Genesee Valley Canal: Keep it Open (1877)

Transcribed by Karen Meisenheimer.
From files of Allegany County Historian.

The Allegany County Democrat, Jan. 12, 1877. 



The Genesee Valley Canal.

We copy the following article from the Olean Record and think its statements and conclusions, worthy of serious consideration:


“In the annual report of Canal Auditor G. W. Schuyler to the Legislature, we find the following interesting figures on the Genesee Valley Canal, the cost of operation, etc. The total earnings of the canal were $14, 668.50, and the total charges against it were $31,226, but as $7,961.93 if this was for work and awards of appraisers not properly chargable against this year’s business, it should be excluded, leaving the correct chare at $23,264.10 This shows an excess of actual expenses over receipts of $8,595.50, a comparatively insignificant sum when the interests of such a large and populous section of country as that through which the Genesee Valley Canal passes is well subserved.


It is said, and, doubtless with truth, that the commission appointed by the Legislature last winter to investigate the lateral canals, will report against their further maintenance, and recommend that they be sold. On the assumption, a scheme has been set on foot to urge the State to donate this canal and all its franchises as a subsidy to some railroad company which will agree to construct its roadbed along the line of the canal. While it might be a good thing for the railroad company, we are satisfied it would be quite the reverse or the people of the state at large or along the line of the proposed road as compared with the advantages they now enjoy from the canal. And we further believe it is the duty of the state legislators to consult the wishes and interests of the people before those of railroad corporation.


“This railroad scheme meets with no favor along the line of the canal, except at the headquarters of the defunct Rochester, Nunda & Pennsylvania Railroad, which sees in it a chance to infuse new life into its practically dead body. The people of Olean and Cattaraugus county are opposed to giving the canal property to any corporation, at least not until after a vigorous effort has been made to induce the legislature to give it a further trial to become self-sustaining than it has had during the year just past.


“The season of 1876 has been one of usual depression in every branch of business, and especially so in the staples that form the chief product of this region. With a moderate demand and fair price for our products, the shipments of lumber alone would have been double, and the deficiency of $8,000 made good. Then there would not have been any complaint. IT is well known that there was a great falling off in the shipments by this canal during the past season, occasioned entirely by the depressed state of business throughout the entire country.


“It is confidently anticipated that the ensuing year will witness a marked improvement. We are on the eve of discoveries which will furnish a new material for shipment in immense quantities. Before the time arrives for the resumption of navigation, Olean will have become a center at which the refining of oil alone will be an important feature. Already (as elsewhere noted) the initial steps have been taken for the immediate construction of a large refinery of oil, and we believe we are justified in saying that the existence of the canal and its ready facilities for cheap transportation was not one of the least induce for its location. Other refineries are talked of, and with the discovery of crude oil in our near vicinity, would speedily become assured facts. Cheap canal transportation is one of the “natural advantages” which was and is a strong inducement for the location of refining works at this place.


Consequently, before our people rush wildly before the Legislature and urge the giving of this canal to some fine promise making railroad, we advise them to see if they cannot do better by keeping it open. Within a child’s memory the canal has earned $40,000 in a season, with lower tolls than were charged last year. It has done well this season, all things considered, for it has demonstrated that with fair activity in the business of the country it can sustain itself. There is abundance of proof of this which we will produce in due time.”