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The technological marvel of its age, the Erie Canal grew out of a sudden fit of inspiration. Proponents didn't just dream; they built a 360-mile waterway entirely by hand and largely through wilderness. As excitement crackled down its length, the canal became the scene of the most striking outburst of imagination in American history. Zealots invented new religions and new modes of living. The Erie Canal made New York the financial capital of America and brought the modern world crashing into the frontier. Men and women saw God face-to-face, gained and lost fortunes, and reveled in a period of intense spiritual creativity.
Heaven's Ditch illuminates the spiritual and political upheavals along this "psychic highway", from its opening in 1825 through 1844. "Wage slave" Sam Patch became America's first celebrity daredevil. William Miller envisioned the apocalypse. Farm boy Joseph Smith gave birth to Mormonism, a new and distinctly American religion. Along the way, one encounters America's very first "crime of the century", a treasure hunt, searing acts of violence, a visionary cross-dresser, and a panoply of fanatics, mystics, and hoaxers. A pause-register narrative, Heaven's Ditch offers an excitingly fresh look at a heady, foundational moment in American history.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By JayHey on 08-28-16
An under told story of the United States.
If you could sum up Heaven’s Ditch in three words, what would they be?
Religion, Politics, Violence.
What did you like best about this story?
The intertwining of the chapters between the canal's life and the American life during the first decades of the 1800's.
What about Andrew Reilly’s performance did you like?
He was very clear and his voice was pleasant to listen to.
If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?
God, Gold And Murder - just as Mr. Kelly has subtitled the book.
Any additional comments?
This was such a good, interesting book! It wove the early commercial, spiritual, and political happenings of the time into a very compelling story. That so many characters in American history bumped shoulders in the corridor of the Erie Canal and that what happened in roughly fifty years still affects us.
The beginnings of both the Mormon and Seventh Day Adventist Churches, of the abolitionist fervor that resulted in the founding of Oberlin College and the start of a political party that would eventually becoming the Republican party of Lincoln all took place or were influenced by this era. I will not spoil it, but the wife of a missing man from the early section of the book reappears later as an intimate of another major character - a twist not unlike that of a novel but one of complete truth. Jack Kelly shows in this book that history is always with us.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful