in width and sufficiently elevated above the river to be secure from the highest floods. The south line was 12.62 miles long and would require forty-one feet of lockage.

The north line, which was located on the north side of the Chemung river, began at a bend in the Chemung canal, nearly a mile above its termination, and pursued a direct course toward the east side of the valley, which it reached at Tuttle’s mills, situated upon Newtown [see errata] creek near its junction with the river. After passing the creek the canal would occupy the river flat, following for one and a half miles along the foot of the main hill which bounded the valley on the north, and then would be brought down to the edge of the river and continue under a high upland bank for the next half mile; after that, the canal would extend over a smooth plain, finally being again forced upon the bank of the river, which it would continue to occupy for a distance of one and a half miles. Leaving the stream, the line passed over a broad flat, advantageous for a canal, and extended to Baldwin creek, which would be passed upon an aqueduct. Below the mouth of the creek the river would again be utilized, and then the canal would continue over regular ground to the Chemung narrows. Passing this place, where the canal would be forced into the river, the line was traced along the foot of an elevated plain down to a point in the plain which was least elevated, where an excavation averaging twenty-four feet deep for nearly half a mile would be necessary. In order to keep within the limits of the State, the course was made parallel with the State line, then extended directly across a plain and approached Wynkoop creek, which would require another aqueduct. From here the line continued until it reached Shepard’s narrows, through which the canal would occupy the river, and on leaving the stream would enter upon a narrow flat, following along the base of a ridge the remaining distance to the proposed point of connection with the North Branch canal.

The ground below the State line presented a very regular shape down the valley and was favorable for the approach of the Pennsylvania waterway to the point of termination. The north line was 17.32 miles in length and had a lockage of seventy-five feet.

In his report the engineer also furnished information as to the most available water-supply for whichever line should be adopted. In both cases the Chemung river was deemed the most feasible source, a supply to be drawn for the south line from the pool above the dam, which it was proposed to construct at Elmira, and a supply for the north line to be impounded by erecting a dam at some point along the route.

The engineer’s estimate of the cost of the canal, with the various styles of locks, were as follows:

South line, -- composite locks, $271,648.31; stone locks, $275,984.05; wood locks, $266,390.05.

North line, -- composite locks, $391,056.67; stone locks, $398,987.92; wood locks, $381,437.92.

The Assembly committee on canals, to which was referred the report, had before it numerous petitions, the people renewing their urgent appeals for the extension of the Chemung canal. The committee stated that the route had merits not surpassed by any canal then in contemplation in this state, but, owing to the unsettled condition of monetary affairs, which made the raising of money a difficult task, the propriety of starting this new work at that time was questioned. However, the committee offered a resolution to the effect that, whenever the State should be prepared to begin any new work, the extension of the Chemung canal should stand among the first of those to receive legislative sanction.

As the years passed away and the State made no attempt to build the canal, several business men of Elmira became interested in a movement for consummating this project, and petitioned the Legislature of 1846 for an act of incorporation, authorizing the construction of a canal or railroad to connect the Chemung canal with the Pennsylvania canal system. The members of the Assembly committee, having the petition under consideration, expressed their belief that a canal to connect those points would be preferable to a railroad, and a bill incorporating the Junction Canal Company, with a capitalization of $500,000, was introduced and passed, becoming act (chapter 194).

The company was "authorized and empowered to make, construct and forever maintain a canal or slackwater navigation of suitable width, depth and dimensions to be determined by the said corporation." The law provides that "the tolls shall not in the whole exceed the rate of two cents and five mills per mile for every ton weight of the ascertained burthen or capacity of any boat, ark, craft or vessel, laden with or engaged in the transportation of coal, salt or plaster." By the act the company was permitted to take such land as should be desired upon the payment to the owners of a money consideration, and in order to avoid delays in navigation the law made it mandatory for those in charge of vessels of all descriptions passing through the canal, to blow a trumpet or horn within one-fourth of a mile from any lock, so that the attendant could be apprised of the approach of boats and have the lock in readiness for their passage.

The company procrastinated in the matter until the failure to begin construction compelled the enactment of chapter 369 in 1852, which renewed this corporate powers. As it would be necessary to extend the canal below the State line, the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1852 passed a law granting the company permission to build the waterway through such portions of Bradford county as it should consider expedient to secure a direct and convenient route.

The company was finally organized, a majority of the stock having been subscribed, and work was begun. In April, 1853, for the purpose of aiding in a more speedy completion of the work, which already was under headway, the Legislature passed an act (chapter 236), making it lawful for the company whenever $400,000 of the capital stock had been subscribed and thirty per cent of it had been paid in and expended on the work, to issue bonds, secured by a mortgage on the canal, for a sum not to exceed $150,000.

After the line had been located, proposals were advertised for, contracts were let, and in March, 1853, the first ground was broken at a point about three miles southeast of Elmira. Then quickly followed the work of construction all along the route, and the main portion of the canal was completed in 1854, the waterway extending about eighteen miles along the north side of the Chemung river, affording slack-water navigation except at points where the river was obstructed by rapids and narrows.

In this year the Legislature by act (chapter 227) authorized the canal board to permit the connection of the Junction canal, at its westerly termination in Elmira, as then constructed, with the Chemung canal. The volume and flow of water from the canal to the new line was, by the law, to be under the exclusive control of the canal commissioners.

It was not until 1858 that the Junction Canal Company had its line throughout in operation. The size of the canal, according to a report of the company to the Pennsylvania authorities in 1867, was sixty-five feet at water-line, twenty-six feet at bottom, and four feet in depth, while there were eleven wooden locks of ninety by seventeen feet, having a total lockage of seventy-two feet. The dimensions were given in a report of the company in 1869 as being seventy feet at water-line, twenty-six feet at bottom, with a depth of four and a half feet. The canal was eighteen miles long, having five miles of slack-water navigation. There were three dams and two aqueducts on the route. The cost of construction is reported as $530,637.

The route was in use for about thirteen years after its entire completion, during which time it was an important tributary to the New York State canals, and the company received gratifying returns. In 1866 by a special act (chapter 570) of the Legislature the name of the company was changed to the Junction Canal and Railroad Company, and the officials were authorized to construct a railway if they so desired.

The neighboring railroads gradually absorbed the transportation of coal and other products. Traffic on the terminal canals diminished. In 1865 the North Branch canal, the Pennsylvania connection, was nearly destroyed by a flood, and although ineffectual attempts were made to repair the damage, the canal was never again opened but was supplemented by a railroad built along the berme bank, which was completed in 1869. The Junction canal was operated for a part of the season in the autumn of 1871, and was then closed and abandoned.

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