flourishing town of about twenty thousand inhabitants; Medford
, and Chelmsford
were insignificant villages; Lowell
was yet unborn; while the valley of the Merrimac
, northward into New Hampshire
, supported a sparse agricultural population.
But the outlook was encouraging.
It was a period of rapid growth and marked improvements.
The subject of closer communication with the interior early became a vital question.
Turnpikes, controlled by corporations, were the principal avenues over which country produce, lumber, fire-wood, and building-stone found their way to the little metropolis.
The cost of entertainment at the various country inns, the frequent tolls, and the inevitable wear and tear of teaming enhanced very materially the price of all these articles.
The Middlesex canal
was the first step towards the solution of the problem of cheap transportation.
The plan originated with the Hon. James Sullivan
, who was for six years a judge of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts
from 1790 to 1807, and governor in 1807 and 1808, dying while holding the latter office.
A brief glance at a map of the New England
States will bring out in bold relief the full significance of Sullivan
It will be seen that the Merrimac river
, after pursuing a southerly course as far as Middlesex Village, turns abruptly to the northeast.
A canal from Charlestown mill-pond to this bend of the river, a distance of 27 1/4 miles, would open a continuous water-route of 80 miles to Concord, N. H.
From this point, taking advantage of Lake Sunapee, a canal could easily be run in a northwesterly direction to the Connecticut
at Windsor, Vt.
; and thence, making use of intermediate streams, communication could be opened with the St. Lawrence
The speculative mind of Sullivan
dwelt upon the pregnant results that must follow this articulation of Boston
with New Hampshire
, and Canada
A vast internal commerce, beyond the influence and attraction of the great