Photo by Tom Larson
Stump Pulling Machine model at Seneca Museum of Waterways and Industry
07-07-07 dawned blue skied and sunny on Canal Street, Seneca Falls. Our crew aboard the Lois McClure had taken advantage of the previous "non- public" day to erect the Ship's Store, lay out the interpretive banners and scrub the decks. The gusty winds had toppled the banners one too many times, so Kerry and others cleverly devised a new arrangement using poles and line to keep them upright. Eric called a meeting below deck, and laid out details for the very full day that awaited us. We would be open to the public from 10-6pm. The boat would be closed however, from 1-2pm. in order to host a home- town wedding on board. In addition, at 7pm. there would be an 'open boat' for those attending the Seneca Museum of Waterways and Industry reception being held dock side.
My first opportunity to interpret began promptly at 10:00 with a personal tour given to a small group of cadet girl scouts. In no time the Lois was full of visitors from stem to stern. I was amazed at how quickly that morning disappeared while we ushered through a steady crowd of curious and friendly residents from Seneca Falls and the surrounding area. By the end of the weekend we will have had approximately 1200 visitors on board!
In the early afternoon a white, stretch limo pulled up and we all instantly became guests at Cher and Marty's wedding. An archway of white silk flowers was lashed to the gangway and a musician sang "Time in a Bottle" as the bride ascended the ramp and joined the rest of the wedding party center deck. The attendants wore khaki shorts and green polo shirts sporting a four leaf clover. The lovely ceremony was performed by Mayor Diana Smith, an old friend of the bride. Eric presented Cher and Marty with two canal schooner pint glasses and the entire crew was invited to join them at the helm for picture taking. A large crowd of wedding guests watched from the shore (as well as some surprised visitors who had come to visit the boat!) The party soon dispersed to the tavern and we resumed taking on visitors for the rest of the afternoon.
The evening museum reception proved to be especially educational for me, as many attendees were happy to share their stories of growing up on the Cayuga - Seneca Canal. Throughout our stay, we were able to learn much more about the history of Seneca Falls with visits to the Women's Rights National Historical Park and the Seneca Falls Heritage Area Visitor Center. On the morning of our departure, we were privileged to be given a private tour of the Seneca Museum of Waterways and Industry.
Seneca Falls is a town with a rich past. The first locks were built along the Seneca River in 1817 and by 1828 a link was made to the Erie Canal. Increased access to this area allowed agricultural and industrial businesses to flourish. Not only was the canal useful for the transportation of goods and people, but also for the exchange of ideas. Abolitionism, woman's suffrage and temperance were important topics for discussion at this time. Seneca Falls became a center of social reform in 1848 when resident Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others held the First Women's Rights Convention at the Wesleyan Church on Fall Street. Three years later Stanton met Susan B. Anthony in Seneca Falls and the two began their important work together in the area of women's rights.
In 1915 a residential and industrial area below the locks called The Flats was flooded, eliminating the old locks and creating Van Cleef Lake. A wider double lock system was built at the outlet of the new lake. This renovation coincided with the creation of the Barge Canal which allowed major freight-carrying barges to travel between NYC and the Great Lakes.
As we motored up the canal to lock CS 4 in Waterloo toward our afternoon destination of Geneva on Seneca Lake, I reflected on my wonderful experiences at Seneca Falls on the Lois McClure, and found myself feeling both lucky and thankful.