John Pritiskutch Reproductions

History of Lebanon County - Union Canal

The following is reproduced from the 1875 Atlas of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania

This is one of the most valuable public properties in Lebanon co., and has done much toward developing the resources of the same. It is void that Wm. Penn, as early as 1690 suggested the feasibility and advantages of such a work. The matter lay dorment until 1762, when a survey was made by David Rittenhouse and Dr. Wm. Smith. Public interest however died away, and nothing more was done until 1794 when operations were commenced and pushed with more or less vigor, and frequent cessations, in spite of discouragements and financial disaster, until 1837, when the work was completed, and the first boat, the Alpha of Tulpehocken, passed Lebanon on its way westward. Identical with the completion and operation of this maritime highway, is much of the material prosperity, not only of Lebanon, but of the whole county; and from that time dates that steady growth in population and agricultural wealth which has made Lebanon county what it is. The Union Canal Company may, in this era of Railroads, have lost its commercial preponderance; but nothing can alter the fact that its projectors have done more for Lebanon county in the pant than any other person or persons; nor take from them the honor of having laid the "corner stone" of the prosperity of the sections through which the canal passes, and they will always be held in grateful remembrance by all conversant with the history of Lebanon. The main line of this canal is 79 miles in length, with a navigable feeder 7 miles in length. It extends from Middletown on the Susquehanna, to a point near Reading, where it connects with the Schuylkill Canal. There are 54 locks on the east with a descent of 307 feet, and 34 on the west with a descent of 193 feet, also, one tunnel 729 feet in length, cut in the solid rock, which was the first tunnel made in this country. Water is obtained for the canal from the Quittapahilla and the Swatara creeks. It was originally intended for boats of 25 tons, but was enlarged between the years 1853 and 1857. There are three large reservoirs, two near Lebanon, and one near Myerstown. This canal was the first built in the country.