This Day in History – November 30th, 1824 & 1829

On November 30th, 1824 ground was ceremoniously broken in Allanburg, Ontario for the building of the first Welland Canal. Approximately 200 people gathered near Allanburg to witness the sod-turning for the construction. Soon, contracts for the work were let out, but the actual construction didn’t start until July 1825.

Prior to the construction of the Welland Canal, the main settlements in the area were located along Lake Ontario and Niagara River, as the interior of the Niagara Peninsula remained hard to reach and rural areas, if that. As the construction progressed, however, shantytowns to house the laborers and their families were established along the way, giving birth to communities that later became Port Dalhousie, Merritton, Thorold, Allanburg and Port Robinson.

On November 9th, 1828, just two weeks’ worth of work before completion of the Deep Cut, the banks of the cut near Port Robinson collapsed into the excavated channel, killing an unknown number of workers below. More landslides followed, and it soon became evident that making a cut deep enough as to use the Welland River as the source of canal water would not be possible. An alternate, sufficiently high source of water was necessary. Despite complications, the canal opened for a trial run on November 30th, 1829, five years to the day from the ground breaking.

Overall, the combined Welland and Feeder Canals stretched 27 miles between the two lakes, with 40 wooden locks. The minimum lock size was 110 feet by 22 feet, with a minimum canal depth of eight feet. Today, very little of the First Canal is evident. Much of the Feeder Canal, however is still present today in Wainfleet township.

Flourish 3

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