This is not New York, but “Bob” Noble’s ferry dock at Sturgeon Bay on the northwest bank of the bay. The vessel is Noble’s eponymous ferry, Robert Noble. Noble was quite the character but I haven’t the inclination to get into that here. I believe but cannot confirm the steam yacht in the foreground is the Julius, originally from Oshkosh, that began service between Sturgeon Bay and the canal on 1 May 1877 and would later run between Sturgeon Bay and the Idlewild Hotel. I do know both vessels shared Noble’s dock. In the distance, one can see the flour mill of A. W. Lawrence & Company. Clearly a homespun craft, Noble & Johnson, iron fabricators and farm implement sellers from Sturgeon Bay, began work on the vessel in late 1882 to replace their previous ferry, the sidewheeler Ark. For reasons known only to the owners who probably built them, the odd vessel was equipped with twin screws and twin steam engines and boilers. Launched on 15 March 1883, the Noble began continuous service on 13 April 1883 crossing the bay, uniting both sides of Sturgeon Bay as had the Ark. That would change when Thomas Smith, John Leathem, and A. R. Kellogg formed the Sturgeon Bay Bridge Company to build and operate a bridge across the bay in 1886, completed in 1887, causing a rate war between the ferry and toll bridge, leading to Noble the next year cutting down the cabin of the Noble and installing higher bulwarks for freight operation. In June 1888 the vessel began service carrying stone from the Lawrie quarry and cedar from northern Green Bay to Sturgeon Bay. At the time it was owned by A. W. Lawrence and local lumberman Charles Scofield. In August the Robert Noble “donated” one of its engines and boilers to power the tug Liberty, then building at Sturgeon Bay. The end came when a cook’s lamp exploded aboard the vessel three miles off the Chambers Island light on 7 November 1888. The crew took to the yawl (prominently shown on the bow in the photograph) and landed safely. The burned-out wreck drifted into shallow water about ten miles north of Menominee, and its remaining boiler and engine were salvaged, the latter ending up in the little passenger steamer M & M, built 1890 at Menekaunee. In 1979 the Washington Island Ferry Line, Inc., put another Robert Noble in service as a ferry in Door County, between Washington Island and the tip of the Door County peninsula.

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