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Mt Morris Dam from Doty 
 Old woodcut of Mount Morris Dam where it crossed the river at a point called Squaukie Hill. From Lockwood L. Doty’s History of Livingston County, New York, page 363, by Lockwood Doty, published in Geneseo in 1876.

 

The Original Mount Morris Dam
By Richard Palmer

In conjunction with canal navigation dams were built to provide slack-water navigation across the watercourse they blocked. A mule tracking bridge was usually required. The image with this article clearly shows the mechanism of a canal water-level crossing at Mount Morris.

Flood control may have been a secondary motive considering the fact that devastating floods frequently inundated downtown Rochester for more than a century prior to construction of the current dam completed in 1952 at a cost of $25 million.

Whoever drew this image positioned the viewer looking upstream at the face of the dam, exactly at the level of the lip of the dam and the pool behind it. This and succeeding structures were located slight more than a mile downstream from the current dam.

This dam built in 1852 was stair-cased and the right (north) abutment is integrated into the stonework of the guard lock that was right at the river's edge, protecting the canal to the north from the rampages of the river and allowing entry into the river when it was at a different level than the canal.

The covered bridge in the background was about 100 yards upstream. In addition to providing a road crossing from Mt. Morris to villages to the north it carried a wooden towpath cantilevered to its downstream side. Seen in the image is a horse just exiting the bridge towpath with the towrope extending back to what looks like a packet boat being towed across the crossing.

To continue to the south, Locks #9 and #10 were immediately as you leave the river and brought the boats up to the level of down town Mt. Morris. Spring freshets wash out about 100 feet of the dam on March 19, 1852. A temporary dam was substituted and navigation resumed on May 26. But another break occurred on June 11, closing the canal down until repairs were made. It reopened on July 8th.

The dam was 337 feet long and 25 feet high, built of timber and stone, with a succession of aprons on the lower side, and a slope on the upper. Each apron was covered with solid oak timber 12 inches thick, the base at the narrowest point being 65 feet, composed of timber and stone.

The entire base, including the earth filling on the upper slope, was 110 feet wide up and down stream. A sluice with gates was constructed in the body of the dam, by which the pond could be drawn down during low water to allow for repairs to the dams and locks.

Although the Genesee Valley Canal would soon be abandoned, the state continued to maintain the dam. In the fall of 1877 they spent between $1,500 and $1,800 in repairs that took 38,000 feet of new timber, 100 cords of stone and 3,000 pounds of drift bolts. Also included was construction of a new farm bridge nearby.

William H. Perry, assistant superintendent, had charge of the work.

Studies were made in the 1890s to build a new dam to create a reservoir to supply water to the Erie Canal, but nothing was done.

Notes

Comments of Dave Kipp and Craig Williams
Dansville Advertiser, September 6, 1877.
Doty, Lockwood L. History of Livingston County, New York, Geneseo, 1876.
New York State Engineer & Surveyor annual reports, 1852 and 1853.
Whitford, Noble E., History of the Canal System of the State of New York, Vol. 1, Albany, N.Y., 1906 which included the image.

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