Washington DC – Day Trips 2 – Maryland – C&O Canal

Each March, in honor of Maryland Women’s History Month, a special publication is produced to recognize the contributions of women to the State of Maryland. This is the only state to highlight the contributions of its female citizens.

Women have had a very strong presence in Maryland, from its inception. So take this message home to find out more about women’s roles in the history where you live, and get their stories out, so you can appreciate their vital role.

Starting here, in the counties of Maryland closest to Washington, DC, here are some people to get to know and to visit the places associated with them.

Some of these women made amazing, often-unheralded contributions to our nation.

Women were vital to the operation of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, a 184 mile long manufactured shipping waterway, located along the northern edge of the Potomac River between Washington, D.C. and Cumberland, Maryland. Now, it’s a National Park and a great recreational area, too.

Here’s some back-ground.

George Washington, a surveyor before his Presidency, had a dream of connecting the eastern states with the western frontier. That led to the creation of the Patowmack Company. Canals were built around the unnavigable parts of the Potomac River and this improved commerce. The C&O Canal inherited the river’s right of way after the Patowmack Company’s demise.

The Canal was in operation from 1850 to 1924, and women had several roles. Whether they worked in the strong supporting role as wife of a boat captain or a locktender, or in the primary role as a boat captain or a lockkeeper themselves, women were essential to the life of the canal.

Some of the women we extol are:
___ Nina Spong, who risked her life to save her children in an accident on board the family canal boat while it was waiting to unload at Georgetown.

___ Elizabeth Burgess, Elizabeth Case and Mrs. James O’Reilly, who each took over operation of the lift locks, after their husbands died. What a grueling job!

___ Catherine Ensminger of Williamsport who became a canal boat captain after her husband died. Indeed, during the Civil War period, many other canal widows also took over their husbands’ jobs.

___ Cora Hebb from the area of Sharpsburg was also well-known along the canal for her delicious baked bread. Many locktenders’ wives supplemented the family income in this way. Women worked side-by-side with their husbands and their children to make the C&O Canal run. Their unsung contributions are beyond measure.

You can even stay in Canal Quarters within the Park. You can be staying in a historic Canal Lockhouse for a day and night. In the cabin, there are household tools and furnishings reminiscent of different periods of the canal’s history. These convey the living conditions of a lock keeper’s family as it may have been during the 1830s, at the time of the Civil War, the turn of the twentieth century, or the 1950s.

Three historic buildings: Lockhouse 6 near Washington DC, Lockhouse 22 known as Pennyfield Lock, and Lockhouse 49 in Four Locks near Clear Spring, Maryland, are now open for reservations. Two other lockhouses are being rehabilitated and will be available in the near future. See links at the site.

Washington, DC Travel – Archived Articles

©2011 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

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