Newsletter of the Finger Lakes Chapter, ACBS

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

UPDATED june 20th 2007



page -3
















Such was the case on Friday, July 26, 1907,when the Frontenac was held over-night at Cayuga. On Saturday morning the boat carried a special party on an excursion south to meet the steamer Mohawk at Sheldrake, exchange passengers and allow both boats to return to their normal schedules.

Upon leaving Sheldrake, the Frontenac carried about 60 passengers and a heavy cargo of freight. It turned north in six-foot waves driven by a 50 mile per hour gale out of the northwest, causing Captain Brown to by-pass Aurora and Levanna, and continue northward along the eastern shore.
As the boat neared Farley's Point at about 1:00 pm, fire was discovered in an area behind the pilot house. Captain Brown tried to douse it with a hose, but with the flames fed by the strong wind, he couldn't get the fire under control. He returned to the pilot house and turned the boat toward shore. It ran aground at Dill's Cove, just north of Farley's Point about 200 feet off the beach in about six feet of water.

With 400 life-preservers onboard, there were more than enough to go around and Captain Brown and his wife (who managed the kitchen operation), assisted many passengers getting them on. How many life boats were onboard is not clear, but they, too, caught on fire and were of no use. All but eight passengers made it to shore, many with burns from the fire that completely consumed the boat. The loss was properly characterized in the local press as a disaster, although more lives could easily have been lost if things hadn't gone as well as they did.
In subsequent investigations, Captain Brown, his officers and crew, and the boat itself, were all exonerated of any liability in the accident. In fact, they reaped praise from many quarters for their efforts to minimize the tragedy.

But beyond that, the loss of the Frontenac represented the end of the steamboat era on Cayuga Lake. Railroads were becoming more prevalent, they were traveling faster and could haul huge loads of passengers and freight. Because of their speed, they were also getting the mail contracts. And the automobile and the American road system were starting to take their place in American history, making it more and more unnecessary for people to rely on public transportation to get them where they wanted to go.

Captain Brown continued on as a captain on Cayuga Lake freighters before taking a job as captain of a tug boat on the Erie Canal in 1910. He died in Port Byron in 1922, at the age of 72.
The tangled wreck of the Frontenac became a destination for curiosity-seekers for many years after its loss. However, with the advent of World War II and the demand for scrap metal, the wreckage was recovered through the ice and hauled away to support the war effort.
July 27, 2007, falls on Friday of the Chapter's Boat Show Weekend -- the 100th Anniversary of the burning of the Frontenac.

Many thanks to FLC Vice President Bill Stinson for the idea and material for this article, and to Don Quant for his review and comments. -Ed

While researching the above article on the Frontenac, the following bit of history turned up. Talk about poor planning! -Ed.

In 1892, a wealthy New York City contractor, Robert L. Darragh, who had his summer home at Sheldrake, felt that the steamboat service was not up to the old standards. He decided to build two new boats "to make Sheldrake popular and to restore to Ithaca the trade of the north."
The first of these boats was the Laura Darragh built at Newburgh, NY by a Mr. Marvel. She was equipped with a 250 hp engine capable of driving her at 15 miles per hour. She was 105 feet in length and had a beam of 18 ½ feet.

The Laura Darragh arrived at Sheldrake in November, 1893. In building her 105-ft. long hull, Mr. Marvel had failed to take into consideration the fact that the locks of the Erie Canal could only hold 98 feet of boat. As a result, seven feet had to be trimmed off her stern and piled on the deck to be replaced after she arrived safely in Cayuga Lake. The superstructure, also built in Newburg, could not pass under the low canal bridges, and had to be removed and then rebuilt at Sheldrake.
Mr. Darragh's adventure in the boat business was cut short by illness and both the Laura Darragh and the second boat, the Red Jacket, were sold. These were the last steamboats built for passenger service on Cayuga Lake.

From: STEAMBOATING ON THE FINGER LAKES by Charles C. Inshaw, July 1942
According to an article adapted from Alta E. Boyer's book, A History of Lodi Point, appearing in the Spring 2007 edition of Life in the Finger Lakes magazine, the Laura A. Darragh operated on Seneca Lake for many years after leaving Cayuga Lake. -Ed