For my current genealogical research project, which I’m calling Over the Hill, I’m researching how my ancestors (generally 3rd great-grandparents) moved from the eastern seaboard, where all of my family lines lived before the American Revolution, to the West – the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys – by 1830. I think I’ve figured out one thing today that I want to share with you and get your reactions.
I have ancestors who lived in Maine and Vermont in the 1790s or so and ended up in Ohio by 1830. An overland route seemed very difficult. So I began looking at possible water routes.
Lake Champlain (on the border between Vermont and New York) connects to the St. Lawrence River by the Richelieu River. I thought that they maybe could travel north to the St. Lawrence and then west through the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie to Ohio.
Then I discovered a couple of things:
- The Champlain Canal (connecting Lake Champlain with the Hudson River) was opened in 1823, on the same date the Erie Canal was opened. This provided a water route between Lake Champlain and Lake Erie.
- The Erie and Ohio Canal (in Ohio, eventually connecting Lake Erie and the Ohio River) was opened between 1825, and the first leg of this canal went from Lake Erie to Newark, Ohio, in Licking County (which is where my ancestors moved to when they left Maine and Vermont.)
- If they went up the Richelieu River to the St. Lawrence and then west by boat to Lake Ontario, they would then have encountered the need for a portage around Niagara Falls, between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie on their way west. But the Welland Canal, which completely bypasses Niagara Falls to provide a navigable waterway between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, was also built around 1830.
So what do you all think of this as a possible route for people to get from east to west in the 1820s and 1830s?