Somerville and New England History Collection
This bounty notice provides a small window into the economic
and natural history of New England. The 27 mile long Middlesex
Canal connected the Merrimack River and the port of Boston.
Other canals extended from the Merrimack River towards the
north, creating a network of waterways that made it possible
to ship goods by boat from Boston to as far north as Concord,
New Hampshire. This was important because before railroads
it was much cheaper and faster to transport goods and people
by water than by land.
But before the canal was rendered irrelevant by railroads
it faced another enemy: mink and muskrats (or musquashes,
as they were sometimes called from the Abnaki word muskwessu).
During winter months minks and muskrats would burrow into
the banks of the canal so frequently they were in danger
of breaking. Hence the closer the animal was to the canal
when it was killed, the higher the bounty. A muskrat within
2 rods (33 feet) of a canal bank was clearly up to no good.