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Canal Story

Canal Story #3: Patricia Barber

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Patricia Barber, Retiring Director of Development of the C&O Canal Trust

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the Canal?

Patricia: I was introduced to the C&O Canal in 1979 when I arrived in the DC area from what was then Rhodesia to attend grad school. The civil war in Rhodesia in the 1970s had rendered the countryside unsafe, so I was enchanted that I could explore this national park alone and in safety. Since then, I have been an enthusiastic Park user  – hiking, biking, walking three generations of hounds, paddling on the river, learning the canal’s history, and just loving its natural beauty. My husband and I have also owned two homes within walking distance of the canal and I have been privileged to work for the C&O Canal Trust as its Director of Development for five years.


C&O Canal Trust: Our readers may not know that you are retiring from the C&O Canal Trust at the end of January 2021. What is your favorite project or accomplishment you were a part of during your time with the Trust?

Patricia: Engaging with so many wonderful  Trust supporters whose generosity will leave an enduring legacy for the C&O Canal lovers of the future.


C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite Canal memory?

Patricia: Watching my son (now 30) toddling among the bluebells along the towpath.


C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal and why?

Patricia: An impossible question. Great Falls and the Potomac Gorge for their grandeur. Monocacy Aqueduct for its beauty. Pennyfield for its froggy chorus. Paw Paw Tunnel for its testimony to the hard labor of those who built the canal. Antietam Aqueduct to Taylors Landing because it’s my “home stretch.”


C&O Canal Trust: What does the canal mean to you?

Patricia: Peace, beauty, adventure, escape from the rat race.

Canal Story #2: Jon Wolz

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Jon Wolz, former Boy Scout who testified in support of making the C&O Canal a National Park and current volunteer

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the C&O Canal? 

Jon: In 1970, Congressmen Gilbert Gude and J. Glenn Beall of Maryland co-sponsored a bill to make the C&O Canal into a National Historical Park. Congressmen Gude contacted Mr. Charles Stover of Rockville to find a couple of Boy Scouts to testify before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Parks and Recreation of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs on their feelings for making the C&O Canal into a National Historical Park. Mr. Stover had recently helped plan and arrange the Montgomery County District Camp O’Ree at Fort Frederick, Maryland next to the canal in October 1970. At that Camp O’Ree, Congressman Gude spoke to the scouts about the need for making the canal into a National Historical Park. Subsequent to that campout, the House of Representatives passed a bill in support of Congressman Gude’s vision for the canal. Charles Stover contacted Jack Alleman, Scoutmaster of Troop 246 of Silver Spring, Maryland. Mr. Stover had met Mr. Alleman at the Camp O’Ree that was attended by Troop 246 and through conversation, learned that several scouts from the troop had hiked the entire length of the C&O Canal. Mr. Alleman selected me for this honor to speak before the Committee. At the time, I was a fifteen-year-old sophomore at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring and an Eagle Scout. In addition to me speaking, Life Scout Mark Stover from Troop 1072 was chosen to speak. Both of us were asked to speak on the meaning of the C&O Canal and why it should be preserved as a National Historical Park.

On December 15, 1970, I rode with my parents, Charles and Shirley Wolz, to the Capitol where we were met by Congressmen Gude and Beall, who escorted us to the hearing room. Senator Charles McC. Mathias of Maryland was the first to testify, followed by Congressman Gude. After Congressmen Gude spoke, he introduced me and Mark to subcommittee chairman Senator Alan Bible of Nevada and the other subcommittee members. I spoke after Congressmen Gude and then Mark spoke. Cub Scout Charles Stover presented to each of the ten men of the subcommittee the C&O Canal Scout patches and medals awarded Scouts for hiking the Canal.

On December 22, 1970, the bill was passed by the Senate, and it was sent to President Nixon on December 23, 1970 for his signature. On January 8, 1971, President Richard M. Nixon signed the Act making the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal a National Historical Park.

After I retired from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in 2014, I became a level walker with the C&O Canal Association (COCA) in 2015. I have two levels that go from White’s Ferry to the Monocacy Aqueduct. Over the last 5 1/2 years, I have been involved with a few C&O Canal Pride Days, painted 36 picnic tables with a friend in 2019, serve on the audit committee for the C&O Canal Association, given talks to the Monocacy Lions Club and the Poolesville Oddfellows about the C&O Canal, led a walk to Latrobe’s Marble Quarry for Poolesville Area Seniors, participated in garlic mustard pulls, helped build three picnic tables for the Park under the guidance of Jim Heins of the COCA, organized and led Potomac River clean-ups at the Monocacy Aqueduct/Lock 27 beginning in 2017, adding the White’s Ferry area in 2019, and recommended a few special projects for the Park to the COCA’s Special Project’s Committee. One project that I am currently involved with is replacing the mule kick boards on the Monocacy Aqueduct that is jointly sponsored by the C&O Canal National Historical Park and the COCA. In 2021, I will be leading walks on behalf of the COCA to Latrobe’s Marble Quarry, White’s Ford Fort, and the Johnson Quarry. Also, in 2021, I hope to lead Potomac River Clean-ups at the Monocacy Aqueduct/Lock 27, Lock 26/Dickerson and White’s Ferry with the support of Boys Scouts from Montgomery County Maryland.

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite memory of the canal that you can share?

Jon: The many hikes and campouts along the towpath as a Boy Scout. I remember camping at various places from Point of Rocks to Swains Lock. I learned to canoe at Swains Lock and once we canoed from Swains Lock up to Violettes Lock. As a scout, my troop bicycled from Cumberland to Brunswick, a total of 125 miles and camped along the way.

In September 2020, I was invited to walk with an American Legion Post and local Girl Scout troop across White’s Ford and back. We met at Calleva Farm where I spoke of the history of White’s Ford and the immediate area along the canal. We walked down the hillside to the towpath. A few of the girls asked about the “path.” They had never been on the towpath before, so I talked to them about the towpath and the canal.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal? Why?

Jon: I have a few favorite places. From White’s Ferry to the Monocacy Aqueduct, there is a variety of wildlife and birds. I first visited this stretch as a Boy Scout and had many fond memories of this area from my youth. In recent years, I have seen deer, fox, muskrats, a variety of birds, and turtles. I enjoy finding animal tracks along the culvert streams or in the snow.  I have discovered there is a lot of history along this stretch of the canal including Latrobe’s marble quarry, White’s Ford Fort, civil war history, a variety of culverts, two locks, two granary ruins and the Monocacy Aqueduct. In the springtime and into the summer, there are a variety of wildflowers. I enjoy keeping an eye on paw paws as they grow throughout the spring and summer.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite thing to do on the canal?

Jon: Walking along the towpath in all four seasons, noticing the changes with the wildlife and to trees/plants. I also look forward to seeing each spring the wildlife, tree leaves, and plants make their reappearance in the park. I enjoy seeing the ice formations flowing down berm side cliffs and the icicles beneath the end arches at the Monocacy Aqueduct. I enjoy finding a quiet place to sit observing my surroundings and listening to the sounds of the park.

C&O Canal Trust: What does the canal mean to you?

Jon: It is always an exciting place for me to walk alone or with friends or family. Each time I visit the canal, I always have a new and unique experience. I greatly appreciate the efforts by the C&O Canal National Historical Park and others to maintain the physical park, tell, and maintain the history of the park. I feel that in my own way I can help maintain the park and tell the history of the park as well so the park will live on for future generations.

Congressmen Gude and Beall, cub scout Mark Stover and boy scout Jon Wolz, December 15, 1970.

A note to Jon Wolz from Gilbert Gude on top of the hearing book from December 15, 1970.

Canal Story #1: Karen Gray

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Karen Gray, long-time C&O Canal volunteer historian

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the C&O Canal?
Karen: I have a 3-love relationship with the C&O Canal. (1) I love the park–its natural, historic, and human resources. (2) I love the history and engineering of the canal and especially the historic masonry structures. And (3) I love the people who work in the park and those who love it as I do–in multiple ways.
C&O Canal Trust: Can you share your favorite historical fact or story about the canal?
Karen: I am so fascinated by the times the canal should have died but survived. Much of my study has been driven by the need to explain to myself those survivals and to understand the historic context and the people who played decisive roles in its survival.
C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite canal memory?
Karen: I have competing memories that are on pretty much the same level of joy and satisfaction and they involve restorations or improvements: The dedication of the newly reconstructed Catoctin Aqueduct, the dedication of the Monocacy stabilization, my first visit to the fully restored and rewatered Conococheague Aqueduct (I was traveling at the time of the dedication or I would have been there), and the dedication of the bench at the Monocacy in memory of our incredible National Park Service (NPS) mason, Randy Astarb.
C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal?
Karen: I especially love Dam 5 and Little Slackwater up to and including Locks 45 and 46. I consider the Dam 5 and Inlet #5 location the most dangerous for the boat people on the canal and the engineering uniquely interesting. But it is also now one of the most dramatic, unique, and beautiful places along the 184.5 miles–to a great extent because of one’s proximity to the beautiful, historic Upper Potomac River.
C&O Canal Trust: What does the C&O Canal mean to you?
Karen: It is very hard for me to put into words what the canal means to me. Trying to do so would require speaking about the connection to past people and events; the many friendships among the people associated with the NPS and the park that have enriched my life; the times that walks on the towpath have intensified my sense of life and the life and land I am a part of; and finally the times that the towpath has been my refuge when troubled or in sorrow and in need of interior healing which it always provided. What does it mean to me more briefly? A home–a place for belonging, unfailing pleasure, and unending personal enrichment.