Effingham and the Summer People


| March/April 1983



Steamboat Effingham

S. R. Stoddard

Steamboat Effingham underway on Schroon Lake circa 1880. From a S. R. Stoddard original courtesy of the Steamship Historical Society Collection, University of Baltimore Library.

At the turn of the century there must have been hundreds of little steamboats plying the waters of the lakes in the eastern United States. One such vessel was the Effingham which operated on Schroon Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. As near as can be pieced together at this late date she was in operation hauling freight and summer visitors from the city in 1873. And, she continued in that service until she sank in 1919.

Schroon Lake is about ten miles long and two miles wide in the Adirondack Mountains some sixty miles north west of Saratoga Springs, New York. It is one of the 23,000 lakes and ponds scattered over the six million acres which are within the Adirondack Forest Preserve 'blue line' created by the Legislature in 1892. Here also is located that jewel like body of water on the flanks of Mount Marcy called Lake Tear-Of-The-Clouds which is the source of the mighty Hudson River. It was discovered by Verplanck Colvin while surveying the area in 1872 some ten years after the source of the Nile had been found, so remote was the area.

There were and are today a number of summer hotels, (motels) cottages and camps along the shore. With Interstate Highway 87 just a stones throw away, it is an easy matter to get into the area. In 1880 it was a different matter. E. R. Wallace in his Discriptive Guide To The Adirondacks wrote in 1880 that the village was most easily reached: '...from the Adirondack Railroad by stage (coach) from Riverside to Pottersville, (6 miles) pleasantly situated at the foot of the lake; thense by the splendid steamer 'Effingham', (under the command of) Capt. (James) Cheney.' The guide goes on to say:'...which makes two daily round trips each way.'

This brings up an interesting speculation on early travel. The June, 1916 Railway Guide lists two trains each way daily except Sunday. The first 'up' train from Albany and Troy arrived at 12:03 noon which would not be too difficult to meet. However, the first 'down' train was at 6:26 AM! It is likely that the boat was at her Pottersville pier at the south end of the lake at 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm which gives ample time for the two round trips. However, the last 'up' train arrived in Riverside at 8:08 pm. If the Effingham met that train too, she would have to make a night run back on Schroon Lake.

In later years the railroad became a part of the Adirondack Branch of the Delaware & Hudson Railroad. By 1942 there was only one passenger train each way daily except Sunday. By 1977 we find only freight service survived the onslaught of the automobile. The station stop called Riverside at milepost 49.6 continued to be shown in timetables but does not show on touring roadmaps.