Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Governor Stanford

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The Governor Stanford
The tourism business was picking up well enough that W.H. Lapham of South Tahoe built a double decked steamer in 1872. The Governor Stanford was named after Central Pacific director turned politician Leland Stanford. This steamboat was 92 feet long, 15 feet wide and drew four feet when fully loaded. Her base was, as many steamers that came to be in the 1870s, Tahoe City.

Up to 125 passengers could be carried, making her the first large scale steamer on Tahoe. It took a crew of six to man the $15,000 vessel, Lapham himself being the captain. The size made the Governor Stanford a slow ride, only running at 6 knots at full boiler pressure.

An 1873 newspaper reporter complained about the slow speed, poor seating accommodations, a short smokestack that spewed cinders and ash on the deck passengers and the lack of an awning to keep the sun off the passengers who sat on the upper deck. Meals had to be taken standing up in the saloon, and the alcohol was not of a high quality. Still the scenery made the trip worthwhile.

In mid-1873 Lapham installed a new steam boiler, increasing her speed to an advertised 14 knots, but it was still considered barely faster than a sailboat.

The Governor Stanford was fast enough to make a complete trip around Lake Tahoe in a day quite comfortably. It would leave Tahoe City at 8 a.m., reaching Emerald Bay at 10 a.m., Lapham’s on the South Shore at Noon, then back north to Glenbrook on the east shore at 2 p.m., then steaming to Hot Springs on the North Shore before returning to Tahoe City by 5 p.m.

Stage connections allowed a visitor to leave Truckee at 6 a.m., meet the steamer, travel around the lake and take a return stage to Truckee in the evening. More leisurely travelers would stop at one of several lakeside resorts for a day or two and enjoy the scenery. Another stage connection from Glenbrook would take passengers to Carson City, where they met the Virginia & Truckee Railroad.

The Governor Stanford steamed her way around Tahoe until 1883, when the machinery was removed and she broke up in a winter storm.

By Gordon Richards
Echoes From the Past

August 22, 2006

Gordon Richards is the Research Historian for the Truckee Donner Historical Society. Please visit the Truckee Donner Historical Society Web site at The e-mail address is You may leave a message at 530-582-0893. Past articles by Gordon Richards are available at in the archives.
Transcribed by Dee Sardoch
The San Andreas Independent
San Andreas, Calaveras County, CA
Saturday, 29 October 1859
CHANGED RESIDENCE -- Mr. L.W. LAPHAM, late and for many years a resident of Murphy’s, and one of the original proprietors of the Big Tree ranch, has taken up a permanent residence on the shore of Lake Bigler, Nevada Territory. His house is directly on the Placerville stage road. It is his intention to construct a number of sail-boats this winter, and on the opening of spring, to launch them on the lake for the accommodation of excursionists, who may feel an interest in minutely exploring that beautiful sheet of water, or taking therefrom some of its scaly tenants. By the way, it is said that the trout of Lake Bigler often reach the enormous size of 25 or 30 pounds.

BTW, Lake Bigler is now known as Lake Tahoe.


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