Brockport Erie Canal

By Cole Berhalter

The largest waterway in North America connects the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean. It goes right through the Village of Brockport.

Built from 1817-1825 this Canal is 363 miles long and up to 310 ft wide.

Importance and History of the Erie Canal in Brockport

The Erie Canal’s location in Brockport was vital for the town to prosper the way that it did. The canal, which intersects a Native American trail and then a wagon trail that connected Leroy to Lake Ontario, was chosen due to Brockport’s village near the Medina escarpment in Rochester. The construction of the canal led to the village becoming sustainable in many ways, from infrastructure development to businesses to the founding of churches and other institutions to what eventually became the campus of SUNY Brockport.

The canal led to good roads, churches, schools, and eventually the college still standing today. The newly commercialized village created improvements and an upswing in religion, voluntary associations, businesses, and factories. These, in turn, created more jobs for people. The canal lowered shipping costs exponentially as well. Many people wanted to be a part of the up-and-coming village and the canal helped everyone through transportation, especially immigrants. Brockport’s population increased sixty percent between 1830 and 1840. 

Brockport would not be what it is today without the canal and without the help of Heil Brockway and Henry Seymour, we would not have the canal. The construction of the canal in the village was not quick and easy. The construction of the canal was paused due to the construction of the five locks at Lockport. Thankfully Henry Seymour was on the Canal Commission and were able to extend the build, finishing it in 1825. For two years because of the paused construction, Brockport served as the western terminal for the Erie Canal. During this time, Heil Brockway, the largest landowner in town-built boats and operated a successful line between Rochester and Buffalo. The canals section in Brockport was then reconstructed in 1914 and 1915. It became 53 feet wider and continued to play a large role in the history of the town.


State University of New York at Brockport, eds. Mary Joe Gigliotti, W. Bruce Leslie, and Kenneth P. O’Brien

1 comment

  1. You may want to note that it was an Indian path that intersected what became the Canal. You could be clearer that it was the two years it took to complete the locks in Lockport that enriched Brockport, because it was the terminus for two years. Your picture caption says the Canal is 363ft – don’t you mean miles? And 310 ft wide?

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