Stories: Canals

In building this canal, cement was needed. Ben Wright, the engineer, had a cement plant up in Syracuse. He had erected this plant to supply cement for the construction of the Erie Canal. Ben Wright’s plan was to make the cement in Syracuse, barge it down the newly-constructed Erie Canal, down the Hudson River, up the Rondout Creek to the end of tidewater, and then bring it to the job-site. The idea was just ideal.

Now one of the most difficult parts in the construction of this new canal was right here in Rosendale. There was such a narrow space between the cliff and the creek that they decided to tackle the toughest part first. And that was right by Jake Snyder’s flour mill. When they blasted out for the canal bed they discovered this natural bed of limestone. And the engineers, curious as they are, tested it and found out that it was a high-grade limestone that would make cement. So why go to Syracuse for the cement when they had it right here? They set up some kilns, which are necessary for the manufacture of cement, and they prevailed upon Jake Snyder to change his flour mill into a cement-grinding mill, which he did. That was the birth of the Rosendale cement industry. All the cement that was needed for the locks, the dams, the retaining walls, the piers of the canal-bridge across the Delaware, and for many other purposes, all of that cement was made right here in Rosendale.