CHAZY - One man's ingenuity and ambition will be honored by the town he once served.
The town of Chazy will hold a special ceremony next Saturday, July 18, to dedicate an historical marker on Lake Shore Road, commemorating the first gasoline-powered ferry on Lake Champlain. The ferry, designed and operated by the late William Nelson Sweet, benefited the region greatly, said town historian Robert Cheeseman, when it was first put in service in 1905.
"When Sweet bought the original sail ferry, he could see traffic was beginning to pick up with the automobile coming into existence," said Cheeseman.
It wasn't long before Sweet knew he'd have to have a ferry that could accommodate automobile traffic, explained Cheeseman, so he had one built by the former Averill Clark Boatworks in Champlain. Sweet also knew a ferry that ran on an engine would be more efficient and reliable in getting travelers to an exact destination, Cheeseman added.
"If it was dead calm, you'd have to row the sail ferry and with the wind, it doesn't always land at the same spot," said Cheeseman. "[Sweet's ferry] was able to operate with certainty, which he needed because he had to be able to dock at a stable place to unload cars."
Sweet's original ferry, which could carry five cars, was named "The Twins" after his twin sons, Clinton and Gerald. The ferry operated until 1916, when Sweet had a larger ferry built. "The Twin Boys" replaced its predecessor, with the ability to carry 15 cars. That ferry was in service until 1937, when the service saw a decline following the building of bridges over the lake in Rouses Point and Crown Point, said Cheeseman.
Though the marker placed on Lake Shore Road commemorates both of Sweet's ferries, next Saturday's ceremony will focus on Sweet's first ferry, which Cheeseman described as the one that started it all.
"It's significant because it was the one that started bringing an awful lot of people through Chazy," he said. "It was a main artery from New York to the rest of New England and from New England to New York and even Montreal."
Town Supervisor Staub G. Spiegel said he looks forward to the ceremony which will honor Sweet's ingenuity and the commitment of Chazy Friends of the Library, the group which helped fund the creation and installation of the marker.
"It is wonderful that we can share with the public this beautiful marker and to give recognition to an innovative resident, Mr. William Sweet and his crew, for making Chazy a part of U.S. history," said Spiegel.
The public ceremony will begin with a performance by the Strawhatters at 12:30 p.m.; the dedication will follow at 1 p.m. The ceremony will be located at the old ferry dock, located near 1736 Lake Shore Road, with a reception to follow at 1722 Lake Shore Road.