Goose Creek Canal Lock needs help

I don’t like to brag, but I feel yesterday’s tour of Edwards Ferry was a great success.  This was a “shake down” tour of sorts.  Unlike other Civil War related sites, for Edwards Ferry the challenge it to relate the non-combat operations of an army.  One does not speak of regimental positions or where some general ordered a stand.  Rather the focus is upon the intricacies of moving an army at an operational level.  The small tour group, with some veteran battlefield guides along, gave me good feedback which I shall incorporate into future tours of the site.

I chose two “centerpieces” to the Edwards Ferry tour.  Of course, at the mouth of Goose Creek where the bridges were placed is the most important location when considering the June 1863 crossing (and the 1861 fighting… and numerous other crossings).  That’s a must “stop” and we spent considerable time there along the banks of the Potomac considering the bridges.

The other centerpiece that I focused the tour’s attention upon was the Elizabeth Mills canal lock.

25 Jan 08 017

The lock was built in the 1850s by the Goose Creek and Little River Navigation Company.

Elizabeth Mills 17 Aug 005

By the time of the Civil War, the company was already gone – done in by the railroads.  But the lock remained.

Elizabeth Mills 17 Aug 006

The canal lock was used, apparently right up to the 20th century, as part of the mill complex upstream and for small boats navigating the creek.

In the past I’ve shown several photos of the locks here on the blog.  The structure is rather impressive.  It’s always a stop when I take visitors on the trail, even though the locks have no direct link to the Civil War other than being adjacent to the crossing site.

However, of late this lock has started deteriorating rapidly.  The photos above were taken in 2007 and 2009.  The upstream mouth of the lock was, even then, showing its age.

Edwards Ferry 023

But the wall has fallen apart in the last year, as seen from this photo taken in May.

Loudoun 20 May 12 017

Worse, the interior walls of the lock are beginning to collapse inward.  I’m not an expert in such structure, or their preservation.  But from what I can tell, ground pressure is damaging the structure.

The site is part of the Loudoun County Parks system, so my first action is to continue corresponding to that office in regard to this issue.  Beyond that, I hope that other individuals who visit the site are, like me, concerned with the deterioration.  I’m inquiring with other local preservation groups to see what might be done.

Would be a shame for this lock to have survived 150 plus years, and the passing of armies, only to fall apart just as we are getting some attention focused at the site.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

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