ROXBURY, NJ - Plans to preserve a parcel in Ledgewood that might have been the very first section of the Morris Canal got a boost recently when a historic society gave money to the township.
The Canal Society of New Jersey donated $4,000 to Roxbury to help fund improvement to what is being called Riggs Canal Park. The land lies a bit east of 199 Main Street, between Main Street and Route 46 near the Main Street/Route 10 intersection.
On the tract, one of Roxbury's most famous 19th Century businessmen - Silas Riggs - built a mansion in the 1820s. More importantly, from a history perspective, is the fact that the Morris Canal & Banking Company "planned the route" of the proposed Morris Canal through Riggs' land, according to The Canal Society.
Noting that Riggs was, by then, "a businessman of note," the Society said Riggs "sought and was awarded a contract" to build a section of the canal that ran through the area - then called Drakesville. "This may have been the first length of canal to be completed," according to the Society. It noted that Riggs subsequently owned and operated two boats on the canal.
The 5.8-acre site was purchased by the Canal Society (using state Green Acres money) and donated to Roxbury about a decade ago. It contains the remains of Morris Canal Lock 1 East, but Riggs' big house burned in the mid-1900s, according to the Society.
The site has remained substantially unimproved since then, due to "a lack of adequate funding," according to the Society. However, people interested in preserving the remains of the canal, including people from Netcong's Grace Church on the Mount, gathered there a year ago to walk the site, do some cleanup and trail planning, the Society noted in a September 2017 publication.
Trees were cut, brush was cleared and by afternoon of May 20, 2017, a walking trail existed, said the Society. "The path extends from the parking lot to the lock site, then along the canal tow-path and back past the site of the Riggs house," wrote the group. "It is a great start."
The Society hopes that a lot more work will be done there soon, including the creation of parking and interpretive signs.