McCain to discuss Wabash and Erie Canal on March 20 at history museum

Dan McCain
Photo provided.

Dan McCain, of Delphi, will present “Delphi: Home of the Wabash and Erie Canal” on Wednesday, March 20, at the Huntington County Historical Museum at 7 p.m.

McCain’s presentation will include the history and building of the historical site, as well as a sidebar on how a staircase made its way from Jean Gernand’s home to the Delphi Canal Center and how volunteers are the backbone of keeping the center a historical destination.

Delphi hosts the site of the only public-accessible watered section of the Wabash and Erie Canal remaining in Indiana, a three-mile section of the longest man-made waterway ever built in the United States.

A modern interpretive center is midway of its 468-mile trek from Toledo, OH, to Evansville.

The Canal Center is a “kid friendly” interactive presentation of 12 galleries that depict the canal era from the beginning through construction, then operation and finally its demise. A year after it was completed in 2004, the facility was awarded “the best new volunteer-driven museum in the U.S.” by the American Association of State and Local History.

Thus, 14 years after opening, successful operation efforts continue to be centered on renovations to three galleries. Additional exhibits have been added to enhance visitors’ experiences, who come from all over the U.S. and the world.  

The center is open afternoons all year, and there is also an RV park immediately behind the center.

Outdoors are seasonal venues: a replica canal boat offers cruises on weekends; an 1850s Pioneer Village features craftsmen and events on summer weekends; 10 miles of trails are accessible by foot and bicycle; and 30 interpretive panels dot the towpath and highlight trailside connections with the canal era.  

McCain is a native of Delphi. He was born in and now lives in the home built by his grandfather. It was land that was first purchased in 1857 by his early ancestors. As a boy he played along the canal at the back of that land, which is only six blocks east of the site.

The original use of this land in the mid-19th century was for mining and processing limestone to make plaster and whitening materials. These products were shipped on the abutting Wabash and Erie Canal.  

After graduating from Delphi High School and with a bachelor’s in Agronomy from Purdue University, he began a career with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Soil Conservation Service (now Natural Resources Conservation Service), and worked in White, Jay, Tippecanoe, Warren and Allen counties. Most of his field service time was as district conservationist in Fort Wayne.  

McCain retired in 1994 after spending the last seven years of his USDA career in the national Conservation Technology Information Center, where his agronomic duties took him many places in 36 states as he spoke to national and regional conservation and agribusiness groups.  

Now he devotes time to his real love of Wabash and Erie Canal history and his small farm beside the canal. McCain is especially involved with the all-volunteer group called the Monday-Wednesday-Friday construction crew and is currently president of the Carroll County Wabash and Erie Canal Association.

For more information, contact Dan McCain, Canal Association at dan.mccain@gmail.com, call 765-412-4308 or visit www.wabashanderiecanal.org. There will be a small charge for nonmembers of the Historical Society.

The museum is located at 315 Court St., Huntington. Refreshments will be provided.