The Death Knell
The success and subsequent failure of the Blackstone Canal forced the merchants of both Providence and Worcester to reassess their trade connections as well. If Providence was to keep up with Boston, it too would need a rail connection to Worcester.14 In 1844, the Providence & Worcester Railroad was chartered by both states. Construction began shortly after with the first run between Worcester and Providence on 25 October 1847. Despite its difficulties, up to this point the canal had been the most viable mode of transportation available to merchants and farmers of the Central Massachusetts region. With the coming of the railroad, they now had a far more reliable method to ship their wares and produce. The railroad offered the speed, reliability, and year-round availability that the canal could not. The P&W was the death knell for the canal. Or, as Zelotes Coombs so eloquently noted, "the canal, long moribund, had received its death blow."15
The canal, now dead, began to rot. The Massachusetts section of the canal was sold to the Providence and Worcester Railroad in 1846 as the tow path would make an excellent rail bed. After the final toll was collected in Woonsocket Rhode Island on 9 November 1848, the large granite blocks used for the locks were sold off to pay the company's debts. Many parts of the canal bed dried up and vegetation began growing where boats once floated their way to and from Worcester. However, despite its death, the canal still had a lasting influence on the town it had turned into an inland seaport.
© 2002: John Carter. All Rights Reserved.