by Pamela S. Meyers
This past week, after a very long and cold winter, the excursion boats on Geneva Lake in Wisconsin returned to their docks in the village of Lake Geneva. Seeing pictures of the Lady of the Lake, a replica of the original Lady of the Lake paddle-wheel steamboat that once plied the same waters back in the 19th century, got me to thinking again about another paddle-wheel boat called the Lucius Newberry.
|It may not look elegant in this old drawing, but it was!|
Back in the late 1800s the Newberry was the pride of the lake as it toured the waters, carrying both residents and tourists to various points along the 22 miles of shoreline. It was built in 1875 for a man named Lucius Newberry at the cost of $16,000. In 1887, he sold the steamer to another man named John Burton to be added to a fleet of excursion boats that included the original Lady of the Lake and another called the Commodore.
This side-wheeler boat was the showcase of the fleet, decorated to the hilt with Brussels carpeting and exquisite upholstered furniture, plate glass mirrors and an upright piano. It could carry as many as 500 passengers at a time, and during the height of the summer season, it made three daily trips from one end of the lake to the other.
All that changed on a chilly December night when it was tied to its dock home in Lake Geneva. It’s speculated that hobos had sought shelter from the cold by climbing aboard and decided to light
|In this old postcard, that's the Newberr docked at the end of the pier.|
For years divers searched in vain for the wreckage and finally, a few years back, they found it. Since the vessel had burned down to the waterline, they were able to collect only a few artifacts such as a fancy ice bucket. But they did bring up the anchor which now sits in the Geneva Lake Museum.
|The Lucias Newberry|
I’ve always been fascinated about the fire and sinking of the Newberry and hope to include it in a future novel.
The replica paddleboats in the excursion fleet today are not operated by steam, but they do give us a taste of a different way of life back in the 19th century when the boats were used for both pleasure and were the most efficient mode of travel to points on the lakeshore. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to time travel back to that time and live life as it was lived. I doubt I’d want to stay there more than a few days though.
What about you? Would you like to time travel back to another period in history? Where would you go?
Win a Free Book!
To celebrate the return of spring to the Lake Geneva area, I’m giving away a copy of my book Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The story is set in 1933, when the Riviera building was built at the Lake Geneva lake shore. It's become a historical landmark and has been restored to its original design. Leave a comment and your name in the comment by Friday, May 9, 2014. I’ll draw a name on Saturday.
A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago, an hour's drive away from her hometown which she visits often to dig into its historical legacy. Her novels include Thyme for Love, and Love Will Find a Way, contemporary romantic mysteries and her 1933 historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva,Wisconsin, released in April, 2013. She can often be found speaking at events around Lake Geneva or nosing in microfilms and historical records about Wisconsin and other Midwestern spots for new story ideas.