Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Diane Chase: Visiting Long Lake’s Steamboat Buttercup

Steamboat ButtercupI have found that being a parent is akin to being a magician. I am always trying to keep one step ahead of my audience and want to keep the show as interesting as possible. Since history surrounds us in the Adirondacks, it isn’t always the traditional locations like museums where I am able to best demonstrate an issue. The stories behind the Great Camps, the people that built neighboring towns and the industries that help shape the Adirondacks are all various ways that I’ve tried to relate my children to a sense of place.

On a recent trip to Long Lake, I took my kids to the back lot behind the Long Lake Town Hall, near the Archives Building. Though from the road the wired cage looks like nothing special, on closer inspection it houses the remains of the steamboat Buttercup. Though the steamboat itself may not have special historic significance, its story indicates a time when average people took matters into their own hands in hopes of stopping the industrial revolution.

According to Long Lake Town Archivist Abbie Verner, after amateur divers found the remains of the Buttercup at the bottom of Long Lake in 1959, it was stored for years in a garage. It was recommended by the Adirondack Museum’s Curator Hallie Bond to store the steamboat’s ruins in the open air.

“Hallie also recommended that we not do anything else to it,” says Verner. “The Buttercup was the first steamboat on Long Lake. Guides sank the steamboat in 1885 and also blew up a dam that was made to raise the water level for the use of steamboats. William West Durant and his father wanted to bring in the steamships and it was going to interfere with the guiding business. Those men were successful for a time and steamships didn’t arrive for another 10 years.”

Walking around and peering through the wire fencing doesn’t take a lot of time. I was surprised by how small the steamboat was. It was an interesting story, which sparked conversations with my kids about other incidences where people have taken matters into their own hands. A visit to the Buttercup is more drive-by than destination, but still worth the stop. The posted sign told the tale of the guides, steamboats on Long Lake and artifacts retrieved alongside the steamboat’s ruins.

Verner says. “At the time guiding was the cash crop. Not only did guides transport people, but they also cooked, hunted and fished for those same guests. It was amazing what they did. Otherwise guides bartered for supplies or raised their own food. The steamboats threatened their existence.”

The wreckage from the Buttercup is located behind the Long Lake Town Offices at 1130 Deerland Ave. on Rt. 28N/Rt.30. Enjoy!

Photo of the Buttercup is used with the permission of Diane Chase, AdirondackFamilyTime.com

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Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities guidebook series, Adirondack Family Time. She writes about ways to foster imaginative play through fun-filled events and activities in the Adirondack region.

From her home in Saranac Lake, Diane also writes a weekly family-oriented newspaper column for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and keeps her own blog Adirondack Family Time. Her writing and photography has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines, marketing companies and advertising agencies.

She even finds time to assist her husband with Adirondack Expeditions guiding families and young adults in the High Peaks.




3 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    “Guides sank the steamboat in 1885 and also blew up a dam that was made to raise the water level for the use of steamboats. William West Durant and his father wanted to bring in the steamships and it was going to interfere with the guiding business. Those men were successful for a time and steamships didn’t arrive for another 10 years.””

    “Though the steamboat itself may not have special historic significance, its story indicates a time when average people took matters into their own hands in hopes of stopping the industrial revolution.”

    Sounds like they tried (somewhat successfully) to do it via illegal sabotage (what some might call terrorism today). Maybe not a great message for the kids. But certainly a learning moment.

    Thanks for letting us know about this I look forward to checking it out.

  2. Shane says:

    Reminds me of the story of the Erie Canal and how the people who worked on the canal would blow up portions of the railroad when it was being built to replace the canal

  3. There is a performance in Long Lake in the summer on the story of the Mystery of the Buttercup. It is scheduled for July 25 at 7:30 PM in the Long Lake town hall this year. Many of the actors are descendants of the original settlers and guides who lived at that time in history. Also, the full story of the Buttercup is published in the book, Conquering the Wild, a historical book on the first settlers of Long Lake.