Cambridge City

Cambridge City was envisioned as a transportation town when it was platted in 1836. It’s on the National Road, of course, but it’s also on the Whitewater River, the Whitewater Canal, and several rail lines.

I want to focus on the Whitewater Canal for a minute. In the early 1800s, Indiana was figuring out transportation routes in the fledgling state. It may seem obvious today that roads are the way to go, but it wasn’t then. Canals had proved valuable out East, and so Indiana decided to try its hand. One of several Indiana canals to be built was the Whitewater Canal, and it passed through Cambridge City. Read the canal’s history here.

I had never noticed this canal along the north side of the National Road in Cambridge City until I passed slowly by on my Ride Across Indiana. The Whitewater Canal was more or less a north-south canal but this canal runs east-west through town. But whatever other canal could this be? I’m not aware that Cambridge City got more than one canal!

I’ve tried to trace this canal’s route through town, but it disappears. I’m sure some parts of it were filled in.

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!


18 responses to “A canal in Cambridge City”

  1. J P Avatar

    These old canals are interesting to me. But now you’ve done it – you have made a selection in my brain’s jukebox. “She’s a good old mule and her name is Sal, 16 miles on the Erie Canal” is playing on a loop because it’s the only line I can remember from a song that was drummed into my head from music class early in my grade school years in the mid 1960s. I don’t imagine kids sing songs in early grade school any more, and if they do The Erie Canal is surely not one of them.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My work here is done!

    2. Marc Beebe Avatar

      ahem I’ve got a mule and her name is Sal, 16 miles on the Erie canal. She’s a good old worker and a good old pal, 16 mile on the Erie canal.
      Well you can’t be from NY and not know that song.
      But a lot of people even from there don’t know about the Genesee canal.

      1. Jim Grey Avatar

        But I’ll bet they all know about Genesee beer!

        1. Andy Umbo Avatar
          Andy Umbo

          I used to visit my brother when he was living and working in New Jersey, and I can tell you I know plenty about Genesee Cream Ales! AKA “Creamy Jennies”…

  2. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Interesting entry and sounds like more pictures need to be taken before they decide to fill it in. I admit to reading a book about canal building a while back, and literally had no knowledge that this was the primary transportation option and had been planned for areas all over the fledgling country. All this construction was literally abandoned the second someone laid railroad track, and showed what trains could do. People literally walked off the job mid-pick in the air, and partially completed canals were left all over east of the Mississippi.

    Railroads were way cheaper than digging a canal, but yeah, roads were even cheaper, so it’s funny there wasn’t really parallel development.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It wasn’t until the combustion engine that roads were going to matter. Trains were way faster than wagons!

  3. brandib1977 Avatar

    Canal towns always fascinate me. We have several here in Ohio, of course, and I always look for remnants of the old Canal routes. I got a kick out of taking a Canal boat ride earlier this year up at Roscoe Village and would recommend that experience if you’re ever in the Coshocton area.

    1. Andy Umbo Avatar
      Andy Umbo

      Brandi B, I think I recall from that book that Ohio was a positive bee-hive of canal building before the railroads.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        Yes! Absolutely. The Ohio and Erie Canal alone represented over 300 miles. This map illustrates all the canals on Ohio from 1825 to 1913.

        1. Andy Umbo Avatar
          Andy Umbo

          That’s a nice map! Love to find that in the basement of a junk shop for a buck!

  4. Kurt Ingham Avatar
    Kurt Ingham

    Thanks again, Jim. Your explorations of local history are always fascinating. One very good thing (for me)about the interweb is that I’ve acquired a better picture of the Midwest from you and a few FB friends!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Happy to be your man in Indiana!

  5. Steve Mitchell Avatar

    Fascinating. What a shame it is no longer navigable!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The canal era was short in Indiana; they almost bankrupted the state and most were left unfinished!

  6. Russ Ray Avatar

    I had always thought the Whitewater Canal ran through Metamora because the river runs north up through Richmond but it looks like it also forks west through Connersville and Cambridge City. I’ve also crossed the river (I think) driving in Ohio on the 275 loop.

    As for this greenhouse, I’ve passed it dozens of times and wondered why they needed a bridge out front but never put it together. What a great find!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The canal’s most famously in Metamora but it does find its way here, too.

    2. KcJo83 Avatar

      I grew up in this small town but just today came across your articles. There is another spot that the canal ran thru that last time I checked you can still visibly see. It sits right beside the Hinton house – across the street from the #9 Grill aka Rihms grocery store aka the Knights of Pythias building. I think you should swing thru during our small town celebration that we have annually- you’d not be disappointed! It runs from a Friday night thru Sunday where it ends with a parade that begins at the high school and ends on the road that the greenhouse sits at in your photo- Beckers Greenhouse. It is always set up on the weekend after Labor Day (oh and it’s called Cambridge City Canal Days!)
      If you’ve not noticed or maybe just not aware we also have The Huddleston House up the road I which is an old spot that we used to go to for field trips to learn about. It’s a place that was available for travelers to stop in and rent a room (if I remember correctly- I believe Abraham Lincoln stayed or at least had a meal there once- but I could’ve not been listening back at the age that they were teaching us about our history bcuz I didn’t become interested until about the age of 35.. There’s actually quite a few small treasures that people don’t know about unless they grew up there that shouldn’t be kept small town news— cambridge city is and always has been a beautiful town and I’m proud of how hard the residents and town board have worked to keep it looking it’s best! Preserving the things from our past would be so much easier if parents would teach their kids to respect things that’s not theirs! Just like the oldest cemetery that had old graves dating back so old that the dates aren’t even listed or have born work so thin that u just cannot read it — it sits behind a skid factory now but it’s easy to get too – it sits basically right between where 40 and state rd 1 meet and it’s called Capitol Hill cemetery. Next time your passing thru you should stop by and have a peak- it’s a beautiful cemetery and would be so much nicer if kids would leave it alone! The town should add cameras to places like that- to catch those who vandalize things that don’t belong to them especially when they’re as old as those graves are! I just get fascinated walking around looking and reading all the headstones which I recall seeing dates that go clear back to the 16 & 1700’s!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: