The Steamboat Oakes Ames, ca. 1868*
Thursday 26th Aug This morning Mrs Mills got a hack and
carried us all out to ride. We had a fine view
of the Lake and town, was riding over an hour
and returned to Mrs Stetsons and all dined there
Called into a shop to see stone ware made
Passed the afternoon at Mrs Mowers and there
we had a very pleasant time Charades & Tableaux
got home about twelve
Evelina filled her last full day in Burlington with social activity. She and a group – Almira Ames, Sarah Lothrop Ames, Fred and Helen, and Oakes Angier, too, presumably – were “carried” out for a ride, during which they admired the “fine view” they got of Lake Champlain and the town itself. It was a pretty place. But no amount of imagination in the mind of anyone in the hired carriage could have foretold that one day a steamboat named for Oakes Ames would be plying the waters they were gazing at.
In 1868, in fact, the 244′ Oakes Ames, built in the Napoleon B. Proctor Shipyard, would be launched from Burlington. Designed to ferry railroad cars from Burlington across the lake to Plattsburgh, New York, the steamship was commissioned by the Rutland Railroad, for whom Oakes Ames was a director and one of the line’s “firmest friends.”** In 1874, the ship would be renamed and repurposed for passenger service. Yet the newly christened Champlain II would last in service only until running aground in July, 1875. Although the incident produced no fatalities, the ship’s hull would be dashed beyond repair. Today, the boat is a famous wreck in the water.
Steamship and railroad deals being in the future, Evelina and the group continued to enjoy themselves on this pleasant day. They dined at a friend’s house and visited a stoneware shop. In the evening they all played charades and tableaux, popular parlor games in which participants acted out words or situations, or created still scenes of familiar subject matter, respectively. Such games were particularly popular at Christmastime.
*Image courtesy of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
** Burlington Free Press, August 20,1868, p.4. For an exhaustive narrative about the Champlain II, ex-Oakes Ames, please see a thesis by Elizabeth Robinson Baldwin, May 1997, Texas A & M