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Old 07-03-2007, 08:27 AM   #1
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Default Lady of the Lake

From the Laconia Citizen
Lady of the Lake - a real beauty on the water

By DAVID RUELL History correspondent

COURTESY PHOTO THE LADY OF the Lake, as seen in an engraving from the 1880s.

Before the Mount Washington began its long reign on the waters of Lake Winnipesaukee, the lake was dominated by the Lady of the Lake. There were steamboats on the lake before the Lady was built in 1849. The first had been the Belknap, launched in 1833. But no steamboat had offered regular passenger service on the big lake after the Belknap was wrecked on Steamboat Island in 1841.

The impetus for building the Lady of the Lake was the coming of the railroad. The Boston, Concord & Montreal Railroad, chartered in 1844, was planned to run north from Concord through the Lakes Region and up the Baker River valley to Haverhill and Vermont. The railroad was opened to Laconia and Lake Village (now Lakeport) in 1848 and to Meredith and Holderness (now Ashland) in 1849. The prospect of the railroad and the many potential customers it would bring to Lake Winnipesaukee inspired a small group of entrepreneurs to build a large passenger steamboat.

The effort began in 1848 when William Walker, Jr. of Concord came to Lake Village to meet Benjamin J. Cole, the president of Cole, Davis and Company, later the Cole Manufacturing Company. The result of their discussions was the formation of a steamboat company. In June of 1848, the state legislature chartered the Winnipisseogee Steamboat Company, with six incorporators, including Cole and Walker. The company was authorized to issue stock of up to $50,000 for buying real estate, building wharves, warehouses and other buildings and, of course, "constructing and using steamboats, steam vessels and tow boats on the waters of the said Winnipisseogee lake". The capital was largely provided by local investors.

The first meeting of the corporation was held in Laconia on September 12, 1848. Cole was elected president and Walker the agent. At an October 25 meeting, Walker presented a model for a steamboat 121 feet long with a beam of 21 feet. (The beam is the widest part of a ship.) Walker and Cole were chosen as the committee to build the boat.

The lumber for the steamboat was cut around the lake by Cole, Davis and Company. Construction began in January of 1849. On January 27, the Belknap Gazette reported that "The work of building the Steamboat for the Winnipissiogee Lake has been commenced in good earnest at Lake Village, under the direction of MR. FRIEND, of New York; Mr. F. is said to be a gentleman every way competent for the undertaking. The keel of the boat has been laid the present week. The Steam engine and machinery are being built in Boston, by Mr. Adams. Maj. WALKER, the Agent of the Company, is on hand, and says the boat will most surely be ready to run by the first of June next."

The new steamboat was launched on May 16. The launch was a novel event that attracted a large crowd, later estimated in the hundreds or even the thousands, many of whom expected to see a disaster. But the launch was a success. The Laconia Democrat reported: "For some time the men worked away at their screws under the bows, while some pulled upon a rope, till at length she started from her resting place and rode like a gallant sea bird, out upon the water. There were about a hundred persons aboard when she left the stocks, among whom were the Lake Village Brass Band, who immediately dedicated her with the tune of "A life on the ocean wave, A home on the raging deep."

"A salute was fired and loud huzzas broke the silence of the usually quiet ........


from the Rattlesnake Gal Collection

From the Rattlesnake Gal Collection found at the Tuck Library in Concord
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