Lockport

On June 24, 2014 · 2 Comments

The website hit came from Lockport, Illinois. Lockport sounded familiar, although from a different time and place than Illinois. It also seemed quite descriptive, a lock on a canal combined with a port (or perhaps a portage). Locks would be ideal places for settlements during the heyday of canal travel a century or more ago. Commerce naturally congregated at places where barges had to slow down or sit in a queue for awhile before going through the locks.

Lockport, Illinois


I&M Canal, Lock 1
I&M Canal, Lock 1 by Eric Allix Rogers, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

The random visitor from Lockport, Illinois (map) came from an historic town founded in 1830. Lockport served as a key point on the Illinois and Michigan Canal (now a state trail).

The I&M canal became the initial link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico through the continental interior, joining a huge section of North American into to a single transportation system. The canal itself connected Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River by coupling the Chicago River to the Illinois River via a 96 miles (154 km) waterway. The I&M was replaced later by the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (where engineers reversed the flow of the Chicago River) and closed altogether after the completion of the Illinois Waterway in the early 20th Century.

Lockport was the headquarters of the I&M and eased settlement of the Upper Mississippi watershed during the second half of the 19th Century. Chicago would not have become the dominant city of the Midwest without Lockport thirty miles inland to bridge the eastern continental divide.


Lockport, New York


Lockport New York 099
Lockport New York 099 by Jim Jordan, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

I was more familiar with Lockport, New York, a town of similar size and function except on the Erie Canal (map). This one had personal meaning to me. The Old Howder Homestead stood nearby. The other side of my family traveled up the canal and through the locks at Lockport on their migration to the Midwest in 1844. As I said in that earlier article:

In one of life’s odd coincidences, my mother’s side of the family (in a canal boat) and my father’s side of the family (farmers living near Lockport) came within amazingly close proximity of each other on or around the evening of Thursday, October 17, 1844 — literally a "ship that passed in the night." The families wouldn’t get another chance for more than a hundred years and in a completely different location.

The Erie Canal did what the I&M did, a generation earlier in a different place. It connect the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes in a direct fashion beginning in 1825, crossing the width of New York state.


Lockport, Manitoba


Locks at Lockport, Manitoba
Locks at Lockport, Manitoba by Dan McKay, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Canada had plenty of canals too, and naturally a good name like Lockport couldn’t confine itself to the United States. Manitoba had its own Lockport. (map). The lock and port in this instance occurred on the Red River, on a stretch where the St. Andrew’s Rapids complicated navigation. Engineers responded by constructing the appropriately-named St. Andrew’s Lock and Dam that opened in 1910: "This lock system allows access to Lake Winnipeg from the south and Winnipeg from the north."


Lockport, Louisiana


Lockport Company Canal Bridge
Lockport Company Canal Bridge by C Hanchey, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

There were fewer canals in the southern part of the United States, nonetheless Louisiana had its own Lockport too (map). This was borne from an early canal completed in 1847 that connected Bayou Terrebonne to New Orleans. The canal went out of operation long ago, however Lockport continues to sit along a branch of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. In a sense it still retains a connection by water to all of the major cities of the Gulf Coast.


Lockports Elsewhere

There were several more Lockport towns and villages along waterways, particularly in the Northeastern and Midwestern states. Pennsylvania deserved special mention. The U.S. Geographic Names Information System mentioned five populated places there.

  • Lockport on the Conemaugh River (map)
  • Lockport on the Juniata River (map)
  • Lockport on the Lehigh River (map)
  • Lockport on the Susquehanna River (map)
  • Lockport on the West Branch Susquehanna River (map)

That was an impressive number of Lockports.


Announcement

Due to conflicting schedules of those who wanted to participate in the 12MC Geo-Oddity Bicycle Ride and couldn’t, the ride has been postponed until Fall. I’ll try to figure out a better date later.

On June 24, 2014 · 2 Comments

2 Responses to “Lockport”

  1. Pfly says:

    Ha, I saw the title and thought, Lockport, NY! Then read and thought, hey, I grew up very near Lockport, NY, maybe we’re related! Well, probably not, at least not that way.

  2. stangetz says:

    In Pennsylvania, there is a borough called Platea, about 15 miles southwest of Erie, PA. Prior to being called Platea, it was called Lockport. The reason being, there were 26 locks within its borders along the Erie Extension Canal (or Erie-Beaver Canal).

    The borough was incorporated in 1870, after 35 years of being a stop along the Canal. Ironically, the canal collapsed (literally)in the fall of 1871, and closed the following year. The location and topography of the borough was not conducive for the railroad that bought the canal’s land to install a station, so it never flourished at all since its incorporation.

    Today, it is the largest borough in area, but smallest in population, in Erie County.

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