The Genesee Valley Canal
Connection to Erie Canal made obsolete by railroads
MILLGROVE -- When the Erie Canal was completed in 1825, the so-called "Clinton's Ditch" had a big impact on Western New
York. No longer was Olean and the Allegheny River the "gateway to the West", and the loss of travelers was devastating
to the Allegheny economy.
Hoping to take advantage of the big canal's success, people in the Southern Tier demanded that further canals be dug
deep into their regions. In 1836, work began on the Genesee Valley Canal, which ran from Rochester, along the Genesee
River to Cuba, and on to Olean. Cuba Lake was originally built as a reservoir for the canal.
In 1850, John G. Mersereau and William Weston arrived in Portville and soon built large saw mills on the Allegheny.
The two lumber producers sent wood downstream to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, but they saw an opportunity in the new
waterway to the north.
Through their influence, they had the GVC extended from Olean to Millgrove. After twenty years of construction,
the canal finally arrived at Mersereau's mill at the end of Pine Street in Portville.
Unfortunately, the canal was in use for only two decades, rendered obsolete by the Erie Railroad and other tracks that
eventually passed through the area. The old foundational ditch of the GVC can still be seen on this side of the dikes
that wander along the Allegheny River in Portville.