On today’s date in 1824, Welland Canal Company President George Keefer turned the first sod in the construction of the First Welland Canal. A century later—on Nov. 30, 1924—a cairn commemorating the original sod-turning ceremony was unveiled at the west approach to the lift bridge.
The Welland Canal, which joins Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, was built to compete with New York State’s Erie Canal. The First Welland Canal opened for a trial run on Nov. 30, 1829—exactly five years after the ground-breaking in 1824—and ran from Port Dalhousie to St. Catharines, where it wound up the Niagara Escarpment through Merritton and into Thorold. It then continued south via Allanburg to Port Robinson along the Welland River, where ships would traverse the Welland River to Chippawa before take the Niagara River to Lake Erie.