Maritime History of the Great Lakes
History of Steam navigation on Lake Ontario
Onondaga Standard (Syracuse, NY), Sep. 29, 1847
Full Text
From the Oswego Commercial Times
History of Steam navigation on Lake Ontario

The rapid increase and general improvement in the commercial marine of the Lakes, impart a high degree of interest to every thing relating to the early history and progress of our steam navigation. We have thee collected the facts and compiled the following table, showing the names, tonnage, and Captains of all the American steamers which have navigated Lake Ontario since the first introduction of steam here in 1816. In that year the first steamboat, the Ontario, was built at Sackets Harbor, and commenced running in the spring of 1817.

She was the first steamer built on the Western Lakes and run from Ogdensburg to Lewiston, making the trip in 10 days, charging $15 for cabin passage, and continued to run until the year 1831. Her engine was made by Mr. J.P. Allaire, of the city of New York. Gen. Jacob Brown, Com. M.T. Woolsey, Hooker & Crane, Charles Smyth, Eri Lusher and Elisa Camp, were the proprietors of the Ontario. Her construction, as the first vessel propelled by steam built west of the Hudson, and the first sea vessel of the kind we believe ever built in this country, was considered an experiment and an enterprise at that time, of the first magnitude. She left Sackets Harbor early in the spring of 1817 on her first trip, and reached Oswego the same day, where she was received by the people with extravagant demonstrations - such as the firing of cannon and most enthusiastic greeting. Many of the people of Oswego continued their rejoicings all night and till the boat left the next day. It was a wonderful occasion, and one that commanded the admiration and engrossed the attention of the people.

On the morning of the second day of her trip the Ontario left Oswego and reached Genesee river in the evening, where she remained till the next day, when she proceeded on her way up the Lake. Soon after leaving the river, she encountered a North east blow which raised a considerable sea. Like all steamers previously built. Her shaft on which the wheels revolved was confined to the boxes in which it ran by its own weight only. The action of the sea upon her wheels soon lifted the shaft from its bed, so that the wheel houses were instantly torn to pieces, utterly demolished by the wheels with a tremendous crash, doing considerable damage to the wheels. Upon this disaster the steamer put about, and with the aid of canvas returned to Sackets Harbor to repair damages an secure her shaft.

The next steamer on Lake Ontario was built by the Canadians in 1817, and was called the Frontenac. She was a vessel of 700 tons, and had her engine imported from England.

The Sophia of 75 tons was built at Sackets Harbor in 1818 to run between that place and Kingston. In the same year, the first steamer on lake Erie, The Walk-in-the-Water, was built. In 1823 the Martha Ogden was built at Sackets Harbor, under the direction and control of the late Albert Crane, Esq., of Oswego, which in connection with the Ontario formed the line of American steamers for many years, down to 1830, to which time the lake steamers were considered an experiment. They had no regular day for leaving port, but made their trips conform to the appearance of the weather. The boar building at French Creek for the Ontario Company, nearly ready to launch, will be much superior in dimensions and style of fitting up, to any boat on the lake.

List of American steamboats built and running on Lake Ontario, since their first introduction in 1816:
1816Ontario400J. MallabyBroken up
1818Sophia75S. Thurston Broken up
1823 Martha Ogden150D. Reed Lost in 1832
1830Brownville150N. JohnsonBroken up
1831Paul Pry50E. LusherBroken up
1832 United States450Jos. WhitneyBroken up
1833Black Hawk100Changed to Dolphin
1833Wm. Avery200VaughnBroken up
1834Oswego400Capt. EvansBroken up
1836Oneida300Capt. ChildBroken up
1837Telegraph200Capt. Mason Lewiston to Hamilton
1836John Marshall60J.F. TylerLost in 1844
1839St. Lawrence450J, VanCleveLaid up
1839Express150H.N. ThroopTow boat
1841Gen. Clinton100Chapin Oswego to Kingston
1841President60Isaac GreenLost 1844
1842Lady of the Lake125S.H. Hoag Lewiston to Ogdensburg
1843Rochester400H.N. Throop"
1845Niagara476R.F. Child"
1847Cataract620J. VanCleve"
1847New Steamer building 800 tons.

Media Type
Item Type
Date of Original
Sep. 29, 1847
Local identifier
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.795555 Longitude: -77.905555
Peter Warwick
Copyright Statement
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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History of Steam navigation on Lake Ontario