The New York State Canal System is not only rich in history, but also culture. Many immigrants worked long and hard on "Clinton’s Ditch" to create this magnificent waterway. Folklore, songs and speech lingo emerged from those individuals working along the Canal. As the population grew and the Canal prospered, it became not only a transportation waterway, but also a vacation area for the well-to-do.
At one time, more than 50,000 people depended on the Erie Canal for their livelihood. From its inception, the Erie Canal helped form a whole new culture revolving around canal life. For many, canal boats became floating houses, traveling from town to town. The father would serve as captain, while the mother cooked for the family and crew and the children, if old enough, would serve as "hoggees" and would walk alongside the mules to lead them along at a steady pace.
For those who traveled along the Canal in packet boats or passenger vessels, the Canal was an exciting place. Gambling and entertainment were frequent pastimes on the Canal and often, families would meet each year at the same locations to share stories and adventures.
Today, the Canal has returned to its former glory and is filled with pleasure boats, fishermen and cyclists riding the former towpaths where mules once trod. The excitement of the past is alive and well.
Source: NY State Canals web site
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