Newsletter of the Finger Lakes Chapter, ACBS

Volume 17, Issue 2.................................................................. June 2007

UPDATED june 20th 2007



page -3




















Steamboats first appeared on Cayuga Lake in 1820, when the Cayuga Steamboat Co. launched the 80-ft. Enterprise. For the next 87 years, steamboats were the dominate form of transportation for passengers, mail, freight and supplies for those living and working around the lake.
Timothy D. Wilcox was a young man in the early 1800s, working as a cabin boy on Hudson River boats and later as a captain on a Long Island Sound steamer. He moved to Ithaca in 1842, and began buying up steamboats and commissioning others to be built. They had names like the Simeon DeWitt, the Holland, the Forest City, the Beardsley, the Kate Morgan, the Sheldrake (later renamed the Cayuga), the Aurora, the Ino, the T.D. Wilcox (later renamed the Ithaca) and the Frontenac.
The side-wheeler Frontenac was built by J. G. Bennett (either in Ithaca or Union Springs) in 1870, at a cost of $50,000. It was 135-ft. long with a 22-ft. beam, and was powered by a 270 HP engine producing a top speed of 17 MPH - equivalent to railroad trains of the period. Up to 350 passengers could be carried in cabins and on deck, and the boat sported the luxury of a dining room. It was the largest steamer to ever sail on Cayuga Lake and it was the pride of Captain Wilcox who piloted it into his eighties. It made its maiden voyage on June 24, 1870, becoming known as the queen of the Cayuga fleet.
Captain Wilcox died in 1884, leaving the steamboat business to his wife and daughter. Four years later they sold the business to Cayuga Lake Transportation Co., and four years after that in 1902, that company was purchased by Melvin T. Brown of Syracuse. Captain Brown took personal charge of the Frontenac.
The Frontenac's regular schedule called for it to depart Ithaca at the foot of Cayuga Lake each morning at 9:00, and proceed northward to the village of Cayuga on the lake's northeast corner by 1:15 pm with a dozen stops on either shore along the way. Because of its crisscross course, the voyage covered about 50 miles. The daily schedule also included a southbound trip from Cayuga back to Ithaca, arriving at 8:10 pm. Weather or special excursions would occasionally cause this schedule to be altered.


continued on the next page