H. W. Sherman, one of the assets acquired by the Federal Government with the purchase of Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, was retiring from the Army Corps of Engineers in 1953. The 70-year-old administrative assistant spent 48 years on the waterway, having started with the corporate owner of the route across the Peninsula in 1905.
It was a lock canal when Herman moved from Philadelphia to Chesapeake City to work as a clerk. “You should have seen the barges coming through in those days,” the retiring employee told the Baltimore Sun. “They were long and loaded with lumber, pulpwood, and pig iron. There wasn’t any oil in those days, but there was wine.”
It was a toll route and every vessel paid as it moved through the first lock. “Big shippers posted a bond so their barges could move through without any holdup. Each week drafts were sent to them for payment. If they failed, the bonds were seized. The small operators paid cash on each voyage.” In 1912 Mr. Sherman became a collector, picking up the cash at the first lock. “In those days because the locks were small,” he relates there were teams of four mules to pull barges through.”
The only other person associated with the canal that was still alive in Chesapeake City was Harry Borger, a mule driver and later a steam rig operator, he added.
Taking note of the changes the veteran employee said: “It’s a good thing we haven’t had to worry about tolls with all this big traffic moving through. Think what it might be checking up on the big lots in the freighters that have been using the canal. The 70-year old planned to stay around Chesapeake City, where he had spent his last 48 years, working in his huge flower garden and cutting the shrubbery around his white frame house in Chesapeake City.