This legal action is best understood with some background. For the Maid of the Mist boat ride in Niagara Falls, it began in the early 1800’s.
In 1807, Christian Dow speculated about the possibility of man crossing the Niagara River below the Falls as he watched wild ducks swimming back and forth across the span of the river.
The location of Indian ladders down the gorge wall at the site of the current Maid of the Mist dock are seen in early guide pamphlets. Until 1795, when Mrs. Simcoe (Governor John Graves Simcoe’s wife) visited, the ladders were the only way down the gorge embankment. In her diary, she wrote: “Mr. Pilkington was desired to place ladders to form a stairway down the bank.”
Mr. Pilkington did arrange the ladders in a stairway fashion but it was still a very daring and dangerous undertaking.
In 1818, William Forsyth built a stairway at the former ladder site to facilitate access to the row boat ferry service that Forsyth was planning to operate.
In 1818, William Forsyth along with American hotel owner, Parkhurst Whitney, began the first row boat ferry service crossing the Niagara River below the Falls. Forsyth did so without at first obtaining government permission.
Parkhurst Whitney built the first stairway down the bank of the Gorge on the American side.
When Forsyth finally asked for government permission, Thomas Clark strongly objected to Forsyth’s aggressiveness, and used his influence to lobby politicians to prevent Forsyth from obtaining the ferry service lease.
With the support of Thomas Clark, Christopher Boughner was granted the government lease to operate the ferry service. The lease was to begin on December 25th 1820 for seven year period.
William Forsyth was outraged at the government decision to grant Boughner the ferry lease. To further infuriate Forsyth, Boughner built a stairway to the ferry dock adjacent to Forsyth’s stairway.
Forsyth knew that Boughner had a number of debts. Forsyth went about buying up all of Boughner’s debts until Forsyth became Boughner’s sole creditor. Forsyth began applying pressure to have Boughner pay his debts knowing full well that Boughner could not.
Boughner finally caved into Forsyth’s pressure and gave up his rights to the ferry service to Forsyth in exchange for Forsyth canceling Boughner’s debts. After fourteen months, Boughner was out of the ferry business while William Forsyth was in business again.
Thomas Clark was very angry over how Forsyth had forced Boughner to give up his ferry service to Forsyth.
On December 21, 1821, Thomas Clark wrote a letter to the Government of Upper Canada outlining what Forsyth had done to Boughner in order to take over the ferry service. Clark recommended that the government revoke Forsyth’s ferry lease and award it to someone else.
On January 23, 1822, acting on the recommendation of the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, the ferry service lease of William Forsyth was rescinded for non-payment of the quarterly fee that had not bee paid to the government.
On April 30, 1822, the government granted the ferry service lease to George Milmine. He was allowed to operate the service for a three year term.
On April 15, 1825, Thomas Clark and Samuel Street applied for and granted a twenty-one year lease. The granting of their lease hinged on their commitment to build a carriage road down the side of the gorge to the ferry landing. Their lease expired in 1846. The road to the ferry landing cost $5,000 and was paved with cobblestone. It had a hairpin turn during the descent. This turn was until several years ago, still as it was when built by Clark and Street. Modernization has now eliminated this turn.
In 1825, the stairway on the American side was replaced with a spiral stairway built by the Porter Brothers, who owned the American Falls at the time.
Augustus and Peter Porter applied for and were granted the rights to operate the American ferry service. The Porter brothers attempted to blast a road along the gorge wall approximately 100 feet north of the American Falls. The road was never completed because rock falls and washouts forced the Porter brothers to abandon their plans.
The Porter stairway remained in operation until 1844 when the stairway was augmented by an incline railway cut into the gorge wall. The new incline railway was water powered.
The crossing time with a large rowboat took eight minutes. Fares ranged from 18-cents in summer months and 25-cents in the winter months.
During the 1840’s, more than forty rowboats were plying their trade on the lower Niagara River. Rowboats were now being employed in taking tourists upstream to the base of the American and Horseshoe Falls. Throughout the period of rowboat use, there were no records of any accidents.
On November 6, 1845, Adam Fralick was granted a ferry license. He was restricted to operating his ferry service 2.5 miles downstream of the Falls.
In 1846, the Niagara Falls Ferry Association received its charter from the State of New York to operate a steamboat ferry service.
In May 1846, an awkward looking large steamship with two smoke stacks was launched. It was christened “Maid of the Mist”. This 100 ton ferry was commanded by Captain Filkins and Captain George Synes. The ferry operated from a dock located just south of the Railway Bridge. See http://www.niagarafrontier.com/maidmist.html
The Maid of the Mist I was launched on May 27, 1846. This boats ferry service was short lived when the first International Bridge was completed. Following completion of the bridge, most people transited the Niagara River by was of the bridge instead of the ferry. The Maid of the Mist had to take up the role as a tourist sightseeing service to remain viable.
On January 11, 1850, management of the ferry service was given to the Customs Branch of the Inspector Generals Office.
On April 29, 1853, Gilbert Mickmicken was awarded the ferry lease.
In 1861, the Maid of the Mist was sold. In 1884, R.F. Carter and Frank Le Blond of the Village of Clifton invested $10,000 into the building of the new Maid of the Mist.
In 1861, because of a financial crisis and the coming American Civil War, the Maid of the Mist was sold at action to a Canadian firm on the condition that it be delivered to Lake Ontario. There was only one way to get there and that meant taking the boat downstream through the Great Gorge Whirlpool Rapids and the Whirlpool. This trip was undertaken by Captain Joel Robinson and two crew members on June 6, 1881.
The Maid of the Mist III was launched in June of 1885. It was 70 feet long and much more elegant.
The Maid of the Mist IV was launched in 1892 on the American side of the Niagara River.
In 1938, the great ice jam that destroyed the Honeymoon Bridge threatened to destroy the two Maids of the Mist tour boats. Both survived, only to be destroyed by fire on April 22, 1955. The fire was started when a spark from a welders torch ignited. In less than one month after the fire, a forty foot yacht was brought down to the ferry dock along the service road on the Canadian shore. This boat was named the “Little Maid of the Mist.”
On July 28, 1955, a new Maid of the Mist boat was launched to replace those boats destroyed by fire. This boat was christened “Maid of the Mist V.” It was built entirely of steel.
In June of 1956, the sixth boat in the Maid of the Mist fleet was launched. It was christened Maid of the Mist II.
On June 9, 1960, the Maid of the Mist II was instrumental in the rescue of seven year old Roger Woodward who had accidentally gone over the Horseshoe Falls. In 1983, the Maid of the Mist II was sold. Today it continues service as a Missionary ship on the Amazon River.