Steamboats did not arrive on Lake George until 1817. The settlements along the shores of the lake were small, local business was slight and there was a general antipathy towards steamboats as being somehow connected with the Devil. But the success of steam on nearby Lake Champlain was undeniable and probably contagious.
On April 15, 1817 a company was incorporated by the New York State Legislature to operate commercial shipping on Lake George. The title given this company was the Lake George Steamboat Company.
The first steamship, the James Caldwell, started plying the waters under our banner in 1817. She had a wooden hull, primitive steam engines and was able to steam to the other end of the lake in about 8 hours (the present day Mohican can make it in just under 3 hours). As time rolled on, steam technology and ship building practices allowed for the building of larger and faster wooden hulled ships.
Following the Civil War, through a series of transportation consolidations, the Steamboat Company became part of the Delaware and Hudson Railroad System, serving as a link in that company’s New York City to Canada operations. In 1882 a railroad branch was built between Glens Falls and Lake George. Passengers would step off the train at the still-existing railroad station (across the street from the Steel Pier and built in 1911) and onto the steamers for the trip up the lake to Ticonderoga. They could then board a train that would take them to Canada.
The D&H railroad owned and operated the Lake George passenger boats for 68 years (1871-1939) and during that time built the finest sidewheel steamboats, in particular, the Sagamore and the Horicon II. The Sagamore was the first steel hulled vessel to ever sail on Lake George, while the mighty Horicon II was the largest and the fastest ship to sail Lake George (Length 230′, beam 59′, speed 21 mph). This time period was very prosperous for the Steamboat Company as well as the surrounding towns.
The Great Depression of the 1930s drastically reduced the Lake George passenger business and the advent of World War II brought the boat business to its knees. The Delaware & Hudson scrapped the Sagamore in 1937, and then the Horicon. The Company’s remaining vessel, the Mohican, was sold to Captain George Stafford and ran a limited summer schedule during the war years.
In 1947, a maritime lawyer from New York City, Captain Wilbur Dow acquired the Steamboat Company. He renovated the Mohican in 1947; brought a World War II vessel onto the lake in three sections and converted her to passenger service as the Ticonderoga in 1950; and built out the Steel Pier in Lake George Village in 1954 to the boundaries of the company’s land grant from King George III of England. He again renovated the Mohican in 1967, built the sternwheeler Minne-Ha-Ha in 1969 and, following an eleven-year construction effort, placed the Lac du Saint Sacrement in service in 1989.
In 2010, the Mohican was accepted onto the National Register of Historic Places. In 2011 our Crandall Marine Railway, located in Ticonderoga, was placed onto the National Register of Historic Places and in 2013 our 1911 D+H Railroad Station was placed onto the National Register of Historic Places.
On April 15th, 2017 the Lake George Steamboat Company celebrated its 200th year in operation! We look forward to seeing what the next 200 years will be like!