the Great Dismal Swamp Canal...
Monday   October 19, 2009   Bellhaven, NC             N 35°32.2'  W 76°37.6'
 

Jake here. Jake de hound dawg...

()

and de year be 1861; yep...March 1861. The boss man sez 'der gonna be war 'cause the new president Mr.Lincoln promises to free all 'n us slaves...and suren 'n hell; North Carolina white folk ain't goin' to allow 'dat. We bin livin' here at Feeder's Cut for generations 'cause ole George Washington (now ded) put lots' n'us here to dig 'dem dam canals. The Mrs'. folks built Wilkins Lock with junip'r trees; but it dun rotted 20 years back, 'bout when her maw 'n pappy both died with 'sumption, so she muved down here to be with Will...or as I call him...BTW (Big Tough Will 'cause he ain't 'fraid a nuthin'). Will ain't strong, but he be the best'n fast'st man makin' dem cypress shingles with 'is broad axe and shingle shave.

Folks 'den load 'em on flatbed boats and pole them down Feeder's Cut to the Great Dismal Swamp where they get tak'n all 'round de country....maybe de hul wurld.

Yep...all on 'count of Lake Drummond and the Dismal Swamp been thick with cypress trees, juniper trees, 'n mistletoe gum trees...but it mostly be the cypress thez after.

Here de map showin' where we duz live and dat mean ole swamp...

Trouble is...Lake Drummond and the Dismal Swamp be 'bout 12 feet higher 'n Norfolk at the Chesepeake or Elizabeth City down by Albermarle Sound and Cape Hatteras...so doz plantation owners put us'n all to work for gen'rations building dat dismal canal with lot's a locks to lift boats up...load 'em with those shingles, and den lock 'em down towards the big cities. We even get tourist boats from Roanoke which we gotta pole thru dem canals

...but also now, there be lots of escaped slaves from way down south runnin' thru here on the 'Underground Railroad' towards the free North...     .
I betcha 'dez gonna be a war...

Bob here...and the date is October, 2009 as we slide down one of America's most serene placid and bucolic waterways...the Great Dismal Swamp Canal.  

Jack's been all over the place...could be the aroma of swamp scents from shore but 10' off either side, where a low canopy camafloges abundant critters ; but Jack also keeps peering over the edge, deep into the 6' canal...

as though he hears generations of hounds and folks that lived their entire lives here in slavery, building the canal, side cuts, and many scattered locks...once numbering 7 in total...now just 2 at both ends...once made of wood (which rotted); then stone (which collapsed); and now steel.
The Swamp surrounding Lake Drummond was named "dismal" by a Col. William Byrd 1728 writing the area was "...nothing but a dismal swamp that wasn't fit for man or beast" (now home to 30 species of mammals, 70 species of birds, 100 varieties of butterflies, and unknown quantities of vegitation). The water is a dark "amber tea" from natural tannins sunshine leached from blackgum, cedar, and cypress
But principally it was the cypress trees on Lake Drummond with intense commercial value (cypress being nature's most rot resistant wood of quantity) that prompted private investors, including young surveyor George Washington, to get Virginia legislative approval in 1787 for canal construction. Not completed until 1805; the 22 mile stretch was progressively widened from 10' to 50' today with repeated revisions (financed by lotteries!!),as canals became the mainstay of commercial transport, much as planes, trains, and 18-wheelers are today. 1814...20 ton decked vessels carried cargo. 1829...Halfway House opened Christmas Day at the state line, half in Virginia and half in North Carolina...ideal for "all purposes of life, as eating, drinking, sleeping, marrying, and dueling"; now buried into swamp history. 1861-1865...fiercely protected by the Conferacy to allow transport around the east coast Union blockade. 1866...Passenger service began, dying into decay as the automobile swept America. Finally purchased by Congress in 1929 from the Lake Drummond and Water Company for $500,000. 1988...placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today...the Great Dismal Swamp Canal hosts boats like svNavigator with Jack, the Mrs., and BTW on board...

                                        home             top             comment            
                                               © bob and nancy gause   web design bob gause
Subscribe to OceanVoyaging on a MaineCat 41 by Email