Bemus Point-Stow Ferry — The Living History Continues

Did you know that the Bemus Point-Stow Ferry has been a continuous presence on Chautauqua Lake since 1811? In that year, Chautauqua County granted Thomas Bemus a license to operate such a vessel as a commercial enterprise. Early versions of the ferry were little more than rafts, first rowed or poled and later hand-pulled by rope to transport supplies & livestock across the narrows. Later refinements included hand cranks to pull the ferry over the water. In 1902, Alton Ball, having just become the owner, installed a steel cable across the lake bottom and a steam engine to propel the ferry. Imagine, the ferry was in operation over 90 years before it had any mechanical power. During the early years of the 20th century, the ferry grew in size to the point where it could transport as many as nine automobiles and passengers between Bemus Point and Stow during spring- thru-fall seasons lasting as long as the lake was ice-free. The completion of the Veterans’ Memorial Bridge in 1982 ended the ferry’s role as the essential method for cross-lake passage between Bemus Point & Stow. However, it remains in operation during the summer months for all to enjoy and to recognize its place in Chautauqua Lake history. In 2019/20, the ferry underwent a comprehensive repair & restoration program, assuring that its “living history” can remain for generations to come. For complete information, visit their Facebook pages at “The Historic Bemus Point Stow Ferry” & “Friends and Fans of The Bemus Point-Stow Ferry” Facebook page. Reference Credit: Fenton Historical Society.


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