Reprinted from Lake
Winnipesaukee, Compiled &
Published by By Ronald W. Gallup, 1969
Before Governor Wentworth launched his sloop from the
Eastern shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, all water travel
was by Indian birch-canoe and dugout, with the possible
addition of crude rafts.
Soon after the first settlement at Alton, John Smith and
Stephen Adams of Moultonboro constructed the first gundalow
type freight boat, a flat-bottomed, rectangular, barge
with one to three masts for three cornered sails. Though
clumsy and slow (below three miles per hour under favorable
conditions, and impossible to operate during bad weather),
they connected the Lake settlements and took the place
of the inadequate trails until the horseboat took over.
The last one known to be built was by Nathaniel Shannon
of E. Moultonboro in 1837.
When a Mr. Patten built at Meredith a barge like vessel
with double paddlewheels connected to a treadmill for
one or two horses to walk on, Winnipesaukee had its first
horseboat. Many more were put into operation, effectively
caring for the Lake traffic from 1837 until after the
first steamers were proven practical and put on regular
schedule. The last one of record was owned by Captain
Leander Lavallee from 1878 to 1890.
Steam powered freighters and excursion and passenger boats
became a realization with the launching of the four-boiler
Belknap, a slow, clumsy, 96 foot vessel with an engine
from a saw-mill in 1833. After eight years of reasonable
success, it was wrecked on Steamboat Island in 1841.
The next craft of account, designed for lake traffic,
was the attractive Lady-of-the-Lake launched in 1848,
with a length of 125 feet. Though the Weirs channel was
deepened in 1833 after the Belknap made its first perilous
"buoyed" passage, the Lady could enter and return
from the Big Lake to its winter Lake Village quarters
only by having the Weirs bridge removed each time for
several years. After 44 exciting and rewarding years
of service, thousands of people were saddened by having
the boat condemned and beached at Belknap Point at Glendale.
From 1896 until the Lady was towed out to the East end
of Governors Island and sunk with rocks, the final insult
was its use as a barracks while Kimball's Castle was being
built. The figurehead from the Lady is in Concord at the
Historical Society of N. H.
Many thousands of people observed the launchings of the
above vessels, but the real excitement came with the launching
of the Mount Washington in Alton Bay in 1872. A specially
designed excursion and passenger boat of 178 feet, the
longest, fastest (20 mph), and one of the most beautiful
sidewheelers on any American inland water, The Mount,
as thousands of people knew it, created a special place
in history which was interrupted only by fire. After 67
wonderful years, the steamer Mount Washington burned along
with the railroad station and dock in 1939, ending
an impressive record of over 800,000 miles.
A change came to the Lake about 1877 with the first screw
type boats the Nellie and Mineola. The next big innovation
was that of gasoline engines and open power launches in
or near 1900.
Meantime the Swallow was freighted to the Lake by rail,
the first such event for a large boat. This private yacht
was once the property of the Whitney family, a beautiful
ship used to carry the flag of the Eastern Yacht Club
of Marblehead. After an 1890 launching at Fall River,
two years in salt water, and 76 years of prideful travel
on Winnipesaukee, this craft can be seen on the Lake today.
The steamer days waned, ending the exhaust noise that
carried up to ten miles, the soot and sparks of the wood
burners, the coal engine dust and plumes of smoke and
steam, the "walking-beams" of the side-wheelers,
the frequent races (often between the competing passenger
and excursion boats; the Mount Washington was never beaten),
the galas of the late 19th century, the numerous big shipyards,
and the romance of the steam boat-whistles.
Many other early boats churned to and fro: Dover (rebuilt
to the Chocorua), Jenny Lind, Long Island, Dolly Dutton,
Mayflower, Naugutuck, Seneca, Winnipesaukee, Gazelle,
Lamprey, Maid-of-the-Isles, Belle-of-the-Waves, Cyclone,
Eagle, James Bell, Roxmount, Meredith, Iroquois, Gilnockie,
Windemere, Columbia, and many more.
The last of the large competing boats to be built was
the impressive Governor Endicott, owned last by the Capt.
Leander Lavallee family, launched in 1907, and retired
Following the lamentable burning of the Mount, plans were
laid by Mr. Lavallee to replace it by the unusual Chateaugay.
A steel-hulled side-wheeler launched in Red Bank, N. J.,
in 1888, moved to 110 mile long Lake Champlain by Rutland
RR for years of famed use, it was chopped out of the ice
during the winter of 1940 and cut into 21 huge sections
after being stripped for its "voyage" by rail
to Lakeport. By August the multitude of problems had been
surmounted, and the new Mount Washington II slipped off
the ways on its trip to the Weirs for decking and finishing.
The shores of Lake Paugus were carpeted with thousands
of spectators, 500 hundred of which were allowed on board
at Weirs bridge to ballast the vessel under the bridge.
Few people today know that the ship was docked permanently
during the 1942-3-4&5 due to the War fuel shortage,
that the steam engines were removed for the Coast Guard
(never used), and diesel engines were installed for the
1946 reactivation. The Mount Washington sails today in
real favor in spite of the wide use of private boats,
a relic of the past, since few such craft remain in use
Mail began to be carried on the Lake in the late 1800's,
but the first official date was 1892 when Rural Free Delivery
Route #7 was set up under contract to Dr. George Saltmarsh
with the vessel Robert and Arthur the first mailboat.
In 1896 the Dolphin replaced it in service, and in 1906
the mail contract put the newly launched Uncle Sam onto
the run as the third mailboat. In 1916, by Act of Congress
(the only such incident in the United States to date),
the Uncle Sam became the only floating-post office. For
the years 1932 & 3 the Marshall Foch took the honors,
but it was displaced in '34 by the Uncle Sam I, which
ran uninterrupted until destroyed due to old age after
the end of the 1961 season. 1962 saw a new Uncle Sam II,
a 72 foot converted PT-Boat, brought in by rail and launched
for the increased traffic from many countries.
Only one other mail route exists officially on the Lake,
that which started about 1910 under Capt. Oscar York in
the Columbia out of Wolfeboro, with the Wolfeboro postmark.
The route today is run by the Gray Ghost. Freighters are
a thing of the past; the excursion vessel Mount Washington
has no competition; our Lake is the playground for vacationers,
with water-skiing, speed, tiny sail et al that would make
the fathers of Winnipesaukee shipping gasp for sure. They
who were so familiar with the King's Pines and monstrous
rafts of virgin timber would be amazed also at our modern
navigation charts and the N. H. Boating Guide available
to all. The present canoes and the Appalachian Mountain
Club canoing guide might delight them.