Oral History

Hopesville, also called Hope’s Lock, is located on the north side of the Lehigh River in Bethlehem Township. Lock 46 was located at this tiny village, which included one hotel, one store and about 12 houses in 1855. Canal boats heading to Easton passed through Lock 46 and entered the Lehigh River. Mules pulling the boats walked the towpath along the river bank. When the boats reached Smith Island, the mules were unhitched from the boats and loaded on a wooden ferry that carried them across the Lehigh River. Boat captains poled their boats across the river and re-hitched their mules on the other side.

In 1857, a suspension bridge was built from Smith Island to the south bank of the Lehigh River to allow mules to “walk” across the river rather than be ferried. The boats’ ropes were attached to the mules’ harnesses as the mules walked across the bridge, allowing them to tow the boat to the other side. Once they reached the south bank of the river, they followed the towpath along the river bank until they entered the Lehigh Canal again at the guard lock next to Dam 8, the “Chain Dam” that still exists today.

Hope’s Lock – Lock 46 – is still intact but is partially buried under river sediments that washed into the lock from decades of floods.