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Bicentennial Bemus-Stow Ferry

July 12, 2011
By Jack Dean
July 8, 9 and 10 a very special occasion when we celebrate the 200 years of operation of the Bemus-Stow Ferry at the narrows on Chautauqua Lake.

It all began on July 25, 1811 when the first meeting of the new Chautauqua County Government and Thomas Bemus of the first family to settle in the Town of Harmony petitioned the court for a license to operate a ferry. Their first item of business was to approve some attorneys to practice then they granted approval for Bemus to operate his log raft as a ferry.

Over the years, many improvements were made such as oars being replace by Alton Ball’s gas-powered steam engine in 1902, followed by a gas engine in 1908 and a 16-cylinder in 1916. Several people operated it over the years until 1942 when no one offered, so the County Highway Department took it over and operated the ferry. In 1946, a steel hull was built, and it is now powered by a Cummins Diesel.

In 1982, the Sea Lion Corporation took it over and operates it from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Literally thousands take advantage of it often to show their kids and grandkids how thing used to be. The program on July 8, 9 and 10 will include speeches, a dance, music, ferry rides, a wedding on the ferry, a banquet, tours and more. We are cooperating with the County Historical Department who are doing the Bicentennial for Chautauqua County at the same time.

Jack Dean,

Westfield resident


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