Saturday, August 8, 2015

Sandy & Beaver Canal

Today we took a trip across the state line to Ohio to check out a couple canal lock ruins from the Sandy & Beaver Canal. The two locks are both located within the boundaries of Beaver Creek State Park near East Liverpool, Ohio. 


The Beaver & Sandy Canal was constructed between 1828 and 1848. By 1852 the canal had fallen into disrepair after the Cold Run Reservoir Dam, outside of Lisbon, Ohio collapsed and ruined a large portion of the canal. Twenty years worth of backbreaking construction to build a canal that lasted a total of four years! However, six miles of the canal at the west end were used as a feeder for the Ohio & Erie Canal, until 1884 when the aqueduct was lost in a flood. 


The total length of the canal was 73 miles and connected the Ohio & Erie Canal at Bolivar, Ohio to the Ohio River at Glasgow, PA (Beaver County).


The entire canal consisted of at least 90 locks so it is safe to say there are other ruins from this canal still visible in other places. Today we looked at two. The middle division between Kensington and Lockbridge also contained two tunnels which is something I would like to look more into. 


According to the nice ladies at the visitors center in the park the first canal we looked at was simply called "Lock 36". So we're going with that.


Lock 36


This canal is largely intact. One of the better preserved canal locks sitting in the woods.

The huge stonework remains impressive after 163 years.

Part of the canal still holding water.

The geese love the old canal!

Walking back to the section of the park called Pioneer Village. It really is a very nice park.

Jan and Lisa with their dog Jesse. Jesse had the best day a dog could ever ask for.

Horseback riders crossing the Little Beaver Creek.




Gretchen's Lock


This is by far the most interesting of the two locks we explored today. By a construction standard it is much nicer that Lock 36, but the story it carries with it is far more interesting. In fact, it might have the most interesting story of any site I've ever explored. 


The story begins in 1827 when the canal's Chief Engineer, Edward H. Gill left Ireland and sailed for America. During the trip across the ocean, tragedy struck as Gill's wife died and was buried at sea. Tragedy struck again ten years later in Ohio when Gill's daughter Gretchen contracted malaria and died on August 12, 1838. Edward Gill, who had plans to return to Ireland, entombed Gretchen's coffin temporarily in the stonework of the canal with plans to remove her when the time came to return to his homeland. When that time arrived, Gill removed Gretchen's coffin and left for Ireland. During this journey tragedy struck a third time. The ship sank in a storm taking with it the life of Edward H. Gill as well as the remains of Gretchen. 


Gretchen went to her death with fever and hallucinations. Local legend says her spirit still wanders the hills crying "I want to be with my mother".


And now, after that uplifting tale, here are the photos of Gretchen's Lock.


This lock is huge and Jesse is about to get very muddy.

Jan leaning on his staff checking out the lock.

This stonework is still insanely tight.

Perfectly intact curved stone that held the hinge for one of the massive lock doors.

Looking down into the lock.

The top of the hinge. This is where the large board sat that opened and closed the lock door.

Remains from a dam directly below the lock. Gretchen's Lock might have been a guard lock that released the canal boats into slackwater on the creek.

Looking down toward the creek. This lock is very high.

The stone shifted about an inch over 163 years.

This end of the lock is starting to show its age. The stone is certainly shifting.

Looking down.

Shifting stone.


More curved stone. Another door hinge.


Closeup of the stonework.

We couldn't figure out what these indention's were on both sides of the lock. It looks like it could have contained a wall but we don't know why.

Jan with his staff standing on top of the other indention.

Looking down into the lock.



  1. Neat find Mike! Your sure find some interesting history hidden away. Fascinating info and pictures.
    Eric Johnson

    1. Thanks Eric! Lisa, who was in the photos actually discovered it. I was along for the ride!

  2. Today we complain of shoddy work at times.You just looked at precision stone work,probaley hand precision work,maybe not.These workers gave there all! Almost like looking at the pyramids,built to last!

    1. Exactly! Superior stonework to anything that's done today. Thanks for looking and commenting!

  3. Glad you had such a nice visit to view a couple of Sandy & Beaver Canal structures. Check out for more photos and information on the canal. By the way, the nice ladies seem to have mislead you. The first structure photos are of the guard lock at Dam #9. Lock 36 is in fact in the Pioneer Village. You must have walked right by it.

    The story of Gretchen is just that - a story. Edward Hall Gill and his wife Mary never had a child named Gretchen, and both of them are buried in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA.

    The indentations or "slots" you wondered about were used to keep water from flowing into the lock during repair or maintenance work on the lock doors. Tongue and groove white oak planks were slid into these slots.

    Thanks for a great blog. I'm really enjoying looking at all of your wonderful entries.