Lake Champlain
Chittenden County, VT Biographies





LAKE CHAMPLAIN lies between Vermont and the State of New York, more than half of it being within the limits of the former State. Grand Isle County is formed of the islands in the lake belonging to Vermont. These islands include South Hero, 13 miles long, North Hero, 11 miles long, and Isle La Motte. Alburgh Tongue, putting out from Canada, and as isolated from the Vermont mainland as the islands themselves, belongs to Grand Isle County. The county has a population of about 4000. North Hero and Isle La Motte are connected with Alburgh Tongue by bridges, and a bridge is now being constructed that will connect South Hero and North Hero. The former island is also connected with the mainland by a sand bar bridge, and is in daily stage communication with Burlington. According to United States coast survey, Lake Champlain measures 107 1/2 miles from Whitehall (its southern end) to Fort Montgomery, at the Canada line. Its greatest width is 12 1/8 miles, its mean width 4 1/2 miles, and its greatest depth 399 feet. Its elevation above tide is 93 feet. Measuring down into Missisquoi Bay, on the east side, extending into Canada, and separated from the outlet by Alburgh Tongue, the lake measures 118 miles. Lake Champlain is connected with the Hudson River by a canal 64 miles long, so that the towns lying on the shores of the lake have direct communication by water with the cities of Troy, lbany and New York, and the Richelieu River and Chambly canal gives direct water communication with Montreal on the north, and thence with the Great Lakes. The shores of Lake Champlain are indented by numerous bays, most of which are small. Missisquoi Bay is the largest. It belong, principally, to Vermont. No part of the United States is more interesting from, its historic associations than Lake Champlain. Every bay and island, and nearly every foot of its shores, has been the scene of some warlike movement, the midnight foray of the predatory savage, the bloody scout of the frontier settlers, the rendezvous of armed bands, or the conflict of contending armies. These stirring incidents extend in tradition far beyond the first discovery of the lake, and are brought down by scattered and unconnected history, in an almost uninterrupted series of strifes and contentions, to the close of the war of 1812. Previous to the settlement of the country by the Europeans. Lake Champlain had long been the thoroughfare between hostile and powerful Indian tribes, and after the settlement it continued the same in reference to the French and English colonies, and subsequently in reference to the English in Canada and the United States.

Commercial business on Lake Champlain was begun as early as 1770, when Major Skeene, of Whitehall, launched a sloop and made regular trips through the lake to Canada, thus opening a communication with the settlements on the borders of the lake. The Revolution put a stop to commercial business, however, but it was immediately resumed on the declaration of peace, and the white wings of the trading sloops, and the rafts of heavy timber, dotted the whole length of the lake.

The great stride in progress was in 1808, one year after Robert Fulton made the memorable trial trip of his steamboat on the Hudson. Burlington parties were the first to take practical advantage of the new opened by the event. During this year they launched the second practical steamboat ever made, and the next year, 1809, it commenced navigating the lake, just two hundred years after Champlain had entered upon its waters in his bark canoe. The owners and builders of this boat were two brothers, John and James Winans. The boat was called the "Vermont." It was similar in appearance to a large class canal boat, except being about forty feet longer and six feet wider. The decks were clear, having no pilot house, the steering being done by a tiller, and the engine, an horizontal one, being all under deck, only the smoke stack appearing above. She was fitted with second hand machinery, very poor at that, had a cylinder twenty inches by three feet, "side level bell crank," with a large balance wheel ten feet in diameter. The boat was constantly subject to break downs, which were a part of her program, and could be relied upon to make a trip from Whitehall to St. Johns and back in a week. In October, 1815, on her trip from St. Johns, the connecting rod became detached from the crank, and before the engine could be stopped, it was forced through the bottom of the boat and she sunk, a wreck, near Ash Island, a few miles south of Isle Aux Noix. Improvements in steamboat building at once began, and in 1815 the "1st Phenix " was built on the lake, her speed being double that of its predecessor. This boat was destroyed by fire in September, 1819, causing the death of six passengers. From this time forward boats were rapidly put out, increasing in power and size, until the present " floating palaces " have attained almost perfection. Navigation companies were established, and steamboat property came to be the most profitable in which one could invest money. The advent of the locomotive checked navigation business largely, but there is still a large business done on the lake. The Champlain Transportation Co. is the oldest steamboat company in the United States; to its energy and enterprise is owing, in a great degree, the past and present prosperity of the transportation business. Its charter was granted as early as 1826, and its first steamer was the Franklin. This company operate three steamers, viz.: The Vermont, 262 feet long, 36 foot beam and nine foot hold; capacity 1125 tons. The Vermont has 56 state rooms. It runs daily (Sundays excepted) during the season of summer travel, between Plattsburgh and Fort Ticonderoga via Burlington, forming train connections for Saratoga, Albany and New York, and also connecting with steamers on Lake George (owned by the same company). The Chateaugay, of the Champlain Transportation Co., is a new steamer, its first season being 1888. It runs between Essex, N. Y., and Maquam, Vt., via Burlington, Plattsburgh, and the islands. The Chateaugay is 203 feet long, 30 foot beam, nine foot hold. It has all the conveniences of modern steamboats and is the fastest steamer on the lake. The A. Williams is a third boat belonging to this company. It is 122 feet long and has a capacity of 240 tons. It is used chiefly for excursions. The Coquette, a new steel steamer, runs during the season of summer travel, between Burlington and Rouses Point, N. Y.

From:
Burlington, Vt.
As a Manufacturing, Business and Commercial Center
With brief sketches of its history, attractions,
leading industries and Institutions.
Published by the Burlington Board of Trade.
1889.


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