ROUSES POINT - Sailing-canal boats have a long history on Lake Champlain, and in the village of Rouses Point. Next week, the Lois McClure, a replica of 1862 canal boats, will sail into the village for the first time.
"They used to ... build canal boats in Champlain and then they would come down [to Rouses Point] and they wiould fill them with different things," explained Geri Favreau, president of the Rouses Point-Champlain Historical Society. "Then, they would go to New York or Montreal or take the canal system to Buffalo."
Many families in the area would live on the boats as it sailed from Canada down through Lake Champlain. Beatrice Jefferson was one such person.
"I remember being on the canal boats," Jefferson recalled. "We were on the canal boats until we started going to school."
Eighty-five-year-old Jefferson, who is now settled in Rouses Point, remembered being on the canal boat, Murray Hill, until she was 6 years old.
"All I remember is my mother saying my father could have been a millionaire," Jefferson said. "He could have carried booze across from Canada. They never checked those boats. But, he never would."
In 1823, the expansion of trade along Lake Champlain "exploded" according to information provided by the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes, Vt., where the Lois McClure is docked.
To accommodate the trade revolution,the sailing-canal boat was invented, often carrying lumber and grain from what Jefferson could remember.
"The Lake Champlain sailing-canal boat was built as an 'experiment' and designed to be able to sail from distant lake ports to the canal on the power of the wind," according to LCMM.
The sailing-canal boat was redesigned as needed from 1823 through 1862, when the boat was built to accommodate approximately 60-120 tons of cargo.
Today, one of the missions of LCMM is "to study Lake Champlain's extraordinary collection of historic shipwrecks and present that information to the public." One of the ways in which they accomplish this is to build full-size working replicas of historic vessels that once sailed along the lake.
In 2002, the Lois McClure was constructed in Burlington, Vt. However, with no plans to follow in the building of the canal boat, naval architects, historians and archaeologists worked together to create a replica of two sailing-canal boats, both of which are shipwrecks at Burlington Harbor.
The schooner was named after a woman, Lois McClure, who contributed financially to the building of the replica, explained Favreau.
The replica was launched for its inaugural tour in July 2004, where it sailed around Lake Champlain, although it never stopped in Rouses Point.
"She's been all over," said Favreau. "She's been to Quebec, she's been to Montreal. She's docked at the Maritime Museum ... she's been to Burlington, been to Plattsburgh and now she's coming to Rouses Point. I think it's very special."
Lois McClure will be docked at Gaines Marina on Lake Street from Tuesday, June 23, through Wednesday, June 24.
During the two-day event, there will be free tours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and a wine and cheese reception from 6-8 p.m. June 23.
"Everybody who comes to the wine and cheese party, we're asking for a donation of $15," explained Favreau. "They'll get a glass, they'll get entertainment by 'Sounds of the Northway,' they'll get to meet the crew [of Lois McClure] and they'll get wine and cheese."
The glass is a souvenir wine glass with a picture of Samuel de Champlain on one side with the words "Rouses Point: Where Champlain Found His Lake." On the back will be the Quadricentennial logo.
One of the goals during the Lois McClure tour this summer is to feature a special timeline exhibit which focuses on the "11,000 years of Native American culture that preceded Champlain's arrival, and of the four centuries that followed," according to LCMM.
"This 400th anniversary year is the most extraordinary opportunity to gain a new perspective on our historic waterway," LCMM director Art Cohn stated in a press release. "The year 1609 serves as a lens through which to view the interwoven lives and cultures that shaped the Champlain Valley over the centuries."