Research

New York State Comptroller's Office Canal Engineer's Field Notes for State Canals

Held by the New York State Archives


Overview of the Records

Repository:

New York State Archives

New York State Education Department

Cultural Education Center

Albany, NY 12230

Summary:
This series consists of field notes from surveys made for the Canal Commissioners (Revised Statutes 1827), which directed that the Commissioners have maps and field notes made for all canals constructed by the state. Field notes in this series were submitted by the Canal Commissioners to the Canal Board for approval, and upon approval were certified by the commissioners and filed in the Comptroller's Office. The Erie, Chenango, Chemung, Crooked Lake, Cayuga and Seneca, and Oswego canals are covered.
Creator:
Title:
Quantity:
1.8 cubic feet (10 volumes)
Inclusive Dates:
circa 1829-1843
Bulk Dates:
bulk 1834
Series Number:
A1078

Arrangement

Arranged by canal and therein geographical along a continuous route line on consecutive pages.

Scope and Content Note

The series consists of field notes from surveys made for the Canal Commissioners pursuant to provisions of Part I, Chapter 9, Title 9, Article1 of the Revised Statutes of 1827, which directed that the Commissioners have maps and field notes made for all canals constructed by the state. These maps and field notes were submitted by the Canal Commissioners to the Canal Board for approval, and upon approval were certified by the commissioners as correct and filed in the Comptroller's Office. The notes cover the Erie, Chenango, Crooked Lake, Cayuga and Seneca, and Oswego canals. This series contains only field notes; maps are filed separately.

The series is only partially complete, containing four full volumes and fragments of a fifth. Originally it comprised six volumes. The Erie Canal was covered in three volumes, Volume 3 of which is now fragmentary (the complete contents of Volume 3 are available on microfilm); the Chenango Canal was covered in two volumes, Volume 1 of which is missing; and the Crooked Lake, Cayuga and Seneca, and Oswego canals were complete in one volume, labeled Field Book No. 3 and apparently comprising the final number in the second trio of bound volumes.

The field notes are in the form of drawings of the canal, giving boundaries of state-owned land (within blue lines), names of adjoining property owners, and showing locks, basins, culverts, bridges, aqueducts, mill races, ponds, and buildings along the canal. The solid red line in the drawings represents the inner line of the towing path from which all measurements in the direction of the length of the canal were made. Lengths of portions of the canal line are given at a scale of two chains to one inch, with offset lines at each station shown as diagonal red lines. Explanatory remarks found in each volume (many hand written and signed by Holmes Hutchinson, "Civil Engineer") give more information, including the reference date of the magnetic meridian reading from which the bearings were taken for measurement of portions of the two line (given on the drawings).

The volumes also generally include several printed sheets with blanks filled in by hand. These are dated and signed by various state officials, and include: explanatory remarks on survey methods and meanings of demarcations; certifications signed by the Canal Commissioners; notices, signed by the Comptroller, that the books were deposited and field in his office; and approvals of the maps and filed notes, signed by the Canal Board (comprised of both the Canal Commissioners and the Commissioners of the Canal Fund). Most of the volumes have a title page bearing the signature of Holmes Hutchinson.

The color drawings are done in pen and ink on ruled paper, with canal waters colored blue and other bodies of water given a lighter blue wash. The volumes generally measure 20 x 23 cm with drawings running in geographical sequence (no neat lines or page numbers) on pages measuring approximately 18.5 x 21 cm. Bindings carry the name of the canal and the field book number.

A1078-95: This accretion consists of linear strip surveys prepared from original field notes. The geographical sequence of the surveys is from west to east: Lockport to Rochester (Book 2), Jordan to Frankfort (Book 3), and Frankfort to Albany (Book 4). The location of the original first volume in the sequence is unknown.

A1078-15: This accretion consists of two volumes: a Chenango Canal field book and a Chemung Canal field book. The Chenango Canal field book contains a hand-drawn and hand-colored map of the Chenango Canal, sketched by an unidentified surveyor sometime before 1843, and is the first volume in a two-volume set that covers most of the length of the canal. The work is broken up into several hundred pages, each page comprising a small section of the canal, and illustrates in great detail such features as the locks along the canal, the names and property lines of the landowners through which it runs, adjoining and nearby structures and roads, town boundary lines, canal dimensions at frequent intervals, and the towpath. Various markings have also been annotated by the surveyor, if further explanation was considered to be warranted. At the end of the field book is what appears to be the original copy of an 1843 document officially approving the surveyor's work, and is signed by the Canal Commissioners and Commissioners of the Canal Fund.

The Chemung Canal field book is the result of a survey conducted between 1829 and 1832 by Holmes Hutchinson, a prominent civil engineer based in Utica whose career involved extensive surveying of the canal system. The contents are similar to those found in the Chenango Field Book (colored drawings and handwritten notes pertaining to the course of the canal, landowners, structures, etc.), though the sketches are even more detailed and the color somewhat more vibrant. It also includes a handwritten page of explanatory remarks at the outset of the volume, providing information on the meaning of various notes and markings made in the sketches.

Use of Records

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions regarding access to or use of the material.

Alternate Formats Available

Microform is available at the New York State Archives through interlibrary loan.

Microfilm: 2 reels; 35mm.

Related Information

Related Materials

Series B0730 Engineers' Field Books Pertaining to the Construction of the State's Canal System, contains the original field books from which these notes were taken

Series A0848 Canal System Survey Maps, contains the maps made from these field notes.

Other finding aids

Volume list is available at the repository.

Custodial History

The final volume in the 1995 accretion ("Book 4") came to the Archives from a Department of Transportation employee via Craig Williams of the NY State Museum on March 30, 1993. The other two volumes ("Book 2" and "Book 3") were found boxed in the Archives stacks without attribution in March 1995. The latter two volumes were combined with the one-volume 1993 accretion by Archives staff on March 20, 1995.

Location of Original MaterialVolume 3, original (except for fragments held by New York State Archives) held by New-York Historical Society, New York, N.Y. Microform copy of series available at New-York Historical Society, New York, N.Y.

Other Descriptive Data

Volume 3, original (except for fragments held by the New York State Archives), is held by the New-York Historical Society, New York, N.Y.

A microform copy of the series is available at the New-York Historical Society, New York, N.Y.

Acquistion Information

A1078-15: These volumes were transferred to the State Archives by the Office of General Services Bureau of Land Management in 2012 as part of a project to identify Bureau records with archival value.

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