August 11, 2007

Ship's Log - Palmyra


Sarah serves as the Education Coordinator for the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Her degree in archaeology from Boston University prepared her for an internship at LCMM's Conservation Lab six years ago. From there she developed a love for wooden replicas, for SCUBA diving, and for turning kids onto history. She joins the crew of Lois McClure for a couple legs of their Grand Canal Journey.

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Photo by Art Cohn
Oocher, Tom and Kerry

"Oocher neutral," Roger requested. "Oocher neutral," came the response from Tom.

I peered down at the movements of the 18-foot grey inflatable from the deck of Lois McClure. This was a view I never had when I was a crew member in 2005. That year I was looking up at the deck of Lois, as I ooched my way around, pushing and pulling as the captain instructed. But this year the Oocher is in the more-than-capable hands of Kerry Batdorf and Tom Larson, nudging Lois and Churchill through the hundreds of miles and dozens of locks of the Erie Canal. I am here for only a week's rotation this season; I miss it already!

But I'm getting ahead of things. I arrived at Palmyra, "Queen of Canal Towns" accompanied by volunteers John Tichonuk and Hilton Dier, as well as crew member Adam Jarrett, on a lovely warm Friday afternoon. The Lois McClure had just arrived and the gangway was being set in place. We all stashed our gear, waved goodbye to the van load of crew heading eastward, and jumped right into tent and exhibit panel set-up. Already folks were milling about, making us feel welcome; everyone was looking forward to a great weekend.

The Town of Palmyra, NY is named for an important ancient city in central Syria, located in an oasis 215 km northeast of Damascus and 120 km southwest of the Euphrates. It had been a vital caravan port for travelers crossing the Syrian desert and was known as the Bride of the Desert. Many know Palmyra as the birthplace of the Mormon Movement. Founder Joseph Smith had a visitation by God there in 1820, and the Book of Mormon was first published in Palmyra in 1830 by E.B. Grandin.

But like many towns, Palmyra really got its economic boost with the completion of the Erie Canal. Today, visitors can learn about the history of this fascinating and important town at the Museums of Historic Palmyra which include the Alling Coverlet Museum, the Phelps General Store, the Print Shop, and the Palmyra Historical Museum, headed up by the dynamic duo Bonnie and Steven Hays.

One can also see the remnants of the Mud Creek Aqueduct along Route 31. This engineering marvel contained a wooden trough atop a series of arches, bringing the canal and its adjacent towpath over Mud Creek, officially called Ganargua Creek. Isn't it wild that one could be in a boat on a canal on a bridge over a creek?

Photo by Barbara Batdorf
Aldrich Change Bridge

Equally interesting are the remains of the Aldrich Change Bridge which allowed the towpath to switch from one side of the canal to the other during the Enlarged Erie Canal era (1840-1905). Originally, the towpath was entirely on the south side of the canal but the enlargment left no room between the new canal and adjacent buildings in Palmyra, so the towpath was switched to the north side through the village. Erected in 1858, this is the oldest iron bridge in New York State, and was first used not in Palmyra, but in Rochester at the weighlock. After its use in Palmyra, it was eventually moved again and used as a farm bridge, and now stands in Aqueduct Park.

Saturday brought bright sun, high temperatures, and over 1,600 people to see the boat. Palmyra put on a Pirate festival all weekend, and we saw countless eyepatches, plastic cutlasses and striped socks walking up our gangplank (er, gangway)! Then Saturday evening found some of the crew at the Lock 29 Tavern for their Pirate Costume Contest. Our First Mate represented the crew well; after all, he's had some experience at our own Kids Pirate Festival every June. He took Second Place! A great time was had by all. Amidst all the "Arrrgh"ing, we all attempted to achieve what is always our goal: to impart the importance of the Erie Canal to those that share this heritage with us.

By the end of the weekend, we had seen 2,800 visitors, eaten our way through Palmyra (chicken BBQ, the Canaltown Hots, and the best cappuccino ever at Geoffrey's Bistro,) and been treated more like guests in a friend's home than a traveling museum. Everyone we encountered in Palmyra met us with enthusiasm and open arms. What a welcoming community, headed up by their energetic Mayor Vicky Daly. I found a note she writes to her residents where she comments, "I have not seen such a collaborative effort in the six years I have been in office and I think it is great. It was 'our' party and it was 'our' effort that made it happen!" I, for one, couldn't agree more. Thank you, Palmyra!

Generosity Abounds!

Thank You!

Vicky Daly, Mayor of the Village of Palmyra for all the coordination of the many events and services provided for this event.

And many, many Thanks to all the following Event Sponsors who provided rooms, food, shower & bath facilities, ice cream, chocolate, ice, Gift Cards and so many other things too numerous to itemize.

Palmyra Community Center
Palmyra-Macedon Lions Club
Palmyra-Macedon Rotary Club
Macedon-Palmyra Chamber of Commerce
Historic Palmyra
Canal Town Bed & Breakfast
Liberty House Bed & Breakfast
Palmyra Inn
Candy Corner Fudge Square
Lock 29 Tavern
Joan Herendeen, Artist
Jim Bush, Magician
Muddy Waters Cafe
Cranberry Cove
Cynthia M. Kukuvka, ESQ
Severn Trent Environmental Services
Community, NA
Wegmans Supermarkets
Woodfine Development, Inc.

Phone: 802-475-2022