Dead and Buried: The Graveyard of Worcester's Blackstone Canal  


Impact of the Canal on Worcester

Despite its short life and uncelebrated death, the Blackstone Canal was still a success in its own way. As evidenced by the concern of the Boston Centinal and the quick move to build the Boston & Worcester Railroad, trade with Worcester and Central Massachusetts was becoming increasingly important to Boston; the canal forced Boston to give greater attention to this growing region. Through its commercial success, the canal was able to help Worcester increase its influence both politically and economically.

In 1820, before the canal came, Worcester was a small town of a mere 2,962 inhabitants. In the next fifteen years, the population would more than double. It was the canal that caused the town and then city to grow in importance and size. With the coming of the canal, the population grew extraordinarily fast. The following chart illustrates the population growth of Worcester before and after the building of the canal:

Population Chart: Worcester Before and After the Blackstone Canal, 1765-1840

As one can see, the population of Worcester remained relatively stagnant prior to 1820. During the period from 1820 to 1825 when the idea of the canal began to take root, the population grew by almost 700 people to 3,650. This was a larger growth than during the previous twenty years. In the next ten years, the population almost doubled, skyrocketing to 6,624.16 (Click the picture to enlarge.)

Once the canal came and Worcester's business increased, so did its population. Even the Massachusetts Spy noted the "prospect of full employment" and that the basin district represented a bustling market area, a welcomed improvement for an area that had been "used for a mowing field."17 Yet, despite its contributions to the city in terms of employment, commerce, population growth, and political and economic influence, the canal would still be abandoned, used for nothing more than a giant toilet.

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