Erie Canal


This is a comic story about a tragic boat ride down the Erie Canal. I decided to sing this in the style of the late 50s – early 60s college folk groups. I can see the audience sitting an a large hall, the men wearing three button jackets and skinny ties and the ladies in pretty dresses.

The Erie Canal opened in 1825. The Ohio and Erie Canal, joining Cleveland and Portsmouth, was completed in 1845. For 25 years these canals were busy trade routes, piloted by burly, aggressive boatmen on long narrow craft. These keelboats were sharp at both ends, built on a keel and ribs.

Gradually the railroads replaced the keelboat as a form of commercial transportation and the canal traffic was greatly reduced.


[A] We were forty miles from Albany
Forget it I [E] never [A] shall.
[A] What a terrible [E] storm we [A] had one [D] night
[A] On the E-ri-e [E] – [A] Canal.

O the E-ri-e was a-rising
And the gin was a-getting low.
And I scarcely think we’ll get a drink
Till we get to Buff-a-lo-o-o
Till we get to Buffalo.

We were loaded down with barley
We were chock-full up on rye.
The captain he looked down at me
With his gol-durned wicked eye.

Two days out from Syracuse
The vessel struck a shoal;
We like to all be foundered
On a chunk o’ Lackawanna coal.

We hollered to the captain
On the towpath, treadin’ dirt
He jumped on board and stopped the leak
With his old red flannel shirt.

The cook she was a grand old gal
Stood six foot in her socks.
Had a foot just like an elephant
And her breath would open locks.

The wind begins to whistle
The waves begin to roll
We had to reef our royals
On that ragin’ canal.

The cook came to our rescue
She had a ragged dress;
We h’isted her upon the pole
As a signal of distress.

When we got to Syracuse
Off-mule, he was dead;
The nigh mule got blind staggers
We cracked him on the head.

The cook is in the Police Gazette
The captain went to jail;
And I’m the only son-of-a-sea-cook
That’s left to tell the tale.