Archives for September 2011

Austin Steward

(1793 – 1860)

” I was born in Prince William County, Virginia. At seven years of age, I found
myself a slave on the plantation of Capt. William Helm. Our family consisted of
my father and mother – whose names were Robert and Susan Steward – a sister,
Mary, and myself. As was the usual custom, we lived in a small cabin, built of
rough boards, with a floor of earth, and small openings in the sides of the  cabin were substituted for windows.”


Thus began the story of Austin Steward in his book entitled “Twenty-Two Years A Slave, and Forty Years a Freeman”. In chapters 4 – 6, this books tells the story of Austin, as a teenager, moving with a group of slaves from their plantation in Virginia  to Sodus Bay just before the War  of 1812. Later they would move again to Bath, New York.


To read of their adventures on Sodus Bay, please click on this link:


Shipwrecks Off Sodus Point

Sodus Point is  known for three shipwrecks near its harbor:

  • 1850s Canadian schooner Orcadian in Lake Ontario at Sodus Point, NY
  • Canadian-built schooner Etta Belle, near Sodus Point, NY (video right)
  • 1853 three-masted Canadian schooner Queen of the Lakes, near Sodus Point (bottom video)

Shipwreck Explorers Discover 1850’s Canadian Schooner in Lake Ontario 

In 2006, the wreck of the mid 1800s Canadian schooner, Orcadian was discovered in deep water approximately 8 – 10 miles off of Sodus Point. Shipwreck enthusiasts Jim Kennard, Dan Scoville, and Chip Stevens located the old schooner utilizing sophisticated side scanning sonar equipment. The Orcadian was carrying a cargo of 8200 bushel of wheat destined for Oswego. In the very early morning hours of May 8, 1858, the Canadian schooner Orcadian travelling east to Oswego, New York collided with the schooner Lucy J. Latham that was headed in the opposite direction for the Welland Canal. The Orcadian took on a great amount of water from the large gap in the side of her hull created by the collision and began to sink immediately.  Latham was damaged in the collision but did not sink.

Captain James Corrigal, his wife, their two children and the crew of the Orcadian took to their yawl boat and were taken safely aboard the Latham, which then put about and returned to Oswego.

For more information and photos of this wreck, click the link below:


Discovery of a Pre-Civil War Era Schooner in Lake Ontario

Sodus Point, New York – The 152-year-old Canadian built schooner, Etta Belle, has been discovered in deep water off the southern shore of Lake Ontario near Sodus Point, New York. Shipwreck enthusiasts, Jim Kennard and Dan Scoville, located the schooner utilizing side scan sonar equipment.

The oak-hulled schooner, Etta Belle, foundered suddenly during calm weather in the early evening of September 3, 1873. The ship was on route from Little Sodus to Toronto, Canada, and was loaded with a full cargo of coal. The crew took to a small yawl and rowed over 8 miles to shore. For additional information and phtos of the Etta Belle shipwreck, please click on the following link:

Discovery of  1853 Three Masted Canadian Schooner in Lake Ontario

Queen of the Lakes has been used as the name of three vessels that sailed on the Great Lakes, but none was the longest on the lakes at the time. The first was a three-masted Canadian schooner built in 1853 as the Robert Taylor, measuring 133 feet. It was renamed Queen of the Lakes sometime before 1864.[3] She sank nine miles off Sodus Point, New York on November 28, 1906 while en route to Kingston, Ontario with a 480-ton shipment of coal . She sprang a leak in heavy seas while enroute to Kingston and the bilge pumps could not expel the water fast enough and the boat sank, . She rolled over and foundered after her crew launched the yawl. They made it to shore. She sank in 400′ of water and you can see in the video below, her three masts are still standing.





Steamship Era

Excursion Steamship Arundell

The steamship era was an exciting time as the lake steamers came into Sodus Point with coal for Canada and other lake ports.

There were passenger services on the bay with docks at Charles Point, Lake Bluff, Bonnie Castle Resort and all of the islands. In Sodus Point, the steamers had their docks located on the south side of Sand Point and were scheduled to meet all the trains and trolleys.

The Village’s name was changed to Sodus Point and it became a government Port of Entry.

For more information and a mural of this era

please click:

James Fenimore Cooper

James Fenimore Cooper (1789 – 1851) was the most celebrated American author of the first half of the 19th century. As a midshipman, he was stationed in Oswego and is said to have visited Sodus Bay and grew to love the rustic beauty of the Bay. Later in life, it is reported that he returned to the area and in a rustic cabin in Charles Point, he wrote part of his acclaimed Leatherstocking Tales (published 1823 – 1841).



For more information, please click the following link:


Sodus Bay Lighthouse Museum

Sodus Bay Light was built in 1825


On May 26, 1824, Congress approved a lighthouse located on Sodus Bay in Sodus Point, NY. Building costs were estimated to be $4500.00 and the government allotted that amount for the building of the lighthouse.

A publicly approved parcel of land was purchased from William Wickham for $68.75 and that is where the original Sodus Bay Light was built in 1825. It was of conical construction and was equipped with all of the necessities that a lighthouse of that time frame would need.

In 1868 an inspection of the lighthouse showed many infirmities and other problems like leaky roofing and poor walls. This spelled the end of the original Sodus Bay Lighthouse.

Congress again appropriated money to build a lighthouse at Sodus Bay, this time to the tune of $14,000. The lighthouse is of the square-integral type made of limestone mined at the Kingston quarries. It is equipped with a fourth order Fresnel lens. After the new tower was completed on June 30, 1871, the old tower from 1825 was demolished.

The stone from it was used to build a jetty to protect the shoreline in front of the new lighthouse. The new lighthouse was very similar to the lighthouse at Stony Point, also on the Great Lakes.

The lighthouse was discontinued and the lens was removed in 1901.


In 1977 the lighthouse was listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. In 1984 the lighthouse was given to the Town of Sodus and during the next year the bank in front of the lighthouse was rebuilt to retard erosion of the land around the lighthouse.

In 1988 the Fresnel lens was returned to the tower. Today the  lighthouse serves as a Maritime Museum run and maintained by the Sodus Bay Historical Society. The Lighthouse is located at 7606 North Ontario Street in Sodus Point.

For additional information, please click the link below:

Railroad Coal Trestle

In 1884 the Northern Central Railroad bought the Sodus Point and Southern Railroad, creating a land-water shipping route from Pennsylvania to Canada.

In 1886 a coal trestle, at the west end of the bay, was erected and a commercial coal shipping business started which served all ports on Lake Ontario.

In 1927 the trestle was greatly expanded in size so that increased tonnage of coal could be loaded.

In 1971, the trestle was being dismantled when it accidentally caught fire and was destroyed.

The coal trestle was located on Route 14 as you go north out of Sodus Point, just north of where Sodus Marina is today. The only thing that remains of the trestle, is a concrete abuttment.


For more information, please click this link: