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Chautauqua County Historical Society - Member Activities - Chautauqua County - New York - USA

CHAUTAUQUA LAKE STEAMBOATS

MAY MARTIN
(1876 - 1892)

Chautauqua County, New York, USA


May Martin


History

(The following is copied directly from Norton's notes)

The stern-wheel steamer "May Martin" (Named after the daughter of Dr. Martin) was built in 1875, just above the dam in Jamestown, by Mr. James Elliot of Pittsburgh, for Mr. James Steel of Jamestown and Dr. Martin of Busti NY.

She was flat-bottomed, 68 foot long and 11 foot 4 inch beam at the water line, 14 foot over all. The "May Martin" was a single-decker with upper deck used for promenade. Her smoke stack was hinged so she could navigate the Outlet down to Warner's Dam near the depot, passing under the Erie Railroad Bridge. She had two engines with eight inch cylinders and twenty two inch stroke. The paddle-wheel was nine feet long with eight foot buckets and steered with three rudders. Her capacity was 200 passengers and was the only boat that carried passengers below the Boatlanding Bridge.

After one season she was rebuilt, converted into a side-wheel steamer, her hull raised and lengthened, her lower deck extended to the outside of her wheel-house. A cabin built on her upper deck, making a much larger boat. After the alterations the "May Martin" was too large to pass below the railroad bridge, so one year was all that a passenger steamer ever ran in the Outlet below the Boatlanding Bridge.

Again in 1877 she was rebuilt with false sides, larger paddle-wheels and other improvements.

During the season of 1878 the "May Martin" ran in line with the steamer "Griffith".

At 7:00 AM on Nov 3, 1878 the "May Martin" was discovered to be on fire at her dock at the Boatlanding. The fire deparment soon had water on the fire, but it was too far advanced to be put out. The steamer burned loose from her moorings and floated down to the Boatlanding Bridge. In passing she came in contact with the steamer "Mayville" damaging the latter to the extent of $400.00. The "May Martin" burned to the waters edge and was a total loss. The insurance was $6500.00. As the steamer had not been used for some time, the fire probably was started by tramps or a spontaneous combustion.

The "May Martin" as a stern-wheel boat was too slow and unsteady. After making her into a side-wheel boat her speed was increased, but with her narrow beam she was always very unstable. She was rebuilt several times with no success. Her life was only four seasons. After the first season the "May Martin" was sold to Capt. Charles S. Payne, who rebuilt her into a side-wheeler. The "May Martin" was notoriously slow. Capt. Payne had a pet dog and on one of the trips, it is related, a lady passenger asked, "How old is your dog Captain?" "I don't know now" was the reply, "When we started , he was two years old."


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from the McClurg Museum - Westfield, New York
©2007 - Chautauqua County Historical Society, Westfield, NY