Northeast Ohio’s Other Canal
…the Pennsylvania & Ohio

Canal Lock in downtown Kent, OhioCanal Street (today's Franklin Ave.) as it looked in 1878. Dam, Lock and Tow Path in foreground.

Kent, Ohio's Canal Lock introprinciple segment of the Pennsylvania & Ohio Canal ran through Portage County, on its way from the Pennsylvania line near Beaver to its link-up with
the Ohio & Erie Canal at Akron, a distance of some 90 miles.

    Among the towns through which it meandered were Youngstown, Warren, Ravenna,  Kent, and Munroe Falls.

    Also referred to as the Mahoning Canal, the P&O played a significant role in the
“golden age of Ohio canals,” which began in approximately 1840. The primary role of the P&O was to help link Pittsburgh markets with Cleveland. The Akron-to-Cleveland portion of the route was undertaken via the Ohio & Erie, which was often referred to simply as the “Ohio Canal” or the “Erie Canal.” The Ohio & Erie ran from Portsmouth, on the Ohio River, to Cleveland, on Lake Erie.

    During much of the 1830s, legislators and commissions wrangled over how—
or if—construction funding would be provided, to make the dream a reality.
The P&O wound up getting $450,000 in public money.

    Goods shipped on the aqueous artery ranged from coal, cheese, butter, and wool to wheat, flour, and machinery. In its first full year alone, the P&O transported four million pounds of ironware.

    The types of vessels plying the watery route included three-cabin freighters, two-decker
packet boats, and state boats (work craft). Some portions were bordered by a towpath
and were negotiated with the help of mules, attached by lines to the boat.

    Portage County’s brief but vital canal era declined…and then ended. Tonnage declined for a variety of reasons, including lower steamer charges on the major rivers and lower toll rates elsewhere. The final nail in the coffin was the advent of rail transportation. In 1857, the P&O was bought by a railroad, in effect consigning the canal to the history books.
A mothballed fleet of small canal boats began to weather and rot in turning basins and at docks. The page had turned on a fascinating chapter of Ohio and Portage County history.

    Remnants of the P&O canal can still be found in Kent and other towns. Much of  it, however, was washed away or damaged in the Flood of 1913.

Kent Flood of 1913

     On Monday, March 31, 1913 the
Cuyahoga River began to raise steadily
as a result of heavy Spring rains.
By Tuesday traffic on both the Erie and
B.&O. railroads was suspended and
below the dam the water rose almost
to the floor of the Stow-Summit bridge.
The lock finally gave on Wednesday
before the eyes of hundreds of onlookers.
Great blocks of stone were carried
down river…

Source:  When Hector Was a Pup


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