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Granite State Stories: Middlesex Canal connects Concord to Boston

  • A boat approaches one of the freight landings in Concord active during the canal era, 1815 to the early 1840s. Image from a granite company share certificate, 1837–38. Courtesy of the N.H. Historical Society


Friday, December 29, 2017

In 1793, a private joint-stock company was chartered to finance a project linking the Merrimack River with the port of Boston. Prominent investors like John Hancock and John Adams hoped that harnessing New England’s waterways for a transportation network would spur the growth of industry in the new nation.

Although construction costs tripled the original estimates, by 1803 a 26-mile canal linked Boston Harbor to the Merrimack River at the town of Lowell. Named the Middlesex Canal, it opened New Hampshire to trade, leading to the rapid expansion of riverfront towns like Nashua, Manchester, and Concord.

By 1815, the system of canals provided a continuous water route of about 80 miles between Boston and Concord. It opened up new markets for the Granite State’s agricultural products, lumber, and stone, while bringing manufactured goods north.

Replaced by railroads, the Middlesex Canal ceased operations in the 1850s.

N.H. Historical Society