Timers - Boats
of the Hudson River
Articles were published in the Greene County News from December 1963 to April 1966 and were written by F. Van Loon Ryder.
Transcribed by Sylvia Hasenkopf
January 14, 1965
The Fulton Boats
Pictures of the Fulton and Paragon from the "Annals of Steamboating on the Hudson River", by Charles Hallenbeck, located at the New York State Library, Albany
Newspaper ad from the Catskill Recorder, March 1815, Vedder Research Library
To continue with the Fulton boats. Following the Richmond there were several ferries, which I will cover in a separate article, and then -- the Empress of Russia! Successful with his steamboats in this country, in 1811 he began negotiations to secure an exclusive right in Russia, provided that within three years he run a vessel between St. Petersburg (Leningrad) and Kronstadt, through a sheltered arm of the Gulf of Finland. For this purpose he started to build the Empress of Russia, but he died before the boat was completed and the scheme fell through According to Seymour Bullock (Journal American History, Vol. 1, 1907, Number 8, page 34), "Although not completed until after Fulton's death, this vessel subsequently became the Connecticut, which operated on Long Island Sound routes until dismantled in 1836."
The Olive Branch (not to be confused with a ferry of that name) was built the same year, 1816, that the Connecticut was completed. This vessel, 124' in length spent most of her career on the New York - New Brunswick route and was abandoned in 1827.
The Washington completed in 1813, was built for Potomac River service, was 165 feet in length and was dismantled in 1828.
When the horrors of the war of 1812 became a dread reality Fulton contracted to build the world's first steam battleship at an estimated cost of $320,000. The Demelogos, also known as Fulton the First, was to be a floating fort for harbor defense. War scare and propaganda was the same then as now. The Edinburgh Evening Courant reported her dimensions as 800 feet in length with a beam of 200 feet! Further, that "to annoy an enemy attempting to board she can discharge 100 gallons of boiling water in a minute and by mechanism brandishes three hundred cutlasses with the utmost regularity over the gunwales..." Actually her measurements were 150 feet in length, 56 foot beam and 20 feet depth. The tonnage, 2,475, was the largest by many hundreds of tons than any steamer built up to that year. Armament consisted of 44 guns of which four were 100 pounds. The large protected paddlewheel was mounted in a center well amidships. The vessel made three trial trips which were successful and the war having ended, was then laid up in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. On the night of June 4th, 1829, fifteen years after her keel was laid, she was accidentally or purposely blown up, killing 24 men, one woman and injuring many others.
There was another Fulton carrying as a figurehead the likeness of the builder, Fulton built in 1813. This steamboat, sloop rigged, was 134 feet in length and had a tonnage of 327, The greater part of her career was on the New York - New Haven and Providence runs. Lasting longer than most of her predecessors she was finally dismantled in 1838.
In 1811 Fulton turned his attention to the West and established a small shipyard in Pittsburgh. New Orleans was his first vessel quickly followed by the Aetna, Vesuvius and Buffalo. new Orleans was placed on the Natchez - New Orleans run and was the first steamboat on Western Waters. All proved money makers. In 1814 New Orleans struck a snag below Natchez, filled, sank, becoming a total loss.
Exclusive of ferryboats, Fulton built or had built, no less than sixteen steamboats - those built expressly for Hudson River service being the Clermont, 1807; Car of Neptune, 1809; Paragon, 1811; Fire Fly, 1812; and the Richmond, 1812. The Chancellor Livingston, although built for Long Island Sound service, spent practically her entire career on the Hudson.
The Paragon Replica of the Clermont, later renamed the North River
January 21, 1965
The Fulton Ferryboat
The Fulton Steamboats were covered in this series and we now come to his ferryboats.
On July 2, 1812, Fulton's first ferryboat, the Jersey, was placed in operation between Paulus Hook (Jersey City) and New York. The vessel was of the catamaran type, having two hulls with the paddlewheel between. In his US Patent Specification of 1809 Fulton described this vessel as follows: "...ferry boat composed of two boats each of which is a segment of a circle. They are separated ten feet and have a platform built over, the wheels and machinery being in the center, the carriages and passengers enter or land from each end, passing to the right or left of the machinery. There are two rudders at each end, the tillers of the two at either end are united by a bar, so that they act by one movement. As the boat is not designed to put about, either end may run foremost, in which case the end that acts as the bow has the rudder pinned..."
In a letter to Dr. David Hosack he gave a further description: "She is built of two boasts each 10 feet beam, 80 feet long, five feet deep in the hold; which boats are distant from each other 10', confined by strong knees and diagonal braces, forming a deck 30' wide, 80' long... By placing the propelling waterwheel between the boats it is guarded from injury from ice or shocks on approaching it entering the dock...the whole of the machinery being placed between the two boats leaves 10 feet on each side on the deck of each boat for carriages, horses, and cattle, etc.; the other having neat benches and covered with an awning, is for passengers, and there is also a passage and stairway to a neat cabin, which is 50 feet long and five feet clear from the floor to the beams, furnished with benches and a stove in winter. Although the two boats and space between them five 30 foot beam, yet they present sharp bows to the water, and have only the resistance in the water of one boat of 20 foot beam, which diminition of resistance gives speed in crossing."
In 1813 the Jersey being a success, was followed by a sister ship, the York. Both the Jersey ad the York had the typical Fulton Bell Crank type engines of 20 horse power each with cylinders of 20 inch diameters with four foot stroke. Each drove a single paddle wheel, 12 feet in diameter with buckets or paddles four feet long and two feet wide. Steam was supplied by a boiler 20 feet long, nine feet high and with nine foot front.
Although these ferries were supposed to run every half hour from sunrise to sunset, frequently an hour was consumed in making the trip. It is said that when they passed close o one another in the river, passengers on the two boats could hold quite a lengthy conversation before they got beyond talking distance.
These ferries were a great improvement over the old horse or team ferryboats, in both "speed" and in comfort. One made the trip across the river loaded with eight four wheeled carriages, 29 horses and 100 passengers, which was considered quite a feat at that time.
A short time later, Fulton and William Cutting, his brother-in-law, formed the New York & Brooklyn Steamboat Ferry Association, their first boat being the Nassau, built in 1813. A trusted assistant of Fulton's, the principal engineer of the Company, by name of Louis Rhoda, was crushed to death in the machinery of the Nassau on the Brooklyn crossing May 10th 1814, when that ferry made her first trip. This trip, across the East River averaged 10 minutes and as many as 30 trips were made daily. The vessel was also often employed after business hours by pleasure parties on excursions up the river. Around 1840 the Nassau as a ferry ended her career. The hull was acquired by the Seaman's Friend Society, for a floating bethel at the foot of Pike Street in New York.
In 1827 (after Fulton's death) a new ferry was built and placed on the crossing with the Nassau. This was the William Cutting, similar in construction to the Nassau, which operated until 1840 when dismantled.
Steamboats was but one interest of Fulton. Canal improvements, Torpedo Warfare and Submarines were others. His earlier interest was miniature oil painting and while in London studied under Benjamin West. One of his minor inventions was a pontoon affair of a floating bridge-dock that rises and falls with the tides and makes it possible for carriages and wagons to drive on and off the ferryboats which he designed. This ferry slip ramp , which actually is what it was, has been little changed through the years.
There was another great steamboat "inventor" who preceded Fulton and his Clermont by 17 years. This was John Fitch who will be the subject of next weeks article.
January 28, 1965
John Fitch and his Steamboat
Historian agree that a steamboat was successfully operated on the Delaware River 16 years before Robert Fulton's Clermont steamed up the Hudson.
This steamboat was the Thornton, built by John Fitch. After several noteworthy but for the most part fruitless attempts, including a vessel built and launched in 1787 in which the engine manipulated sets of paddles, his steamboat of 1790 was a success.
Named the Thornton in honor of Fitch's friend and principal backer, Dr. William Thornton, the vessel was built in Philadelphia. But unlike its predecessors, the Thornton was propelled by three large spade-shaped paddles at the stern. The forward third of the boat was decked over and supported a small cabin, immediately aft of which was the boiler and a tall stack. From here to the transom stern was an open well containing the engine and auxillary machinery. This engine had an 18 inch diameter cylinder, the casting of which at that time was a small miracle in itself.
The 1787 boat was 60 feet in length with a nine foot beam and a draft of four feet. No dimensions are available for the 1790 vessel but judging from contemporary sketches it was slightly longer with considerable beam. The "phenomenal" speed of six to seven mph was attained consistently with eight mph under ideal conditions.
After the Thornton's trial trip April 16th, 1790, Fitch wrote:
"Although the wind blew very fresh at the northeast we reigned Lord High Admirals of the Delaware and no boat on the river could hold with us, but all fell astern, although several sail boats which were very light with heavy sails that brought their gunwales down to the water, came out to try us."
Heretofor Fitch's greatest problem had been in financing his experiments but after this more recent groups of stock holders by mutual agreement united onto one company. Steps were taken immediately to place the steamboat in commercial operation, and beginning June 14th, 1790, advertisements were run in the Federal Gazette and the Philadelphia Packet as follows:
"The Steamboat is now ready to take passengers and is intended to set off from Arch Street Ferry in Philadelphia, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for Burlington, Bristol, Bordentown and Trenton; to return Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturday. Price for passengers 2-6 to Burlington and Bristol, 3-9 to Bordentown and 5s to Trenton."
For the first time in history a steamboat was making regular trips carrying passengers on a published schedule and during its brief season of operation covered between 2000 and 3000 miles, unquestionable an impressive performance when it is realized that this was 16 years earlier than the Clermont.
On June 16th, 1790, during one of Thornton's regular trips, Governor Miflin and the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, took passage unannounced and were so pleased with the efficiency of the vessel that a colorful set of flags, costing more than 5 pounds was presented to the Steamboat Company.
There were myriad reasons why the Thornton operated only one season. Probably the prime factor was the timidity and inherent conservatism of the people who preferred traditional methods of travel and who lacked confidence in so novel an innovation as a steamboat. Then too, the rivermen initiated intense enmity against both Fitch and his steamboat, looking with much logic at a steamboat as a distinct threat to their economic existence, the same problem that Fulton faced later with his Clermont. A further reason was that the stage coaches generally made better time than the steamboat, although passengers often arrived "all shook up".
Before fully evaluating these discouraging facts the Company had already projected the construction of a new and larger boat upon which Fitch had begun construction. Although never completed this vessel was launched and christened the Perseverance. While the cabin was being completed and the machinery was being installed a violent northeaster tore the boat from its wharf on the Delaware and drove it across the river standing it on Petty's Island, opposite Philadelphia. Before being refloated, alterations to the air pump and other parts of the machinery were made at the insistence of certain stockholders against Fitch's better judgement. Irreparable damage resulted and the Company soon found itself deeply in debt. Unable to further finance the venture, the entire project was abandoned. (Continued next week)
February 4, 1965
The Fitch Steamboats
(continued from last week)
The indominable Fitch refused to give up and spent several years in a vain attempt to interest the Government in steam navigation on the Mississippi. Finally in 1793 he took passage to France but that country still in the throes of social and political upheaval, was more interested in the bores of cannon than in engine cylinders. He met with equally discouraging results in England and the following year returned to America.
Thoroughly disheartened he left New York in 1794 for Kentucky where early in his career as a surveyer he had invested in land warrants. Arriving there he discovered that much of his thirteen hundred acres had been preempted by squatters and now, further discouraged, he went to the home of his friend, Alexander McCowan, at Bardstown, Kentucky. Yet even toward the end of his career and in failing health, Fitch continued to carry on the steamboat experiments and at Bardstown built a three foot model with side paddlewheels and a brass cylindered engine, which he operated on Beech Fork, a branch of the Salt River.
A number f books state that Fitch built and experimented with a small steamboat on Collet Pond, New York City, in 1796. The vessel had both side wheels and a screw at the stern, This claim is based upon a broad side, with wood cuts, published in 1846 -- nearly fifty years after Fitch's death -- and by John Hutchins entitled "Honor to whom honor is due". The author states that as a boy he rode with Fitch in this boat and that Fulton and Livingston were aboard. The fact that Fulton was in England at this time studying painting under the great Benjamin West, rather discredits this story and modern scholars are inclined to believe Hutchin's memory erred and that the vessel described was one built by Samuel Morey. It is known that Morey and was in New York in 1796 and in a letter to his friend William Duer, relative to his latest experiment says, "...having made sundry improvements in the engine I went again to New York and applied the power to a wheel in the stern by which the boat was impelled by a speed of about five miles an hour." The affadavit of two other individuals quoted by Hutchins speak of seeing the boat, but do not mention Fitch's name. Not a shred of evidence other than this broadside, exists to substantiate Hutchin's statement.
Following the termination of Fitch's Delaware River venture there is a vast hiatus of steamboat chronology. More than 16 years passed during which period no steamboats operated despite numerous attempts, all were abortive and failed universally. Then, in 1807, Robert Fulton triumphed in the Hudson with his steamboat commonly called the Clermont, this was quickly followed by Colonel John and Robert Steven's Phoenix and the stable advancement of the steamboat from this time onward was assured.
John Fitch was born on his father's farm in Windsor township, Hartford, Connecticut, and led an eventful life, although frequently tormented by misfortune. In turn, he became a surveyor, silversmith, watchmaker, and in the Revolution a gunsmith at Valley Forge. In 1782, while a trader on the Ohio River, he was captured by the Indians, delivered to the British in Detroit and later released in exchange of prisoners.
It was not until 1785 that he became obsessed with the idea of propelling a boat by steam and devoted the rest of his life toward this achievement. After a long illness his death occurred at Bardstown on July 1st, 1798. In his autobiography he states this touching and prophetic thought: " The time will come when all our great lakes, rivers and oceans will be navigated by vessels propelled by steam; when some more powerful man will get fame and riches from my invention; but nobody will believe that poor John Fitch can do anything worthy of attention."
In the state capitol at Hartford, a tablet dedicated to Fitch reads: "This tablet erected by the State of Connecticut commemorates the genius, patience and perseverance of JOHN FITCH a native of the town of Windsor and first to apply steam successfully to the propulsion of vessels through water."
There is little doubt that if John Fitch's Steamboat of 1790 had continued in operation, the name Fitch rather than Fulton would have gone down in history books as the "inventor" or the steamboat.
February 11, 1965
Chauncey Vibbard: 1864-1900
Pictures from the New York State Library in Albany, William Elmendorf Collection
The third steamboat to join the fleet on the Hudson River Day Line, the CHAUNCEY VIBBARD, began her career June 18, 1864, on the New York to Albany run.
The appearance of this new steamboat on the river excited much favorable comment. Her graceful proportions and beauty of structure made a pleasing picture against the backdrop of the Hudson Highlands as she cruised the river. The vessel was at its graceful best when steaming at full speed. Having a very narrow beam for her length, the CHAUNCEY VIBBARD cut the water as a knife blade with scarcely a ripple breaking from her stem to her paddle wheels. Hull and engine were balanced to perfection to eliminate vibration and the vessel seemed to move through the water with dignified ease.
Captain Van Santvoord was understandably proud of his new steamboat and spared nothing to make her the finest on the river. Her speed was not illusory either, as in the case of some boats in her era, for she was about as fast as any steamboat that ever plied the Hudson. This was amply proved on April 18th, 1876, when she ran from New York to Albany without making any landings in six hours and 20 minutes, easily the best time on record at that period for a through passage.
Captain Dave Hitchcock, the VIBBARD's commander at this time, had steadily maintained that she could beat the record and would do it, too, if he ever got a chance to let her but which he could not do so long as she was on a scheduled run. His opportunity finally came when the VIBBARD's owners decided to send her to Albany to be painted before the opening of the regular season.
She left New York at 5:20am having on board a party of excursionists, who had been promised the fastest trip they had ever taken on a steamboat. The promise was fully kept for the VIBBARD glided up to her pier at Albany at 11:40am. It was favored with a flood tide as far as Rhinebeck, but that this was more than offset by a heavy freshet in the upper Hudson, the effect of which was felt from Catskill to Albany.
The record established by the VIBBARD caused much discussions among the steamboat fraternity, and the old question as to whether a day boat had the advantage over a night boat, or vice versa in making the run from New York to Albany gave rise to much argument.
Two seasons after her launching the CHAUNCEY VIBBARD was lengthened 16 feet and changes made to her engine. Those familiar with the vessel conceded that alterations to have an unfavorable effect on her speed. She also had the reputation of being one of the hardest of any of the fast day boats to drive before the wind. The only satisfactory explanation given for this was the width of the square front of her joiner work. She had long, high hog-framing as did all the large boats.
In 1880, the vessel's boilers were removed from the guards and three new ones installed in the hold with three stacks placed athwartships, considerably changing the appearance of the steamboat. It also had the effect of causing the vessel to lose the fine balance it had formerly possessed.
For some time the CHAUNCEY VIBBARD ran with the DANIEL DREW and later the ALBANY before being withdrawn from service and used as a spare boat. In 1896 she was sold and taken to the Delaware River for service between Philadelphia and Lincoln Park on excursion runs.
Following the Spanish American War in 1899, a "Peace Jubilee" with a naval parade was staged on the Hudson with the VIBBARD participating. Crowded with celebrated passengers, the old steamboat began leaking badly and was beached on a sandbar. Prior to this incident no disaster or accident had marred the log book of the VIBBARD during her many years of service.
The vessel was later floated and towed to Cramers Hill, where, in 1900, she was partially dismantled. The skeleton of her hull remained there for many years, the last visible vestige of this fine old boat.
STATISTICS: - Lawrence & Foulks, builders, Brooklyn, NY. Wood hull, 794 tons, Length 265 feet; beam 35 feet; depth nine feet five inches. Fletcher & Harrison vertical beam engine, No. 37, having 55 inch cylinder with 12 foot stroke. Two boilers on the guards. Paddlewheels 30 feet in diameter with nine foot five inch face. In 1866 the vessel was cut in two and 16 feet added amidship, increasing her length to 261 feet. and her tonnage to 1158. The cylinder diameter was increased to 62 inches. In 1880, the two boilers were replaced with three placed in the hold with three stacks placed athwartships.
February 18, 1965
The Kaaterskill and Adirondack
Postcard of the Adirondack courtesy of Melissa Finch
Postcard of the Kaaterskill courtesy of Barbara Bartley
Picture of the Adirondack and the Ship's Pass from the New York State Library, William Elmendorf Collection
Of these two old time night boats the KAATERSKILL is of the most interest as it was built in Athens and was the largest steamboat built north of Newburgh.
Built for the Catskill New York Evening Line by Van Loon Magee in Athens, the KAATERSKILL made her maiden trip down the Hudson in August 1882. She was christened upon launching by Miss Grace Donahue, daughter of Captain William Donahue and her first commander was Captain Charles Ru Ton. Her sister ship was the City of Catskill, built two years earlier.
The KAATERSKILL was the pride of the Line and the flagship of the fleet. She was luxuriously furnished, was fast and could accommodate three hundred passengers, having 150 staterooms and 73 cabins plus a very large freight capacity.
A few weeks after her launching she had the only accident of note during her career of 32 years. While southbound near Stony Point the vessel was disabled by a broken strap on her walking beam. The added strain caused the connecting rod to break loose and drop on the main steam pipe, bursting it. As a result one man died and several others were seriously injured by the escaping steam.
The KAATERSKILL was later chartered by the Hudson Navigation Company, and under command of Captain Benjamin Hoff (of Athens) and ran on the New York - Albany route until December 12th, 1913. On this route her consorts were the ONTEORA and the CITY OF HUDSON. The following year the old steamboat was deemed unfit for further service and her superstructure dismantled and machinery removed at Newburgh. On September 12th, 1914 the hull was towed to New London and converted in to a barge.
STATISTICS: Van Loon Magee, builders, Athens, NY. Wood hull. 1361 tons. Length 281 feet; beam 38 feet; depth 10 feet. Fletcher Harrison vertical beam engine having 63 inch cylinder with 12 foot stroke. This engine, Fletcher No. 100, was called the "Centennial". Two lobster - back return tube boilers. Paddlewheels 31 feet in diameter with 10 foot face.
The ADIRONDACK built for the People's Line, came out in 1896 and under command of Captain S.J. Roe was placed on the New York - Albany run. This magnificent steamboat succeeded the DREW and was considerably more elaborate in her interior appointments than any night boat previously built. She also had greater power and speed than any vessel built for the line up to that time. She boasted five decks (main, saloon, promenade, done and hurricane) and a dining room seating 300 people; also 350 staterooms, including twenty-four parlors and four suites of parlors. In addition to the staterooms the ADIRONDACK had 286 berths in the cabins and 120 berths for crew members. An electric generator supplied power for 2,000 lights and for a searchlight with a range of two miles, being the first night boat to have a powerful searchlight.
She was also the first Hudson River steamboat to exceed one million dollars in cost.
There were few if any that could equal her speed. In May 1899, she made the New York to Albany run in less than six and one half hours running time, carrying 400 passengers and 350 tons of freight.
The only serious accident in the career of the ADIRONDACK occurred on October 18th, 1906. On the evening of that date she was run down near Tivoli by the steamboat SARATOGA. The SARATOGA sank and was later raised and rebuilt. The damage to the ADIRONDACK consisted of her foredeck being carried away, although she finished the season without a layup. Each vessel lost one man in the accident.
During World War 1 the ADIRONDACK was drafted and used as a barracks at the Brooklyn Nay Yard. Shortly after the was she was laid up at the old Brick Row mooring in Athens and on December 29th, 1925, ice opened her seams and she sank in shallow water. She was then sold for scrap for the reported sun of $14,00 (as written), was raised and then dismantled. So ended the career of the last and the largest wooden hull steamboat ever built for Hudson River service. STATISTICS: John Englis & Son, builders, Brooklyn. Wood hull. 3,644 tons. Length 440 feet, beam 50 feet - over guards 90 feet; depth of hell (as written) 12 feet. W.A. Fletcher No. 158 vertical beam engine having 81 inch cylinder with 12 foot stroke.
February 25, 1965
The M. Martin and The Tremper
Yes, the two old work horses and there are many of us oldsters who still remember them. Though in the early part of their careers they were considered small, luxurious, night boats, later they primarily carried freight: produce brought down to the landings by farmers and their steady income from the breweries in Albany and Troy. How well many of us remember them with their entire forward decks stacked high with beer kegs!
The M. Martin stands alone in her historical background. Named after a prosperous Hudson merchant and banker, she was one of the most beautifully proportioned of the medium sized steamboats that made Hudson River history. Shortly after being launched she was drafted by Civil War service. Due to her smart appearance and elegant furnishings as well as staunchness and speed, she was chosen as General Grant’s dispatch boat on Chesapeake Bay troops and dispatch passengers and messages. During this period she was known as the “greyhound” of the Federal Government’s fleet on inland steamboats. After the Confederate Capitol fell to Union forces, President Lincoln and General Grant visited Richmond and held conferences aboard the M. Martin.
Upon her honorable discharge from service the Martin returned “Down East”. In 1867 she ran as an opposition boat on the Bangor-Portland (Maine) route.
The M. Martin was then acquired by the Romer & Tremper Steamboat Company of Rondout, New York, who placed her on the Newburgh-Albany run, having Eagle as consort. In April 2, 1884, while near Milton Landing, fire was discovered on the Eagle. Captain Rogers, with the help of the John L. Hasbrouk, succeeded in landing the vessel at Milton Cock, where passengers and crew were discharged without loss of life. However, the Eagle burnt to the water’s edge and became a total loss. In 1885 the new Jacob H. Tremper was added to the Line and became the Martin’s consort. A peculiarity of the Martin and the Eagle was to announce their approach to a landing with a bell, instead of the customary whistle.
On the morning of May 19th, 1878, in a light fog, while near New Hamburg, the Martin narrowly missed a collision with the Mary Powell. When the Martin’s whistle was heard on the Powell, the latter’s pilot rang to stop the engine. Both pilots rang to go astern, but both had headway when the Martin’s bow struck the Powell’s paddlebox and an eight foot gash was made in her guard, but her hull was undamaged.
Then again, May 5, 181 (as written), in mid-morning, Martin figured in another incident with the Powell, then lying in Rondout Creek. The ferryboat Transport was bound out the creek while the Martin was entering to make her landing. The Transport’s pilot put his wheel over hard to change course but the vessel steered over to port and he was unable to check her. He then ran full speed astern but was unable to prevent her (the Transport) from running into the Powell.
The Powell which was docked lurched over and her guard coming up snapped five piles off along the dock. More serious damage included about 50 feet of her joiner work stove in. Captain A.E. Anderson, standing on the dock, was an amazed spectator.
The Central Hudson Steamboat Company of Newburgh purchased the Martin in 1889. Although then 36 years old, she was in excellent condition. Because of her success in combating ice, Martin was often the first vessel to make the trip in the spring and the last to leave the Hudson when winter set in.
Throughout her long and varied career of nearly 60 years she had only one serious accident. Laden with freight and carrying 20 passengers the mishap occurred near Esopus Island as the Martin was southbound from Albany on the morning of June 16, 1919. Captain George Hadley noticed smoke curling from the pilothouse and immediately headed the vessel for the shore east of the island near Staatsburg. The passengers were quickly removed in small boats to safety. Then Captain Hadley got the firehose playing on the flames and within 10 minutes the incident was over with only a blackened pilot house as a reminder. The Martin then picked up her passengers and proceeded to Newburgh, little the worse for the experience.
The M. Martin continued on the Newburgh Albany route until laid up in the fall of 1919.
Her last commander was Captain H. Fairbacks; her last Chief Engineer Fred Requa. The following summer in 1920, she was dismantled after 56 years of service. The hull was bought by Pat Doherty for use as a dock at Eavesport, near Malden. The career of the steamboat that had once carried the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, to ties: M.S. Allison, builder, Jersey City. Wood hull, 570 tons, length 191’, beam 28’; depth 8’. Fletcher & Harrison vertical beam engine No. 35 having 44” cylinder with nine foot stroke. One iron boiler on the deck.
Jacob H. Tremper. In the spring 1858 the Jacob H. Tremper made her maiden trip up the Hudson. This wooden vessel was built for the Romer & Tremper Steamboat Company and designed for both freight and passenger service to operate as a day boat between Newburgh and Albany. She was built to replace the Eagle which had burned at Milton Dock the previous year, 1848. The Tremper’s consort for many years was the M. Martin, which she resembled in many ways.
The new boat was admirably fitted for the run having apas (as written) and a large freight capacity. Because of these qualifications her value was quickly recognized.
In the winter of 1898 Romer & Tremper fleet of steamboats was purchased by the Central Hudson Steamboat Company of Newburgh. This transaction included the Jacob H. Tremper, M. Martin, William F. Romer and the James B. Baldwin.
The following description of the Tremper appeared in the Newburgh Daily Journal May 9, 1885, on the occasion of the vessel’s maiden trip up the river.
“This boat is very admirably fitted up. The ladies room aft is furnished with cherry furniture upholstered in blue velvet. The floor is covered with a Wiltshire carpet and the lambrequins above the windows are blue and gold. The toilet rooms connected with the ladies saloon are fitted with the latest improvements. The main saloon extending along the upper deck is very handsome. The wood work is very ornamental with cherry and ash, the paneling in blue and gold. An elegant Brussels carpet covers the floor and upholstered arm chairs are arranged along either side. The main or grand stairway from the main deck to the saloon is of cherry, ash and mahogany, highly polished. A large French mirror meets the eye at the head of the forward stairway leading to the saloon. The Captain’s office is located on the port side of the boat, and is very handsomely furnished. The pilot and engineer have quarters on the hurricane deck aft of the pilot house. The pilot house is first class, and is fitted up with all modern improvements. The dining cabin below the main deck is well lighted and roomy and is aft. It is paneled in hardwood, the same as other portions of the boat. Adjoining it on the starboard side is the kitchen which is supplied with a French range, and further forward, connected with the kitchen is a dining room for the crew. There is more open space on the decks of the new boat than there is on the Martin, her companion boat, or the old Eagle, whose place she takes on the line.
March 4, 1965
Chrystenah: 1866 - 1920
Picture of the Chrystenah from the New York State Library, William Elmendorf Collection
Although only a medium size sidewheeler, the Chrystenah was a creation of beauty and one of the fastest single stack vessels ever to steam the Hudson. Built for the New York-Nyack route, her run was soon extended to Peekskill when it was realized she had speed in abundance. She made one round trip a day from that city to New York. She was the last steamboat owned by the Smith Brothers of Nyack who, for over 40 years, controlled the water transportation out of Nyack.
Sold in 1907 to Captain David C. Woolsey and Captain Nelson, she continued on the same route until later, when taken to Newburgh, and used as a charter excursion boat during the summer months on the upper Hudson. The Hudson River Day Line also occasionally chartered her for use in carrying baggage for the Day Line vessels. In 1911 the Chrystenah was in operation between that city and Coney Island, moving the following year to the New York - Keanesburgh, N.J. run where she ran opposition to the regular boats on this route. She continued on this run until 1917 when transferred to the New York - Stamford (Conn.) route. Still later she was in use as an excursion steamer, this time around New York Harbor and Long Island Sound.
Almost a twin in appearance to the Jacob H. Tremper, Chrystenah's excursions went as far as Catskill, where she always aroused curiosity as to where she came from and where she was bound. Though she belonged down in Peekskill she quite often made excursions to Catskill during the summer months always with a jolly party aboard.
The Chrystenah was sold in 1920 for cross Sound service to Oyster Bay and in the fall of the same year, laid up at New Rochelle. That winter she was wrecked by a severe storm and blown into the mouth of Echo Creek. She was so wedged between its rocky banks that the insurance company paid her owners for a total loss.
The City of Rochelle then came into title and sold her at public auction for the price of one dollar. Frederick Wenke, the new owner, floated her out on a high tide and towed her to Oyster Bay. Originally he planned to convert the hull into a ferryboat but instead dismantled her and ran the hull aground on the beach on Long Island Sound. This ended the career of the once beautiful Chrystenah.
Statistics: William Dickey, builder, Nyack. Wood hull: 571 tons. Length: 196'6"; beam 30'2"; depth 0'3". Chrystenah's vertical beam engine came from the Broadway when that vessel was dismantled in 1865. Originally having a 46" cylinder with 10' stroke, this engine was completely rebuilt by McCurdy and Warren in Jersey City and given a 50" cylinder with 11' stroke. The original engine was built by the West Point Foundry Company in 1837 for the Arrow, later renamed Broadway.
March 11, 1965
Clinton 1913 – 19…
Postcards of the DeWitt Clinton courtesy of Robert Cummings and Melissa Finch.
DeWitt Clinton 1913 – 19..
a) Manhattan 1913 – 1917
b) Nopatin 1917 – 1921
c) De Witt Clinton 1921 – 1942
d) Col. Frederick Johnson 1942 – 1948
e) Galatin 1952 – 19..
The DEWITT CLINTON, as noted above, was a ship of many names and changed ownership many times. This screw steamer was built in 1913 as part of a plan to establish a competition route between New York City and Providence, Rhode Island. The Grand Turk (as wriiten) Railroad and the Central Vermont Railroad proposed to build a railroad fromProvidence up to Canada and had two night boats constructed to connect New York and Providence . The two vessels were the MANHATTAN (later the DEWITT CLINTON) and NARRANGANSETT designed for the emigrant trade and first class travel. Before the railroad could be completed, Chairman Hayes of the Grand Trunk Railroad died and the venture was abandoned.
The MANHATTAN and the NARRAGANSETT, uncompleted and still without fittings, lay at anchor off Washington, Delaware, where they were built, and later were towed to New London and tied up.
The year 1917 marked the entry of the United States into the World War and the MANHATTAN was purchased by the Navy to be refitted, reinforced and renamed – this time the NOPATIN. The steamer was then sent to England under her own power and used to ferry troops across the channel from England to France. According to reports, she safely transported 150,000 troops across the Channel before returning to the United States.
Following war duty she was purchased by the Hudson River Day Line who rebuilt the vessel for its Bear Mountain Route. Renamed the DE WITT CLINTON, she steamed the Hudson from 1921 until laid up in 1932 when, due to the depression, one day excursions became unprofitable. During this period she was one of a fleet of seven vessels owned by the Day Line, three of which were propeller driven. Her commander during this period was Captain Roney Magee.
The DE WITT CLINTON WAS AGAIN IN SERVICE FROM June to September in 1939, making trips up the Hudson before returning to an inactive status. In February 1942 she was again drafted by the Government. The War Shipping Administration converted the vessel into a troop transport under the command of the Army Transportation Core. Rechristened again, this time COLONEL FREDERICK JOHNSON, she was again plying the English Channel following the invasion of allied troops into France. At the end of World War II the War Shipping Administration returned the vessel to the Maritime Commission who laid her up in the James River.
It was assumed by all who knew her that the old steamer would never again sail but the vessel seemed to have an affinity for international crisis. She was purchased by Samuel Derecktor who operated a shipping firm in New York City. Again renamed, this time the DERECKTOR, the steamer was refitted under the watchful eye of the Coast Guard, for it was suspected that her new owner might be planning to smuggle soldiers and arms to embattled Israel and the Coast Guard was standing by to impound her should sufficient reason present itself.
But the DERECKTOR, was then registered under the Panamanian flag and her owners given as Brownsam Company of Panama City. She flew the Panamanian flag and was cleared for Marseilles sailing “light” and without passengers, though fitted to carry 2,500 tons of cargo and 500 passengers. With a crew of 50 and under command of Captain Dominik Romano her intended purpose was variously described as a de luxe passenger steamer between Marseilles and North Africa ports. However, few were surprised when the Israeli Maritime League in New York newspapers of January 17th, 1949, announced that the former Hudson River steamer was carrying immigrants from Marseilles to Haifa for the Israeli Zim Line.
Some time when under this ownership, supposedly in 1952, the vessel was rechristened STILL AGAIN (!), this time the GALATIN. And, as yet, I have been unable to find the final disposition of this old timer, which once flew the owner’s flag of the Hudson River Day Line. And I am hoping the old timer is still going strong.
(missing)lingsworth, builders, Wilmington, Delaware. Steel hull. Length 320 feet; beam 48 feet; depth 17 ft. Two H.H. quadruple expansion engines having 231/2, 371/2, 42, and 42 inch cylinders with 36 inch stroke. 4,00 h.p. Six scotch boilers.
March 18, 1865
The Drew 1866 – 1902
Built by John Englis for the People’s Line at an estimated cost of $800,000, the DREW certainly had no equal. As consort she had the DEAN RICHMOND, a vessel admired in its own right for beauty, luxury and speed.
The expression “floating palace” has been applied to various river steamers but in the case of the DREW it was no misnomer. For her period, the DREW was decidedly the most spacious and luxurious vessel afloat. Almost 400 feet in length she had three tiers of staterooms, 284 in all, and a grand saloon with magnificent Corinthian columns supporting a dome or skylight of vari-colored panes of cathedral glass and grand stairways of imported Santo Domingo mahogany. The complete scene was scintillated by crystal chandeliers lighted by the boat’s gas generator. All joiner work was executed by John E. Hoffmire of Greenpoint. The paddleboxes were also outstanding. Each, in effect appeared to be tile floored with a dome-shaped and heavily coffered classical ceiling like that of the Pantheon Statues stood in niches at either end. The effect must have been startling to passengers on passing boats.
The DREW enjoyed a long and successful career as a night boat on the New York – Albany run, suffering no serious accidents in her 30 years of service.
In the fall of 1896 when the new ADIRONDACK came out, the DREW was retired from service and in August 1901, sold to J.H. Gregory of Perth Amboy to be dismantled. However, on the night of July 4th 1902 a fire of unknown origin started and the vessel was totally destroyed. With the exception of the MARY POWELL and several other smaller steamboats, the DREW was the last vessel to outlive the mode of wooden hulls, hog framing and boilers on the guards.
The DREW was named for Uncle Daniel Drew, the steamboat baron of the Hudson. By this time Uncle Dan’ls crooked rigging of the Erie Railroad’s stock fraud and perpetration of the gold panic was all but forgotten.
STATISTICS: John Englis & Sons, builders, New York. Wood hull 2,902 tons> Length 390 feet; beam 47 feet; overguards 84 feet; depth 11 feet. James Allaire vertical beam engine having an 81 inch cylinder with a 14 foot stroke. Two boilers on the guards. These boilers were from the ST. JOHN having been installed on that vessel a few months before her destruction by fire.
ADDENDA: An interesting anecdote is of the “gunpowder plot” which follows. This incident is told by Donald Ringwald of Kingston and appeared in the STEAMBOAT BILL, June 1953 issue:
“THE MAN FROM PERU”
Have you heard of
the man from Peru.
How he tried to blow up the DREW.
His little invention
Missed his intention
But, Lord! How the night dresses flew.
The victim of this gunpowder plot was the big DREW of the People’s Line. The “villain” was a more nebulous character, due primarily to the fact that he was mentally disturbed. Somewhere in the thirties in point of age, he was believed to have been christened Aime Louis Barraud. In 1865 he made his debut in the filed of amiable impersonations by appearing as a properly attired Major General in the United States Union Army complete with commission neatly forged with the President’s signature. From then on, he spent considerable time in lunatic asylums and jails.
Being a voracious and retentive reader he had no difficulty in fabricating a background to pass himself off as an assistant engineer of the Suez Canal; an operator for the Russians of a mine in the Ural Mountains; a cavalry officer and decorated hero of the seige (sic) of Paris is the Franco-Prussian War, and a salesman for an ore-crusher.
Sometime before the DREW episode he had been touring the country, posing as a representative of the Peruvian Government and of a Peruvian mining equipment on an extensive scale. Presenting his best mechanical front and off-handedly penning large drafts on assorted banks, he completing deceived his manufacturers, who properly dined and entertained such a desirable customer. He felt he was engaged in a noble calling inasmuch as he was blessing both himself and the industrialists with temporary happiness. Unfortunately he was not always able to keep sufficient distance between himself and his fields of his operations and was arrested and imprisoned in Easton, Pa, for neglecting a hotel bill.
Upon his release he went directly to New York City and on Friday, July 18th 1879, reserved stateroom No. 248 aboard the DREW for her trip to Albany that night. When she sailed, she had aboard between seven and eight hundred passengers and was completely sold out, so that many of the passengers and was completely sold out so that many of the passengers and was completely sold out, so that many of the passengers had to sleep in the saloon. In addition she carried a heavy load of freight. Stateroom 248 was an inside room, located forward on the starboard side of the main saloon, and in it the “Man from Peru” set to work to prepare for action the cans of gunpowder he had brought aboard. He waited until late in the evening to spring his surprise and after everything hurried off the watch the results.
These probably met his expectations. When the explosion occurred about 11:15 near Rondout Lighthouse, the steamboat was thrown into utter confusion. Cries of fire were echoed all over the vessel and passengers came streaming out of the staterooms, prepared to do nothing but add to the turmoil.
Actually, the explosion did little damage, and the fire was extinguished almost immediately by quick thinking passengers and assistants. It was not even necessary to run out a line of hose. Nevertheless, the position of the stateroom was such that if a conflagration of any magnitude had resulted the steamboat would have been in considerable danger of meeting an untimely end. Through his possessions in the room the “Man from Peru” was identified and placed under arrest in Albany. There, during his forced leisure, he turned out the above limerick.
Regardless of the fourth line, the key to the motive of his enterprising evening aboard the DREW is the exultation of the last line. Basically, it seems to have been nothing more sinister than a desire to see the night dresses fly! That to do this he had to disturb several hundred people and place in jeopardy a valuable piece of property of the People‘s Line was not nearly so important to him as it was to the forces of law and order. Indicted for arson in the third degree he was tried, found guilty and sentenced to five years in the New York State Prison at Dannemora, New York, Far from the DREW went the “Man from Peru”.
March 25, 1965
Point Comfort 1886 – 1918
The steamboat that came to be known on the Hudson River as the POINT COMFORT was built for the Nantucket & New the Nantucket area and her popularity continued to increase with the years. The original route was between New Bedford and Nantucket with landings at Woods Hole, Cottage City and Edgertown. She remained on this run for almost 26 years.
In 1913 the NANTUCKET was purchased by the Point Comfort Steamboat Company. Her new owner proposed to operate her in line with a sister boat, the MARTHA VINEYARD, during the summer months between New York and Keanesburg, New Jersey. That same year the two vessels were renamed, the MARTHA VINEYARD became KEYPORT and the NANTUCKET rechristened the POINT COMFORT.
The two steamboats ran together until the KEPORT was rammed and sunk in 1916. In the fall of 1918, after the summer season had ended, the POINT COMFORT was chartered by a member of freight shippers from Catskill, to run on the Hudson River in opposition to the Catskill Freight Line. She had completed one trip for this new enterprise, and on Tuesday, September 17th, 1918 had embarked on her second and also her last trip of her career. Leaving New York City with a cargo of sugar for Catskill, the POINT COMFORT encountered a dense fog on the river and about 8 o’clock the following morning the vessel ran on a rocky ledge on the south end of Esopus Island.
The impact was so great that about 35 feet of the bow overtopped the ledge at an acute angle, causing the vessel’s back break and the stern to settle in 40 feet of water. The vessel was pronounced a total loss. Fortunately no lives were lost and no personal injuries sustained.
The following year I purchased the wreck from the underwriters, Price, Samuels & Banghart, of New York City. Using one of the pontoon life rafts with a small Evinrude motor, all salvageable material was ferried across the river to Rosemont Landing – Albert Parker’s estate at Esopus. The nearest landing on the east side of the river being at Staatsburg. Practically all the scrap was sold to Maurice Mintzer of Poughkeepsie Iron & Metal Company, and his trucks would pick up the scrap at Rosemont Landing. The job required the entire summer, but practically all the machinery was salvaged, including the auxiliaries such as the generator, bilge sanitary and boiler pumps. There was considerable copper in the large steam expansion pipes, and the brass lining of the jet condenser, alone weighed 1200 pounds. For help I had Bill Storms, a fisherman of Hyde Park and for several weeks my grandfather, John M. Van Loon, helped as well as my uncle, Earl H. Van Loon who is still living. Toward the end I rented Morse driving gear from Ulster Davis of Rensselaer, and succeeded in removing more than sheathing from the hull. By cold weather only the stack and upper part of the boiler remained of what was once the trim little sidewheeler POINT COMFORT.
STATISTICS: Built at Camden, New Jersey. Wood hull. 629 tons. Length 173 feet, 5 inches; beam 29 feet; depth of hull 9 feet. Vertical beam engine having a 48 inch cylinder with 10 foot stroke.
April 1, 1965
New York: 1887 – 1908
Postcards of the New York courtesy of Melissa Finch and Sylvia Story Magin
Unsurpassed by luxury and beauty by any contemporary marine craft, the steamboat NEW YORK was the second steel-hulled vessel built for the Hudson River Day Line. Instead of placing the paddlewheel shaft forward of the cylinder as in most beam engines, the NEW YORK’S cylinder was placed forward of the shaft, giving her a distinct appearance differing from the typical Hudson River steamboat.
The NEW YORK replaced the steamboat CHAUNCEY VIBBARD on the New York-Albany run immediately after launching and her combined elegance and speed at once placed her unquestionable as the finest passenger day boat in existence. She was further complemented by the ALBANY running as consort. On August 14th, 1907, the NEW YORK made the run from New York to Albany in six hours and 18 minutes, an indication of her exceptional speed.
The NEW YORK was marked for destruction in October, 1908 when the tugboat WILLIAM FLANNERY crashed into her in the North River off West 13th Street. The Day Line steamer was damaged to such an extent that she was taken to the Marvel Shipyard in Newburgh for repairs. As she lay at the yard, fire broke out in her hold on the morning of October 16th, 1908 at 12:55. Captain A.H. Harquart and his crew of 73 men who were asleep in their berths, were quickly aroused but the fire gained headway so rapidly that the entire after end of the vessel burst into flames in less than five minutes after the alarm sounded. Realizing that it would be impossible to save the magnificent vessel, Captain Harquart ordered the crew ashore. They soon discovered that four colored waiters were missing. A thorough search of the shipyard was unsuccessful and later it was found that the four men had been trapped below decks by the flames and had perished.
After 21 years of service the NEW YORK’S career was cut short by this fire, which burned the vessel to the water’s edge. The once beautiful white passenger steamboat was completely destroyed. Later, the engine was taken from the smoke blackened hull, rebuilt and placed in the new steamboat ROBERT FULTON, which entered the Hudson River Day Line fleet in 1909.
STATISTICS: Harlan & Hollingsworth, builders, Wilmington, Delaware. Steel hull 1552 tons. Length 311 feet; beam 44 feet, over guards 74 feet; depth of hull 11 feet; draft 6 feet. W&A Fletcher vertical beam engine, No. 121, having 75 inch cylinder with 12 foot stroke. Three lobster back boilers in the hold. When lengthened in 1897 to 335 feet the new tonnage was 1921.
THE FIRST STEAMBOAT NEW YORK 1836-1876
Although not originally built for Hudson River service this NEW YORK, like many old timers finished her days on the Hudson as a towboat. Built for the New York & New Haven Steamboat Company for service in Long Island Sound, her maiden trip took place April 4th, 1886 from New York to New Haven. After only three years on this run she was damaged by the fire March 23rd, 1839, and sold to Cornelius Vanderbilt. The vessel was then rebuilt, lengthened, and the original boiler replaced by two boilers on her guards, greatly changing the appearance of the vessel.
In 1856 Commodore Alfred Van Santvoore acquired ownership of the NEW YORK and brought the steamboat to the Hudson. He then converted her into a two boat and placed her in operation between New York and Albany. The Commodore purchased control of the Hudson River Day Line in 1869 and disposed of his towing contracts and interests. NEW YORK was then acquired by Thomas Cornell of Rondout and placed in service between that city and New York under Captain George Gage.
In 1875 the NEW YORK was condemned as unfit for further service and sold to Levi Bacharach of Rondout and the following year, 1876, the NEW YORK was dismantled for scrap at Port Ewen. STATISTICS: Lawrence & Sneeden, builders, New York. Wooden hull, 524 tons. Length 212 feet, beam 23 feet; depth of hull 10 feet. James Allaire cross head engine having 52 inch cylinder with 10 foot stroke. Paddlewheels 24 feet six inches in diameter with 12 foot face and 30 inch dip.
April 8, 1965
The Reindeer: 1850-1852
The REINDEER was built by Thomas Collyer in the order of James Bishop, E.J. Jacques and F.A. Williamson. The career of this beautiful and valuable steamboat lasted but two years. She was a victim of a boiler explosion and fire, not an unusual end for Hudson River steamboats of this early period, but hers was an unusually short career.
After several shakedown trips on the Raritan River between Keyport and New York, she was placed on the New York- New Haven run. Due to very unusual speed shown on these runs, the following season the REINDEER was permanently assigned to the New York – Albany route. This decision was fully justified when in July 1, 1851 she made the remarkable time of seven hours and 27 minutes on this run, which time included seven landings. Actual running time was six hours and 21 minutes. Captain De Groot well knew he had a fast boat and at every opportunity proved it. The HENRY CLAY was designed in hopes she could surpass the REINDEER in speed but was never able to do so.
At the time when competition in speed was high and great hopes were held for the REINDEER, her career as noted above was unfortunately cut short. On Sept. 4th 1852 she left New York City, bound for Albany, carrying approximately 350 passengers. Shortly past noon the usual stop was made at Bristol Landing, (now Malden) about 40 miles south of Albany. As the pilot blew the castoff whistle and the gangplank was still being hauled aboard, a terrific explosion occurred, shaking the entire vessel.
A contemporary report of the catastrophe was given in LESLIE’S WEEKLY NEWSPAPER under date of Sept. 7, 1852. This article, together with a picture of the explosion, I received through the courtesy of Mr. Jean Hervey of Palenville.
EXPLOSION OF THE REINDEER
Still again we are called upon to record a fearful calamity on the waters of the Hudson. A graphic view of this mournful event is given below. The REINDEER exploded on Saturday noon Sept. 4, as she was about leaving the Malden or Bristol Landing, instantly killing several persons, blowing others overboard, some of whom were drowned, badly scalding many others, and inflicting slighter injuries on additional others.
As soon as the intelligence of this disaster reached New York, the trains on the Hudson River Railroad were thronged by those persons who had friends on board the REINDEER, and sought the earliest opportunity to ascertain their fate, by proceeding to the scene of the distressing occurrence. The public mind filled with yet fresh details of the loss of the HENRY CLAY and the ATLANTIC was keenly sensitive to everything relating to events of this character and the most intense anxiety and interest was manifested throughout the community from the instant that news of this latest disaster was received.
The REINDEER left New York at 7 o’clock in the morning under command of Captain C.W. Farnham, for Albany, and made all the usual landings, except two. It is worthy of remark that she had the river to herself as no opposition boat was running. She reached the landing at Bristol, on the west side of the Hudson, about 13 minutes past 1 o’clock. At this time many of the passengers were seated at the dining table in the after cabin. The steward, barkeeper and Chief Engineer were also at the table.
At the moment the pilot pulled the bell to “go ahead” the explosion took place. By the force of the steam, the iron sheathing was ripped up and beams and timbers were torn from their places and driven through the kitchen into the after cabin, carrying all before them instantly scalding and killing those at the dinner table. The exploded boiler is situated about amidships of the vessel, with the flues and furnaces pointing to the stern of the boat, and about 40 feet from the partition of the cabin. One of the firemen was wedged among the mass of ruins, with his body mangled to such an extent as to render recognition impossible except by his clothing.
The steam passed through a pantry into a dining saloon where the work of destruction is stated to have been completed – every person there being either killed or wounded. The steam also passed up the chimney, carrying away the smoke stack, which fell across the hurricane deck breaking it down. No persons, however, were injured above the deck, except the engineer and the cooks. There were some 300 passengers, among whom the greatest confusion prevailed. Many threw themselves into the river, some of whom were drowned.
It is estimated that about 50 persons were badly scalded, in addition to those already dead. The report of the explosion was heard for several miles up and down the river. The steamboat was supposed to be on fire after the fearful explosion, which added to the consternation of the surviving passengers. The scenes that followed were heart rending. At this time search was made for the wounded by their friends and citizens of the village. Those of the passengers that were scalded were found in the after cabin in great agony, with the skin dropping from their bodies, and many of them at the at the point of death from inhaling the steam. Those in this condition died shortly after. Fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters were weeping at their losses or praying for the safety of their relatives. The ladies of the village rendered every assistance in their power to alleviate their distress.” (end quote)
Although no passenger records were kept in this early era of steamboating, the final tabulation of losses came to six persons killed outright and 25 seriously burned or scalded by the escaping steam.
The REINDEER remained at the Malden dock for three days when a fire broke out and quickly spread to her superstructure. Hawsers were chopped free and she drifted virtually a flaming torch, across the river on the mud flats opposite the Saugerties Light. There she burned to the water’s edge and sank. Only the powerful engine was salvaged and this after rebuilding was placed in the PERSEVERANCE, a coastwise steamer built for the Morgan Line of New Orleans.
Thus ended the short and tragic saga of the REINDEER.
STATISTICS: Thomas Collyer, builder, New York. Wood hull, 790 tons. Length 275 feet; beam 34 feet; depth of hull 9 feet. Vertical beam engine by the Morgan Irons Works having a 56 inch cylinder with 12 foot stroke. Two iron boilers below deck. Paddlewheels 38 feet 6 inches in diameter with 9 foot 6 inch face.
April 16, 1965
In 1843 Isaac Newton had the steamboat KNICKERBOCKER built for the Albany-New York route. Even in that era of stiff competition and palace steamers the vessel attracted much comment due to her luxurious furnishings and spacious decks. Fitted out as a night boat, she had 70 single and 12 “elegantly” furnished family staterooms, all located on her promenade deck.
The trial run was made to Hudson, August 8th, 1843 and the following day the KNICKERBOCKER was placed on her scheduled run. There were various consorts and during the five years she was on this route were the ROCHESTER, SOUTH AMERICA and the HENDRIK HUDSON. Note the spelling – the second vessel of this name was the HENDRICK HUDSON.
In this year, 1848, KNICKERBOCKER was acquired by the Norwich and New London Steamboat Company and transferred to the London – Norwich run, having as running mates the WORCESTER and CLEOPATRA. It was at this time that, to increase her stability, the KNICKERBOCKER underwent considerable rebuilding including the increase of her beam by three feet for the rougher waters of Long Island Sound. Some contemporary sources state that in widening the vessel the paddlewheels were left alone, remaining in a recess in the hull. Because this would leave the vessel structurally weak and impede its progress, it is more likely that an error in reporting was made by some person unfamiliar with steamboat construction, who upon seeing the vessel from above, probably assumed that the hull lines followed directly beneath the guards.
Shortly after the KNICKERBOCKER’s return to the Hudson in 1859, this time operating on the New York - Roundout route, she had a collision with the sloop STEPHEN RAYMOND. This accident is best described by an article loaned to me by Jean Hervey, of Palenville, and which appeared in the LESLIE’s ILLUSTRATED NEWS, April 16th, 1859:
“FEARFUL COLLISION ON THE HUDSON.
On the evening of March 28th, the steamer KNICKERBOCKER came into collision with the sloop STEPHEN RAYMOND, of Hastings, near that village on the Hudson River. The force of the blow cut the sloop down to the water’s edge and she filled and sank immediately, and all hands on board were drowned. A small boat was towing astern the sloop when the collision took place, but the vessel sank before the unfortunate men could avail themselves of it.
Nothing definite is known of this melancholy affair, as no one saw the accident, nor was it known that it had occurred until the next morning, when the upper part of the mast was seen about 15 feet above water. Two persons were about a quarter of a mile distant when the collision occurred and distinctly heard the crash when the vessels came in contact. The steamboat, which was distinguished only by the lights, was then observed to sheer toward Piermont, blow off steam and stop. From the appearance of the vessel, she must have been struck amidships and immediately sank. Her binnacle was picked up yesterday, some distance from the accident and it is said that some of her spars are broken and only prevented from floating away by being entangled in the rigging. The sails and upper part of the vessel are much torn and broken, that the shock must have been very violent.
She was loaded with lime and was approaching her dock when the collision occurred. There were three men aboard at the time, Captain Elijah Conklin, the mate, Peter Dalzel and a young man, about 16 or 18 years old named William Hagan. All resided in Hastings.
The STEPHEN RAYMOND hailed from Hastings, and was owned by Mr. Isaac Lefurgy of the same place. She was worth about two thousand dollars, and there was no insurance upon either the vessel of cargo. Captain Conklin was a man of about thirty-five years of age, and we are sorry to say leaves a wife and two children. The mate, Mr. Dalzel, was unmarried and about 20 years of age. Young Hagan was an only son, and his bereaved parents are inconsolable for his loss. This melancholy catastrophe has cast a gloom over the entire village of Hastings. Information has since been received that the two men, Dalzel and Hagan were saved. The fate of the Captain, Elijah Conklin, appears to be certain as nothing had been heard from him. It was at first unknown what steamer it was, Mr. Lefurgy came to this city on Friday last, to make inquiries, when it was ascertained to have been the KNICKERBOCKER.” (end quote)
The KNICKERBOCKER continued on the New York – Rondout run until on March 6th, 1862 the vessel was chartered by the United States Quartermaster Corps. During the war the KNICKERBOCKER did service as a transport for the United States Sanitary Commission. In 1865 when sailing again in the Quartermaster Corps. She was caught in a storm off Smith Island near the mouth of the Potomac and was driven ashore and sank to her upper deck. Feb. 16th, a mysterious fire broke out and the vessel became a total loss.
STATISTICS: Smith Dimon, builders, NEW YORK. Wood hull, 858 tons. Length 291 feet; beam 31 feet; depth 9 feet six inches. West Point Foundry Company vertical beam engine having 65 inch cylinder with a 10 foot stroke. This engine came from the old DEWITT CLINTON and was completely rebuilt by Hogg Delamater. Paddlewheels were 27 feet in diameter. When rebuilt the KNICKERBOCKER’s beam was 34 feet six inches.
April 29, 1965
2 Little Sidewheelers: The Fanny and the Frank
The FRANK 1884 – 1881
The FANNY 1825 – 1844
The FRANK: The FRANK was built for James Allaire and operated on the New York – Red Bank run, under Captain J.B. Coffin, for several years and also as a market boat to Fort Washington.
In 1887 the FRANK appeared on the Hudson and after running on several lower Hudson routes she was acquired by the Catskill Steam Navigation Company. This little sidewheeler had the distinction of being the first steamboat to operate on the New York – Catskill run. She made semi – weekly trips between these termini carrying both freight and passengers. Although having no staterooms she could accommodate 100 passengers with berths in her cabins. Her berth at Catskill was the Steamboat Dock landing at the mouth of the creek below the old bridge.
The crew of the FRANK on the first run to Catskill was Captain John B. Coffin; pilots Ransom and Cornelius Fisher and Chief Engineer George Halcott. She remained on this Catskill run for many years not only carrying freight and passengers but frequently towing barges.
In 1881 the FRANK disappeared from documentation and it is assumed she was dismantled in that year.
STATISTICS: Lawrence Sneeden, builder, New York. Wood hull, 175 tons. Length 135 feet; beam 21 feet, depth 7 feet, 8 inches. James Allaire cross-head engine having 32 inch cylinder with 6 foot stroke.
The FANNY – This staunchly built little sidewheeler, the FANNY was constructed for Captain John Douglas and associates, of Connecticut and New York. The first enrollment was made at the New York Custom House April 27th 1825.
The FANNY’S first run was between New York and Norwich and for several years while on this run had the NEW LONDON as consort until that steamboat was sold to the Troy Steamboat Company for operation on the Hudson. FANNY operated on this route steadily for the next five years except for occasional excursions to Fisher’s Island and Block Island. On October 1830, during a heavy fog, the FANNY ran on Holmes Reef while passing through Hell Gate and sank. She was raised, reconditioned and, the following year sold to Elijah Peck of Oyster Bay, Long Island who placed her on the Boston – Nahant run. A short time later Curtis Peck and Charles Hoyt became the owners of FANNY and ran her on various routes along Long Island Sound.
The year 1835 found Isaac Newton and associates as owners at which time the steamboat made her appearance on the Hudson. Soon after this FANNY was purchased by David and Captain Jacob Tremper and was the first steamboat acquired by Captain Tremper and formed the nucleus of his fleet of steamboats. The Captain operated FANNY personally, placing her on the New York – Roundout – Marlboro and Milton run for several years. The latter two towns are small communities a few miles below Poughkeepsie, also on the west bank of the Hudson. The little sidewheeler did a flourishing business but after several years, due to age, was replaced by the EMERALD which, although built in 1826, still had a few more years of use in her.
FANNY’S last owner was Robert J. Vandewater, who sailed the vessel South and enrolled her in Apalachiola, Florida, giving as commander, Captain Hezekiah Nash. The final document was surrendered January 5th, 1844, with the simple epitaph “burned with fire.”
STATISTICS: Lawrence Sneedhull. 126 tons. Length 104 feet; beam 18 feet, six inches; depth 7 feet. James Allaire cross-head engine. Paddlewheels 18 feet in diameter.
May 6, 1965
Rip Van Winkle: 1845-1872
RIP VAN WINKLE, built for the Schuyler Line, was christened upon launching by Mrs. George P. Schuyler, wife of the builder. Because of her trim lines, the vessel was also referred to as the “steam yacht”. Built for day line service between New York and Albany, the RIP VAN WINKLE was placed on the run in July in opposition to the Troy boats, NIAGARA and TROY. Her first commander was Captain Steven J. Roe.
August. 5, 1845 RIP VAN WINKLE had a speed trial with the TROY. Both vessels left NEW YORK at 7 o’clock in the morning. Both side wheelers ran practically side by side until they reached Caldwell’s Landing, 42 miles above New York, where the RIP took the lead. She arrived in Troy at 4:30 pm; the TROY coming in a full m10 minutes later, each vessel having made the usual landings enroute.
However, despite this test of her speed, she failed to meet the expectations of her owners and subsequently was taken from the route.
The RIP VAN WINKLE was then converted into a night boat and began competing with the famous BELLE and with boats of the old People’s Line. Running with the RIP at this time was the sidewheeler EXPRESS, there being a total of three night lines running to Albany. Near the end of the 1845 season, the People’s Line bought the RIP VAN WINKLE and the following season installed her on the Delaware River between Philadelphia and Cape May. However, in the fall of 1846 the RIP was returned to the New York – Albany run.
While the RIP had been on the Delaware, the BELLE had steamed the route free of all opposition and when she arrived in New York one fine morning to find the RIP VAN WINKLE berthed in the slip at Park Place, her captain, Samuel Schuyler, was understandably incensed. The Captain took quick action against this invasion and posted bills to the effect that he would carry passengers to Albany free of charge! The RIP was then prudently withdrawn from the line by her owners, leaving the BELLE to run unmolested for the balance of the season.
The following year old foxy Captain Schuyler purchased the RIP VAN WINKLE and ran her in opposition to her former owners until 1851 when he retired from the passenger business, sold the steamboat to Daniel Drew and concentrated on the towing business. During her tour of service with the Captain, the RIP saved many passengers from the steamboat EMPIRE when that vessel collided with the schooner NOAH BROWN in 1849, later towing the sinking steamboat to the beach near Fishkill.
Daniel Drew rebuilt the RIP VAN WINKLE in 1851 and the following year ran her to Albany. She was then sold to Jacob H. Tremper who placed her in service between Rondout and New York. A few years later the vessel was working out of New York as an excursion boat, returning to the Hudson in 1859 to run out of Coxsackie. During the ensuing years the old sidewheeler plied various routes on the Hudson and 1865 found her running in line with the C. Vanderbilt, under Captain O.T. Simmons. In 1867 she again was running out of New York as an excursion boat.
In 1870 the RIP VAN WINKLE ran to the fishing banks and the following year was purchased by Thomas Cornell of Rondout. She was then chartered to the Citizen’s Line of Troy in the spring of 1872, taking the place of the THOMAS POWELL. It was on this run that on April 16th , 1872 the RIP struck one of the abutments of the lower Railroad Bridge in Albany, carrying away her starboard wheel and shaft and also disabling her engine and damaging her hull. No lies were lost in the accident but she was later condemned and taken to Port Ewen to be laid up until the fall of 1879.
The old RIP was then towed to Rondout, her boilers and engine removed under the supervision of George Murdock, and the hull returned to Port Ewen to be broken up by Daniel Bigler in 1880. For many years the bell of the RIP VAN WINKLE could be seen hanging atop the Cornel Shops in Roundout.
STATISTICS: George Collier, builder, New York. Wood hull. 46 tons. Length 242 feet; beam 25 feet, six inches; depth 8 feet nine inches. W.A. Lighthall Patent Horizontal half-beam engine having a 54 inch cylinder with ten foot stroke. The two boilers were placed on the guards. Paddlewheelers were 28 feet diameter.
May 13, 1965
The Hudson River sidewheeler OREGON, the most magnificent steamboat afloat in 1846 it is said maintained a speed against a northwest gale and head on sea of 20 miles an hour. In calm weather she could average 25 miles an hour. On the main deck, the enclosed space from the ladies’ cabin forward formed a promenade 200 feet long. The massive engine in the center, and four large side parlors, fitted up with 10 or 12 berths each, opened out over the guards, as also a smokingroom, denominated the Exchange, and the wash room and barber shop – the latter fitted up with marble slab, Croton water, washbowls, etc.
In the main cabin a continuous line of berths extended over 300 feet from end to end of the boat numbering some 200. This included the after cabin, which was connected by an ample passageway with the forward one. Five hundred square yards or carpeting covered the floors in these cabins. Each berth was fitted with Mackinaw blankets and Marseilles quilts, having the name “Oregon” worked in them. A 30 pound mattress and also bolsters and pillows, with linen of the finest quality, completed the equipment of these berths. The curtains were of satin de laine of rich tints, with embroidered inner curtains.
A portion of the after cabin was set aside for ladies and distinguished by extra trimmings, blue and gold curtains etc. The dining saloon accommodated 250 persons. The table service was of the best French china every article marked with the name of the steamer; the glassware was heavy starcut. The silver plated ware was of Prince Albert pattern, very heavy and costly.
But the transition from this show room to the ladies’ upper cabin was as great as that of a common ferryboat cabin. There the magnificent fittings dazzled the eye. Nothing was lacking which could add to richness, splendor or luxury. There were seven tiers of berths and three staterooms upon each side, the cabin being 70 feet long. At the extreme end was the washroom, fitted with even more comfort than that for gentlemen, Each side of the entrance was full length mirrors that at first glance were often mistaken for doors opening into another cabin. The stateroom doors were of white enamel, richly gilt, with raised flowers upon gilt pillars. A large clock was placed over the door and stained glass around it.
The “state-room hall” on the upper deck was 220 feet long by 16 wide, except the space occupied by the engine in the center. Out of it opened 60 state rooms, furnished in sumptuous style; three were double ones and a fourth was fitted up as a “bridal-room” with good taste, and with a wide French bedstead.
Forward of the hall was a lounge, from which there was an unobstructed view ahead of the progress of the boat and passing scenery. Astern was a promenade deck. State-room hall and the main cabin were adorned with superb mirrors, set in rich frames. The cost of the furniture and fittings was $30,000, and of the boat alone, about $130,000. She was built under the superintendence of her commander Captain St. John, and her symmetry, the beauty of her model, and the arrangement of her engines, which gave her unrivaled speed, were the result of his long and practical experience.
The above elaborate description is quite typical of the reporter’s manner in which the larger steamboats were described upon their first appearance. This was taken from Preble’s “Steam Navigation” and no doubt appeared in the New York Post upon the Oregon’s maiden trip.
Originally built for George Law of the Stonington Line, OREGON first operated on the Hudson between New York and Albany as an opposition night boat. However, in October she was withdrawn and began her career on the New York – Stonington route, for which she was originally intended, having the KNICKERBOCKER as consort.
Considered one of the fastest boats on the Hudson, the OREGON was the subject of a number of races, most notable of which was that with Cornelius Vanderbilt’s new C. VANDERBILT.
This race occurred June 1st 1847 and will be described in detail in a future article.
OREGON was then purchased from George Law by Daniel Drew for the People’s Line and again placed on the New York – Albany run. The vessel remained on this and various Hudson River routes from 1848 until the abrupt ending of her career in 1863. As she became older newer and larger vessels appeared and OREGON plied less important runs. In 1859 the vessel under ownership of the New Jersey Steamboat Company, was operating between New York and Hudson, the way landings being Cozzen’s and Caldwell’s Landings. Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Milton, Rhinebeck, Barrytown, Red Hook, Malden, West Camp and Catskill.
On October 22, 1863, shortly after leaving her Harrison St. pier while northbound from New York the OREGON was rammed by the CITY OF BOSTON crushing her starboard side, and immediately began sinking. Fortunately, the little sidewheeler towboats PETER CRAREY and JOHN BIRKBECK were nearby and succeeded in removing passengers and crew, after which the CRARY edged the sinking vessel toward the wharf at Hoboken. However, a short distance from her goal the OREGON went down in about 30 feet of water. Damage was so great that the vessel was never recommissioned.
STATISTICS: Smith & Dimon builders, New York. Wood hull. 1004 tons. Length 330 feet. Stillman Allen & Company (Novelty Iron Works) vertical beam engine having 72 inch cylinder with 11 foot stroke. Boilers on the guards. Paddlewheels 34 feet in diameter with 11 foot face, turning at 18 rpm.
May 20, 1965
Of all the steamboat races on the Hudson undoubtedly the most famous was that between the OREGON and C. VANDERBILT. Both were large luxurious sidewheelers, evenly matched, and the race created intense interest as it was well “advertised” in advance.
George Law was owner of the OREGON and believed there was no steamboat that could equal her in speed, and was always spoiling for a race with a vessel comparable in size and speed. Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt for whom his boat was named, was equally certain that there was no steamboat that could approach his C. VANDERBILT in speed.
Vanderbilt had placed a notice in the paper stating: “I say I will run the C. VANDERBILT, untried as she is against any boat afloat to any place they name where there is sufficient water to float her, for any sum from $1,000 to $100,000. This challenge is open until Saturday next, when I propose trying my boat C. VANDERBILT.”
On June 1st, 1847, the race was held – from the Battery in New York City to Sing Sing (Ossinging) and return, for $1,000 a side. The OREGON was commanded by Captain Seth Thayer, while the C. VANDERBILT was in charge of her owner, Cornelius Vanderbilt. A few minutes before 11 o’clock on the morning named, the VANDERBILT appeared off the Battery when the OREGON left her dock in the immediate vicinity and took her position on the port side of her opponent and at four minutes before eleven o’clock, everything being in readiness on board the contesting boats, the signal was given for the start and both vessels entered on the contest.
It was the first of the ebbtide, high water at New York being 10:16 am. The race was entered upon with so much spirit, and continued with such grim determination “to do or die”, traits that the owners were both noted for, that the vessels were almost bow to bow for about 30 miles, neither gaining any material advantage. At this point the VANDERBILT gained on the OREGON, the former making 21 revolutions of her engine per minute, and the latter making 19 1/2 revolutions.
The OREGON, realizing that a critical period in the contest had arrived, had the power of her engine increased to 21 revolutions, when she gained on the VANDERBILT, and arrived at the stake boat opposite Sing Sing half a length ahead in 1 hour and 35 minutes from the Battery. When passing the VANDERBILT, the OREGON was run into by the former, and her starboard sidewheel was considerably damaged.
This is believed to have been caused mainly by the owner of the VANDERBILT interfering with the duties of the pilot in the manipulation of the engineer’s bells just prior to turning at the stake boat, and not from any malicious purpose to damage or hinder the OREGON. In turning the stake boat the engineer of the VANDERBILT made a mistake in answering the bell from the pilot house, and instead of reducing the speed of his engine so as to allow the vessel to turn to better advantage, he stopped the engine entirely, which slowed the vessel materially for a few minutes. The OREGON had a fair advantage on the beginning of the return, and maintained it throughout the remainder of the race, coming to the starting point about a quarter mile in advance of the VANDERBILT.
When below Yonkers her supply of coal was exhausted and to keep up the steam pressure necessary to hold her lead, the crew was forced to tear out the berths in her cabins, take settees, doors, chairs and everything readily accessible that was of a combustible nature, to keep up the boiler pressure. It is said that after the race the joiner work of her main deck looked as though a cyclone had struck it. Her pressure of steam was somewhat reduced during this period, but she was so far in advance of the VANDERBILT that the latter could not recover the lost ground. On the return both steamboats were pushed to the utmost. Each made about 22 rpm and carried all the steam they could obtain from the furnaces.
The distance from the Battery to the stake boat and return to the starting point was 66.75 miles, which includes the turning at the stake boat. The OREGON made the distance in three hours and 15 minutes, against the tide returning, being an average speed of 21.10 miles an hour. This average was exceptionally good, considering the distance ran.
May 27, 1965
The Berkshire, Nuhpa and the Metropolitan
The hulk of the once beautiful BERKSHIRE was salvaged early in 1865 although the hull was the only remaining part of the vessel that was saved. This was rebuilt, the superstructure added, and a new propeller or screw engine, installed. This was built by J.R. and H.S. Baldwin of New Baltimore and many parts from the old beam engine were used. The vessel boat, was christened the NUHPA. Later the engine was again altered and placed athwartship connecting to a propellor.
Statistics on BERKSHIRE: Morton & Edwards, builders, Athens, NY. Wood hull, 649 tons. Length 263 feet; beam 37 feet, depth 10 feet. James Cunningham & Company built the vertical beam engine having a 54 inch cylinder with 11 foot stroke. Four return tube boilers built by Cobanks & Theall. Paddlewheels 30 feet diameter with 9 foot face. The engine was inherited from the SOUTH AMERICA and was completely rebuilt by W. & A. Fletcher and given the No. 40.
The NUPHA (Later the METROPOLITAN)
Rebuilt from the hull of the BERKSHIRE, the NUPHA was constructed for George H. Power of the city of Hudson for service on the Hudson – New York run. Named for an Indian Chief, the NUHPA was the largest propeller boat built for Hudson River service up to this time. She also bore the distinction of being the fastest vessel that ever made Hudson her home port.
The most hazardous event the NUHPA during her career on the Hudson occurred in the spring of 1873. She left Hudson April 7th, 7 pm with about 30 passengers aboard. She churned through the ice in safety though cruising at reduced speed. Then about 2am while all passengers were asleep in their berths the NUHPA came to dead stop just north of Rhinecliff, a little to the “eastward”. She had been halted by a huge ice field.
Breaking out she started ahead again but made little progress. The third time she struck the ice field it broke away from the shore, and the action of a strong ebb tide forced the heavy ice from the east shore against the NUHPA holding her as in a vice and partially crushing her starboard side just aft of midship.
At the time the vessel was afoul the ice her officers, in addition to Captain George H. Power, consisted of Captain Robert P. Tremain, Chief Engineer Nelson Briggs and George Perry. Due to their heroic and almost superhuman efforts, the NUHPA avoided a major tragedy and complete destruction. Captains Power and Tremain and both pilots were in the pilot house at the time. Captain Powers rushed to the saloon deck and ran the full length of the stateroom gallery to awake the sleeping passengers, who hurried from their staterooms scantily clad. Captain Power told them the boat was sinking and ushered them forward to where the crew were already lowering the life boats.
Meanwhile, Captain Power smashed in the locked staterooms and hastily prepared all the extra life preservers he could find and distributed them among the passengers. The boat on the starboard side was made ready and he ordered the women and children into the boats first. The stern of the NUHPA was gradually settling and it was possible she might give a sudden lurch and go down. The starboard boat was lowered safely, then the port boat followed with the remaining passengers and crew. True to tradition, Captain Power stood by until assured all were safely in the life boats, then he stepped in and ordered the boats head for shore.
All this occurred at nigh in the middle of the river and by the time the small boats were loaded and away, they are just abreast the state dock at Rhinecliff. After struggling through crushed ice they landed on the shore and walked down the railroad tracks to McElroy’s Hotel at Rhinecliff. Everything possible was done for their comfort; Charles Tremaine of Athens, a survivor of the accident, recalled that one man had only one pair of stockings and an overcoat. Some of the ladies had little else than their nightclothes and many had lost all their clothing. All were thoroughly soaked and benumbed by cold but thanks to the efforts of Captain Power and his gallant officers and crew not a life was lost!
The NUHPA did not sink, for the strong ebb tide drifted her to the north end of Esopus Island where she grounded and filled with water. A few weeks later she was floated and carried to New York. After the necessary repairs the NUHPA saw service for a time on her regular route until transferred to the excursion business making one round trip daily from New York City to Iona Island.
After this the NUHPA changed hands frequently. On August 28, 1875 she was sold to parties in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and in 1879 the name METROPOLITAN appeared on her name boards. The METROPOLITAN was sold in 1880 to the New London & Northern Railroad Company, which operated her in the line with the TILLIE and DORIS between New York and Groton. In 1896 the newer steamboats MOHAWK and MOHEGAN made their appearance causing the METROPOLITAN to be cast aside as a spare boat.
In 1896 the NUHPA, under the name METROPOLITAN, was sold to a concern in Massachusetts, who towed the 32 year old vessel to Boston where she was dismantled.
STATISTICS: J.R. & H.S. Baldwin, builders, New Baltimore, NY. Wood hull. 1295 tons. Length 253 feet; beam 37 feet; depth 10 feet. Fletcher & Harrison No. 40 vertical beam engine having 37 inch cylinder with 5 foot stroke. Four boilers, two forward and two aft of the engine room. When this vessel was rebuilt from the burned BERKSHIRE hull, the principle built and placed athwartship shaft.
BERKSHIRE – 1863 – 1864
The BERKSHIRE was built for Milton Martin and George Power of Hudson for operation between that city and New York. The largest vessel built to bear this name – a second BERKSHIRE was late built in 1907. The BERKSHIRE of this writing however, was destined for a very short career and that to end in tragedy. She was capable of steady speed of 18 miles an hour.
On the evening of June 8th, 1864, the BERKSHIRE left Hudson with 130 passengers aboard. A short distance north of Poughkeepsie at Krum Elbow a fire was discovered in her crankpit. The flames spread quickly and soon a cargo of baled hay burst into flame and cut off all those struggling in the water by burning or drowning. . This further endangered and increased the death toll of the vessel. The inferno spread so rapidly that the engineers were compelled to leave their posts and the paddlewheels continued to turn even after the boat had struck the shore. Fortunately the JAMES W. BALDWIN was in the vicinity and by means of its small boats was able to save many of the victims.
June 10, 1965
The Starin Fleet
Strictly speaking these old sidewheelers were not Hudson River steamboats - their area being around New York City as sight-seeing and excursion boats. However their domain did extend to the lower part of the Hudson and there are many people today who remember with pleasure trips made on these steamboats.
John Starin, founder of the fleet, was born in Sammonsville, (near Fonda) New York, in 1825, moving to New York City in 1856. Through hard efforts within a few years he became a factor in river and harbor transportation building up a fleet of commuting steamboats and a network of freight and passenger lines. Much if the Lackawanna Railroad’s lightering and towing was done by Starin, who also operated the JOHN TAYLOR and the ERASTUS CORNING as live stack boats on the Hudson, incidentally it was this JOHN TAYLOR that was destroyed in the White Elephant fire at Athens in 1876.
Johh Starin was the first to recognize the need of a clean a family pleasure resort and Glen Island, in Echo Bay near New Rochelle was chosen as a logical site. Through his efforts the Island was transformed into beautiful picnic grounds, a museum was built and many other attractions added. Although his busy fleet of lighters, barges and towboats were successful in every way, it was the excursion boats that were warmest to his heart. Although varying in numbers at different periods, the principle vessels, all sidewheelers, were ATLAS, AJAX, ADONIS, APOLLO, ALBION, AMPHION, AURORA, MYNDERT STARIN, LAURA STARIN, and GLEN ISLAND.
John Starin’s death occurred in 1909 and the following year the line was acquired by the McAllister Steamboat Company, also of New York City. The ARION, formerly MOUNT DESERT, was added and gradually the older boats were replaced by the GENERAL LINCOLN, WHAT CHEER and MERCHANT, which were but little better than the boats they succeeded. The line continued in operation despite the First World War and increasing number of automobiles and good highways, until 1916, when Glen Island ceased to exist as a resort. The STARIN house flag was a white star followed by the last two letters of his name, in a blue field – “STAR IN” – and next to the stars and stripes, was the most familiar flag seen in the harbor.
In many respects the careers of John Starin and Cornelius Vanderbilt were parallel. Both arose from humble beginnings to the top; both contributed greatly to the development of New York area; both amassed great fortunes and, like Vanderbilt, Starin possessed the ability to look ahead and make a correct forecast and grasp trade of the future, unseen by others.
June 17, 1965
The Sylvan Fleet
Like the Starin Fleet which appeared in last week’s the Sylvan Fleet also operated in and around New York Harbor with occasional trips up the Hudson.
This fleet consisted of five small sidewheelers, all trim, fast and efficient. They were, in order of acquisition: SYLVAN SHORE, SYLVAN STREAM, SYLVAN GROVE, SYLVAN GLEN, and SYLVAN DELL. These steamboats compared with today’s Rapid Transit System and served faithfully in such capacity until the advent of the steam elevated railroads.
Owned and operated by the Harlem and New York Navigation Company for many years, running on schedule from lower Manhattan to landing along the Harlem River from 125th Street and Mott Haven to High Bridge and Spuyten Duvil, they occasionally ran intermittently to Astoria on Long Island and to Shady Side, now Fort Lee, New Jersey. In all weather they adhered to their schedule and invariably made better time than could be made by the horse cart and stages of that period.
In the short space of six years the death knell of this fleet was sounded. In 1879 the Third Avenue steam elevated railroad was completed and by 1885 the system had extended to the furthest limits of Harlem. Travel by boat was so reduced that it was no longer profitable to continue operations and the boats were withdrawn from service and finally disposed of for other routes.
SYLVAN SHORE – 1856 – 1877
F. Boode, builder, Morrisiana, NY. Wood hull, 217 tons. Length 136 feet; beam 23 feet; depth 7 feet, six incles. Fletcher & Harrison vertical beam engine # 2, having 30 inch cylinder with 8 foot stroke. The SYLVAN SHORE was the pioneer of the fleet and when finally sold by the Harlem New York Navigation Company was taken south and ran on the Savanah River several seasons and then, in 1877, the vessel was dismantled and the engine placed in the new ferryboat ANNEX #1.
SYLVAN STREAM - 1863 – 1904
Thomas Collyer, builder, New York. Wood hull. 330 tons. Length 157 feet; beam 26 feet; depth 8 feet, Fletcher & Harrison #34 vertical beam engine having 40 inch cylinder with 8 feet stroke. Return tube boiler. Paddlewheels 25 feet in diameter. In 1879 when the fleet was dissolved the SYLVAN STREAM was acquired by interests who took the vessel north, rather than south as seems to be the usual course. In 1885 the SYLVAN STREAM was running between Clayton and Alexander Bay in the Thousand Island area of the St. Lawrence River. In 1893 she was renamed the EMPIRE STATE, and sailed under this name until her destruction by fire in 1904.
SYLVAN GROVE – 1858 – 1891
Thomas Collyer, builder, New York. Wood hull, 283 tons. Length 146 feet; beam 26 feet; depth 8 feet. Fletcher & Harrison #3vertical beam engine having 36 inch cylinder with 8 foot stroke. One Return tube boiler. Paddlewheelers 25 feet in diameter with 6 foot six inch face. Upon disbandment of the fleet in 1879 the SYLVAN GROVE was sold to the New Hanover Transit Company of Wilmington, No. Carolina, and ran on the Cape Fear River between Wilmington and Carolina Beach. She remained in these waters for many years until, on Jan. 19th, 1891, she was totally destroyed by fire while moored at her Wilmington wharf.
SYLVAN DELL – 1872 – 1919
Lawrence & Foulk, builders, Brooklyn. Wood hull. 440 tons. Length 185 feet; beam 27 feet; depth 8 feet, 9 inches. Fletcher & Harrison #34 vertical beam engine having 51 inch cylinder with 8 foot stroke. Paddlewheels 25 feet ten inches in diameter with 8 foot face. The SYLVAN DELL had an exceptional average speed of better than 19 miles an hour. SYLVAN DELL was the fifth and last vessel built for the fleet. Similar in outward appearance to her sisters, the steamboat was known affectionately by her many admirers as the “Queen of the harbor”, an appellation due largely to her unusual speed which was demonstrated on many occasions. Besides her regular route the DELL also made runs to Glen Island and up to Newburgh. Oct. 18, 1872, on a trial run, the vessel made the 150 miles between New York and Albany, without landings, in 7 hours and 43 minutes. After the fleet was dissolved in 1879 the DELL continued in operation in New York waters until 1886. In that year she was purchased by the Philadelphia & Gloucester Ferry Company and ran between these two Delaware River ports for a number of years and was finally dismantled in 1919.
June 24, 1965
Iron Steamboat Fleet
In the past two weeks we covered the Starin and the Sylvan Fleets. Now comes the Iron Steamboat Company fleet after which we continue with the strictly Hudson Rover sidewheelers.
The Iron Steamboat Fleet consisted of seven sidewheelers, New York City, with the Battery, Coney Island, and the Rockaways – with occasional excursions up the River.
The seven vessels were all named in honor of the Constellations and the Stars as: TAURUS, CYGNUS, CETUS, PERSEUS, SIRIUS, PEGASUS and CEPHUS. Rufus Hatch promotor of the slogan, “They Cannot Burn – They Cannot Sink.” This slogan was far more impressive in that era than it would be now, and was fully justified in the years that followed.
In its long history, the Iron Steamboat Company underwent several periods of rises and falls, although on the whole it proved a successful venture. The boats were well known to all New Yorkers and still live in the memories of many thousands of visitors to the metropolis.
The shipyard of William Cramp & Sons, Philadelphia, built the CETUS, PEGASUS, PERSEUS, and TAURUS, while CYGNUS, CEPHUS and SIRIUS were built by the Delaware River Iron Shipbuilding and Engine works of Chester, Pennsylvania. Fletcher & Harrison vertical beam engines powered all the vessels.
PEGASUS – 1881 – 19—
645 tons, length 211 feet, beam 32 feet, depth 10½ feet. Engine has 53” cylinder with 12 foot stroke. One return tube boiler. Later PEGASUS renamed AMERICA.
PERSEUS – 1881 – 19—
579 tons, length 211 feet, beam 32 feet, depth 10 feet 6 inches. Engine has 53 inch cylinder with 12 foot stroke. Two return tube boilers. Later PERSEUS was renamed COLUMBIA. PERSEUS was the smallest vessel of the Iron Steamboat Company’s fleet.
July 8, 1965
Fulton: 1909 – 1956
Postcards courtesy of Melissa Finch
Pride of the Hudson River Day Line, the ROBERT FULTON was the ninth vessel added to the line since it was established in the “fifties” by Commodore Alfred Van Santvoord. In order to honor the Hudson – Fulton Celebration in 1909 the vessel was completed in record time – two months and ten days after the keel was laid.
Launched March 20th, 1909, the maiden trip was made under command of Captain A.H. Harcourt and today, 56 years later, she still stands as the perfection of an American river steamboat combining the experience of over half a century of steamboat construction the vessel was practically fireproof and unsinkable. Steel, asbestos and other non – burning materials were used everywhere, even covering the sides and trim of her cabins; the steel hull was divided into five compartments. The main deck was used exclusively by it’s passengers; its entire length was practically enclosed; the after end containing a large dining room. Four sets of stairways lead from the main to the second deck. The Grand Saloon was in Italian Garden style, decorated in white, green and gold with carved pillars and broad balustrades with luxurious arrangements.
Palms, vines and cages with birds created an outdoor illusion. The original bell used on CLERMONT on her first memorable trip up the Hudson chimed forth from the diningroom on the FULTON. Passengers visiting the engine room learned that the vessel’s average speed was 20 miles an hour, which could be increased to 23 when the occasion required.
The ROBERT FULTON was built for service between New York and Albany and ran with the HENDRICK HUDSON as consort. In 1913 she was replaced by the WASHINGTON IRVING and transferred to the run making a round trip daily. She continued to run the Poughkeepsie route until replaced by the DEWITT CLINTON.
Culminating an epoch in steam FULTON continued to carry on the magnificent tradition of river steamers in honor of the men’s eyes shine with the fire of memory today as they recognize the tone of the MARY POWELL’S whistle which the ROBERT FULTON carries just in front of her smoke stacks.
After the season of 1954 the ROBERT FULTON was withdrawn from service and two years later, in 1956, the end of this fine old steamboat was announced. In this year she was sold to the National Container Company and towed to Jacksonville, Florida where her machinery was removed and her hull and superstructure renovated into a quarterboat. She was then towed to the Bahamas. As a barracks for lumber workers, the vessel had been elaborately fitted out, having a supermarket, restaurant, package store, television lounge, recreation center, school and church as well serving as an “apartment house”. There is but one cheerful note – the three tone whistle, formerly on the MARY POWELL, was retrieved by the Steamship Historical Society, and although it’s melodious tones can no longer be heard, it is now preserved.
The “Requiem of the Sidewheel” with the end of the ROBERT FULTON, for this vessel had the last Fletcher beam engine to turn a sidewheel anywhere in the world.
STATISTICS: New York Ship Building Company, Camden, New Jersey. Steel hull. 2,168 tons. Length 348 feet; beam 42 feet; depth of hull 11 feet 5 inches. W. & A. Fletcher o. 204, vertical beam engine having a 75 inch cylinder with a 12 foot stroke of 3,850 horsepower. This engine was rebuilt from engine No. 121 which came from the NEW YORK, burned the previous year, 1908, at Newburgh. Three lobster back boilers. Feathering type paddlewheels 30 feet, 8 inches in diameter with 12 foot, 6 inch face.
July 15, 1965
Hudson : 1906 - 1951
Postcards courtesy of Melissa Finch
Steamboat travel was approaching its Zenith at the turn of the century and the owners of the Hudson River Day Line found themselves hard put to accommodate the passenger traffic between New York and Albany, even after enlarging the palatial steamboats already plying the route. They consequently decided to construct a new vessel that would exceed anything afloat on inland waters. Years were spent in assembling plans and specifications; outstanding American and European steamers were studied in search of suitable improvements to incorporate in the new vessel and finally Frank E. Kirby, a leading marine architect, undertook to design and construct a steamboat of unprecedented magnificence.
Selecting a name for the vessel was equally involved and was finally decided by Eben Ersking Olcott, president of the Line. After rejecting a suggestion that it be named for himself, he decided on the name “Hendrick Hudson,” after the explorer of the river. The fact that he used the Dutch form instead of the man’s given name “Henry” touched off a controversy that lasted for years, but the Day Line felt that the Dutch-settled Hudson Valley would prefer “Hendrick” and the name stood.
The launching at Newburgh, NY, was a gala occasion and the HENDRICK HUDSON slid down the ways on March 31st 1906, amid a din of steam whistles and cannon fire. On August 18th, she made her first trial trip, turning up a speed of better than 23 mph, the fastest of any inland steamer in the country.
The HENDRICK HUDSON was all her owners had led the public to expect and more. Constructed at a cost of one million dollars, there was no other steamboat with which to compare her. Originally licensed for 5000 passengers (the largest licensed passenger capacity in the world) this figure was subsequently raised to 5500. Under the more stringent regulations of the late 1930s this was reduced to a still respectable 5250.
Constructed of steel throughout, the interior wood trim was of finely finished teak and mahogany. The spacious dining room was located on the main deck aft, numerous large windows permitting the diner to enjoy the scenery along the justly famous Day Line cuisine. The richly carpeted grand saloon was set about with palms and ferns and featured a series of murals depicting prominent Hudson River scenes. Situated forward and aft on the third deck were two large observation decks done in green stained cypress. No passenger service was overlooked – barber shop first aid room, private parlors, writing room and a photographic dark room were available to the river traveler. If none of these appealed to him, he could enjoy an orchestral concert or simply contemplate the landscape from the spacious decks.
The HENDRICK HUDSON covered the New York to Albany route in line with the NEW YORK until the latter vessel was destroyed by fire at Newburgh in 1908. Subsequent consorts were the ROBERT FULTON, WASHINGTON IRVING, and the ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
Following World War 1 the Day Line embarked upon a period of expansion. It initiated Sunday service for the first time on the Hudson, added more boats and developed new routes. Finally it opened it’s own private outing grounds known as Indian Point park. During the year 1925, the peak of operations, the line transported nearly two million passengers. But even then the automobile was beginning to overtake the steamboat and the years to follow were declining ones.
In 1933 the HENDRICK HUDSON was transferred to the New York-Poughkeepsie route. Although she still moved along at a lively gate her interiors were becoming shabby. But to the noisy excursionists she was just a means of transportation, they little cared that the vestiges of her former splendor signified a way of life that had all but disappeared.
World War II with its attendant travel restrictions brought back to the Line, now dwindled to four vessels, crowds reminiscent of those wondrous days of the 1920’s. Business was brisk and the old steamboats, taxed to the utmost, performed nobly but the condition was transitory and after the war was over it was apparent that the twilight of the Day Line was near. In 1946 the announcement of the decision to abandon the line was followed by chorus of nostalgic lament from the press and public alike but all seemed to recognize its inevitability.
In 1949 the boats of the Day Line were sold to new operators who called themselves the Hudson River Day Line Incorporated, and who intended to concentrate on excursion runs. The HENDRICK HUDSON proved too large and expensive to operate in the new venture and it was proposed that she be kept in reserve. She was never utilized and after a long lay up, she was towed from New York on June 4th, 1951 to Philadelphia and there dismantled.
STATISTICS: Thomas S. Marvel, builder, New burgh, New York. Steel hull, 2,847 tons. Length 400 feet; beam 45 feet, over guards 82 feet; depth 13 feet, 7 inches. W. and A. Fletcher - #195 inclined compound engine having 45 and 70 inch cylinders with 7 foot stroke, 6,200 horsepower. Six Scotch boilers. Feathering paddlewheels 24 feet in diameter with shafts of open hearth steel 22 inches in diameter.
July 22, 1965
Lighthouses in the River
In 1829 the first lighthouse was erected on the Hudson. For more than a century before this date the sloops were the main means of transportation for passengers and freight. The following list accurately dates these fixed lights from 1829 to 1887:
Stuyvesant Light, 1829
Coxsackie Light, 1830
Four Mile Point Light, 1831
Stony Point Light, 1836
Saugerties Light, 1836
Esopus Light, 1839
Priming Hook Light, 1851
West Point Light, 1853
New Baltimore Light, 1854
Cow Island Light, 1854
Van Wies Point Light, 1854
Five Hook Island Light, 1854
Coeymans Bar Light, 1857
Five Mile Tree Light, 1869
Cross Over Light, 1870
Hudson City Light, 1874
West Flats Lights, 1874
Rondout Creek Light, 1880
Percy Reach Light, 1883
Bear Island Light, 1889
Practically all of these lighthouses have now disappeared and live only in the memories of a few of the older rivermen.
Here are some of the more tragic accidents on the Hudson:
The SULTANA – April 27th, 1865, on the Mississippi – 1,547 lives lost.
The GENERAL SLOCUM – June 14th, 1904, East River – 1,021 lives lost.
The EASTLAND – July 24th, 1915, Chicago River – 812 lives lost.
Sketches of steamboat names:
ALIDA: named in honor of the wife John McCullough, an honored leading merchant of New York City.
FRANCIS SKIDDY: Named for Francis Skiddy, close friend of John McCullough, and who married Sarah Louisa St. John, of Norwalk, Conn.
DEAN RICHMOND: Named in honor of Dean Richmond, of Buffalo, a President of the New York Central Railroad.
MILTON MARTIN: Named in honor of Milton Martin of Claverack and a leading merchant of the City of Hudson.
ISAAC NEWTON: Named by Isaac Newton, Director of Peoples Line, in honor of his father, who was First Engineer of the U.S. Navy and Chief Engineer of the USS Monitor action, and later Chief Engineer of New York City.
L. BOARDMAN: Named for father Boardman, a Britannia spoon maker, East Haddam, Connecticut.
GEORGE BIRKBECK: An early New York City builder and designer of marine engines and boilers. In 1850 he built a small iron sidewheeler which was dismantled, the parts numbered over 350 pounds in weight for operation on Lake Titicaca, Peru. The last link of the trip was made by muleback, from Lima to the Lake.
JOHN BIRKBECK: Brother and partner to George, above.
DANIEL DREW and DREW: One of the founders of the Peoples Line, a Wall Street operator and founder of the Drew Ladies Seminary and the Drew Theological Seminary at Madison, New Jersey. A conniving, double-crossing hypocrit. Phony as a three dollar bill, though proved conclusively that crime does pay, at least financially.
MARY POWELL: Named for Mary Ludlow Powell, of Newburgh, widow of Thomas Powell, for whom another large sidewheeler was named.
JONAS C. HEART: Named for a trustee of the Troy & New York Steamboat Association; also a director of the earlier North River Line.
WILLIAM C. REDFIELD: Of Cromwell, Connecticut. Originator of the Safety Barge and founder of the old Swiftsure Line, a large towing business on the Hudson.
THOMAS POWELL: Director of the New York & Erie Railroad and later its president. Founder of D. & H. Railroad in 1836.
HOMER RAMSDELL: Director and later President of the Erie Railroad.
ROBERT L. STEVENS: Early and famous steamboat builder and operator. He made many improvements in both steamboats and their engines.
C. VANDERBILT: Cornelius Vanderbilt, who began his career as a ferryman with a “pirogue” (oar propelled) ferry between New York and Staten Island and later hit :big time”.
JAMES KENT: American jurist born in Putnam County, New York. He was Chief Justice in 1814 and in 1814 became Chancellor of NY State. He was also the first professor of law at Columbia College.
CHANCELLOR LIVINGSTON: Robert H. Livingston. Jurist and Statesman. New York Congressman in 1775; one of the five members charged with the drawing up of the Declaration of Independence, Chancellor of New York until 1801. Fulton’s angel. Died in 1813, three years before Fulton.
CHIEF JUSTICE MARSHALL: John Marshall, American Statesman, Chief Justice of the United States – born in Virginia. This is the man who rendered the decision breaking the Fulton – Livingston monopoly.
GENERAL MCDONALD: Charles McDonald. American Civil Engineer, a General in the Civil War, captured at Gettysburg, later released. Built many bridges, including the long Poughkeepsie Railroad bridge.
GENERAL SEDGEWICK: Born Cornwall, Connecticut. American soldier in the Seminole and Mexican wars; killed by a Confederate skirmisher in the Civil War battle of Spotsylvania Court House.
GENERAL SLOCUM: Henry Warner Slocum. An American born at Delhi, New York. Long and honorable Civil War record: Elected to Congress in 1868.
GENERAL JACKSON: Andrew Jackson. American soldier and lawyer. War hero. Supreme Court judge in 1798; first Governor of Florida; elected President of United States in 1828. Reelected to second term which expired in 1837 when he retired to private life at his Hermitage estate, Nashville.
JENNY LIND: Madame Golschmidt, the Swedish “Nightingale”. Under Barnum’s sponsorship she toured the United States in 1850 – 1852 with great success.
ERASTUS CORNING: American capitalist, born in Connecticut. Settled in Albany in 1814. President of New York Central Railroad for 12 years. State Senator 1842-1845 and served several terms as congressman.
HENRY CLAY: American Statesman (1777-1852) born in Virginia. By a peculiar coincidence Henry Clay died the day following the burning of the steamboat named in his honor.
This is by mo means a complete listing of the men after whom Hudson River Steamboats were named – just a beginning, which I hope to add to in the near future.
July 29, 1965
Connecticut : 1848 – 1890
The steamboat CONNECTICUT was built for Captain Curtis Peck at New York and was placed in service between New York and New Haven in the year 1848. The sidewheeler was shortly thereafter withdrawn and placed on the Stonington route where she remained for but a short period when returned to the New York – New Haven run on which route she served until 1849. In the season of 1850 the CONNECTICUT was running on the Connecticut River, operated by the Hartford Line and was the first vessel of over one thousand tons to appear on the Connecticut River.
The CONNECTICUT was then sold and placed in service between Norwich and New York where she remained until taken over by the Federal Government for Civil War use. The steamboat was used as a troop transport on the James River and the end of the war was returned to New York.
In 1866 the CONNECTICUT refurbished, and under command of Captain C.D. Hancox, was operating between Troy and New York City as a night boat. As consort she had the RIP VAN WINKLE and HERO. The following year the C. VANDERBILT was acquired by the Troy Line and, with the CONNECTICUT carried both passengers and freight until 1872. That year also marked the organization of the Citizen’s Line of Troy, with Joseph Cornell as president.
By the spring of 1873 this company had formed an opposition line – the success of the venture being evidenced by the fact that in July of the same year the CONNECTICUT, under Captain A. Siminsky, and the C. VANDERBILT under Captain L.D. Deming, were withdrawn and laid up. While on this route the CONNECTICUT had distinguished herself by setting a record of being the only steamboat to make one or more trips between Troy and New York in each month of a single year. She was also during these years the first steamboat sent out each year to break a new channel in the ice.
A short time later the sidewheeler was acquired by Sam Schuyler of Albany who, together with Thomas Schuyler, converted the CONNECTICUT into a towboat, removing most the superstructure. She was then placed in service between New York and Albany and was the largest and most powerful towboat on the river. In 1876, while under the command of Captain Harvey Temple, the CONNECTICUT set another record by towing 108 canal boats and barges from New York to Albany. To laud this occasion she had a broom lashed to her flagstaff, indicating the river had been swept clean.
In June of 1879, while on the way to New York with a large tow opposite Livingston Creek (near Peekskill) the old steamboat broke strap of her walking beam, wrecking the major portion of her engine. After repairs had been completed, she continued to run without incident until the summer of 1890.
At the period in her career while steaming opposite Coxsaackie, she blew a boiler, killing a fireman. It was also a mortal blow to the old sidewheeler too and after 52 years of service, the CONNECTICUT was sold to F.H. Gregory and taken to Perth Amboy and there broken up.STATISTICS: Lawrence and Sneeden, builders, N.Y. Wood hull, 1,129 tons. Length 300 feet; beam 371 feet; depth 101 feet. F.F. Secor & Co. vertical beam engine having a 72 inch cylinder with a 12 foot stroke. Paddlewheels 35 feet in diameter with 11 foot six inch face, turning at 21 4/m. Boilers placed on the guards.
August 5, 1965
The ALIDA, built for Day Line service, was launched January 9th, and began regular service on the New York – Albany run April 16th, under command of Captain S.O. Tupper. With the exception of a few seasons when she operated on the New York – Rondout run, making round trips daily, she remained on the New York – Albany run for many years.
In November, 1855 ALIDA was purchased by Commodore Alfred Van Santvoord who ran her with the ARMENIA as consort, the ALIDA was the Commodore’s first venture in the passenger boat business, his previous interests having been in freight and towing. A few years later, in 1860, he launched the DANIEL DREW and then placed the ALIDA on the New York – Poughkeepsie run making the round trip daily. Because of his success with these three boats – ALIDA, ARMENIA and DANIEL DREW – he founded an association of river men and laid the beginning of the Albany – Day Line, later known as the Hudson River Day Line.
Later in her career the ALIDA was rebuilt and altered into a night boat. While on the New York – Kingston run in 1852, ALIDA made the trip on June 24th of that year, which, according to published accounts, showed “unequaled speed.” She ran from her pier, at the foot of Robinson Street, New York, to Caldwell’s Landing, 45 miles, West Point, 53 miles, in two hours and 10 minutes, and her running time to Poughkeepsie, 75 miles, deducting for Cornwell and Cold Spring landings was said to be the “best time ever made by any boat on the Hudson.”
Racing occurred frequently between the ALIDA and the HENDRIK HUDSON of the People’s Line. In such a race in 1848 the ALIDA beat the HENDRIK HUDSON by 15 minutes in covering the 156 miles in 8 hours and 18 minutes. Both boats averaged better than 20 miles an hour. In 1849 she made this same run in 7 hours and 45 minutes making 12 landings.
During these years the popularity of the ALIDA was so great that the composer Munck, leader of the famous Munck’s Band in New York, composed a waltz in honor of the steamboat – “The ALIDA WALTZ”, which was the rage for a number of years. The ALIDA was also much in the press in 1860. In June of that year she was the official boat of the reception committee which entertained the High Commissioners of the Tycoon of Japan making a good will tour of the homeland of Commodore Perry, who six years earlier, had first opened trade with that nation.
In time the ALIDA, like so many of the older river boats, was cut down and altered into a tow boat. In 1869 she was sold to the Robinson, Betts & Leonard Towing Company of Troy and ran between Troy and New York until 1874 when the firm dissolved. The ALIDA, along with the WASHINGTON, was then sold to Thomas Cornell of Rondout. Unfortunately the ALIDA made only one trip for the Cornell Line – in December of that year. Then due to the sinking of the SUNNYSIDE at West Point, plans were made to use the ALIDA’s engine in a new boat. She was towed to New York by the old NORWICH but after due examination, her engine was not considered powerful enough for the proposed new boat, and she was towed back to Rondout and laid up indefinitely. Some authorities state that she was dismantled by Daniel Bigelow at Port Ewen in 1880, but the Lytle List gives the date as 1885.
STATISTICS: William H. Brown, builder, New York hull. 680 tons. Length 265 feet; beam 28 feet six inches; depth 9 feet six inches. Henry R. Dunham vertical beam engine having 56 inch cylinder with 12 foot stroke. Two iron boilers on the guards. Paddlewheels 32 feet eight inches diameter with 9 foot six inch face, turning 23 rpm. Shortly after launching a new bow was added making the vessel 276 feet overall.
August 12, 1965
The Wilson G. Hunt 1849 –1890
Unlike most sidewheelers of this series, the WILSON G. HUNT’s only claim to the Hudson River is the fact that she was built in New York City and the first few months of her career were spent on the Coney Island run with a few excursions on the lower Hudson.
This vessel was one of the number of sidewheelers that was sold and fitted out for the long voyage to California and the Gold Rush Days. At this period sail and steam vessels of all kinds were brought into service for passenger and freight transportation to the Pacific Ocean and these light built sidewheelers entered the list.
The WILSON G. HUNT had her main deck cabins reinforced and extended from bow to stern to give a higher freeboard for the ocean voyage, otherwise few changes were made for this 15,000 mile voyage fraught with danger from the heavy weather to be encountered around Cape Hatteras, the West Indies and the Cape of Good Horn.
The HUNT left New York March 3rd, 1850 under command of Captain G.W. Spall and on March 9th encountered a gale and narrowly escaped foundering, losing her foremast and her entire upper works being almost wholly wrecked by the storm. Put into St. George, Bermuda Islands for repairs and then proceeded on her voyage. During the storm the Captain, believing she was sinking, got out a boat, put in provisions, a box containing$10,000 and the ship’s papers, all of which was lost. Continuing cautiously she was obliged to put into several other ports for repairs done by the storm, but finally arrived at Montevideo, where due to the loss of her papers and desertion of her crew, she was delayed for over three months. The voyage, New York to San Francisco, took 322 days.
In accomplishing his long and dangerous voyage the WILSON G. HUNT became a member of an exclusive few steamboats that ever made this trip. Others were the NEW WORLD, GOLIAH, GENERAL WARREN, ANTELOPE and SENECA. Less lucky were the NEW YORK and the RHODE ISLAND, both of which were lost without trace.
Realize, this old sidewheeler was no larger than the JACOB H. TREMPER which many of us remember and was similar in appearance also.
Shortly after arriving at San Francisco she was placed on the Sacramento River, remaining on that route until August 1858, when she went to Victoria, British Columbia. But on the Frisco-Sacramento run she had already made a fortune for her owners, operating on Puget Sound, but 1860 found her back in the States again running on the Columbia River, out of Portland, and under the ownership of the Oregon Navigation Company. In 1865 she was rebuilt in Portland and a heavier engine installed. In 1869 she was returned to the Puget Sound run and a short time later found her in San Francisco when she was purchased “at a bargain” by Captain John Irving who brought her back to Victoria for the fourth time, and registered her under the British Flag. She was then placed on the Victoria – New Westminster run. After several more changes of ownership she sank at her dock, was raised and then in 1890, dismantled by Cohn & Company of San Francisco. Some authorities state that the HUNT burned; this may be so, and later the salvageable material and machinery recovered by Cohn.
Thus ended the career WILSON G. HUNT. (Through her entire career the Hunt name was never changed. These old sidewheelers were built and their feats made the voyage of Columbus no more risky than a passage on a modern ocean liner.
STATISTICS: Wood hull vessel built in New York. 468 tons. Length 185 feet six inches; beam 25 feet six inches; depth of hull 6 feet nine inches. Steeple type engine having a 36 inch cylinder with 9 foot stroke.
August 19, 1965
The Splendid: 1832 -1856
This early sidewheeler was built for passenger and freight service between New York and New Haven and remained on this run for four years until, in 1836, she was replaced by the larger steamboat NEW YORK. (not to be confused with either of the Hudson River NEW YORKS). As consort on this run SPLENDID had SUPERIOR.
At the time of launching SPLENDID was described in local papers as being a vessel having “spacious accommodations and elegant furnishings.” She was further described as having staterooms on the upper or hurricane deck. Note the squarish cabin on the accompanying picture. (picture not supplied) She had a low forward decks, a wide ship’s type stern and exceptionally high paddleboxes. Her stern, according to the picture was also of the “fantail” type, unusual for this early period.
Records of the SPLENDID’s career are rather sketchy. She was next reported to be running in the interests of Walter Millard and other persons out of Portland, Maine. In 1844 she was again in operation on the Hudson River and, for the following ten years plied the Hudson as passenger and freight carrier from Harrison Street Pier in New York City to Newburgh and Marlboro.
While on this route, in either the fall of 1851 or spring of 1852 the SPLENDID was rammed by the sloop GLOBE, and sank just north of the West Point dock. The salvaging of the vessel is an interesting episode, being accomplished by means of a new derrick designed by a man who had ideas. This improbable looking equipment is pictured below and it is said it was used successfully not alone in salvaging the SPLENDID, but also in picking up, bodily, a number of other vessels that had been sunk in shallow water.
After raising by the Bishop Derrick and repaired, the SPLENDID returned to service on the New York – Hamburgh – Marlboro route where she remained until 1854.
In this year, under ownership of Scott, she was placed on the New York – Rondout line, which included numerous landings between these cities. While on this route she was commanded by Guernsey Betts, who in later years, was pilot on the famous MARY POWELL.
While lying at her wharf in Hoboken, New Jersey, a mysterious fire destroyed the thirty year old vessel. This occurred during the winter of 1856 and she was never rebuilt. Thus ended the splendid career of the SPLENDID.
STATISTICS: built by Smith, Simon, & Comstock, NY. Wood hull, 297 tons, length 172 feet, beam 22 feet, depth eight feet. James P. Appaire vertical beam engine having 37 inch cylinder with seven foot stroke. Two boilers located on the guards.
August 26, 1965
Daniel Drew: 1860 – 1885
Picture of the Daniel Drew from the New York State Library at Albany, William Elmendorf Collection
Very rarely in Hudson River steamboating were there two vessels carrying the same man’s name contemporarily and while the man was still living. But such was the case of the DREW and the DANIEL DREW, two large sidewheelers on the New York – Albany run. Named “in honor” of Daniel Drew, a hatchet-faced cattle drover from New England, whose custom was “to slice off the bowed heads of both friends and adversaries” while cackling Biblical passages in a high voice. It was this Drew together with Jay Gould and Jim Fiske who attempted to corner the gold market which resulted in the infamous Black Friday, September 24th, 1869. The exploits of these three con men (and others) are vividly narrated in Ralph Nading Hill’s book “SIDEWHEELER SAGA”.
The sidewheeler DREW described earlier in this series should not be confused with the present article which deals with the DANIEL DREW, built in 1860 and which made her maiden trip up the Hudson on June 5th, 1860. Quickly proving herself a fast boat, she made the run in 6 hours and 31 minutes including nine landings, in October, 1860. She was narrow for her length, as the statistics show, and this contributed to her speed, but also made her a cranky vessel to handle, resulting in the decision two years later, to rebuild and increase her beam.
Even so, the DANIEL DREW was fast and had many brushes of speed with the ALIDA which caused the owners of the DANIEL DREW to challenge CHAUNCEY VIBBARD plied the ALIDA, a Van Santvoord owned boat, at the time, to a race from New York to Albany. However, the ALIDA was then getting along in years and Commodore Van Santvoord, perhaps wisely, ignored the challenge.
DANIEL DREW and the Hudson many years on regular schedule. July 2nd, 1880, the new iron hull ALBANY was placed in service and the DANIEL DREW was used as a spare boat. On a visit to the United States in 1860 the Prince of Wales and his royal party chartered the DANIEL DREW. Leaving West Point where they were visiting, on October 16th, the sidewheeler conveyed them to Albany.
A few momentos of the DANIEL DREW……..ished existence, zone of the more interesting of these is a bible, “last presented to Harrison Person in Philadelphia in 1893 by Captain Charles Brown of the CHAUNCEY VIBBARD. This bible is still in the possession of the Person family in Athens and appearing in gold on the front of the cover is the name:
“Steamboat Daniel Drew”
On the inside stating: “Presented to the steamer DANIEL DREW by the New York Bible Society, New York, June 22nd, 1876. This bible is placed on board for the use of the ship’s company and passengers, and should be allowed to remain as a permanent part of the furniture.” (The writer would appreciate any information as to the present location of this Bible). Another relic still in existence is a beautiful bronze figure of a horse, which stood atop the pilot house. It was salvaged from the steamboat and is enclosed in a metal fence facing the old Schumann Hotel in Eddyville. Painted white it serves to identify the old hotel, now appropriately known as the “White Horse Inn.”
While moored at Kingston Point on the Sunday afternoon of August 2nd, 1885, sparks from the engine house of the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company, set the old sidewheeler afire. The DANIEL DREW became a total loss. The event was immortalized by Currier & Ives with their colored lithograph depicting the burning of the steamboat at Kingston Point, August 2nd, 1885.
September 2, 1965
Gen. McDonald: 1852 – 1905
Built for service in southern waters, the GENERAL MCDONALD was launched on Cheasapeake Bay and for a short while sailed between Baltimore and Frenchtown as a passenger boat. In May 1852 she arrived in Philadelphia to enter into regular passenger service between Philadelphia and Cape May, in line with the famous THOMAS POWELL. The two steamboats ran together on this route for the next four years, and then were brought to New York.
The GENERAL MCDONALD then operated for a brief period in the New York area before being sold in April of 1855. At this period in her career she carried boilers in her guards or sponsons, and was not considered a vessel of much speed.
Jerry Austin, of Albany, owner of a fleet of towboats, purchased the MCDONALD and had the sidewheeler converted into a tow boat. He placed the tow boat in service between Albany and New York, towing in line with the ALBANY (the first ALBANY built in 1827). Later the MCDONALD was in service with the towboats SYRACUSE and OHIO.
After some years of service with the AUSTIN LINE the GENERAL MCDONALD was again rebuilt. The boilers were removed from the guards and one large boiler placed in the hold with a single stack resulting in considerable change in the old sidewheelers appearance.
The vessel was then returned to Albany towing with the rest of the fleet until the Austin Line was abandoned in the fall of 1876. Several of the vessels of the line were then acquired by Thomas Cornell of Rondout, in the winter of 1877. This acquisition included the GENERAL MCDONALD.
The MCDONALD then took her place with the Cornell Fleet, sailing out of Rondout Creek to New York, hauling scows, barges and canal boats. During the latter part of the century MCDONALD again underwent alteration and had two new boilers placed in the hold and two smokestacks placed athwartships, replacing the former lone stack.
Shortly after the turn of the century the old steamboat was appraised to be of little further use and on September 5th, 1905, was sold to J.H. Gregory of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, who dismantled the old sidewheeler.
September 9, 1965
1903 – 1935
Fort Orange: 1922 – 1935
The first steamboat built for the People’s Line with a steel hull, the C.W. MORSE was one of the most luxurious steamers ever to play the Hudson. Built to run in line with the magnificent ADIRONDACK, the vessel made her trial trip May 7th 1904. I t was apparent to the most discerning that the People’s Line had omitted nothing either in construction or equipment which made for the safety of her passengers. Flags of every nation flew from her midship flagstaffs in her bid for the good will of the many races of the New York area.
The vessel was four decks high, the floor of the pilot house being 40 feet above the water. The MORSE was licensed to carry 2,000 passengers and had 450 staterooms furnished in varying degrees of elegance, exclusive of those used by officers.
River travelers boarding the sidewheeler first encountered the magnificently proportioned and richly furnished reception hall. A beautiful mahogany staircase led up to the Grand Saloon, with it’s high domed ceiling of white and gold arching to a height of nearly thirty feet. The saloon was surrounded with double tiered galleries and adorned with exquisite mural decorations.
Aft on the main deck was a stately appointed dining room paneled in richly carved mahogany. This regal apartment with its large closely set windows, would comfortably seat 300 persons. In addition there were two handsomely furnished private dining rooms, repeating the motif of beautifully carved panels and the white and gold ceiling, all illuminated by 250 electric bulbs in bronze fixtures.
Among the elegant passenger accommodations were a number of deluxe cabins whose walls were hung in silk in pleasing pinks, blues and greens under ceilings done in ivory and gold. These richly furnished staterooms featured double brass bedsteads as well as private baths. The arrangement was such that the cabins could be taken separately or as a suite with a parlor.
The decks of the MORSE were of unusual width and height, permitting an unobstructed view and a promenade completely around the steamer. Aft on the upper deck was a large palm garden with a café adjoining it.
The vessel was equipped with electric fire alarms, automatic whistles, watchmen’s clocks, telephones for special use and passenger elevators. Two complete and separate systems of steering gear were used – steam driven and an auxilliary hand system. After dark an officer would play the great 36 inch searchlight along the shoreline to the amazement of the passengers who marveled at this spectacle of a river band being sharply illuminated. Many of the homes along the river were pointed out and families of the crew members would acknowledge the beam by waving. I well remember how quartermaster Raymond Craw would sweep the beam across my place in the Lower Landing of Coxsackie. Ray is still among us here in Coxsackie, though now retired.
This truly floating palace of the People’s Line regularly steamed the Albany – New York run until the fall of 1917. At that time the vessel was acquired by the Government and taken to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and there used to house Navy recruits. At the end of World War I the steamer was returned to the people’s Line and resumed its place on the Albany – New York run.
In 1922 the involved finances of Charles Wyman Morse, for whom the vessel had been named, and which sent him to the Federal Penitentiary, eventually dragged the Company into receivership and in July of that year (1922) the receivers changed the name of the sidewheeler to FORT ORANGE. Thereafter the vessel continued in regular service until 1927 when laid up at Athens and used only occasionally as a spare boat. By 1935 the MORSE had been gradually stripped of most of her furnishings for use on other boats and was taken to New Haven, Connecticut, where she was partially dismantled. The hull was then towed to Bridgeport and installed at the entrance of the harbor as a breakwater, ending the career of another Old Timer.
STATISTICS: Hatlan & Hollingsworth, builders, Wilmington, Delaware. Steel hull. 4,307 tons. Length 427 feet; beam 50 feet; over guards 90 feet; depth 14 feet; draft 8 feet 6 inches. W. &. A. Fletcher, #187, vertical beam engine having an 81 inch cylinder with a 12 foot stroke. 4,500 horsepower. Feathering paddlewheels 30 feet in diameter.
September 16, 1965
William Redfield: 1865 - 1910
Although not a sidewheeler, at the time of her appearance the WILLIAM C. REDFIELD was considered one of the most modern freight boats on the Hudson River. She carried one stack and had four large openings on each side of her housing for loading freight and also boasted a small saloon for passengers on the second deck. The vessel was named for a man who made historic contributions to steamboat navigation, William C. Redfield of Cromwell, Connecticut. At a time when frequent boiler explosions were creating a fear of steamboats, Mr. Redfield devised Safety Barges, built in the manner of steamboats, but without power and towed by a steam boat. These lavishly furnished barges were popular from 1825 to around 1830 when their favor diminished, due to lack speed, and to fewer boiler disasters which eventually restored the publics confidence in steamboats. Mr. Redfield, who was superintendent of the Swiftsure Towing Line, also suggested the system of towing lets of canal boats, rather than having one of two canal boats on either side of the towboat. Quite often he would have towboats towing as many as 40 or fifty canal boats and barges.
The REDFIELD was constructed for Commodore Alfred Van Santvoord for service between New York and Albany. After serving on this route five years she was sold to new owners who placed her in service between Stuyvesant, Coxsackie and New York as a freight and passenger carrier. Running in line with the THOMAS MCMANUS these two large propeller vessels were a familiar site on this route for many years. Eventually the Catskill Evening Line acquired title to the REDFIELD and MCMANUS, and the two steamers continued to run in line until August 27th, 1902, when the MCMANUS burned at her pier in New York.
Finally the REDFIELD was returned to the route for which she was originally built and in later years was used only as a freight carrier.
The REDFIELD was destined for a fate similar to that of her old running mate, the MCMANUS. On June 20th, 1910, as the REDFIELD was being tied up at her Athens dock, a fire was discovered in her hold. In flames, she was towed to the Middleground, a sandbar between Athens and Hudson, where she burned to the waters edge and became a total loss.
STATISTICS: Lewis Minnersley, builder, East Albany, NY. Wood hull, 370 tons. Length 182 feet; beam 33 feet; depth 10 feet. Fletcher & Harrison No. 49, single cylinder engine having a 36 inch cylinder with 34 inch stroke.
September 23, 1965
Odell: 1911 – 1937
Homer Ramsdell: 1877 – 19—
The BENJAMIN B. ODELL was built for the Central Hudson Steamboat Company and made her maiden trip April 10th, 1911. Built as a passenger and freight carrier for the Rondout – New York run, the vessel’s license as a day boat called for a capacity of 3,050 passengers but as a night boat this was limited to 2,593. Having a speed of 20 knots, the ODELL was one of the finest vessels of its kind ever constructed, and was also an excellent ice-breaker. Captain F.L. Simpson, who had served on the smaller WILLIAM F. ROMER for eight years, was the ODELL’S commander.
The ODELL had 63 well-appointed and comfortably furnished outside cabins, each having two windows, and containing a total of 126 berths, plus inside cabins or staterooms. The passenger entered the steamer by a quarter deck gangway, the main deck being used for freight; the third deck had a dining room seating 100 people and the Grand Saloon reached by a broad stairway was two decks in height with rows of staterooms opening onto galleries on either side. All gave evidence of luxurious appointments in both saloon and staterooms. The fourth or hurricane deck, was given over to an observation room, and the large well equipped pilot house. Directly aft of this pilot house, was the “Texas” with Captains and First Officers quarters.
The BENJAMIN B. ODELL steamed the Hudson continuously for 26 years until a mysterious fire destroyed her on Friday, February 26th 1937, as she lay in winter quarters at the Rosoff Dock at Marlboro.
The HOMER RAMSDELL similar in many ways to the ODELL was owned by the Homer Ramsdell Transportation Company. As consort she had the steamer NEWBURGH, both vessels being on the Newburgh – New York route.
Launched February 4th, 1887, this large fast propeller steamer of most modern design had been completed at a cost of $115,000. Rated at 16 mph a trip recorded July 28th, 1889 from New York to Newburgh was a good indication of the vessel’s speed as she completed the 57 mile run in three hours and seven minutes.
The two vessels plied the route until 1889 when a new company was formed under the name of Central Hudson Steamboat Company. Sunday May 21, 1911, after 24 years of service, the HOMER RAMSDELL burned to the water’s edge at her Newburgh dock. The fire was caused by an explosion of an oil lamp and four of the crew were on board when the fire started. Three escaped to the deck but a deck hand, Michael Boyle, remained behind in an attempt to start the fire pumps. Believing his escape was cut off by the flames, Boyle leaped overboard and was drowned.
The loss of the steamer was estimated at considerably above her original cost. The hull was later rebuilt, part of the wood for the joiner work coming from the steamboat CENTRAL HUDSON which had been dismantled. The rebuilt HOMER RAMSDELL made her first trip on December 2nd, 1911 when the Hudson River Night Line and the Day Line jointly purchased the assets of the Central Hudson Steamboat Company at a receiver’s sale. The RAMSDELL continued in service on the Hudson until the spring of 1930. The year previous, the excursion fleet of the Nantasket Steamboat Company had been entirely destroyed by fire and the HOMER RAMSDELL and the NEWBURGH were purchased as replacements. Converted into excursion boats, on May 1st, 1930, the name of the RAMSDELL was changed to ALLERTON and that of the NEWBURGH to NANTASKET. The two steamers were taken to Boston to run to Nantasket Beach. The ALLERTON was operated by the Nantasket –Boston Steamboat Company in 1942 and sometime thereafter was sold South and burned while running on the Elizabeth River, Virginia.
Thus, like so many of the old time steamboats, both the BENJAMIN B. ODELL and the HOMER RAMSDELL , (b) ALLERTON, ended their careers by fire.
STATISTICS: BENJAMIN B. ODELL – Harlin & Hollingsworth, builders, Wilmington, Del. Steel hull. 2,011 tons. Length 280 feet; beam 48 feet 6 inches; depth 17 feet. One H. & H. Triple expansion engine having 26, 41 and 48 inch cylinders with a 36 inch stroke 2,500 h.p. Four boilers.
STATISTICS: HOMER RAMSDELL – ALLERTON – Thos. Marvel, builder, Newburgh. Steel hull. 1182 tons. Length 237 feet, beam 32 feet; depth 12 feet. Wm. White & Son compound engine having 28 and 52 inch cylinders with 36 inch stroke. 1200 h.p. Two lobster back boilers by Fletcher. Single screw. In 1892 the vessel was lengthened 25 feet. In 1938 new boilers were installed.
September 30, 1965
Rensselaer: 1909 – 1942
The TROJAN was built for the Hudson Navigation Company, completed April 17, 1909, and placed under command of Captain George Brown, with Bert Gray as Chief Engineer. Three months later her sister ship, the RENSSELAER, was launched and the two sidewheelers ran on the New York to Troy route. Each vessel had three deck saloons, steam heat throughout, 240 passenger staterooms and magnificent furnishings. Each was licensed to carry 1.500 passengers and, prior to World War 1, they were the most modern steamboats on the river, although not the largest.
In 1909 the People’s Line of Albany and the Citizen’s Line of Troy merged into the Hudson Navigation Company; both boats remaining on this route until the spring of 1918. In this year the Federal Government drafted for war service the ADIRONDACK and the C.W. MORSE which also had been on the Albany – New York route. The TROJAN and RENSSELAER then plied the Troy – New York run until 1927, serving again on the Albany run the following spring. In the winter of 1935 Sam Rosoff, New York subway contractor, purchased the two vessels and operated them for two seasons. Although withdrawn from service in 1938, the following year Rosoff renamed the TROJAN “NEW YORKER” and placed her in service with the World’s Fair Company carrying passengers from the Battery to the World’s Fair Grounds. This venture proved unprofitable and she returned to the Hudson as a night boat. Her last run, under Captain George H. Warner, was made September 9th, 1939, after which she was laid up at Rosoff’s sand dock at Marlboro, a few miles above Newburgh.
On Friday Morning, March 1st, 1940, the NEW YORKER (a. TROJAN) was destroyed by fire at the same dock where the BENJAMIN B. ODELL had met a similar fate in 1937. The loss of the NEW YORKER was estimated at $100,000. March 4th, 1940, the hull of the once magnificent TROJAN, later the NEW YORKER, turned on its side and sank in 50 feet of water.
RENSSELAER – The history of this sidewheeler runs parallel to that of the TROJAN, above. Like the TROJAN she was magnificently furnished, her dining room could comfortably seat a large portion of her licensed 1200 passengers.
Sidewheeler steamboats seldom ventured out on the icy river during the winter, particularly when carrying passengers. A notable exception was when the RENSSELAER, which made an unprecedented trip of 3 hours duration on Jan. 29, 1913. On this date over 300 members and friends of the Troy No. 141 Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks chartered the vessel for an excursion trip, and amid floating ice ands falling snow, the merry party sailed down the Hudson for several miles and returned.
Because of the luxuriousness of their furnishings the RENSSELAER and TROJAN were often referred to as the “Honeymoon” boats for seldom was a trip made without at least one honeymoon couple aboard.
In 1937 the RENSSELAER was withdrawn from service and laid up at Rosoff’s sand dock in Marlboro, near the TROJAN. Up to now Rosoff’s fleet consisted of four vessels – the TROJAN, RENSSELAER, ADIRONDACK and the BERKSHIRE. After laying up the TROJAN and the RENSSELAER it was soon evident the venture was a failure though as a last effort Rosoff spent over $500,000, in refitting and overhauling the RENSSEALER and the BERKSHIRE, but by then the competition of truck and buses caused him to prudently withdraw from the steamboat business.
On January 24th, 1941, representatives of the Government, from the third Naval District took an option to buy the two vessels for their scrap value of $115,000. The RENSSELAER was iced in at Marlboro and the BERKSHIRE at Athens. They were cut from their frozen berths and towed down the Hudson, three Coast Guard Cutters, clearing ice from their paths. The RENSSELAER, due to her shallower draft, was found unseaworthy and was docked at the old India Wharf at Providence, Rhode Island.
She was owned briefly by the Marine Liquidation Corporation of Fall River who refurnished the old sidewheeler in an attempt to attract a buyer but eventually auctioned her off for scrap. She was bought for the low sum of $9,000 by the Meal’s Processing Company of East Providence, Rhode Island, and there dismantled in 1943.
RENSSELAER – Thomas S. Marvel, builder, Newburgh. Steel hull. 2,690 tons. Length 330 feet; beam 43 feet 3 inches; over guards 75 feet. Depth 12 feet, six inches. W. & A. Fletcher #203 vertical beam engine having 72 inch cylinder with 12 foot stroke. Two return tube boilers. Feathering type paddlewheels 27 feet in diameter with 11 foot race.
TROJAN – Thomas S. Marvel, builder, Newburgh, NY. Steel hull. 2,571 tons. Length 330 feet; beam 42 feet; overguards 76 feet; depth 13 feet 5 inches; W. & A. Fletcher #202, vertical beam engine having 70 inch cylinder with 12 foot stroke. Two return tube boilers. Paddlewheels 26 feet in diameter with 11 foot face.
October 7, 1965
Two Propeller Freighters of the early 1860’s
Daniel S. Miller: 1862 – 1910
Following her launching in 1862, the DANIEL S. MILLER, built for Hamilton & Smith was placed on the route between Stuyvesant and New York under Captain Charles Ru Ton, as a passenger and freight carrier. Two years later, the JOHN L. HASBROUCK, was constructed as consort, both vessels being powered with a beam engine geared to a propeller – the first engines of this type built.
December 5th, 1863, when the ISAAC NEWTON’s boiler exploded while near Fort Montgomery the DANIEL S. MILLER and the HERALD rescued many of the passengers. The two steamers ran on the Stuyvesant route until 1867, when transferred to the Poughkeepsie and New York Transportation Company and later were acquired by the Central Hudson Steamboat Company of Newburgh. This was in 1899, and on March 3rd, 1900 the names of both vessels were changed – the MILLER becoming the POUGHKEEPSIE and the HASBROUCK the MARLBORO.
While on her regular run to New York on March 21st, 1901, the POUGHKEEPSIE encountered a dense fog, ran ashore at Stony Point and sank. She was later raised, repaired, and returned on the New York – Rondout at this time. In the summer of 1910 the steamer again retuned to the Poughkeepsie run. It was the start of the fruit season and the Central Hudson Company anticipated the usual increase of business hauling produce from the river landings to the city. On Sunday, June 6th, at 4:30pm, the POUGHKEEPSIE landed at Highland and five minutes later dense smoke was seen pouring from her engine room. The fire alarm was sounded and passengers were immediately ordered ashore. Captain George Greenwood and the crew were unable to get the fire apparatus working due to the headway the fire had made before discovery. The crew was finally forced to flee the burning vessel, several jumping overboard to avoid the flames. The small nearby, rescued these men from the water and then made fast to the burning vessel, towing her out into the river.
The blazing pyre that was the POUGHKEEPSIE, (…) the DANIEL S. MILLER, floated moth with the tide to the opposite side of the river, coming to rest at the Asylum Dock just north of Poughkeepsie. Within two hours the steamer had burned to the water line and sank.
STATISTICS: Lawrence & Foulks, builders, Brooklyn. Wood hull. 605 tons. Length 185 feet; beam 35 feet; depth 10 feet. Fletcher & Harrison No. 22 vertical beam engine having a 45 inch cylinder with 6 foot stroke, 1500 hp. This vessel, like its consort the JOHN HASBROUCK, had the beam engine installed athwartship and through gearing drove the propeller.
Harder: 1863 – 1900
The superstructure of the ANDREW HARDER closely resembled that of the freight and hay barges then in use on the river, although later she was enclosed to conform to the more modern ideas then in use. In size she was similar to the DANIEL S. MILLER.
Placed in service on the Stuyvesant – New York passenger and freight route, the ANDREW HARDER remained there for several years. From 1872 to 1874 she ran in line with the steamboat NEW CHAMPION on the Catskill – New York run. Leaving near pier 35, at the foot of Franklin Street, the steamers made landings at Cold Spring, Corwall, Rhinebeck, Tivoli, Smith’s Landing and Germantown. In was on the New York – Highland run in opposition to the DANIEL S. MILLER and the JOHN L. HASBROUCK of the Poughkeepsie Transportation Company. In the spring of 1880 the vessel was remove to the Newburgh - New York run and one year later was purchased by the Homer Randall interests of Newburgh.
The new owners rebuilt the steamer and on May 24th, 1881, renamed her the PHILLIP D. LeFEVER. She then operated several years as a night boat to New York City. In 1886 the LeFEVER replaced the barge CHARLES SPEAR on the Newburgh – New York run and on June 14th of that year was joined by the new steamboat NEWBURGH. The two vessels ran in up as a spare boat until purchased by New York interests.
She was then installed on the New York to Wilson’s Point run for about two years. Her next owner, the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, converted her into a cattle boat for transporting livestock from the Company’s stockyards in Jersey City to the New York slaughterhouses. She remained in this service until destroyed by fire at Jersey City July 28, 1900.
STATISTICS: William Lewis Minnersley, builder, New Baltimore, NY. Wood hull. 391 tons. Length 182 feet; beam 30 feet; depth 9 feet. Engine built by Starbuck at Greene Island, New York, propeller drive.
October 21, 1965
Compiled mainly from data furnished by Raymond A. Webber, son of the late Chet Webber of Catskill
In the early days of shipbuilding, the Village of Athens starred as a shipbuilding center. No less than two hundred vessels left her launching ways – from the small obsequious tug to the luxurious sidewheeler KAATERSKILL. The “Lower Yard” at it was called, remained in continuous operation for one hundred years with the exception of a five year period following the death of William Ford in 1903.
Established in 1843 by William T. Coffin and others, a drydock and marine railway were built on land purchased from Timothy Bunker who had previously operated a chemical works on the site. In this boatyard Coffin and his associates built a number of sloops, small schooners and steamboats, including the BUFFALO, a 164 foot, 220 ton sidewheeler in 1846. Five years after the founding of the shipyard, in 1848, the property and improvements were acquired by William H. Morton, C. Haddon and Emory Edwards. During the next few years there was a number of changes in ownership and in partners, John R. and Lewis R. Wheeler being members of the firm at one time. The THOMAS COLLYER, 1850, 74 tons and the JANE CAMPBELL, 1853, 80 tons, were steamers built during this period. However, by 1854 the business had become stabilized with William H. Morton and Enos R. Edmonds as principle owners.
Under the firm name of Morton & Edmonds the yard prospered and a great number of vessels were constructed, the most important of which, with date of construction and tonnage were:
1854 - JOHN BIRKBECK, 156 ton sidewheeler. (b) J.G. EDMONDS
1854 – JOHN L. LOCKWOOD, 186 ton sidewheeler. (b) HENRY SMITH. (c) CHESTER A. ARTHUR. (d) VICTOR
1858 – THOMAS A. TILLINGHAST, 53 ton propeller
1861 – DUTCHESS, 697 ton propeller. (b) LANCER. (c) THOMAS McMANUS
1861 – CHARLES L. MATHER, 49 ton propeller. (b) ELAINE.
1861 - MONITOR, 386 ton sidewheeler.
1862 – GEORGE MARK, 84 ton sidewheeler.
1862 – CITY OF HUDSON, 634 ton sidewheeler.
1863 – S.E. BABCOCK, 46 ton propeller.
1863 – SILAS O. PIERCE, 195 ton sidewheeler.
1864 – ANDREW FLETCHER, 160 ton sidewheeler.
1864 – BERKSHIRE, 1232 ton sidewheeler. Destroyed by fire; rebuilt into a propeller at New Baltimore, in 1865 and renamed NUPHA, still later renamed METROPOLITAN.
1865 – CITY OF RICHMOND, 932 ton sidewheeler. (b) CITY OF KEY WEST.
1869 - GEORGE H. POWER, 207 ton sidewheeler ferryboat, (b) CHARLOTTE ESSEX (For many years the Athens Ferry) (This ferry ran between Athens and Hudson for 52 consecutive years and was probably the most widely known of all Hudson River ferryboats.)
1869 – J.C. DOUGHTY, 147 ton sidewheeler ferryboat. (b) ARTHUR KILL.
In 1872 Morton & Edmonds sold out to Mathias Van Loon and Peter Magee. From this year until 1882 the firm name was Van Loon & Magee and during this decade the more important vessels constructed were:
1873 – C.F.ROE, 27 ton propeller, (b) GEORGE E. HARDING.
1873 – WALTER W. BETTS, 28 ton propeller. (b) F.M. STIMSON
1878 – A.F.BEACH, 173 ton sidewheeler ferryboat. (Another Athens built ferryboat, which operated for more than half century between Catskill and Greendale Station. Various captains during her long career were Lew Clark, Ward Hallenbeck, David Hitchcock and Charles Schermerhorn)
1879 – HARVEY W. TEMPLE, 36 ton propeller.
1879 – MINNIE CORNELL, 503 ton sidewheeler.
1880 – E.M. MILLARD, 72 ton propeller.
1880 – THOMAS PURCELL, JR., 49 ton propeller.
1880 – GENERAL NEWTON, 40 ton propeller.
1880 – CITY OF CATSKILL, 1973 ton sidewheeler.
1880 – CHARLES A. STILLMAN, 85 ton propeller.
1880 – LEONARD RICHARDS, 97 ton propeller.
1880 – LOTTA, 141 ton propeller.
1880 - EMITA, 90 ton propeller.
1881 – BELLE HORTON, 305 ton sidewheeler. (b) PINE BEACH.
1881 – E.H. DUNDELL, 65 ton propeller.
1881 – NEW BRUNSWICK, 601 ton sidewheeler.
1881 – CROTON, 51 ton propeller. A waterboat, or tender.
1881 – JAMES A. GARFIELD, 41 ton sidewheeler. (b) J.J. SCOTT. (c) EDITH MEARS.
1881 – BALTIMORE, 181 ton propeller. (b) PONHAM.
1881 – ELOISE, 41 ton propeller.
1881 – PIERCE VAN WYCK, 120 ton propeller.
1882 – ISABELLA, 38 ton propeller.
1882 – PHILADELPHIA, 129 ton propeller.
1882 – WM. FULLER, 43 ton propeller. (b) EVA MAE. (c) ROSELLE MAY.
1882 – D.L. FLANAGAN, 62 ton propeller.
1882 – PONHAM, 43 ton propeller. (b) ENGLES.
1882 – KAATERSKILL, 1361 ton sidewheeler. At the time of building this luxurious nightboat, it had the distinction of being the largest vessel built on the Hudson above New York City, having a length of 231 feet. The small steamers built during this period – the LOTTA, ELOISE and ISABELLA, must bring back many pleasant memories to the old timers.
(TO BE CONCLUDED NEXT WEEK)
October 28, 1965
The Athens Shipyards
After completion of the KAATERSKILL, Matthias Van Loon retired and the yard was run by Peter Magee alone, until his death in 1899. Even at this early date it appears the sidewheeler was on the wane, for the yard turned out propeller driven craft almost exclusively. Of more than 60 vessels built during Magee’s ownership, i.e. 1883 – 1899, all were propellers with the exception of one sidewheeler, the ferryboat ROCKLAND, which, incidentally was the last sidewheeler built Athens.
Following are the vessels built by Peter Magee between 1883 and 1899.
1883 – ELLEN M. ROMAN, 73 tons.
1883 – WILLIAM COLEMAN, 21 tons.
1883 – JAMES S. T. STRANAHAN, 127 tons.
1883 – ALBERTA M., 88 tons.
1883 – ADELE, 53 tons. (b) SYLVAN SHORE.
1884 – WILLIAM M. SHEFFEILDS, 24 tons.
1884 – THOMAS WOTKINS, 31 tons. (b) U.S. MARY.
1884 – CITY OF YONKERS, 140 tons, (b) MARY
1884 – LEWIS PULVER, 77 tons. (b) WARD.
1885 – JAMES A. BOYLE, 40 tons.
1886 – IMPERATOR, 93 tons.
1886 – F.H. GROVES, 88 tons. Water boat or tender.
1886 – GEORGE HAMMOND, 32 tons.
1886 – MARY, 88 tons. (b) WM. B. SNOW. (c) MICHAEL T. BARRETT.
1886 – W.J. McCADDIN, 75 tons. (b) CLARENCE HOWLAND. (c) O’BRIEN SISTERS.
1886 – R.J. MORAN, 75 tons. (b) RICHARD CARR.
1886 – SARANAC, 56 tons.
1887 – SCIONDA, 84 tons.
1887 – FOREST GREEN, 138 tons.
1887 – M. MORAN, 66 tons.
1887 – H(ERMAN) LIVINGSTON, ?? tons.
1888 – ARCHIBALD WATT, 32 tons.
1888 – HUNTINGTON, 221 tons. (b) ANTOINETTE.
1888 – THOMAS CHUBB, 34 tons.
1888 – H.S. NICHOLS, 34 tons.
1889 – IDLEWILD, 88 tons. (b) UTICA. (c) BEATRICE MORSE. (d) MADYLIN FLANNERY. (e) RUSSELL NO. 17.
1890 – MUTUAL, 66 tons.
1890 – ACME, 94 tons. (b) STANDARD OIL NO. 3. (c) HUBER BROTHERS. (d) S.W. BROOKS. (e) FRANK D. DENOYERS.
1890 – COLUMBIA, 174 tons.
1890 – EMPIRE, 41 tons.
1890 – WILLIAM H. WALKER, 33 tons. (b) CHRISTINE.
1890 – C.H. EVANS, 57 tons.
1890 – T.S. CRAIG, 43 tons. (b) M.H. HILL. (c) WM. C. HOWARD
1891 – R.G. DAVIS, 23 tons. (b) GERMANIA
1891 – RIDGEWOOD, 48 tons.
1891 – R.C. VEIT, 192 tons.
1891 – RUSTLER, 192 tons.
1891 – C.E. EVARTS, 86 tons. (b) J.A. LAWRENCE. (c) GALLAGHER (d) A. POPE
1891 – RIGHT ARM, 238 tons. (b) U.S. PONTICA.
1892 – BESSIE, 116 tons.
1892 – ANNIE EDMONDS, 28 tons.
1892 – J. FRED LOHMAN, 96 tons. (b) SHAMROCK.
1892 – ROBERT HADDEN, 87 tons.
1893 – MABEL, 50 tons. (b) VERIBEST (c) S&H NO. 1
1893 – C.P. RAYMOND, 111 tons.
1893 – VIOLETTA, 55 tons.
1893 – R.J. BARRETT, 109 tons.
1894 – ARTHUR, 33 tons. (b) KERAN FLANNERY. (c) EDNA ALDRICH. (d) KERMITE.
1895 – E. FRANK COE, 153 tons. (b) RICHARD F. MORTON
1896 – H.D. MOLD, 46 tons.
1896 – LILLIAN, 17 tons. Named after W.B. Ford’s daughter.
1896 – ROBERT WHITE, 35 tons. (b) JOHN L. WHITE. (C) GERTRUDE MEARS. (d) MARY PATRICIA
1896 – THOMAS A. BRIGGS, 48 tons. (b) STANLEY MINOR. (c) JOHN B. CADELL.
1897 – VALVOLONE, 37 tons. (b) JOHN HALLOCK.
1898 – O.V. SAGE, 19 tons. (b) TOM AND JOE. (c) HAPPY. (d) LOTUS.
1898 – KATHERINE FRANCESCA, 75 tons.
1898 – LAURIDA, 66 tons.
1899 – SERGEANT SAVILLE, 92 tons.
1899 – P. McCABE, 18 tons. (b) W.B. McCULLOUGH.
1899 – ARTHUR PALMER, 117 tons. (b) CATHERINE MORAN. (c) KATHLEEN ROBERT. (d) FLANNERY LINE.
1899 - SEVEN BROTHERS, 32 tons.
1899 – JOHN NICOLS, 119 tons.
1899 – C. REISENBERGER, 34 tons. (b) ENGLES. (c) F. O’BRIEN.
1899 – MOUNT MORRIS, 400 tons.
The last large passenger and freight vessel built at Athens.
In 1899, after Peter Magee’s death, the business was acquired by William D. Ford who, the previous year had built the small 44 ton tug HENRY H. STANWOOD, on Stewart’s Dock. During the three years that Ford operated the Yard a variety of vessels were built, including in 1902 the large derrick barge RUDOLPH BROTHERS.
(TO BE CONCLUDED NEXT WEEK)
November 4, 1965
The Athens Shipyards
The vessels built by William D. Ford, when he acquired the Yard after Peter Magee’s death in 1899, were:
1900 – GEORGE K. KIRKHAM, 95 tons.
1900 – REGINA, 24 tons. Named for Ford’s youngest daughter.
1900 – WILLIAM COLEMAN, 69 tons. (b) COMPANION. (c) THOMAS M. MURRY.
1901 – ALLISON BRIGGS, (b) ETHEL BOLES. (c) PENROSE. (d) STELLA
1901 – COMMERCE, 122 tons. (b) BETTY KENNEDY.
1901 – JOHN DUFF, 22 tons. (b) BETTY.
1901 – ELSA, 13 tons.
1901 – JOSEPH P. FORD, 18 tons. (b) FRED DALZELL, (c) WOODMENCY.
1901 – RUDOLPH BROTHERS, large Derrick Barge.
1902 – LILLIAN, 174 tons.
1902 – ADONIS, 40 tons. (b) TRENTON.
1902 – PRIMROSE, 58 tons.
1902 – JOHN GLENN, 40 tons.
1903 – EUREKA, 48 tons. (b) OCELAND. (c) MATTON No. 10
1903 – ROGER WILLIAMS, 149 tons. (b) WRESTLER.
1903 – GRAYDON, 23 tons. (b) MINDINAO. Steam yacht.
From 1903 until 1908 the Yard remained idle. A new owner then appeared Richard Lenahan of Kingston, who, with his eldest son, Michael, modernized the Yard, including the buildings, and installed new equipment throughout the plant. The blacksmith and machine shops and the mill shed were powered with electrically operated band and circular saws, planers, drill presses, cut-off and rip saws and drills, as well as pneumatic hammers, riveters, shears and caulking machines. Several large power derricks were also added and a new boiler house contained the boiler and engine that operated a head saw having a capacity of 10,000 feet of lumber a day as well as operating the large marine railway. Under the new name of Athens Drydock the investment prospered building modern diesel tugs, covered barges, ice and brick barges, deck scows, and canal boats. In Loew, after nearly a quarter century of ship building, Richard Lenahan died and the Yard was then operated by his son Michael. Michael retired six years later, in 1938. In its thirty years of operation the Athens Drydock, besides building the many types of craft mentioned, devoted practically all of its resources in repair work and could always be depended upon in an emergency.
No steamboats were built; the diesel tugs of which we have record were the THOMAS MINNOCK, 25 tons, built in 1923 and the LOIS-MAE also of 25 tons and built in 1923.
Shortly after Michael Lenahan’s retirement the property was purchased by the Imperial Life Boat & Davit Company who, throughout World War II constructed many hundreds of steel life boats for the Navy and the Merchant Marine. After the war the site changed hands again, this time being acquired by the Aerobilt Bodies Corporation, manufacturers of Trailers and Trucks. This concern covered the old marine railways to form storage space for their finished product. The company prospered and expanded with a new plant on the Athens-West Athens road. Today it is part of the Grumman Corporation, employs hundreds of men and contributes greatly to the prosperity of the area.
The Athens UPPER YARD
This shipyard had always been referred to as the “Upper Yard“, being at the north end of the village. Owned and operated by Wentworth Allen, numerous small tugs were built in this Yard which was in operation from 1903 until Mr. Allen’s death in 1908. A few of the more important vessels built during Allen’ s regime were:
1904 – M.C. HOLBROOK, (b) JAMES F. FURLONG.
1904 – GEORGE H. ALLEN, JR., 94 tons. (b) THOMAS F. TIMMINS. (c) HANSA.
1904 – A.W. SMITH, 64 tons. (b) M.C. HOLBROOK, (c) JOS. FURLONG
1904 – JAMES McALLISTER, 85 tons.
1905 – No record of new boats built this year.
1906 – WHITEHALL, 33 tons.
1907 – DANIEL McALLISTER, 93 tons. When later converted from steam to diesel this vessel was renamed McALLISTER BROTHERS. Launched October 10th, 1907 this was the last vessel of a commercial type built in Athens.
With the closing of these Shipyards another chapter in the annals of Hudson River steamboats was brought to an end. Today, it is hard for us to realize the bustling activity that once pervaded the Athens waterfront and the colorful era that is now gone.
November 11, 1965
Rochester: 1836 – 1852
Captain Pug Haughton commanded the ROCHESTER’S first trip up the Hudson Aug. 2, 1836, proud harbinger of the People’s Line of great river steamboats. Captain Haughton, known as “Pug” was a genial man, liked by the passengers because of his stories of steamboats and experiences on the river.
Following in ROCHESTER’S wake were such famous old timers as UTICA, NORTH AMERICA, SOUTH AMERICA, KNICKERBOCKER, HENDRICK HUDSON, ISAAC NEWTON, NEW WORLD, ST. JOHN, DEAN RICHMOND, ADIRONDACK, DREW, C.W. MORSE and the maritime wonder BERKSHIRE, which made her appearance 77 years later. Even at the early date of 1836 the ROCHESTER was an outstanding vessel in both construction and equipment.
In addition to being the first fleet in the People’s Line fleet the ROCHESTER holds the distinction of being the first steamboat to have her steering ropes replaced with chain as a safety measure in 1841. The burning of the steamboat LEXINGTON on Long Island Sound the previous year resulted in great loss of life due to the tiller ropes burning and rendering the vessel helpless. This tragedy vividly illustrated to the maritime world the fact that chains would be a practical safety measure against fire in this respect.
At the time of her appearance the ROCHESTER was considered to be the last word in speed. The SWALLOW was the ROCHESTER’S acknowledged rival, having equal speed or nearly so. Both vessels had undergone changes and alterations after running their first season; the ROCHESTER had her power increased by substituting a 50 inch cylinder in place of her original of 43 inches.
Suspense mounted to such a tension by those interested in the two vessels that it was decided that a race, without passengers, should be ran. Accordingly they started from Jersey City at 4 pm on the afternoon of Nov. 8, 1836, each prepared to do her best. The tide for the greater part of the distance was against the boats, and the SWALLOW was compelled to slow down for a few minutes because of engine trouble.
The ROCHESTER was the victor by five minutes, arriving at Van Wie’s Point, six miles below Albany, in eight hours and 57 minutes, the distance being 114 miles. Almost a decade later, when the unfortunate SWALLOW crashed into a rocky island near Athens in 1845, the ROCHESTER was on hand, along with the EXPRESS, and rescued many of the passengers.
Usually the ROCHESTER carried 20 pounds of steam, her paddlewheels turning at 24 rpm and on the 150 mile trip to Albany would consume 18 to 20 cords of wood. However, when racing her rival, the SWALLOW, she increased her steam pressure to 40 pounds, her wheels turning 28 rpm and would burn as much as 25 cords of wood on the same trip.
Originally built and scheduled as a day boat she would leave Albany at 7 o’clock in the morning. Later in her career she was converted and placed in night service in line with the EMERALD, and would leave Albany at 5 in the afternoon.
ROCHESTER plied the Hudson in faithful service for the People’s Line until 1849 when she was retired, and several years later dismantled.
Her fastest trip was made June 14th, lieu when she ran from New York to Albany in 10 hours even. For that period in steamboating this was considered remarkable time.
STATISTICS: Smith & Dimon, builders, New York. Wood hull, 491 tons. Length 210 feet; beam 24 feet’ beam overguards 47 feet; depth 8 feet 6 inches. Vertical beam engine by West Point Foundry Company, having a 43 inch cylinder with a 10 foot stroke. The cylinder was later increased in diameter to 50 inches. Her two iron boilers were placed on the guards. Paddlewheels were 23 feet 6 inches in diameter with 10 foot face and 30 inch dip, turning at 24 to 28 revolutions per minute.
November 18, 1965
Hope and Perseverance
The history of these two small sidewheelers is perhaps the most interesting of all Hudson River craft.
Shortly after the proven success of Fulton’s NORTH RIVER (or CLERMONT) and the CAR OF NEPTUNE, Captain Elihu S. Bunker owner of a number of Hudson River sailing packets decided to run an opposition line to Fulton’s boats and this despite the exclusive monopoly held by Fulton and Livingston. This monopoly, as explained in other articles in this series, gave them the right to operate steamboats on the Hudson for a period of twenty years.
With a group of Albany capitalists. Headed by James Van Ingen, two vessels, similar in size and accommodations to the CAR OF NEPTUNE were constructed and named, respectfully, HOPE and PERSERVERANCE. In all respects they were identical boats and it was hoped the monopoly of steam could be circumvented by means of a newly developed “pendulum” engine. However, after a trial of this engine on a small scale, the idea was abandoned and more orthodox engines and boilers were built and installed by Robert McQueen in New York.
The HOPE was launched March 9th, 1811 and made her maiden trip from New York under Captain Bunker June 22nd, 1811. The PERSERVERANCE followed a few months later. The newspaper Albany Balance of June 25th carried the following notice of her first voyage:
QUOTE: “The NEW STEAMBOAT HOPE – this neat elegant and commodious packet, commensed (sic) her career n Saturday morning last at 10 o’clock, with near fifty passengers, from New York, in the presence of many thousand spectators, who evinced their approbation by repeated shouts of applause. In fact, the scene was rendered interesting, not only by her sailing in opposition to the old line – who it was supposed had put competition at defiance by a monopoly of the navigation – but by the enlivening circumstances of her having on board the Pandean Band, who, after leaving the wharf, struck up Washington’s March, and continued for several miles up the river playing patriotic airs. Notwithstanding the wind which was uniformly against the vessel, she performed her route to Albany in 38 hours, during which time great satisfaction was expressed by the passengers, first of whom (which was remarkable) being by name HOPE. Indeed every expectation seemed to warrant the opinion, that she will greatly accommodate passengers, and amply remunerate the SPIRIT and PERSEVERANCE of the owners.”
July 27th, 1811 the HOPE was challenged to a race by the NORTH RIVER. This was the first steamboat race in history. Both boats left Albany at 9 o’clock am with the HOPE taking the lead. Under a single column of smoke they paddled furiously down the river, while spectators crowded the banks to cheer the HOPE, opponent to the unpopular monopoly. When several miles down the river, just below Coxsackie, the inevitable collision occurred as the NORTH RIVER attempted to pass the HOPE in the narrow channel. Neither vessel was seriously injured, though the race was temporarily abandoned by common consent. Later Captain Bartholomew of the NORTH RIVER challenged the doughty Captain Bunker to a race of any number of miles, but the latter refused.
Fulton and Livingston immediately took steps to have the HOPE and PERSEVERANCE confiscated and before the following spring won a victory by having their grant for exclusive tights to operate steamboats in the waters of New York State, confirmed. Readers of the New York Post of march 16th, 1813, read:
“Albany, Thursday, March 12th. Today the Court of Errors decided the Great Steamboat Cause in favor of Chancellor Livingston, without a discentident; reversing Chancellor Livingston’s decree and compelling him to issue an injunction against any other Steamboat on the North (or Hudson) river.”
The two vessels, HOPE and PERSEVERANCE were adjudged forfeited to Fulton’s Company, the owners losing title. To show the independence of Fulton and Livingston, the rival vessels, which were acknowledged to be the equal or superior to the Fulton boats, were not continued in commission but were dismantled. It is believed the engine of the PERSEVERANCE was placed in the Lake Champlain steamboat PHOENIX IX, built 1815; records fail to reveal what became of the engine of the HOPE.
After the confiscation of these fine boats, it was not until 1820 that real expansion of steam boating began – the impetus given by the ending of the Fulton – Livingston monopoly. (NOTE: A convincing affidavit presented at the hearing was made by Charles Brownne who said: “The HOPE and the PERSEVERANCE were more like the CAR OF NEPTUNE than like the NORTH RIVER, and that the wheels wheel guards, manner of steering, mode of placing the masts, arrangement of awnings, the cabins and kitchen and the placing of boats at her sides instead of at the stern as was customary, all intend to show that much of the CAR OF NEPTUNE had been copied in building the HOPE and PERSEVERANCE.”
STATISTICS: PERSEVERANCE: Pertaining to both vessels – Sister vessels built by Van Ingren at Albany, NY. Wood hulls. Each 280 tons. Length 149 feet; beam 20 feet; depth 7 feet 7 inches. Bell Crank engines by Robert McQueen. One boiler in the hold. The “Pendulum” engines planned originally were abandoned for the more orthodox type. The paddle wheels are believed to be the same dimensions as those of the CAR OF NEPTUNE, i.e. 13 feet 6 inches diameter with 48 inch face.
November 25, 1965
Gen. Slocum: 1891 – 1904
The YARMOUTH CASTLE tragedy calls to mind another fire disaster in which many lives were lost. Always, it appears these tragedies are caused more by man’s negligence and greed, than to any other causes or, as in the case of the GENERAL SLOCUM, to one man’s vanity and stubborness.
The GENERAL SLOCUM was built expressly for the excursion trade and following the launching in 1891 was placed in service in the New York area. Although this vessel can hardly be rated as a Hudson River sidewheeler, it’s tragic end was of such local interest that it merits a place in this series. GENERAL SLOCUM ran in line with the GRAND REPUBLIC, and was the first of the large excursion steamers to adopt the innovation of bright hardwood on all the outside joiner, presenting a pleasing and distinguished appearance. She was owned by the Knickerbocker Steamboat Company and was owned exclusively as a summer boat, running mainly between New York and the beach resorts with occasional trips up the Hudson and out on Long island Sound.
For thirteen years the SLOCUM peacefully and uneventfully plied the waters around New York, until the fateful morning of June 15th, 1904, when the vessel figured in the most tragic of all catastrophes in the annals of Hudson River steamboating. The occasion was the annual outing of St. Marks Lutheran Church, on 6th Street. Almost a thousand tickets had been sold, mostly to women, as children were admitted free. The gay holiday crowd crowded aboard the GENERAL SLOCUM, at her 3rd Street pier, East River, and promptly at 9 o’clock the boat cast off, bound for the picnic grounds at Locust Point, just North of Fort Schuyler in Long Island Sound.
The vessel had just been overhauled and her long – time Captain, William Van Schaick, was in command. Also on board, were two pilots, Edward Van Wart and Edward Weaver.
When the boat as abreast of 97th Street, smoke was seen to be curling up from below deck but, for some unknown reason, the alarm was not sounded until abreast of 130th Street. At this point the SLOCUM was only about 300 feet from the Bronx shore. But unaccountably, the Captain ordered beaching on North Brother Island, about a mile ahead. The swift progress of the vessel and a head – on breeze fanned the rapidly spreading flames into the faces of the passengers. Screams were audible on shore as the crew vainly battled the blaze which by now had attained terrifying proportions.
Had Captain Van Schaick ordered the boat beached on the Bronx shore, precious minutes would have been saved with a good chance of safely landing most, if not all of the passengers. As it was, a worse place could hardly have been found, and when the vessel finally had grounded, her stern was in 25 feet of water. Scores of the terrified passengers were drowned as they leaped overboard into what they believed to be shallow water. As the ship struck the rocks, the hurricane deck gave way and the upper works crashed down, hurling hundreds into the blazing inferno below, where they were instantly burned to death. The vessel finally lodged at Hunt’s Point, where she sank in shallow water, though many of the bodies were never recovered. The tug WADE happened to be at the North Border pier and rescued about 150, but among the first to desert the ship were Captain Van Schaick and the pilots. The deck hands, following their lead, leaped overboard and swam to safety. Only the Chief Engineer, George Conklin, stuck to his post at the cost of his life.
The official death toll was placed at 1, 021 and newspapers all over the country demanded an investigation of the tragic occurrence. The Captain and crew were all placed under arrest, and President Theodore Roosevelt appointed a five man committee, especially recommending a probe of the Steamboat Inspection Service. The investigation resulted in the dismissal of the Chief of the Inspection Service and several Inspectors. Captain Van Schaick was indicted and sentenced to a ten year prison term in Sing Sing.
Later the burned hulk of the once beautiful GENERAL SLOCUM was raised and converted into a coal barge – according to several sources by J.H. Gregory who in turn sold the barge to a Delaware River concern. Neither party was conscious that the transfer was made on the anniversary of the fire. Renamed the MARYLAND, the coal barge was lost off the Jersey Coast in the vicinity of Sandy Hook on December 3rd, 1911. Another version of the sale and loss of the barge was given by a reader of Argosy magazine after this magazine published an article on the SLOCUM. This follows in full:
“LAST MAN ON THE SLOCUM?” Read your article on the GENERAL SLOCUM. I was the last man on her. My father was in the marine business in those days. He purchased her hull, and had her towed from New York to our shipyard in Camden, New Jersey, where he converted her into a fine seagoing barge. They changed her name to MARYLAND.
At every port she went into, a gang of worshippers would assemble on the deck singing the hymns, and praying. The Captain would quit and a new officer would have to be hired in every port. The last cargo was a load of coke from Camden to Newark. The Captain quit, and we could get no one, so I got help and manned her with others. We lost a rudder and had that fixed, then we ran into a storm and sank while in tow. I was the last man to leave the MARYLAND. Signed – Joseph Hagan.”
Epilogue: Captain Van Schaick was finally granted a parole August 26th, 1911. He was then 72 years old. While he was serving his time the State had begun a new prison across the river, near Bear Mountain. To transport provisions and the prisoners engaged in the work, the small steamer BRISTOL was used and Captain Van Schaick was placed in command. Later the project was abandoned and the new prison was built further inland from the river.
GENERAL SLOCUM: Devine Burtis, builder, Brooklyn. Wood hull, 1284 tons. Length 250 feet; beam 37 feet six inches, overguards 70 feet, depth 12 feet. W. & A. Petcher, 144 vertical beam engine having 53 inch cylinder with 12 foot stroke. 1500 horsepower. The boilers were in the hold.
GRAND REPUBLIC: John Englis & Sons, builders, Brooklyn. Wood hull, 1760 tons. Length 100 feet, beam 41 feet six inches, over guards 72 feet, depth12 feet. Quintard Iron Works vertical beam engine having 76 inch cylinder with 12 foot stroke. Two iron return tube boilers in the hold. Paddlewheels 36 feet in diameter with 10 feet six inch face. This beautiful sidewheeler also burned in August of 1914, fortunately with no loss of life.
December 2, 1965
This NORTH AMERICA was the second sidewheeler carrying this name. The first, built in 1827 was wrecked several miles below Albany in the spring of 1839. The NORTH AMERICA of which I now write, launched in 1840, was commanded by Captain R.H. Furey and built to the order of Isaac Newton, James Cunningham and others for the People’s Line to operate between New York and Albany. She was the first steamboat to have artificial blowers operated by auxiliary boilers.
The blowers added considerably to the efficiency of the vertical beam engine by creating a forced draft to the boilers and therefore more steam pressure. The following year her consort, the SOUTH AMERICA, was built and these two vessels set an example for finer boats both in speed, comfort and elegance. They were also the first steamboats to successfully burn anthracite coal, introduced by Isaac Newton. This not only cut fuel costs but also added to the revenue by releasing more deck space, previously reserved for cord wood.
The careers of these two sidewheelers ran parallel with few exceptions. From 1841 to 1849 the two vessels plied the New York – Albany run uneventfully. In 1842 the SOUTH AMERICA made a record run of seven hours and 42 minutes averaging a speed of 20 miles an hour.
On September 26th, 1849 the steamboats owned by the People’s Line Association were sold at auction in the Merchant’s Exchange, New York City, and the SOUTH AMERICA was bid in by a Mr. Dean for $29,000. Later the vessel was acquired by the Hudson River Night Line operating between Hudson and New York.
In 1863 the SOUTH AMERICA was considered unfit for further duty and was dismantled at Athens. The beam engine was rebuilt by Fletcher, Harrison & Company and installed the following year in the ill-fated BERKSHIRE which burned the same year, a few months after launching. (The BERKSHIRE was raised and rebuilt into the NUHPA, later renamed the METROPOLITAN.)
The SOUTH AMERICA’S hull was purchased by William and Samuel Bowne, of Brooklyn, towed to Sleightsburg near Rondout and converted into a hay barge. After six years as a hay barge she saw another ten years of service as a “stake boat” or receiving barge at the foot of Smith Street, Brooklyn.
Later in her career, the NORTH AMERICA was operated by the New Haven Steamboat Company and on May 6th, 1862 NORTH AMERICA was chartered to the Federal Government as a troop transport for which her owners received $400 a day until February 20th 1863 when returned to her owners. At one period in her career she was acquired by Captain Jacob H. Tremper of the Rondout firm of Romer & Tremper, a night line operating between Rondout and New York.
On this run the NORTH AMERICA had as consort the MANHATTAN until the fall of 1860 when she was replaced by the new JAMES W. BALDWIN. The vessel was then sold to L.W. Hancox and D.C. Chamberlain, and by them chartered to the Government, the Quartermaster’s Department, at various rates and in July of the same year sold outright to the Government.
During this period she steamed (or “paddled”) down the coast, around Florida and up the Mississippi where she saw active duty on both the Mississippi and Red Rivers. After transporting troops to Baton Rouge, and while lying at her wharf in Algiers, opposite New Orleans, a fire of unknown origin occurred October 8th, 1863 and destroyed the old sidewheeler.
In this way ended the careers of the NORTH and SOUTH AMERICA, two of the most graceful sidewheelers that ever plied our beloved Hudson River.
NORTH AMERICA: Devine & Burtis, builders, New York. Wood hull, 499 tons, length 230 feet, beam 25 feet six inches, depth nine feet. James Cunningham vertical beam engine having a 48 inch cylinder with 11 foot stroke. Two iron boilers of Milliken’s Patent were placed on the guards. Paddlewheels were 28 feet in diameter with 11 foot face.
SOUTH AMERICA: Devine & Burtis, builders, New York. Wood hull, 638 tons. Length 260 feet, beam 30 feet, depth nine feet three inches. James Cunningham vertical beam engine having 54 inch cylinder with 11 foot stroke. Two iron boilers of Milliken’s Patent in the hold. Paddlewheels 30 feet in diameter with 11 foot face.
December 9, 1965
An interesting subject of sidewheeler steamboats is the almost unlimited variety of decorations that appeared on their wheel boxes. The first of these were plain – simple half hollow cylinders – purely utilitarian and it was not until around 1830 that any mode of decoration appeared. This strange when one considers that these conspicuous blank areas would seem an irresistible “canvas” upon which artists could display their art and ingenuity.
One of the first to appear with an innovation of this type was the SWALLOW of 1836 which sported its namesake in dark blue oils. Shortly thereafter more elaborate “lunettes” as they were called appeared with fancy moldings and embellished with more imposing carvings.
A few of the more outstanding paddle boxes were those on the SANTA CLAUS, 1845, showing old Santa with his bag of toys in the act of climbing down a chimney; the JENNY LIND, 1850, with a large portrait of the Swedish nightingale; the METAMORA, 1846, which carried a portrait of Edwin Forrest, the eminent American actor; the GALAFRE, 1864, the central figure being Neptune, his fists bristling with thunderbolts, riding in a pink and white conch shell drawn by a pair of horses.
There definitely was no end to the imagination displayed by early artists and wood carvers in this mode of decoration. Invariably all had gaudy colors of gold, green, crimson and royal blue and were often painted in pastel shades of pink and orange.
Probably the most outstanding examples of this art was shown on the paddle boxes of the ST. JOHN, a large Hudson River night boat built 1863. An astonishing effect was produced by lines of perspective which gave the illusion of looking in a long colonnaded room, which was heightened by painting in a tiled floor of contrasting colors. Deep inside this composition were low gates, built of lattice work that gave out on a painted landscape.
The early steamboats of the inland waters were looked upon by river folk as the epitome of all that was grand and elegant. There is little doubt that these decorations and the gingerbread work on many of them, was the forerunner of the early Victorian architecture so common on the homes of that period. It is believed that this mode influenced domestic architecture to such an extent that the cable cars of San Francisco and the trolley cars of Portland (Oregon) were a gleaming white with gold scrolls and fancy lettering in contrasting colors.
Some of this material is from Alexander Crosby Brown’s article in the Mariner Museum’s Bulletin #11, 1943.
December 16, 1965
Built for the Red Hook and New York day line, the EAGLE plied that run until 1857when she was purchased by Captain H. Tremper of Rondout to operate between Poughkeepsie and Albany as a day boat, taking the place of the steamboat MAZEPPA. In heralding the arrival of the new steamboat the June 5th, 1857 issue of the Albany Times described the EAGLE as a “snug and beautiful” craft……. Affirmed to be the neatest “little boat” on the river. Her engine was on the same model as that of the ARMENIA’S, though, of course, much smaller; and her saloon was a very gem in the way of beauty. The EAGLE was ably commanded by Captain Henry Fairbanks, a genial officer who would add to the pleasure of any grip. Her pilot, Ezra Hunter, was also very popular and was considered one of the safest navigators on the Hudson.
The EAGLE continued on this route, running in swift succession with the MATAMORA and the MAGENTA.
The day that marked the end of the EAGLE’S career, her consort was the M(ILTON) MARTIN, which had been purchased by the Romer & Tremper Company, of Rondout, in 1866. At the time of the disaster, which occurred August 2nd, 1884, she was on her scheduled run nearing Milton. Captain Rogers was first to discover the fire and immediately headed for the Milton Dock to allow passengers and crew to go ashore. Chief Engineer Cook remained aboard. The streamer JOHN L. HASBROUCK, which fortunately appeared, came to the rescue of the flaming EAGLE and towed her to the east shore at Milton Ferry. Here she continued to burn and was totally destroyed. Incidentally, the HASBROUCK, a large propeller steamer, was bound south carrying an excursion group down to Poughkeepsie.
As will be noted from the picture, the EAGLE, although a bit smaller, was very similar to the JACOB H. TREMPER which Captain Tremper had built in 1885, to replace the EAGLE.
STATISTICS: Built at Brooklyn. Wood hull. 422 tons. Length 160 feet; beam 25 feet; depth 7 feet 6 inches. Henry Durham vertical beam engine having a 32 inch cylinder with an 8 foot stroke. One boiler in the hold.
A FEW MORE FIRSTS:
1811 BEDDING: The first steamboats had no bedding and travelers who looked for any comforts during a trip of from 24 to 72 hours had to furnish their own bed and blankets. Captain Bunker, who was progressive for his times, advertised a few years after the advent of the CLERMONT, that he would run a packet between New York and Hudson and, as an inducement to patronize his venture, passengers would be furnished with beds and bedding. Captain Bunker was probably referring to the HOPE and PERSEVERANANCE.
1820 LIGHTS: Light was furnished by tallow candles, placed at convenient points to light the passengers – at the gangplank, at the stairways, between decks and other dangerous places on the vessel. However, on most of the boats it was dark and a person once seated, was expected to make himself or herself comfortable and stay there. The Captain and other officers were supplied with square lanterns, illuminated with a candle and with a pane of glass at the front and on each side, which they carried wherever they went. The engine room had, as a rule, similar lanterns, but with tin backs which were screwed against the sides of the room. Other lights were only used when necessary, and the owners of the boat and not the passengers were the judge of necessity.
1821 LIBRARY: The first library aboard a steamboat – New York Post July 3rd, 1821: “The steamboats CONNECTICUT and FULTON.…..to have on board a well chosen library of 500 publications for the use of the passengers.
1821 MUSIC: The first band carried by a steamboat reg – CHANCELLOR LIVINGSTON, for the entertainment of the passengers. This sidewheeler was also famous for its cuisine.
1837 WHISTLE: The KING PHILLIP, a Narragansett Bay sidewheeler, was the first steamboat to boast a steam whistle. Mr. Stephen D. Collins, having seen a whistle on a locomotive, ordered one for the KING PHILLIP, on which he was engineer. Although it was not popular at first, its use as a signal led to its general adoption.
December 30, 1965
A.B. VALENTINE: 1845 – 1901
SILAS O. PIERCE: 1863 – 1913
A.B. VALENTINE: Christened the SANTA CLAUS at her launching in 1845, this colorful steamboat began her career on the Hudson as a passenger vessel between New York and Clermont, later operating on the New York to Albany route, for the People’s Line. Competition became so keen that the fare dropped to 50 cents and in June 1852 to 25 cents for several weeks. Although the People’s Line chartered the SANTA CLAUS to the Erie Railroad for the Piermont shuttle, this was not for long, as she could not be spared from the excitement due to the stiff opposition on the Albany through lines. During much if this period SANTA CLAUS had the larger steamboat MANHATTAN as consort.
The SANTA CLAUS must have been the delight of small children as they watched her steaming the river with her wheel boxes displaying in vivid colors of Kris Kringle astride a chimney and laden with his traditional bag of gifts.
In 1859 Thomas Cornell of Rondout acquired SANTA CLAUS and converted her into a towboat and she ran under the Cornell Banner as SANTA CLAUS until the fall of 1868. During the winter of 1868-69 she was entirely rebuilt at South Brooklyn and the Cornell Towing Line had practically a new boat and at this time renamed her the A.B. VALENTINE, in honor of the New York agent in Thomas Cornell’s employ. She was put in towing service between Rondout and New York where she remained until the fall of 1887. The following spring the A.B. VALENTINE ran between Rondout and Albany under command of Captain Jerry Patterson with Andy Barrett as chief engineer. During this period the VALENTINE was running in line with another old timer, the NORWICH. In the fall of 1901 the VALENTINE was considered obsolete and was sold to J.H. Gregory of Perth Amboy and dismantled, thus ending her career.
Her demise was accompanied by a peculiar incident – the day the vessel was sold to the wreckers, the man for whom she had been named died and on Christmas Eve, 1901 the steamboat that originally had been named the SANTA CLAUS started on her last journey to the Marine graveyard.
SILAS O. PIERCE: Due to her small size the SILAS O. PIERCE, a tender sidewheeler towboat, had little chance to prove herself in her intended role until several years after she slid down the ways. Built in 1863 at the height of the Civil War she was leased, new, to the Federal Government by her owner, Thomas A. Briggs.
Steaming out of Fortress Monroe to touch at various points where the Union Forces were encamped, she carried provisions and transported troops and prisoners. Sometimes it was her lot to carry a more gruesome cargo as the dead from the battlefields were stacked along her decks. It was with the SILAS O. PIERCE, her pilot house surrounded with bags of oats to protect her pilot against sniper fire, that General Butler performed his famous feat of passing through Dutch Gap and thereby cutting off seven miles of passage by water. Many times, during the war, these blockade sidewheelers ran the risk of sniper fire from shore bound marksmen. The Confederate snipers had a mania for picking off the pilots of any Federal boat after which the vessels would run aimlessly and drift ashore. It was then a small matter for the Confederates to capture the crew and burn or otherwise destroy the vessel.
Upon the capture of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy, he and his family were taken aboard the PIERCE and transported under heavy guard to Fortress Monroe. The little sidewheeler subsequently joined in the hunt for John Wilkes Booth after the assassination of President Lincoln. Authorities assumed Booth would attempt to flee across the river and join General Moseby, and the SILAS O. PIERCE was sent to Richmond and City Point. Here she ended her Government service by towing the barge CATSKILL to New York harbor. Jerry Austin, of Albany, then acquired the PIERCE and put her to use in helping the larger towboats and passenger boats in the shallow waters of the upper Hudson. When the Austin Towing Line went out of business in 1877, the Cornell Steamboat Company of Rondout purchased the little towboat, and placed her in towing service running out of Rondout Creek until the fall of 1911. Records disclose that at one period during her career she was owned and operated by the Blanchard & Farnham Towing Line.
Sold finally to Rice and Herald of Rondout, the little Civil War Veteran was broken up in 1913.STATISTICS: SANTA CLAUS: Thomas & William Collier, builder New York. Wood hull. 358 tons. Length 265 feet, beam 35 feet; depth 9 feet. Vertical beam engine having a 40 inch cylinder with 10 foot stroke. Rebuilt in 1869 by James Dean at red Hook, Long Island and redocumented as the A.B. VALENTINE.
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