C&O Canal Assn logo
 C&O Canal Association

Historical Documents

Records concerning the C&O Canal and the people who made it work

Search historical documents on this site

Alleganian masthead (Source: Western Maryland Regional Library)Newspaper Reports:

Contemporary accounts from Cumberland and other regional newspapers concerning the C&O Canal.

Canal boat from Edison videoVideo:

Library of Congress offers Down the Old Potomac, a 12-minute film made in 1917. The movie follows a week-long, 180-mile trip on the canal through the Potomac Valley from Cumberland to Georgetown. The film Includes scenes of the locks in operation, Paw Paw tunnel, coal barges plying the canal, Harpers Ferry, and Great Falls. Also available onYouTube icon.

Davies book title pageBooks:

The Geology and Engineering Structures of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, written by William E. Davies, is an invaluable reference for students of the C&O Canal. The 636-page book is a 1989 draft of a lifetime work by Davies, a noted geologist and expert on flooding. Although published after his death and unfinished, this work is a mile-by-mile description of structures and formations along the 184-mile length of the canal. Even though the document is a combination of typewritten pages and hand-written notes, online readers can use the search features of their software to locate relevant material.

The Story of The Potomac Refining Company, written by Andrew Clemens, chronicles the history of a company incorporated in 1908 to extract manganese and other minerals from a site along the canal near Dargan Bend at mile 65. Widely advertised to small investors, the company saw its officers indicted for fraud in 1912. The officers were acquitted, but the company entered bankruptcy in 1913.

Contact Andrew Clemens at andrew.clemens@yahoo.com if you have any questions or comments.

Potomac Refining Company letterhead

Canal Operations:

"Double Boat Report", written in December 1879, provides a cost analysis of different alternatives for operating canal boats. The author experimented with lashing two canal boats together, using only one crew and one team of four mules to operate the pair. He also analyzes the option of using a steam-powered canal boat to tow a second non-powered boat.

Payroll Records:

Payroll records have been transcribed using documents from the National Archives and the Lilly Lievsay Collection. This list of the men and women who worked on the C&O Canal can yield insights into the nature of the canal.

Compilations Of Canal Boat Mortgages:

Text: mortgageThese compilations of canal boat mortgages give an insight into the operations of the canal during its heyday.

Mule team
Compilation Of C&O Canal Mule Data:

This compilation pulls information from mortgage documents to give the reader an idea of how much a mule cost.

Family portraitFamily Histories:

Stories of the families that lived along the C&O Canal and made it work. William Bauman drew upon personal recollections and public records to prepare these documents

Joseph P Mose portraitOral History:

We are lucky enough to have audio recordings from people who worked and lived along the C&O Canal.

Canal Boat Registration Documents:

Hand-written boat register

Lists of boats registered to operate on the canal and logs of the boat traffic as it passed Lock 75. Reading these documents you can get a sense of the cargo flow on the canal and the intensity of operations. If you are researching your family history, you may be able to find an ancestor.

Research resource:

Banner for UM archives

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company archives are part of the Special Collections at the University of Maryland Libraries. This collection consists of portions of the records of several lawsuits filed against the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company between 1880 and 1939; many of the legal issues raised were not entirely resolved until the early 1940s. The documents in this collection date from 1880 to 1945 with the bulk of the material dating from 1920 to 1943.


     C & O Canal Association     P.O Box 366      Glen Echo, MD 20812-0366     Phone: 301-983-0825      Email: inquiries@candocanal.org