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This and That-Home on a canal boat PDF Print E-mail
Monday, September 13, 2010 5:49 AM

Charles Mandery was born at Ottoville on 7 June 1853. The Miami-Erie Canal had opened just eight years earlier in 1845, passing through Delphos and Ottoville. As a boy, Mandery had a lot of fun, playing on the canal. At the age of 16, he took a job as a hired hand on the canal boats. As time went by he practically lived on the canal until the waterway went out of use. This covered a span of 35 years.

Upon reaching manhood, Mandery became captain of the Empire. He also owned other canal boats. Depending on which historical account you read, his second boat was named the “Galant” or “Reynolds”. The motive power of the Empire was two teams of horses. After purchasing his first boat, he hired four hands and his sister as cook. For years he used his boat to transport lumber between Ottoville and Cincinnati. The round trip of 338 miles would take seven days to complete. They traveled day and night, with the 24 hours divided into four six hour shifts. At 1 a.m., a driver and team and a helmsman would start work and stay on duty until 7 a.m. The animals were led across a drawbridge into the boat, as the shift changed. A new team of horses came on with another driver and a new steersman took the helm. They remained on duty until 1 p.m. when the process was repeated.

Captain Mandery married in 1881. His wife, Elizabeth Stevens was born in Piqua, Miami County. Following their marriage, Mrs. Mandery became the cook. The Manderys’ home was in the stern. The help slept in the fore part of the boat and stables were in the center.
After some years spent in transportation of lumber, Captain Mandery had his boat made over to carry wheat, having a capacity of 2,500 bushels. There were some trips on which he carried both grain and lumber. He also made trips to Toledo and sometimes their cargo was whiskey.

On the first trip Mandery made with grain, the boat sank near Napoleon. It was foggy and a canal feeder nearby caused a swell against the boat which was following the Empire. The crew of that boat did not see the Empire due to the fog and they crashed into the side of the Empire. Workers pumped for hours but couldn’t keep the boat from sinking. The cargo was a total loss but the boat was raised and repaired.

Another time one of Mandery’s boats became stuck in the lock at Piqua. The boat was carrying grain and the sides had swollen, causing it to be jammed in the lock. This went on for a period of hours, causing a back-up of a string of boats. Many workers managed to move the boat out of the lock and into the waterway. The team of horses were rescued from the stable before the boat sank. It was resting close enough to the bank to allow other boat traffic to pass.

Mandery’s most unusual accident occurred when his boat sprang a leak near Toledo. However, the leak got plugged by a catfish. They started pumping the water out with their hand pumps, when the water quickly stopped coming in. About 200 bushel of grain was spoiled during this episode. At Toledo, Mandery had his boat placed in dry dock. An investigation showed a hole in the side, with a catfish sucked in till the  thicker  portion  of  the fish became wedged in the hole.

In those days the canal averaged a width of 60 to 70 feet. When the canal was frozen over in winter, Mr. and Mrs. Mandery remained on the boat, making it their winter home till the ice thawed and transportation resumed.

The Manderys moved to Delphos in the 1920s, making their home on N. Franklin St. Captain Charles Mandery died 6 April 1945. He was 91 years of age and believed to be one of the last survivors of canal workers. Elizabeth Mandery passed away in 1931 at the age of 76. Several children had died in infancy. Mandery’s only immediate survivor was his sister, Mrs. Julie VanOss. His funeral was conducted at Delphos St. John’s, with burial in the church cemetery.

Just a note for genealogists, when searching the records I found the name spelled Mandery, Mandory and Manderi. Keep this in mind when searching for your ancestors.


Last Updated on Tuesday, November 06, 2012 3:15 PM

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