Sixty locks were built between New Haven and Northampton to accommodate a five hundred twenty foot difference in elevation. When the slow moving boats pulled into the lock chambers, the lockkeepers took charge, opening and closing the heavy wooden gates in order to raise or lower the boats along the route. By the time the lock filled up with water and the boat rose several feet, the front door would be opened allowing the boat to proceed up stream. Horses or mules assisted towing the boats along the canal route, passing lock houses, taverns, and inns along the 86 mile corridor.
The lockkeeper’s house in Hamden, built in 1828, sits in front of the remains of Lock 14 today. Take a glimpse off the side of the trail behind the house and you’ll see that much of the original stonework of the lock remains. Heavy boulders and crumpling walls sit like silent ruins where the lock once stood. Just a few miles up the trail an example of a completely restored lock, Lock 12 in Cheshire, will be our next stop.
Shannon returned to the lock house late that night, long after the drunken priest had gone off to bed, and the lockkeeper and his wife were fast asleep. And there, in the bottom of the boat, tucked in behind the crates of Bibles, and barrels of grain, and pickled herring, Shannon dosed off, not knowing what awaited her next on this journey up the Farmington Canal.