All these photos were taken on the Morris Canal in Bloomfield New Jersey

Morris Canal, Bloomfield, New Jersey
Morris Canal (near current JFK Pky) photo circa 1895 - 1900
The Morris Canal was once as important to Bloomfield, New Jersey as the Garden State Parkway
is today. In Bloomfield, the JFK Parkway mostly follows the old Canal route. The Canal with its'
towpath is at right, Daveys Mill Pond is at left, with the Oakes Woolen Mill at far left.

In 1822 George P. Macculloch (whose house in Morristown still stands) imagined a super highway to move commodities across the hills of Northern New Jersey, particularly Coal from Pennsylvania and Timber  from western New Jersey to industries and markets in the cities to the east. Up until then they moved slowly in horse drawn wagons over poor roads, so slowly that the effort to supply US troops during the War of 1812 was hampered. Macculloch envisioned a super highway of water, a canal, that allowed 30 tons of coal to be transported inexpensively,  making the journey from Philipsburg New Jersey, near the coalfields, to Newark, Jersey City or New York in just 5 days, an unheard of feat. 

It was designed by Professor James Renwick of Columbia College, and was the first American canal to climb hills. The Morris Canal would run for 103 miles joining the Delaware River at Phillipsburg with the Hudson River, a mule-drawn barge trip that took about 5 days. The route of the canal was selected and the survey made by Major Ephraim Beach, under whose direction the Canal was then constructed. It is very likely that 'Beach' Street in Bloomfield, just one block from where the Canal ran, was named for him, solving a local mystery since the adjacent streets, like 'Elm', are named after trees, while that street is not named 'Beech', but rather 'Beach'.

The Morris Canal was completed in 1830, and towns along it's route grew and serviced the crews and teams of mules that pulled the boats laden with goods. Bloomfield was one of these, a major stop, due to it's 'Lock' and long inclined plane that pulled boats up the hill, or lowered them, all in massive wooden cradles that held the boats and moved along rails that spanned the incline.
On November 4, 1831, the first complete trip from Newark to Phillipsburg was completed. The canal was 90 miles long; and the trip from Newark to Phillipsburg took about five days. The first full boating season was 1832. When it was completed the actual cost was $2,104,413.00. In 1836 the eleven mile extension to Jersey City was added.

Morris Canal Boat, Bloomfield, NJ
Freight Boats carried coal, timber, iron ore and other commodities along the Morris Canal.
On slopes, the boats were carried uphill in cradles like the one above. Baldwin St Incline.

Morris Canal (near current JFK Pky) photograph circa 1905.
The Canal was busiest from 1840 thru 1885, then the Railroad
began to do much of the freight hauling.

Sawmill on Morris Canal, Bloomfield, NJ

Saw Mill circa 1905 - Various Mills along the Canal produced lumber and paper

Mules, Donkeys and Horses towed boats along the Morris Canal. Circa 1907

The Belleville Ave Bridge over the Morris Canal, circa 1905.
This spot is at the corner of today's JFK Parkway.

In winter children enjoyed sledding & ice skating on Canal property, circa 1905
This is the Baldwin Street bridge. (near today's JFK Parkway)

Inclined Plane on Morris Canal, Bloomfield, NJ
The 'Plane House' stood in the middle of the inclined plane and housed the
water turbine that powered the cable that pulled the barge up the incline.
This was Morris Canal "Plane No. 11 East", and was just north of Baldwin St.

The Morris Canal 'Lock' in Bloomfield, NJ, circa 1903, near the
current location where the Parkway crosses Bloomfield Ave

Click here for a view of  The Morris Canal in Roxbury Township, New Jersey

This page is a community service of First Baptist Church of Bloomfield, NJ, located just 200 yards from the old Morris Canal. Our Church was founded in 1851 by Essex County residents who desired to meet together for worship and the study of God's Word. During all the time spanned by these photos, First Baptist has had an involvement in the community life of the area, and a spiritual impact in the lives of it's people. Now, over 150 years later, that spiritual impact is as vital as ever. 

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This page is from
a community service of First Baptist Church
1 Washington St,  Bloomfield, NJ 07003