Deep Cut
Deep Cut

SPENCERVILLE – As leaves slowly begin to shade and color and fall flowers such as New England Purple Asters line fencerows, hiking enthusiasts in northwest Ohio begin to head to the trails with cameras in search of intriguing fall color pictures.

One of the somewhat hidden magic trails in rural Allen County is the spanning trail along the Miami and Erie Canal, and especially that portion meandering along the park maintained by the state in the Deep Cut area, located two miles south of Spencerville just to the west off of Ohio 66.

An explanatory historical marker maintained and managed by Metro Parks as Deep Cut Historic Park, states, “you are on the section of the Miami and Erie Canal where the greatest excavation was made, a section that has been known over the years as, ‘Deep Cut.’ The huge ditch is 6,600 feet long and five to 52 feet deep. It was dug and blasted through the tough blue clay that which separates the St. Marys watershed from the Auglaize River.”

The state-constructed sign notes that strong farm boys, mainly of Irish descent, and sometimes convicts, sentenced to hard labor, joined efforts from morning to sunset, reward for their labor for a payment of 30 cents.

Quite often, the sign states, they would set up crude camps, often very unsanitary and infested with mosquitoes, malaria and other diseases. The use of alcohol and other problems often caused brawls among the construction worker.

“Spencer Township, Allen County, where the marker is located and the town of Spencerville, are both named in honor of Colonel William Spencer, member of the State Board of Public Works, who was in charge of Ohio canals,” states the marker.

“Deep Cut,” located in an area referred to as the Anthony Wayne Parkway, is also recognized as part of the Register of Historic Places. State records note that the canal began in 1825 and stretched from Cincinnati to Toledo by way of the Dayton area.

Once the statewide system of canals began construction, they moved quickly, but not easily. Canal construction went quickly but not easily.

A state publication known as Ohio History Connection, states that at the peak of construction, more than 4,000 workers were laboring on the canals. Private businesses bid on portions of the canal. The state generally accepted the least expensive bids.

“Once the trench for the canal was dug, workers usually lined it with sandstone. Canal locks also usually consisted of sandstone lined with wood, but sometimes workers made the locks exclusively from wood,” states the Ohio History Connection. “The submerged wood would swell, making a waterproof barrier.

“Many of Ohio’s communities today, including Akron, began as towns for the canal workers,” continued the publication. “By 1833, the Ohio and Erie Canal was complete. The Miami and Erie Canal would take an additional twelve years to finish, because the state legislature only originally authorized its completion from Cincinnati to just north of Dayton. In 1830, the Ohio legislature earmarked funds for the Miami and Erie Canal’s extension to Defiance and Lake Erie.”