Notes on the C&O Canal Terminus & the B&O Railroad

Reference in C&O Canal Companion:
Canal Guide Mile 184.5

Detail of a 1921 Sanborn map of the canal terminus three years before the
1924 flood put it out of business. The "Little Basin," which extended to the left
had been sold to the Western Maryland Railroad at this time.
(From Canal Terminus study--labels added to key features)

7 - Shed, Gerbig Soap Factory
8 - Gerbig Soap Factory, later reconfigured into a duplex for Footer Dye Works employees.
10 - Mateus Gerbig residence, changed to housing for Footer Dye Works employees in 1909.
20 - Holmes Foundry building, north side is planing mill.
21 - 2-story building west of soap factory, purpose unknown.
22 - Lime storage building west of soap factory.
25 - Building on Maryland Foundry property, purpose unknown.

27 - Lumber shed on Maryland Foundry property.
33 - Office/building on Maryland Mould Factory property.
34 - Building on Maryland Foundry property, scales, junk, and pattern warehouse.
35 - Office/building on Maryland Foundry property.
36 - Shed on south side of project area.
37 - Benzine storage tanks.
38 - Shed on Maryland Foundry property.
52 - Outbuilding behind residence, purpose unknown.
53 - Outbuilding behind residence, purpose unknown.

To be added

To be added to Mile 184.5 note:

The canal company originally planned to build this dam about a mile above Cumberland, which also meant building an aqueduct across Will's Creek. One of the advantages was that the still water behind the dam would extend for as much as 8 miles further upriver, bringing it that much closer to Georges Creek and the coal beds. Later, the company talked about building the dam one mile below Cumberland, before it finally determined to placed it just below the mouth of Will's Creek.


To the west of Wills Creek, well-to-do residents built their houses along Greene Street, which led to the road over Wills Mountain. On the east side, the canal basin and the B&O tracks beyond formed a bustling and sometimes ramshackle commercial district.

Web Notes

From canal terminus study:

A recent study (2000) of the canal terminus in Cumberland identified a variety of businesses that operated in this vicinity. Many of the properties changed shape as owners came and passed on, and portions were sold or acquired. Some of the better-known businesses were:

Ward's or Weld's Boatyard -- established by William L. Ward, an attorney, merchant, and canal advocate, around 1850-51. Referred to as Weld?s Boatyard in ensuing years, though it is not clear whether ownership passed on to Henry Thomas Weld, or was a partnership. By 1876, Weld and David Sheridan were listed as partners in "Weld & Sheridan, Boat Building and Repair Yard," continuing until the 1890s, when most of the property was purchased by Henry J. Glick and George D. Landwehr, who owned Landwehr & Glick Lumber Yards.

Footer's Dye Works -- Started by Thomas Footer, an immigrant from Yorkshire, in a one-room basement in 1870, this concern expanded to a half-block by the 1890s. In 1904, Footer purchased property from Landwehr, filled in a portion of Shriver?s Basin, and proceeded to erect a number of four story buildings for the cleaning and dyeing of fabrics.

Queen City Foundry/Holmes Foundry (1904)/Maryland Foundry (1910)--later purchased by Glick and Landwehr and renamed the Maryland Mould Foundry (1921), which made sash weights for windows.

Cumberland Soap Factory--started by Mateus Gerbig, who sold this property to Footer's in 1909. Footers converted the factory building to a duplex residence for employees with families.

Cessna Lumber Company--built on portions of the Weld and Sheriden Boat Yard and other properties, purchased by Bauer Lumber Company in 1956 and operated under that name until 1997.



From Charles Fenton Mercer's December 1832
reports to the Directors of the Canal Company

Let another dam, No. 8 ... be erected at the Ledge of Rocks described by the United States Engineers, in their report to the Department of War, of October, 1826, as situated one mile above Cumberland; and let a Canal be constructed thence, at an elevation of thirty-one feet, in passing through Cumberland, a distance of 15-1/2 miles as proposed by the United States' Engineers, to the head of the pond above dam No. 7. Dam No. 8 will produce, as those Engineers have stated, still water navigation for the distance of eight miles of river above its position ... It will approach within nineteen miles of the mouth of George's Creek, or Western Port, at the base of the Alleghany, where are to be found, in Savage Mountain, the richest coal banks of the valley of the Potomac.

* This 1832 proposal was based on the use of stillwater navigation behind Dams 4-8, but promised that this would be a temporary expedient. As it turned out, stillwater navigation became permanent behind Dams 4 and 5, but was not employed behind Dams 6 and 8. Dam #7, which was initially intended to be built just below Potomac Forks, was never constructed.

From the ninth annual report to the stockholders
dated June 12, 1837

A change has recently been determined upon for the site of the feeder dam at Cumberland. It was at first contemplated to place this dam one mile below the town; the site recently adopted is immediately at Cumberland, a few hundred feet below the mouth of Will's creek. By this arrangement, we are enabled to make a guard bank that will protect the basin in Cumberland, and the town itself, against injury from high water of the river, to which they would have been more or less subject with the former location of the dam. The basin willnow be under the same control as the water of the canal, and will be kept at a uniform height. Warehouses and buildings may consequently be put upon it, without any precaution being taken to place them above the reach of high water. Besides, the basin can easily be drawn down, at any time, for the purposes of improvements. In a few words, the present plan conducts the independent canal directly into town, whereas, the former plan terminated it a mile below.


An aerial view of Cumberland, showing the Queen City Hotel at lower right,
and the B&O shops to the upper left. Probably taken around 1971, prior to
the demolition of the hotel. (More photos and documentation of these structures
can be viewed on-line as a part of the Historical American Engineering Record,
American Memory, Library of Congress)


  • "Two Reports of the President to the Directors of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company on the Present State of the Finances of the Company, and an Extension of the Navigation of the Potomac to a Point Nine Miles Above the Town of Cumberland," signed by C.F. Mercer, December 15, 1832, printed by Gales and Seaton, Washington, DC, 1832.
  • "The memorial of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company to the General Assembly of Maryland," reprinted in Memorial of the Corporation of the City of Washington, Remonstrating Against the Surrender to the State of Maryland of the stock held by that Corporation in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, March 11, 1840, printed by Blair and Reeves. [The location of the dam above Cumberland is discussed on page 47.]
  • "Ninth Annual Report of the president and directors of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company to the stockholders, made June 12, 1837," reprinted in Memorial of the Corporation of the City of Washington, Remonstrating Against the Surrender to the State of Maryland of the stock held by that Corporation in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, March 11, 1840, printed by Blair and Reeves.
  • "Braddock Road," by John Kennedy Lacock, in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. XXXVII, 1914. [This is a very detailed tracing of Braddock's route across the Appalachians, starting at Fort Cumberland and proceeding west--much attention is paid to the choice of route through the Narrows.]
  • Cumberland The End of the Line: Phase I and II Archeological Investigations at the Terminus of the C&O Canal, Archeological Report Number 213, Prepared by Joseph Balicki, et al,, John Milner Associates, Inc, for the State Highway Administration, Maryland Department of Transportation, Baltimore, Maryland, 2000.



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