Monday, March 22, 2010

Potomack Company 1812

Detailed canal construction progress report, dated Georgetown, DC, May 12 1812, from Jonas Thompson, to, "The Honourable President and Directors of the Potomack Company, which was in the early canal business (see history below) based in the Washington DC region. The contents read, in part, as follows: "This will inform you that I am now working at considerable disadvantage for the want of sites for the new locks at the Little Falls. The opening of the foundation of which is a very considerable work nnd by putting it of[f] until the proper season for working on the [Potomac] River, I fear it will very much interfere with that working. It appears by the conduit of Mr. Carleton, while I was last absent, that we shall be able to keep very few hands at work this summer. When I left this place we had about 57 hands, which were hired by the year, a number of which were free coloured men, which Mr. Carleton paid off in order to give them the opportunity of leaving our employ, at the same time observed to Mr. Germain there would not be funds to keep in employ so many hands. From that circumstance I fear the funds are very short, and hope the Company, as soon as convenient, will inform me what number of hands we shall be able to keep in employ during the summer season, that the necessary arrangement be made. I understand that the Company have a free stone quarry at Seneca and a considerable quantity of stone already quarried, which we shall want for the gate jambs of our next locks at the Little Falls. I have had 4 new boats built and the old ones repaired for the use of our working operations, two of which I expect we shall be able to spare from that employ, if it meet the approbation of the Honourable Board. The one I will employ in getting lime down the River for the building of our locks, and the other I will employ in getting free stone from Seneca. And as those boats ascend he River, I will send from our quarry capping stone for the locks at the Great Falls -- if we should not be able to work a considerable force on the River this summer, would it not be advisable to remove the worst obstructions between this place and Harpers Ferry. Our present cap is getting very sickly, in consequence of which I wish to remove it soon. Our loss in tools this past year was considerable. I wish to make the overseers accountable for any tools that may be lost which under their charge; if you approve of it please to make an order to that effect. My services at this moment are necessary on the Shenandoah, but cannot have this place before our works at the locks are commenced. The first installment of the artisans' loan have been paid to the Banks. Mr. Carleton authorized Mr. Laurence to attend that business on behalf of the Company, but I believe there is no one authorized to draw on that fund for the repaying the expense of the works. Mr. Ragan has been under the necessity of purpose for that purpose on the subject of the width of the new locks to be built at the Little Falls. The present locks are eighteen feet wide and will admit two boats at the same time and, of course, will enable the lock keeper to pass one third more boats than if the locks were twelve feet wide, but there are more locks at the Great Falls and only 12 feet wide. More boats could be passed at these locks than could be passed at the Great Falls, if they were only 12 feet wide and in that case one third of the water would be saved. Either will do; please make the choice. I have in my possession way bills for several thousand dollars, which at present are in the possession of Mr. Moss at the Great Falls and no doubt before Mr.Carleton's indisposition took place that he received the way bill for the first freshet ... [signed] Jonas Thompson.

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