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Erie – Ohio Canal. A visit with history.

Coshocton, Ohio – Friday, May 29, 2015

Coshocton was where we found our fifth wheel camper online and only two days after we picked up our new home on wheels, we discovered our first serendipity. Just 5 minutes driving time down the road from our first campsite is Roscoe Village, Coshocton. This town is preserved from when the first canal boat docked in 1830.

Roscoe Village Coshocton antique stores and coffe shops.

Part of the original Erie Canal system still exists here and local volunteers, funded by Ohio State Parks, maintain and operate one of the last horse drawn canal boats. We were welcomed aboard with other tourists and Sparky, our Westie, was allowed too.

The Erie Ohio Canal system commenced in 1825 with the objective of connecting Lake Erie in the north to the Ohio River in the south, 258 miles of engineered channels and locks, dug mostly by hand and with the aid of horses.

Monticello III in dock

Two draft horses towed all passengers, crew and the huge timber hulk with the only control being the pull forward by the horses and aft steerage by tiller and rudder.

The forty minute boat ride along one of the few remaining sections of the canal was silent and smooth. There is no current, and the breeze has no effect on the small stretch of water. It was a glimpse of how quiet it must have been in times before cars and trucks.

Draft horse path for canal boat Coshocton

The crew of volunteers included a ‘hoggee’ (pronounced ‘hoagie’), the one who trains the horses along the path at the edge of the canal, a deckhand, and a helmsman who in this case was a sixteen year old high school student. We were impressed by the helmsman’s skill in steering a ten ton craft, sixty feet long with no engine. In Australia, this would have presented a compliance problem, but this helmsman had all the confidence, care and skill of any seasoned professional.

At one point the boat needs to be swung around to go to in the opposite direction for the return journey. To do this, two draft horses and their ‘hoggee’ quickly whip the bow of the boat around before it hits the wall. The helmsman skilfully handles the steering, he has no other control.

Student on his spring break volunteers to helm this 10 ton hulk.

Student on his spring break volunteers to helm this 10 ton hulk.

We spent a few hours enjoying the old town with antique shops, a pub, and a traditional schoolhouse.

Website: http://web.roscoevillage.com

Roscoe Village School House

Categories:   Places We Love

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