Uncovering a Piece of History in Buchanan - WSET.com - ABC13

Uncovering a Piece of History in Buchanan

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Buchanan, VA - Town leaders in Buchanan have uncovered a piece of history they hope will help them create an outdoor-oriented theme centered around the James River.

A lock from the Kanawha-James River Canal System was recently discovered. The find dates back to what was once the beginning of America's shipping highway, before the age of the railroad.

Town leaders who filled "The Hole", decades ago didn't know town leaders today would want it as the centerpiece of revitalization.

"We decided to go visit the canal lock at Big Island. And we went to Big Island, [we] saw the lock and came back and said, ‘We want to dig this up to see if it's there'" Buchanan Mayor Larry Hall said.

Seen here in an 1855 painting of the town, the lock that is being uncovered used to weigh the bateaus that came into the terminus town.

From the site, goods would continue down the James toward Lynchburg, or start an over-land journey down The Great Wagon Road toward what is now Roanoke.

"This will be part of a trail system which will tie together many of our elements from that time period," said Downtown Revitalization Manager Harry Gleason.

The surviving riverfront warehouse will also be part of the system. It's part of a newly purchased section of land that has a standing remnant of the canal wall itself: the swinging bridge that uses the abutments of the town's original covered bridge.

"Oh, it's history. If you are a history person you want to see what went on back in those days. I mean this - the gauging lock and the canal system were the interstate in the 1850's. So, it's history," Hall said.

When finished, the project is expected to have interpretive displays too.

Workers are also taking all of the dirt pulled from the site to a nearby farm so volunteers can sift through the piles, looking for relics.

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