Harveys Lake
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The Steamboat Era at Harvey's Lake


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The Steamboat Era

The Acoma was the last boat built speicifically for use on Harvey's Lake.


As business declined through the 1920s, the steamers ran less often. The Lake Transit Company used the Emily as a substitute more frequently for passenger trade, often with Anderson at the helm. The Emily carried thirty to thirty-five passengers. The wheel in the front was infrequently used. A second wheel was in the center-right where the pilot would control an engine and steer at the same time. The Emily was run by one man except at night when an extra hand was generally aboard. With a wooden roof and fringe, the beloved Emily picked up her passengers to meet the morning train or trolley and faithfully met them on the return lines in the evening. In inclement weather, canvas awnings were dropped. A glass windshield, hinged on the front, could be dropped during a rain. It took really rough weather to rock the big steamers, and even the Emily managed well when the waves were rolling, although it was always wise to find a quick port in a sudden storm.

The Emily provided daily service through the late 1920's when only the holidays and weekends drew sufficient crowds to run a steamer. But soon the Lake Transit Company could no longer survive the changing times.

The inland steamboat trade elsewhere in the state was also ending. On March 29, 1929, the commonwealth legislature repealed the inland steamboat licensing law of 1903. Apparently, the law was not actively enforced as some workmen on the Harvey's Lake steamers were not licensed. However, boilers on the steamers continued to be inspected under general inspection or insurance laws.

By 1930 the steamers were running sporadically. The company tried to take advantage of Sandy Beach's popularity by building a concrete and steer pier there in June 1930. The company advertised runs from the trolley station at Sunset to Sandy Beach. But public attraction could not be salvaged. The increasing use of the private automobile also tolled the end of the trolley line to the Lake. Regular trolley service ended on July 6, 1931. In the summer of 1932 the assets of the Lake Transit Company were sold for $4,000 to John A. Griffliths of Forty Fort, although it was not reported until late July 1933. The sale included the four steamers, the two launches and five parcels of land. Griffiths had no plan to resume the steamer business. Instead, he intended to develop the land holdings of the Transit Company, especially in the Outlet area.

Oscar Roth, an area jeweler, and Bob Roberts were interested in purchasing one of the steamers. The Wilkes-Barre and Kingston were in poor condition. Although the Acoma and its machinery were in better shape, the double-deck of the Natoma was still a special attraction. For a few hundred dollars the Natoma was sold to Roth and Roberts.

Several of the Lake's steamboat men assisted in preparing the Natoma for the remainder of the 1933 season. The Natoma drew a curious and friendly crowd as it circled in the Lake in a renewed life. For docking, the Natoma remained at the Lake Transit Company boathouse. For the 1934 season, however, the long dock at Sandy Beach became available. After 1934 the Natoma continued to run, usually on Sundays, for sightseeing trips around the Lake. In addition to Sandy Beach, the other stops were the Picnic Grounds and the Oneonta landing.

A trip was twenty-five cents for an adult and fifteen cents for a child. The new owners added an electric light system and painted the boat in white with black trim. Occasionally, the Natoma was rented for a party trip. Coal for the Natoma was trucked to the Oneonta landing and dumped on the shore where the Roth family would load it on the steamboat.

After the sale of the Lake Transit Company, the Wilkes-Barre, Kingston and Acoma, along with the Wyoming were dismantled at the Outlet boathouse. The boilers, engines and metal parts were sold for scrap to the Bethlehem Steel Company. Griffiths, however, kept the Emily and had it trucked to Lake Winola where he ran it for passenger excursions for two seasons. After the second season, the Emily was vandalized and lost to fire during the winter while it was resting on the shore.

By the end of the 1930’s, operation and maintenance of the Natoma were a nuisance to its owners. In late August 1938 it was reported that time had finally caught the old steamer. It had served that season for Sunday tourist rides around the Lake, and was rented for evening parties. The Big Apple, a foot-stomping dance fad of the time, was drawing thirty to forty couples for dance parties on the steamer, which shuddered under the abuse. Carving initials on the woodwork of the Natoma was also a favorite pastime. The Roths were unable to stay ahead of the damages to the boat, although the hull still seemed sound.

One unknown day the Natoma had its last ride, and by 1940 the boat was resold for two hundred dollars for the scrap value of its machinery and brass fittings. The remains were taken to the shore above the Picnic Grounds toward Alderson in front of the Lakeview development owned by John A. Redington, a former owner of the amusement park. With the bow facing the shoreline, the Natoma was fastened in place to piles and used for a dock.

In the fall of 1947 the Redington lot fronting the Natoma was sold to Art Badman. By this time the former star attaction was a wreck. Winter skaters had frequently pulled pieces from the steamer for firewood and the rest was sitting on the lake bottom with water flooding the vacant engine room. Badman had no alternative but to dismantle the Natoma hulk. He used some of the wood to build a summer cottage near the site. It was a sorrowful end for the most majestic treasure of the Lake's Golden Era.

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Copyright 2006-2007 F. Charles Petrillo

Copyright 2006-2008 F. Charles Petrillo