LLR Books

C&O Canal

C&O Canal: By the middle of the 19th century America was pushing itself forward into the industrial age. Cities, roads, canals and railways needed to be built. And as it always had in the past, America looked to other shores for the labor it needed to continue its growth. Spurred on by a devastating famine that would level Ireland's population of eight million to three million dead and four and a half million to immigrate.

They crossed, what Joyce called "The bitter bowl of tears" to arrive in America, as desperate, shocked refugees from a dying country. They would become a rural people converted to a race of city dwellers overnight.

They came to Baltimore, thousands of them, to work on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad lines which started work on July the Fourth of 1828. On that day Charles Carrol turned the first shovel of dirt for the line in Baltimore (for the rail line that became known as the B&O)

Oddly enough, just as Carrol turned that shovel of dirt 65 miles away in Washington, President John Adams was also turning over the first shovel of dirt on what would become the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.

The C&O project would attract thousands more Irish to the State but with the completion of the B&O, 165 miles later in 1850, the Canal was rendered all but useless.