Heaven's Ditch: God, Gold, and Murder on the Erie Canal

St. Martin's. Jul. 2016. 304p. illus. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781137280091. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466878990. CRIME
Kelly (Band of Giants) provides a comprehensive look at the social, economic, and religious impact resulting from the building of New York state's Erie Canal. With Westward expansion came significant social upheaval and economic dislocation. The birth and spread of the evangelical Christian movement is well documented. The epic clash of commerce, religion, and technology reverberated throughout the 19th century. Upon the completion of the canal in 1825, New York became the financial capital of the country. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism and author of the Book of Mormon, lived for a time in Palmyra, NY, and was murdered in Carthage, IL, while running for president. The disappearance and likely murder of William Morgan, a resident of Batavia, NY, and author of a work about Freemasonry, remains unsolved. Many prominent evangelical preachers are also featured in this detailed narrative. The catastrophes surrounding the canal are no longer visible a century later—summer boaters can now cruise down a quiet (renamed) Barge Canal. An intriguing account of often overlooked events that significantly impacted the lives and times of individuals living during one of the most tumultuous times in American history.
VERDICT Recommended for American history buffs in search of stories untold and rarely documented.
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