By Ted Waddell
WURTSBORO December 5, 2003 Vintage photographs take viewers back in time as open doorways into history.
On Wednesday, December 3, the Mamakating D&H Canal Linear Park Commission took folks on a fascinating trip through several of those doors as they sponsored an informal meeting at the town hall, during which several historical societies and area residents displayed old photographs and other artifacts related to the canal and local history.
The commission was established by the town board in June 2002 with the mission of coordinating the linear Delaware and Hudson Canal park project, thus linking it with existing sections under continuing development and interpretation.
The D&H Canal was built by two brothers, William and Maurice Wurts, to transport anthracite coal from what is now Honesdale, Pa. to Eddyville, NY. It was used to carry coal from the mines in Carbondale, Pa. to Kingston, NY, where it transferred to barges for shipment to New York City.
Handbuilt by mostly Irish and German immigrants, the D&H Canal operated from 1828 to 1898. During seven decades of operation, the canal was the primary economic artery of its region.
It stretched for 108 miles and was comprised of 108 locks. The canal included four aqueducts designed by John Roebling, who later gained international fame as the builder of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The D&H Canal was reportedly the nations first million-dollar private enterprise. Together with the Gravity Railroad, it formed a transportation system extending more than 120 miles.
Wurtsboro indeed, the entire length of Mamakating sat along the edge of the canal. As quickly becomes obvious, Wurtsboro was named after the canals founders and happens to be the spot where ground was first broken.
Betty Lindsay was born in Wurtsboro and lives there to this day and plans to stay a while longer.
Ive already got my burial plot, so Ill never leave, joked the member of the Mamakating Historical Societys board of directors.
As the evening wore on, she huddled over a table with Andrew Helgesen of Ellenville, looking at reams of historic photographs, images captured in time of bygone people and events that shaped the future.
Helgesen is a guy who takes his history pretty seriously.
Hes a member of several area historical preservation organizations: the D&H Canal Historical Society of High Falls; chair of the D&H Canal Heritage Alliance; and president of the D&H Canal Transportation Heritage Council.
Jeanne Bollendorf, executive director of the D&H Canal Historical Society, showed up with a large-scale wooden model of a D&H Canal boat crafted by Ted Manikas, an inmate at the Eastern NY Correctional Facility Annex in Napanoch.
Using books, diagrams and photos taken by the correctional facility staff at the D&H Canal Museum, Manikas created an authentic model of an old mule-drawn canal boat.
Inspired by the appearance of the inmates model, Pat Moore rushed home to get a small handcrafted model of a canal lock and canal boat made by Ed Auer many years ago. Its so authentic that Auer used dirt from the towpath in his model of the lock.
Moore grew up in Wurtsboro and served as village mayor from 1988-91 and as town clerk for 16 years. She worked for about 20-some years as a local correspondent for the Bulletin-Sentinel, while her husband Tom was a printer with the newspaper.
Lee MacDonald, her husbands uncle, used to own the old lead mines in Wurtsboro and a tourist farm alongside the canal.
Contributing groups to the informal exhibit included the D&H Canal Museum, the Ellenville Public Library/Museum, the Mamakating Historical Society, the Minisink Valley Historical Society and the National Park Service Rivers & Trails Program.
Other exhibits included historic photographs from several local communities with ties to the past: Wurtsboro, Westbrookville, Cuddebackville and Phillipsport.
In addition, those curious could view photos of the Roebling Aqueduct, a map of the D&H Canal Linear Park and old newspaper clippings chronicling the 150th anniversary of the D&H Canal in 1975.
Were working to complete the previously unfinished sections of the park, said John Lavelle, chair of the Town of Mamakating D&H Canal Linear Park Commission.
We hope to revive a historical asset and create economic opportunities and tourism, he added.
Lisa Lyons is a planner with NPS Rivers & Trails Program, headquartered in Hyde Park.
Shes working with the Town of Mamakating by giving them technical assistance to link the towpath from the elementary school, northward across Sullivan Street in downtown Wurtsboro to the Sullivan County D&H Linear Park, as distance of approximately 8/10 of a mile.
The groundbreaking of the canal in 1825 was a momentous event, said Lyons. New York City Mayor Phillip Hone came up for the occasion.
Fast-forwarding a bit in time, Lyons added of the local park, The heritage of the town is right here embodied in this project. A town that values its history values itself.
For more information about the D&H Canal, call the D&H Canal Historical Society at 687-9311 or visit them on the Internet at www.canal museum.org
For information about the Mamakating D&H Canal Linear Park Commission, call Kerron Barnes, intergovernmental coordinator, at 888-3026.