Our guide explained how, when the original canal was widened and rerouted, the original beds became the "power canals" to run the looms inside the textile mills. Inside the mills, mainly children, teens, and young women worked the looms. Cohoes was full of young children enumerated on census records and working in the mills. If you were from Cohoes, there is a good chance at least one of your ancestors was a child laborer in the textile mills. Even after the heyday of the Harmony Mills, child laborers continued to work in the garment factories. My mother left grammar school when she was 12 years old during "The Great Depression" to sew collars on shirts. She never completed the 8th grade and was always over compensating for that fact in her life.
If you are ever interested in learning more about the children working in the textile factories, you can read Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop. This book is intended for young readers, but adults will relish it if they are interested in the history of child labor in textile manufacturing. Also, for readers with Cohoes-Hoosick Falls-Pownal, VT connections, there is Joe Manning's search for the heroine in the book's cover photo, detailed in six chapters on Mr Manning's website, starting at Search for Addie
There are many Ghosts of Cohoes and they are mainly children.
|Our guide to the ruins of the Erie Canal with the towpath and filled in canal behind her.|
|Another area of the original canal in the vicinity of Lock #16, now filled and mowed.|
|The canal along Harmony Street|
Soon the tour becomes a capsule history lesson about the Erie canal, the textile mills, and how this small landscape fueled the Industrial Revolution, the economic growth of a small nation, and the westward expansion of the United States....
|The original Harmony Mill built in 1837 by Peter Harmon|
|Another view of the original Harmony Mill|
|Remains of Lock #16|
|Interior of Lock #17|
|These individuals standing inside the basin help to understand the size of the Lock #17.|
|A view of Cataract Street|
The Spindle City Historic Society has pamphlets for self guided walking tours of the Erie Canal in Cohoes and the Harmony Mills Historic District available in their museum downstairs in the Cohoes Music Hall on Remsen Street. It is worth checking out the exhibits if you are fortunate enough to visit when they are open.