In Fall 2011, Hunter Research was retained by the Borough of Wharton, Morris County, New Jersey, to perform archaeological monitoring of the excavation of Morris Canal Lock 2 East under grants from the New Jersey Department of Transportation and the Morris County Preservation Trust. The New Jersey Historic Preservation Office provided project oversight owing to the Morris Canal being listed in the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places. Hunter Research had performed an archaeological excavation and survey of the lock and associated structures in 2006, establishing the integrity and extent of the subsurface remains.
Working closely with the contractor to maintain the project’s schedule, Hunter Research monitored the excavation of the approximately 100-foot long masonry and timber structure. During the excavation Hunter Research encountered the remains of the wood and iron wicket gates for the upstream drop gate and the wood lock gates, which were carefully excavated and documented. The walls and floor of the lock, which show various stages of historic construction and repair, were also recorded. Documentation consisted of in-field scale drawings, photography and recovery of the gates and associated hardware. These are among the most intact gates recovered from the canal in modern times and have led to many insights into their design and construction.
The Lock 2 East project attracted intense interest from the Canal Society of New Jersey, the Society for Industrial Archaeology and other members of New Jersey’s active community of canal history enthusiasts.
The Mystery Object: Gudgeon – Morris Canal Lock 2 East
This rare iron casting is a gudgeon from the wood mitre gates of Morris Canal Lock 2 East, the second lock east of the canal highest level. The gudgeon connected the gate’s timber heel post to a gate sweep, also known as a balance beam. The locktender pushed against the sweep to move the gates once the water levels on either side of the gate were equalized.
The Morris Canal cuts across the hills of northern New Jersey, overcoming a total elevation change of 1,674 feet from New York Harbor to the Delaware River, and historically was used to haul coal from the mines of northeastern Pennsylvania to the Port of New York. Construction began in 1825 and when completed in 1836 the canal comprised 23 inclined planes and 23 stone-lined locks that, by the time the canal was closed in 1924, were up to 100 feet long, 11 feet wide, and with a lift of 8 to 12 feet.