The Iconic Ferry
I loved the story about the iconic Bemus Point Stow ferry. A teacher in Bemus Point Central School, Jan Sullivan, decided Suzanne Evans and I would be good together. That was April, 1957 and Suzanne and I have been together ever since, We have, it would seem, many good reasons to thank a teacher for she brought Clymer to Bemus Point, or vice versa. In some ways, the ferry was a part of that.
The trek from Clymer to Bemus was fun when the ferry was operational and open; that is from spring through November. A quarter to ride on the ferry was money well spent when a nice looking girl friend was on the other side. In the summer, my parents lived at Lighthouse Point – but no matter. The Lake was still between me and Bemus and if the traffic waiting for the ferry wasn’t too backed up (it held 9 cars in case you wondered) it was still worth a quarter to save going around the north Mayville end of the Lake to get to Bemus.
The County owned the ferry. Sue’s dad, Richard O. Evans, always said that as long as he was around, the ferry would stay and he would never increase the cost. Dick was Ellery town supervisor for years, and for the last decade or more of his career, chair of the Chautauqua County Board of Supervisors. He was extremely proud of the I-86 bridge that was dedicated on his watch. He was sure that the businesses on the west side of the Lake like Peak’n Peak in Clymer and Chautauqua Institution would benefit from the easier access the bridge provided to citizens from Buffalo and the east. And his beloved Bemus Point, he was sure, would gain from all of those people coming from Clymer and beyond. (No grand poobah, the bridge wasn’t built because his future son in law was tired of paying a quarter for ferry rides). (And grand poobah 2 /3/4 - are we sure that moving from a supervisor form of government to a legislature was really a good idea? For the length of time it’s taken to get a sewer from Ashville to Chautauqua one might wonder, mightn’t one?)
Sue was so many times eligible for the DAR that she lost count – and then we adopted our children. Sue’s mother’s family (Edith Haskin Evans) traced to at least 3 ancestors that fought in the Revolutionary War. And her grandfather’s funeral home, later the Evans Funeral home, is likely only one of two in Chautauqua County to have buried a member of a President’s cabinet. Bainbridge Colby is buried in the Bemus Point Cemetery and Doug Rhodes, a classmate of Sue’s, helped Sue’s father with that burial. But Dick Evans always said the ferry would stay as long as he was around. It did so it and the Lake were
a big part of my heritage since I was/am an adopted red dragon. The ferry continues to bring the melancholy that comes with a lifetime of experiences.
When I was a research professor and department chair years later, and nearly
every graduate student in my group had been born outside the Uuited States (mostly in then communist countries), I was always happy to introduce Suzanne to the group as the only real American in the room. Her family went back at least 7 generations. Mine only 4 when the Dutch came to Clymer – in the 1840’s and 50’s.
I haven’t ridden the ferry in years. First the machine has often been in ill health; and later, why would one pay more than a quarter for a trip down memory lane – Dick Evans said it would never cost more. And the Lake, my friends tell me, doesn’t look so hot underneath either.
(There were no weeds in the Lake in the old days – or those that were there were buried to a mind’s eye by what waited on the Bemus side.)
Congratulations Bryan Dahlberg for bringing the ferry back to life. At least two of your residential families, Stan and Sarah Lundine, and Sue and Doug Neckers have a few connections on the other side. And I also hear a guy that lives near Stow has a problem. Rollie Kidder has sold Stan Lundine a cow. So do tell me – back in the old days, the cost per head of cattle was listed on a table on the side of the deck... maybe a dime per cow? Just how much would it cost Rollie, now, to get his cow from Stow to Stan in Bemus so he could lead it to John Marsh to slaughter?
Douglas Neckers is an organic chemist, and founder of the Center for Photochemical Sciences; He is past chair of the Board of the Robert H. Jackson Center; his Bemus home is at 135 Lakeside. 3dscienceblog.com
Photo by Discover Upstate New York