Our Beauty and History of Lake George article is a short and easy read on the incredible history of one of the United States’ most beautiful lakes. Lake George is located in northeast New York State. It is part of the Adirondack State Park. The lake is over 32 miles long from north to south and drains into both Lake Champlain and the Saint Lawrence River drainage basin. The lake was initially known as Andia-ta-roc-te by Native Americans. In his famed novel Last of the Mohicans, author James Fenimore Cooper called the lake Horcan. He gave it this name in honor of a native American Indian tribe who lived near the body of water. He also felt that this name was easier to pronounce than its original designation.
Samuel de Champlain was the first European visitor to the area, as recorded in his journal in 1609. French-Canadian Jesuit missionary Isaac Jocques gave the lake the name Lac du Saint-Sacrament (or Lake of the Holy Sacrament). He also named the lake’s exit stream La Chute (French for “The Fall”). Lac du Saint-Sacrament would be renamed a century later, this time by William Johnson, an Irish member of the British Empire. He named the body of water Lake George in 1755, in honor of Britain’s King George III. Johnson was the leader of a group of British soldiers who were encamped in the area during the French and Indian War.
On September 8, 1755, the battle of Lake George began. The skirmish between the French and the British was won by the British forces, with the help of their Iroquois companions. The British troops later decided to build a fort on the southern side of the lake, The fort was completed in November, and was named Fort William Henry as a tribute to the king’s grandson.
French general Louis-Joseph de Montcalm led his army and allies on an attack against the fort in August 1757. Fort William Henry was burned to the ground following the British surrender. Several British troops soon retreated to the nearby village of Fort Edward, in what is now part of Washington County. The soldiers were killed by Native Americans who were allied with the French. The skirmish was later referred to as The Massacre at Fort William Henry. The fort was later rebuilt as a museum which opened in 1953
The French later built their own fort on Lake George. The fort, initially dubbed Fort Carillon (which was later renamed as Fort Ticonderoga) was completed in the spring of 1758. It was built near where Lake George’s exit stream first enters Lake Champlain. It was attacked before its construction was complete by American frontiersman Robert Rodgers and his British Ranger company. The raid in March of 1758 was known as the Battle on Snowshoes because the attackers (also known as Rodger’s Rangers) wore snowshoes during the conflict.
Lake George was an important gateway between the growing New York colony and Canada during the Revolutionary War. British general John Burgoyne chose to bypass the waterway late in the war. He instead led his soldiers into the marshes at the southern tip of Lake Champlain. This ill-fated decision led to the British forces defeat at Saratoga in 1777.
In May of 1791, Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to his daughter that Lake George was “the most beautiful water I ever saw.” The lake continued to be a source of inspiration for centuries. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, John F. Kensett, Frank Vincent Dumond and others were drawn to its shores.
The town of Lake George was initially known as the town of Caldwell when it was established in 1810. It was comprised of portions of the towns of Thurman, Queensbury and Bolton. It was renamed Lake George in 1962. The city in New York’s Warren County is home to over 3,500 residents.
Lake George History:
Lake George Steamboat Company:
The Lake George Steamboat Company was founded in 1817. It is still the largest steamboat company in the area. Its steamboats run routes between Ticonderoga at the lake’s north end and the Lake George village at the south end. One of the company’s founders was James Caldwell, who also founded the town of Caldwell. The company’s first steamboat was also named for him. The James Caldwell first launched in 1817 and operated until the ship burned down in 1821. Its second steamboat, The Mountaineer, first launched in 1823. The company has launched an additional dozen steamboats since then.
Today, the Lake George Steamboat owns and operates three vessels:
# 1 – The Mohican II, which has been running for over 100 years. It is the oldest passenger vessel in the nation.
# 2 – The Minne-Ha-Ha, whose name means “rapid water” or “waterfall” in the Dakota language. It was built in 1968.
# 3 – The Lac du Saint-Sacrament, who was named to honor Isaac Jocque’s name for Lake George. The steamboat was built in 1989 and is the latest addition to their fleet.
On October 2, 2005, one of the most infamous events in the area’s history occurred. The 40-foot long boat The Ethan Allen capsized on Lake George during calm weather. The vessel operated by the Shoreline Cruises company had 47 passengers on board at the time. It was later reported that 20 passengers lost their lives.
All of the passengers on board that day were from the Trenton, Michigan area. The cruise was part of an East Coast tourism package offered by the city’s parks and recreation board. Local authorities and the boat captain cooperated with investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board to determine the cause of the accident.
The NTSB’s investigation revealed some serious safety concerns with the boat. The Ethan Allen was originally designed to successfully carry 50 people when it was designed in 1966. However, later repairs and renovations reduced that capacity to 14 people. The captain and the boat company were later indicted for only having a single crew member on board at the time. However, more significant charges were not filed because neither Shoreline Cruises nor the boat captain knew that they were in violation of local safety standards.
Lake George History Final Words:
The Lake George area is still a very popular tourist destination even to this day. The town rests on the rail line between Montreal and New York City. Visitors come from miles to shop at the local factory outlet malls, camp, hike, participate in water sports and fish. The area generates over $2 billion annually for the local economy.
Visitors also seek out historic landmarks such as The Lake George Historic Battlefield District, the Royal C. Peabody Estate and the Wiawaka Holiday House. They also flock to Millionaire’s Row, which encompasses several blocks along Lake Shore Drive. These majestic homes were built by railroad executive Robert Pitcairn, venture capitalist Spencer Trask and others as summer homes. Many of the impressive homes in this area were built in the Italianite, Georgian Revival and Tudor Revival styles. Several of these properties have since been converted into hotels and restaurants.
If your’e interested in local history or just want something to do on a nice day, there’s plenty of things in the Lake George area to keep you busy. The city is small but growing. More and more businesses and tourists arrive every year. It’s also one of the most picturesque areas in the entire state. A nice place to get away from it all!