Editor's Notes: This article, "Mr. Fillmore and His Friends" was originally published on August 18, 1856 in the Albany Evening Journal. It is a stinging critique of Millard Fillmore and his support for the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Fillmore was born in 1800 in Moravia, New York and served in state politics before entering Congress as the Representative for NY's 32nd District. Winning the Vice-Presidency in 1848 on the Whig ticket, Fillmore became president in 1850 upon the death of President Zachary Taylor. Although he was not chosen as a candidate by any party during the election of 1852, he ran as a third party candidate in the election of 1856 under the Know Nothing party. This article was almost certainly in response to his candidacy. He ultimately lost to Democrat James Buchanan, a staunch proponent of state's rights who exacerbated tensions around slavery and made way for the four-way-split Presidential election of 1860, resulting in the victory of Abraham Lincoln.
The article also sharply critiques the Fugitive Slave Act. Passed by Congress in 1850 and signed into law by President Fillmore, the Act was a concession to Southern states in an effort to preserve the Union as part of the Compromise of 1850. Many Northern states had passed state or local ordinances requiring jury trials for fugitive slaves, denying use of jails or state officials in their retrieval, and otherwise attempting to protect fugitive slaves, or at least keep from getting involved. Tens of thousands of enslaved people made their way to freedom on the Underground Railroad in the 1830s and '40s, joining free Black communities in Northern states and building lives and families.
But Southern states were angry about the lack of cooperation from their Northern counterparts and the attrition of enslaved people to the North, especially in slaveholding states that bordered free states. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was designed to force compliance of state officials, overrule state and local laws, fine state officials who did not arrest fugitive slaves, and fine and imprison anyone who aided or abetted a fugitive slave - a clause specifically designed to target abolitionists. Because habeus corpus was suspended in fugitive slave cases, Black Americans had little recourse to dispute accusations, no matter how much evidence proved them false. Several cases found in lower courts for the accused were overturned by the Supreme Court as a violation of federal law. Disturbingly, the Act also provided rewards for officers who captured fugitive slaves, regardless of whether or not they were actually fugitives.
These clauses not only led to some of the unjust events outlined in the article below, but angered many Northerners and turned more to the abolitionist cause. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1852 in response to the law. The novel went on to become one of the best-selling books of the century (surpassed only by the Bible). Although the Compromise of 1850 did temporarily hold the United States together, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was a concession to slaveholding states that only exacerbated the divisions over slavery, and helped inflame the tensions that would lead to the Civil War.
"Mr. Fillmore and His Friends"
Mr. Fillmore’s supporters in the present canvass endeavor to palliate his signing the Fugitive Slave Law, by alleging that he disapproved of many of the provisions of the act. His own course proves the contrary. If he objected to any details of the bill, it was his privilege and his constitutional duty to return it with a statement of those objections. Instead of so doing, instead of even hesitating, he signed it immediately upon its passage, endorsed it in his subsequent Messages and Proclamations, lauded it in his speeches, rewarded those who voted for it with Offices and Patronage, and was constantly urging during the whole time he remained in office, that it ought never to be repealed, but should stand forever, as a “finality.”
In his Message of Dec., 1850, he alludes to it thus: -
“I believe those acts to have been required by the circumstances and condition of the country. I believe they were necessary. By that adjustment we have a firm, distinct and legal ground to stand upon.”
In his Message of Dec., 1851, after having tried the working of the Law for a year, he said: -
“It is deeply to be regretted that in several instances officers of the Government, in attempting to execute the law for the rendition of fugitives from labor, have been openly resisted. Prosecutions have been instituted against the alleged offenders so far as they could be identified, and are still pending. I have regarded it my duty in these cases to give all aid legally in my power, to the enforcement of the law.
“* * The Act of Congress for the return of fugitives from labor is one required and demanded by the express words of the Constitution.”
A brief review of the “several instances” which he alludes to will show not only the character of the act, but the spirit in which the acting President viewed it.
On the 27th of September, 1850, the same month in which the Law was passed, JAMES HAMLET, a laborer in New York, was seized in the street, handcuffed, thrust into a coach, carried to the Marshal’s office, and in two hours time, without having witnesses, a Judge, or a Jury, was in the hands of his alleged “Master,” on his way South. This was the first instance of the “legal ground” “stood upon” by Mr. Fillmore.
On Oct. 12th, a man named ROSE, who had come North by his owner’s permission, under an agreement to pay $100 per annum for his freedom, and had actually paid it for the first year, was seized in Detroit, and consigned to Jail until he could be sent back to Tennessee. The “Scotch Guards” and the “Grayson Light Guards” were paraded with a hundred fixed bayonets around the Jail, to keep the negro in, and to exemplify the “reign of peace and quiet,” induced by Mr. Fillmore’s Law.
On the 24th of October, William Harris, his wife and child, who had escaped from South Carolina, were aboard a Canal Boat in this State. When at Lodi Lock, near Syracuse, word was given that the pursuers were upon them. They all jumped overboard. The man and his wife were caught again, but the child was drowned - its death having been, as Mr. Fillmore remarks, “required and demanded by the Constitution.”
On the 8th of November, Election Day, when the freemen of this Republic were turning out to exercise their highest privilege, those of them who lived near Beechwood, Ohio, were regaled by the spectacle of a bleeding Mulatto on horseback, flying before half a dozen other horsemen at full gallop, who fired five times at him, while running, with more or less success. A peaceable Quaker standing by had a pistol presented to his head with the information that if he refused to join the chase, his brains would be blown out. This, we presume, was also “required and demanded by the Constitution.”
Three days after (Nov. 11th) a perfectly white woman and her daughter, old and well known residents, were taken before the Commissioner at New Albany, Indiana, on a charge of being chattels of DENNIS FRAMEL of Arkansas, and only escaped sentence to plantation life, by paying the Arkansas swindler $600. But this was doubtless “required by the circumstances and condition of the country,” as Mr. Fillmore remarked.
On the 21st of December, ADAM GIRSON of Philadelphia, was hauled up before Commissioner Ingraham, on a charge of being the slave of one Knight of Cecil county, Maryland. He brought witnesses who conclusively proved him to be a freeman. Nevertheless the Commissioner, after a hasty examination, lasting only from noon till dusk, sent him under charge of a bodyguard of 25 policemen down to Cecil county, Md. When they got him there and delivered to Mr. Knight, that gentleman declared he had never seen him before, and that having no claim on him, he would not take him. Only by the honesty of this Marylander was Adam Gibson released from the malicious imprisonment put upon him by Mr. Fillmore’s Law, and Mr. Fillmore’s Commissioner.
On Christmas Day, when the bells of New York were pealing anthems in honor of the birth of Him who came to “break all bonds, and let the oppressed go free” - HENRY LONG, a waiter at the Pacific Hotel, was seized while at work in the Dining Room, carried before Commissioner Hall, and was sentenced to bonds for the remainder of his life.
During the same month, the Tennessee papers exultingly announced that “Mr. MARKWOOD of Greenville in that State, and his friend THOMAS CHESTER have returned from a tour in Michigan with seven slaves” caught there, by the assistance of Millard Fillmore.
The Memphis Eagle also boasted that “five fugitives had within a few weeks been brought back with as little trouble as would be had in recovering stray cows.” Rather less, in fact, for a man cannot recover his Cow without witnesses and a jury. But he can get a Slave without either.
On the 5th of January 1851, Daniel Fossbeuner of Baltimore, a member of the Methodist Church South, came into Court, and claimed a young man and two girls, free since their birth, on the ground that their mother had been his slave nineteen years before! She had been allowed the trouble and expense of bringing them up during these nineteen years, by Mr. F., and he now estimated their worth in the market at $1,800. As the Judge pronounced their doom of her children, the bereaved Mother fell in convulsions on the floor of the Court room. This too, says Mr. Fillmore, is “required and demanded by the circumstances and condition of the country.”
On the 12th of January, 1851, Hamilton Jackson, a colored barber in Cincinnati, born and bred a free man, was seized and taken to Jail on a charge of being a runaway Slave. The jailor, however, happened to have known him all his life, and to know him to be no fugitive. So he “escaped,” which was one of the “circumstances” “deeply regretted” by Mr. Fillmore.
On January 23d, a man known as William Baker, was arrested while sawing wood, and taken before Commissioner Ingraham. He was accused of being Stephen Bennet, slave of Capt. E. B. Gallup of Baltimore. Without time to prepare or make any defence, without time to see his wife and child, after an examination of only two hours, he was hurried off, whether rightfully or wrongfully, will never be known in this world. This also was “required and demanded” by Mr. Fillmore.
Need we go on to relate how the “Chivalry” in Maryland presented a Service of Plate to the captors of Henry Long? - how the captor of Adam Gibson was unluckily detected in kidnapping a white child named Joel Henry, and prevented from selling it into slavery in order to save this glorious Union? Need we tell how Helen and Dick, wife and son of a boatman on the Pennsylvania Canal, were, in the absence of the husband and father, dragged - the mother from her wash-tub, the boy from the hay-field - and consigned to slavery by Judge KANE, and put in custody of sixty officers, who marched with them to the Ferry lest the man should unexpectedly return and save them? Need we recall the case of Shadrach, when the whole military and civil force of Boston turned out to catch a single negro, and when Millard Fillmore caused to be arrested and imprisoned, for treason, his counsel, and several respectable Lawyers, Clergymen and Merchants of that city, because the negro slipped through the slave-catchers’ fingers?
Need we quote the Special Message, in which Millard Fillmore consoled the defeated pursuers and promised them better luck next time, assuring them “that, so far as depends on me, the law shall be faithfully executed, and all forcible opposition to it suppressed,” and “deeply lamenting that the Massachusetts law forbids Massachusetts officers and jails” to help in catching runaway negroes? Or his Proclamation of Feb. 18th, calling on “all well disposed citizens” to ally to the support of the “Fugitive Slave Law,” and to “assist the civil and military officers,” and “especially directing prosecutions to be commenced against all persons who have made themselves hiders and abettors” of runaways, and “commanding the District Attorney to prosecute and arrest all persons who shall be found to have harbored or concealed a fugitive?”
Such is a brief summary of only the first six months of Millard Fillmore’s “execution” of the Slave Law. During the other two years of his term, similar scenes increased and were multiplied ten fold. These are the acts of which he boasts in his Messages. These are the scenes he urged ought to endure as “finalities” for ever. These are the grounds upon which he now asks the suffrages of American citizens. No President before him ever could be found debased enough to sign an Act containing such atrocious provisions. No President before him ever summoned the officials of the Union and “all good citizens” to assist in such degrading offices. Still less did any President but him, ever deem such scenes as these “required and demanded by the Constitution,” or that it “was his duty to give them all aid legally in his power.”
This article was located and shared by Hudson River Maritime Museum volunteer researcher George A. Thompson and transcribed by Sarah Wassberg Johnson. All spelling, capitalization, quotations, and italics are reproduced here as in the original.
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Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Commercial Advertiser, a New York City newspaper, on March 17, 1831 - exactly 190 years ago today! Many thanks to HRMM volunteer researcher George Thompson for finding and transcribing this article. The following is a verbatim transcription (early 19th century spelling and all).
The first passage of the season to Albany. — A gentleman who left this city on Monday evening, in the steam boat Constitution, writes from Albany on yesterday morning, as follows: — We arrived here at half-past 7 o'clock, last evening, in the steamboat Commerce, Captain Murray. The Constitution began to encounter floating ice immediately above the Highlands, and pretty large fields of it were met before reaching Poughkeepsie — at which place we came to, until morning. In the course of the night, the Commerce come up, and likewise anchored at our stern. On leaving our berths yesterday morning, the ice appeared completely to block up the river two miles above. Capt. Hoyt thereupon determined to proceed no further with the Constitution; the mails were sent ashore, and despatched by land; and the passengers went ashore likewise. It was soon ascertained that Capt. Murray of the Commerce, was determined to push on, and plough his way through the ice as far as possible. — We accordingly took that boat, and started at half-past seven o'clock — encountering fields of drift ice, frequently stretching across the whole river, and covering its surface as far as the eye could reach; but the boat dashed on impetuously, without being absolutely stopped, until we passed Hudson. Here, the ice having lodged upon the flats, the whole river was blocked completely across. The Swiftsure having penetrated to Coxsackie, during the night, was no perceived above, on her return, attempting to beat her way down — this immense floe of ice having been brought into this cross-position by the tide, after the Swiftsure went up. Both boats were now set to work, like two large battering rams, and in about two hours, succeeded in beating through. At Coxsackie, we found that the ice for the whole distance above, reposed unmoved, as it had been left by the late vigorous winter. Nothing doubting, however, the captain of the Commerce dashed on, and, strange to tell, the power of her engine, and the strength of the timbers of this powerful boat, enabled her to knock her way through a field of unbroken ice, varying in thickness from four to fourteen inches, for a distance of sixteen miles, i. e. to Castletown! From this place to Albany, the ice was broken, and our speed was of course much accelerated. It must have been a novel sight to the villagers along the shore, to find this vessel thus cutting her way through such a continuous field of ice, as yet unbroken, though in may places it had become very porous; and their pleasure was often announced by cheers and the firing of the "big guns." Not the slightest accident occurred during the whole passage. The arrival of a boat at Albany, was as yet altogether unexpected.
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In working in the archives today with volunteer G.M. Mastropaolo, we discovered this delightful timetable in the Donald C. Ringwald collection. Outlining travel times and locations for steamboats, steam yachts, ferries, stages/stagecoaches, and railroads in Rondout, Kingston, "and vicinity."
Among the many time tables is that of the ferry boat Transport. To learn more about the Transport, check out our past blog post about its history and use.
Of particular interest to the collections staff and volunteers at the museum was this time table for the steamboat Mary Powell, the star of our 2020 exhibit, "Mary Powell: Queen of the Hudson," opening April 25, 2020.
"Handy Book of the Catskill Mountains" was designed for those traveling to the Kingston area for access to the Catskill Mountains and mountain houses. Measuring just 4 by 2.5 inches, this tiny little handbook would fit perfectly in a pocket or lady's reticule.
The Hudson River Maritime Museum is pleased to make this handbook available to the public. If you would like to view the entire book, chock full of both traveler's information and period advertisements, click the button below to download a PDF.
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March, 2020 is March Membership Madness here at the museum. If you join in the month of March, you can receive 20% off (for 2020) any membership level. Learn more.
Editor's Note: The following text is a verbatim transcription of an article written by George W. Murdock, for the Kingston (NY) Daily Freeman newspaper in the 1930s. Murdock, a veteran marine engineer, wrote a regular column. Articles transcribed by HRMM volunteer Adam Kaplan. For more of Murdock's articles, see the "Steamboat Biographies" category at right
No. 52- New World
The “New World” was constructed in 1847 by William H. Brown of New York. When she first appeared she was 371 feet long with a tonnage rating of 1,418. In 1855 she was widened from 37 feet to 43 feet by John Englis of Greenpoint and her rating increased to 1,676 tons. She had a vertical beam engine, constructed by T.F. Secor & Company of New York, with a cylinder diameter of 76 inches and a 15 foot stroke, cutting off at eight feet and averaging 17 revolutions per minute.
The “New World” was one of the most celebrated of the American river steamboats and was literally a wonder of her day because of her great size. She was originally built for service as a dayboat between Albany and New York and on this route she gained a reputation for speed. On several occasions her speed approximated 20 miles per hour. In 1854 the “New World” made the run from Albany to New York in six hours and 21 minutes. In the year 1855 she was rebuilt for service as a night boat, becoming the first of the great inland steamers to have a double tier of staterooms above the main deck.
The “New World” was always considered an unlucky vessel. From the day of her launching- August 4, 1848, when she moved 30 feet down the ways and stuck, requiring the services of several tugboats to get her into the water, the “New World” began a career which was continually marred by accidents.
On June 20, 1853, while off Chambers street, New York, one of the “New World’s” boilers exploded, killing 11 persons. At another time she was almost destroyed by fire off the City of Hudson.
One of the most unfortunate accidents which marred the record of the “New World” occurred on October 26, 1859 of Fort Washington while enroute to Albany. In this accident the “New World” went to the bottom of the river, but the circumstances which caused her distress were rather peculiar.
A schooner was crossing the bow of the “New World” and the pilot rang the bell to stop the engine. The engineer happened to be in one of the firerooms across the gangway when the signal was given and he hurried to comply with the request. In his haste, he stopped the engine too suddenly, with the result that the strain put on the gallows frame holding up the walking beam, caused it to snap off about five feet from the top, allowing the beam to drop. This broke the connecting rod about two feet from the upper end. The connecting rod continued to work with every revolution of the paddle wheel crank as the boat continued to move at a good rate of speed. The flying end of the severed connecting rod generally wrecked the bulkheads and decks forward and finally worked its way into the hold and knocked a hole in the bottom of the vessel. In half an hour the “New World” was at the bottom of the river. Her passengers were rescued by the sloop and the steamboat “Ohio.”
The “New World” was raised and repaired and returned to service on the night line. After a career of 16 years she was laid aside, her engine was placed in the new steamboat “St. John,” and her hull with all of her upper works intact, was taken to Fortress Monroe for use as a hospital during the Civil War.
George W. Murdock, (b. 1853-d. 1940) was a veteran marine engineer who served on the steamboats "Utica", "Sunnyside", "City of Troy", and "Mary Powell". He also helped dismantle engines in scrapped steamboats in the winter months and later in his career worked as an engineer at the brickyards in Port Ewen. In 1883 he moved to Brooklyn, NY and operated several private yachts. He ended his career working in power houses in the outer boroughs of New York City. His mother Catherine Murdock was the keeper of the Rondout Lighthouse for 50 years.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Hudson River Maritime Museum's 2018 issue of the Pilot Log.
A remarkable family of African American river men participated in the transition from working sail to steam during America’s Industrial Revolution. Sometimes referred to as the Black Schuylers, the family began with one or more sloops early in the nineteenth century and seized the opportunity to acquire steamboats early in the 1840s. The Schuyler Steam Tow Boat Line figured prominently in the operation of steam tows on the Hudson River and by 1888 reportedly employed eighteen boats in Albany in the towing of canal boats on the river. The family acquired real estate in Albany’s south end between Pearl Street and the river, traded grain and coal, issued stock, and invested in railroading. Their wealth placed them in Albany’s elite business and charitable circles and their esteemed status led to their burial in Albany’s prestigious Albany Rural Cemetery alongside Albany’s other business and political leaders. That so little is known of this family and its accomplishments may be more a reflection of their race than of their accomplishments. The family’s identity as Black, while not a barrier to their early success in business, may have played a discriminatory role in their lack of prominence in the historical record. Ironically, the lighter skin of later generations may also have played a role in their lack of visibility in more recent Black History scholarship. While incomplete, it is hoped that this account may spur further research into the life and contributions of this Hudson River family.
Until the second half of the nineteenth century, Albany’s commerce and financial opportunities were almost entirely dependent upon the city’s position at the head of ship navigation on the Hudson River. The river served as New York’s “Main Street” well into the nineteenth century and Albany was strategically situated near the confluence of the upper Hudson River and the Mohawk River. Although Albany received larger ships, much of the freight and passengers coming in or out of Albany before the 1807 advent of steamboats was carried by single and double-masted sloops and schooners of 100 tons capacity or less. These sailing vessels continued to carry freight into the fourth quarter of the nineteenth century, even as steamboats soon attracted much of the passenger business. Captain Samuel Schuyler, the progenitor of the Black Schuylers, began and sustained his career with these boats and raised his sons Thomas and Samuel on them.
Albany grew rapidly in the 1820s and 1830s as a direct result of the surge in freight handling brought about by the much heralded completion of the Champlain and Erie canals in 1823 and 1825 respectively. Both canals terminated in Albany. Freight moving east and south from Canada, Vermont, the Great Lakes region and the interior of New York was shipped on narrow, animal-towed canalboats with limited capacity. 15,000 such boats were unloaded at Albany in 1831. These cargoes needed to be stockpiled and transferred to larger sloops and schooners for trip to New York City and other Hudson River towns. Over time, steamboats became more efficient and reliable, especially after Livingston-Fulton monopoly on steamboats in New York was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1824.
One innovation with implications for canal freight was steam towing which presented an economical alternative to “breaking-bulk,” the laborious process of unloading and transferring cargoes at canal terminals. Steam-powered sidewheel towboats appear to have been introduced on the Hudson River in the 1840s and could tow long strings of loaded canalboats directly to their destinations without unloading. Captain Schuyler’s sons capitalized on this concept and transitioned from carrying freight on sloops to towing rafts of canalboats and other craft behind powerful steamboats. They were at the right place at the right time and had the experience and extensive business connections to make the most of this innovation.
Captain Samuel Schuyler (1781-1841 or 1842) was one of Albany’s first African American businessmen. His origins in Albany are obscure but his surname suggests that he was enslaved by the Dutch-American Schuylers who were among Albany’s wealthiest and politically most prominent families. Philip Schuyler (1733-1804), known for his role in the American Revolution and early advocacy for canals, held slaves in Albany and at his other properties. Slavery was practiced extensively in Albany County until gradually abandoned in the early nineteenth century.
Albany County manumission records report that a slave named Sam purchased his freedom in 1804 for $200 from Derek Schuyler. It is possible, but by no means certain, that Sam is the same man later referred to as Captain Samuel Schuyler. The fact that Samuel married in 1805 so soon after this date lends further credence to this possibility.
Samuel Schuyler is described as a “Blackman” in the Albany tax roll of 1809 and a “skipper” and free person of color in the Albany directory of 1813. He was involved in the Hudson River sloop trade and owned property in the area of the waterfront which appears to have included docks and warehouses at the river and a home on South Pearl Street. He married “a mulatto woman” named Mary Martin or Morton (1780-1847 or 1848) and had eight or more children with her including Richard (1806-1835), Thomas (1811-1866) and Samuel (1813-1894). Richard was baptized in Albany’s Dutch church on North Pearl Street. Captain Schuyler came to own a flour and feed store as well as a coal yard at or near the waterfront. His sons joined the business which was known as Samuel Schuyler & Company in the 1830s.
The elder Captain Schuyler died in 1841 or 1842. After his burial, or perhaps after their mother’s burial in 1848, the younger Schuylers erected an imposing monument in the new Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands, established in 1844. The monument is a tapered, four-sided column resting on a plinth. It is significant that the column is engraved with a realistic bas relief anchor commemorating his sailing career and the three chain links denoting the fraternal organization Odd Fellows to which he apparently belonged. An inscription notes that the monument is dedicated to “OUR PARENTS.” That Schuyler and his family were accepted in a prominent location in the cemetery in spite of their African-American heritage is noteworthy because at the time the Albany Rural Cemetery had a separate section designated for African-American burials.
The younger Samuel Schuyler (1813-1894) and his brother Thomas (1811-1866) both began their careers in the sloop trade. Thomas began his career as a cabin boy in his father’s sloop and progressed in skill and responsibility. Samuel attended the old Beverwyck School in Albany and began his apprenticeship aboard the sloop Sarah Jane at age 12. He became the master of the sloop Favorite and later the Rip Van Winkle. He then purchased the Rip Van Winkle and together with his brother Thomas bought the sloops Anna Marie and Favorite. Samuel Schuyler married Margaret M. Bradford (1816-1881) and Thomas Schuyler married Ellen Bradford (1820-1900). The brothers appear to have bought their first steamboats, including the Belle, in 1845. The towboat enterprise was operating in the 1840s as the Schuyler Towboat Line and may have been incorporated in 1852. In that year the Schuylers financed and built the America, the powerful and iconic flagship of their fleet. Samuel became the company’s president and Thomas became the firm’s treasurer. Both men were active in Albany business and charitable circles serving as officers of bank, stock and insurance companies, trade organizations and charitable endeavors. Their business interests extended beyond towing as evidenced by a $10,000 investment in the West Shore Railroad built along the Hudson’s west shore through Newburgh, Kingston, Catskill and Albany.
Schuyler’s towboat business clearly prospered. In 1848, Samuel bought a relatively new but modest brick house at the corner of Trinity Place and Ashgrove Place in Albany’s South End and greatly enlarged it. Among other changes, he added an imposing round and bracketed cupola at the roof, making the house one of the largest and most stylish in the neighborhood. The house still stands. Thomas appears to have been a driving force in financing and building a new Methodist-Episcopal church nearby at Trinity Place and Westerlo St. in 1863. The Albany Hospital and the Groesbeckville Mission also benefitted from his philanthropy. Thomas died in 1866 and was buried alongside his father beneath a Gothic-style tombstone. His brother Samuel published a tribute to his brother which memorialized his many contributions to the Albany community.
An 1873 stock certificate indicates that the Schuyler’s company was at that time doing business as Schuyler’s Steam Tow Boat Line. The certificate proudly includes an engraving of the America and indicates that D.L. Babcock served as
president, Thomas W. Olcott as secretary and Samuel Schuyler as treasurer. Thomas W. Olcott, a wealthy White banker prominent in Albany society was known to be sympathetic to African Americans, most notably having an elderly Black servant buried in the Olcott family plot in the Albany Rural Cemetery.
By 1886, Howell & Tenney’s encyclopedic History of the County of Albany has little to say about Schuyler other than a perfunctory sentence that he “now employs eighteen boats, used exclusively for towing canal-boats.” Other Albany businessmen and industrialists are profiled at considerable length, but aside from a brief sentence about Schuyler and his very large business, nothing further is mentioned. Is it possible that his African American heritage, despite being half “mullato” from his mother, had now become a negative consideration in his social standing in the community?
Samuel Schuyler sold his large 1857 towboat Syracuse to the Cornell Steamboat Company in Kingston in 1893. He died in 1894 and was buried in Albany Rural Cemetery some distance away from his parents in a new but equally popular area of the cemetery. His burial plot is located near the “Cypress Fountain” where other prominent New Yorkers including the Cornings and U.S. President Chester Arthur are buried. Close at hand is the imposing monument dedicated to Revolutionary War Major General Philip Schuyler. Samuel’s ponderous granite monument is designed in the popular Victorian style of the day and is a proportional expression of the family’s wealth. Samuel and Margaret’s children and possibly his grandchildren are buried alongside of him.
There are many unanswered questions about the Schuylers and their careers on the Hudson River and conflicting accounts that need resolution. It is hoped that this brief account may lead to new research that could shed light on this family, its social and business contributions and the ever evolving issues surrounding race in eighteenth and early nineteenth century New York.
Samuel Schuyler Jr's granite stone monument in section 32 of the Albany cemetery. His monument is near that of the Erastus Corning family (steamboats and railroads) and near the mid-nineteenth century monument erected to Rev War Major General Philip Schuyler. It is in what was one of the premiere areas of the cemetery in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Stefan Bielinski, The Colonial Albany Social History Project; The People of Colonial Albany, website hosted by the New York State Museum, exhibitions.nysm.nysed.gov
Howell & Tenney, History of the County of Albany, W.W. Munsell & Co., New York 1886.
Abbott, Reverend W. Penn, Life and Character of Capt. Thomas Schuyler, Charles Van Benthuysen & Sons, Albany, 1867.
Albany County Hall of Records, Manumission Register.
Tashae Smith is a former Education Coordinator of the Hudson River Maritime Museum. She has a BA in History from Manhattanville College and is attending the Cooperstown Graduate Program for her MA in museum studies.
Editor's Note: The following text is a verbatim transcription of an article written by George W. Murdock, for the Kingston (NY) Daily Freeman newspaper in the 1930s. Murdock, a veteran marine engineer, wrote a regular column. Articles transcribed by HRMM volunteer Adam Kaplan. For more of Murdock's articles, see the "Steamboat Biographies" category at right.
No. 20- Dean Richmond
With the engine from the wrecked “Francis Skiddy” reconditioned and placed in a new wooden hull, the steamboat “Dean Richmond” came into being in 1865 as the property of the People’s Line running in night service between New York and Albany. This vessel like all the other splendid crafts built for the People’s Line was the acme of steamboat construction at that time.
While the vessel was still on the ways, newspapers persisted in reporting the progress being made in the building of the “General Grant”, but the officials of the People’s Line saw fit to name the vessel “Dean Richmond” in honor of the president of the New York Central Railroad.
Misfortune dogged the patch of the “Dean Richmond” in a like manner as those of other river craft, and on a moonlight night of September 20, 1867, she was in a collision with another vessel and sunk. While sailing south just below Rhinecliff, she sighted the Troy night boat, “C. Vanderbilt.” William Vanderburgh blew the customary one whistle which was answered by the “C. Vanderbilt” in a like manner, but unfortunately a propellor tug following the “Dean Richmond” also blew her whistle, causing a misunderstanding. The “Dean Richmond” changed her course but the “C. Vanderbilt” did not, and the latter vessel crashed into the larboard quarter of the “Dean Richmond” 30 feet aft of the bow, staving in the forward cabin. The engineer of the stricken vessel immediately raised the safety valves thus averting an explosion. The bow of the “C. Vanderbilt” was so firmly wedged into the “Dean Richmond that the latter boat was held up long enough to allow her passengers to climb over the wreckage onto the decks of the “C. Vanderbilt” before the water rose to the upper tier of the “Richmond’s” staterooms. A colored porter employed on the “Dean Richmond” drowned and his body was recovered by George W. Murdock.
The “Dean Richmond” was afterward raised, repaired, and again placed in service on the night line.
On June 14, 1877 just above Rockland Lake on a trip to Albany, the “Dean Richmond” met with another accident. This was caused by the breaking of a connecting rod and the end of the walking beam snapping off. No lives were lost, or anyone injured in this accident, but several thousand dollars worth of damage was done to the engine of the vessel.
The “Dean Richmond” was again repaired and placed in regular service until the advent of the steamboat “C.W. Morse” in 1904 when the “Richmond” was laid up and used only as an extra boat. After the burning of the “City Of Troy” belonging to the Citizen’s Line of Troy, on April 5, 1907, the “Dean Richmond” was placed in service on the Troy route. Finally in 1909, having outlived her usefulness, the “Dean Richmond” was sold to wreckers in Boston and sailed to that port on her last trip where she was burned for the old metal that was used in her construction.
George W. Murdock (b. 1853-d. 1940) was a veteran marine engineer who served on the steamboats "Utica", "Sunnyside", "City of Troy", and "Mary Powell". He also helped dismantle engines in scrapped steamboats in the winter months and later in his career worked as an engineer at the brickyards in Port Ewen. In 1883 he moved to Brooklyn, NY and operated several private yachts. He ended his career working in power houses in the outer boroughs of New York City. His mother Catherine Murdock was the keeper of the Rondout Lighthouse for 50 years.
Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site has been open to the public since October 17, 1917 and will be celebrating its 100th anniversary this season. The home was built between 1761 and 1765 by Philip Schuyler of Albany who, after serving in the French and Indian War, went on to become one of four Major Generals who served under George Washington during the American Revolution. Prominent for his military career, as a businessman, farmer, and politician, Philip was the main focus of the museum when it opened in 1917. Over the last hundred years, however, the narrative told by historians at the site has expanded to emphasize the roles of Philip’s wife Catharine Van Rensselaer Schuyler, their eight children (five daughters; three sons), and nearly twenty enslaved men, women, and children owned by the Schuylers at their Albany estate.
Since March was Women’s History Month, I am pleased to set aside Philip Schuyler, and instead bring you the history of the women of Schuyler Mansion – Catharine Schuyler and her five daughters Angelica, Elizabeth, Margaret, Cornelia, and Catharine (henceforth Caty to avoid confusion with her mother). Some of those names will sound familiar to fans of the Broadway show Hamilton: An American Musical. The oldest daughters, Angelica, Elizabeth, and Margaret “Peggy” Schuyler, born in 1756, ‘57, and ‘58, feature heavily in the plot because second daughter Elizabeth married Alexander Hamilton, America’s first Secretary of the Treasury, in 1780.
It is largely through Elizabeth’s efforts that so much information exists about Alexander Hamilton, Philip Schuyler, and the rest of the family. Women were often the family historians of their time, collecting letters and documents. Elizabeth was particularly tenacious in this role. Unfortunately, since women’s actions were not considered relevant to the historical narrative (and perhaps due to some degree of modesty from the female collectors), sources by and about women were not always preserved. Through careful inspection of the documents that remain, however, we can piece together quite a lot about these six women.
For the Schuylers, documentation started young, with receipts and letters describing the girls’ education. In the period, core literacy was most often taught at churches where basic reading and writing were a means to an end in teaching scripture. This holds true for the Schuylers. In 1764, when Angelica was 8 years old, Philip purchased “cathecism books more for Miss Ann”. Philip additionally paid for lessons in French, dancing, geography, history, writing, and arithmetic. In combination with references to music, ornamental embroidery, and the “women’s work” which the girls most likely learned from Catharine, these lessons constituted every subject deemed appropriate for women by contemporary educational philosopher Benjamin Rush, and more. This family was well educated even amongst their peers.
Catharine’s education, however, remains mysterious as no letters in her handwriting exist. Given her social status, it is unlikely that she was illiterate. However, it is possible that she was literate only in Dutch, as approximately half of Albany still spoke Dutch as their first language. Anne Grant (a contemporary of Catharine’s) described in A. Kenney’s Gansevoorts of Albany:
“In the 1750s girls learned to read the Bible and religious works in Dutch and to speak English more or less, but a girl who could read English was accomplished; only a few learned much writing.”
Knowing women’s childhood education is critical to our understanding of their adult lives. Even today, education molds children to fit the ideals of the culture they live in and therefore shows parents’ aspirations for their children. In the 18th Century, the ideal for women of this social class can be defined by four main roles: wife, mother, household manager, and social manager. By educating his daughters in dance, music and etiquette, Philip Schuyler prepared them for the wealthy social scene where they would meet potential suitors. By having them learn French, they could read philosophies and poetry and other refined subjects that would be impressive to the educated elite that Schuyler hoped those suitors would be. Meanwhile, Catharine taught them the household work that would be required of them once married.
Historically, women have been defined primarily by their spouses. It is a mistake to do so, however, marriage was exceptionally important for women in the 18th-Century. Under English government, women had no political rights and very limited legal, economic, or property rights. An adult woman’s power came from the influence she had over her spouse, and the influence she had over the next generation through the training of her sons. As such, at the start of the 1700s, 93% of women in the Northeast were married. This declined to 78% by century’s end, which likely correlated with a growing population of women, rather than declined need or desire to marry.
While arranged marriages were fading out of style with non-nobility by the mid-18th-Century, wedding arrangements still looked quite different from today. In more liberal households, as the Dutch tended to be, a woman had a fair amount of say in who she was to marry, but only so long as she was marrying from within an appropriate social circle. Parental permission was still required and a suitor who brought in political or property assets was preferred. Romantic love (or attraction - the term “romantic” was not yet used as we think of it today) as a prerequisite for marriage was gaining popularity, but was not considered necessary. Marriage was often treated as an economic pact. If love existed or developed, it was a bonus.
There are two marriages in the Schuyler family that are key to understanding this family’s dynamics - Philip Schuyler’s marriage to Catharine Van Rensselaer in 1755, and eldest daughter Angelica’s marriage to John Barker Church in 1777.
Philip and Catharine’s marriage mostly fit the cultural ideal described above. Both were fourth generation Dutch, meaning that their great-grandparents were the first to come from the Netherlands in the mid- 1600’s. Philip’s family made its fortune in the beaver fur trade and supplemented their income through land speculation and marriage. Meanwhile, Catharine’s family came over as part of the Dutch Patroon system. Akin to a feudal system in some ways, Patroonships gifted land to wealthy Dutch families in order to colonize New Netherland, which later became New York. By the time of Catharine’s birth, her father owned more than one hundred and fifty thousand acres of land throughout the colony. Not only was the couple from the same wealthy elite social circle and approved of by both families, they had a seemingly romantic courtship. In letters before their marriage, Schuyler asked his friend Abraham Ten Broeck to pay his regards to “Sweet Kitty VR” if he should see her.
Philip and Catharine likely expected their children would also marry with wealth, education, and family approval in mind. Angelica’s marriage broke those expectations when, in 1777, she married an elegant young commissar who called himself John Carter. Carter came to the home to settle military accounts with Philip Schuyler. While Carter looked the part of the wealthy, well-educated man, Philip knew nothing of Carter’s family and worried about his connection with Angelica. No one could tell Philip more about “Carter”, because this was an assumed identity. The man was actually John Barker Church, a broker from a prominent family in England. Church fled to the colonies to escape gambling debt, and possibly fallout from a duel.
Either unconcerned with her suitor’s background, or uninformed of it, Angelica married John Barker Church without parental permission. As a result, she was disowned and forced to take up residence with her maternal grandparents in Greenbush. She stayed with them only two weeks before her grandfather coaxed Philip and Catharine to meet with the couple and forgive them. It is unclear if Church revealed his identity to the Schuylers at that time, as the couple continued to be known as the “Carters” until the end of the war.
After this marriage, Philip no longer had the confidence that his children would marry under the ideals of the time, and because he was so quick to forgive Angelica, his children saw this as precedence. At least three more of the eight children eloped.
Second daughter Elizabeth married with permission, but Angelica’s elopement clearly still weighed heavily on Philip’s mind when he responded to Alexander Hamilton’s request for Elizabeth’s hand in February of 1780:
“Mrs. Schuyler[...] consents to comply with your and her daughter’s wishes. You will see the impropriety of taking the dernier pas [fr: last step] where you are. Mrs. Schuyler did not see her eldest daughter married. That gave me also pain, and we wish not to experience it a second time.”
The formal parlor at Schuyler Mansion where Elizabeth Schuyler married Alexander Hamilton on December 14, 1780
Hamilton was far from Schuyler’s ideal. He was an orphan raised in poverty in the Caribbean with no land, money, or family ties. And yet, Schuyler hesitantly said yes. Perhaps it was only Hamilton’s military career under George Washington that earned Philip’s approval. Or, perhaps the question lurked at the back of Philip’s mind: “if I say ‘no’… will they marry anyway?” Philip maintained control over the situation by asking the pair to marry at Schuyler Mansion, forcing them to wait until Hamilton could take military leave. The couple married in the formal parlor of Schuyler Mansion on December 14, 1780.
The next in line was Margaret, nicknamed Peggy. Unlike her sisters, Peggy married close to home in 1783. Stephen Van Rensselaer was a cousin on her mother’s side. The relationship was very near the ideal set forth by their parents. It strengthened the family’s connection with one of the wealthiest Dutch families in Albany. In fact, after inheriting the bulk of the Van Rensselaer estate at 21 years old, including his land holdings - approximately 1/40th of New York State – and accounting for inflation, Stephen ranks 10th on Business Insider’s list of the wealthiest Americans of all time. There are rumors that Peggy and Stephen eloped, but very little evidence to support it. A relative of Stephen’s reacted with surprise that Stephen, then 19, married so young, especially since his bride was 25, but there was no surprise or outrage from either parents. There was no question that this was a powerful match.
The next Schuyler daughter, Cornelia, was 17 years younger than Peggy, but despite the age gap, the influence of Angelica’s marriage still held power. Cornelia eloped in 1797 with Washington Morton, an attorney from New York who appears to have attempted to gain parental permission but, in his own words:
"Her mother and myself had a difference which extended to the father and I had got my wife in opposition to them both. She leapt from a Two Story Window into my arms and abandoning every thing [sic] for me gave the most convincing proof of what a husband most Desire [sic] to Know that his wife Loves him."
This description is hyperbole, since Cornelia more likely snuck out a door than leapt out a window. It is possible that Angelica gave her young sister advice or even direct aid with her elopement. Angelica had recently returned from Europe and Morton wrote that they were married by the same Judge Sedgwick who had married Angelica to John Barker Church. Philip forgave Cornelia quite quickly, but never really found a place in his heart Morton, who became Schuyler’s least favorite in-law. Philip wrote to his son of Morton:
Washington Morton fit the economic expectations of the Schuylers, but his irreverent sense of humor & flippant behavior diminished his worthiness in Philip’s eyes.
"his conduct, whilst here has been as usual, most preposterous. Seldom an evening at home, and seldom even at dinner - I have not thought it prudent to say the least word to him[...]as advice on such an irregular character is thrown away."
Young Caty did better in Schuyler’s estimation, but her marriage was also an elopement. She married attorney Samuel Bayard Malcolm not long after her mother’s death in March of 1803. However, given descriptions of the big reveal, it is likely that the couple has already married, but Catharine’s death prevented Caty from being able to tell her father. Schuyler accepted Malcolm soon after, so when Schuyler died the next year, Caty would have had a clean conscience.
Unfortunately, Malcolm died in 1817. So as not to remain a powerless widow, Caty remarried in 1822 to James Cochran, a prominent attorney and politician who was the son of Washington’s personal physician. Cochran was also her first cousin. Marrying a cousin was seen as a safe match, particularly for widows and widowers, as it consolidated wealth amongst family and one could trust that one’s children would be accepted since the new spouse was kin.
The Schuyler women had birthing rates similar to the averages for their time period. Margaret and Cornelia Schuyler died young (42, and 32 respectively). Caty's reflect two marriages, as her first husband died while she was still of child-birthing age.
For women, a marriage contract provided necessary economic stability. Spending too long outside of the contract resulted in a lack of security for oneself and one’s family. By marrying well, men could also gain economic ground and benefit from the production of heirs. A woman could have a lot of influence on the early education of these heirs since she was the main caretaker until a child was old enough to go outside the home. For women, childrearing was an all-consuming part of their life after marriage. On average, women in the mid to late 18th century gave birth once every other year from her marriage until death or menopause, whichever came first. Infant mortality rates were high, with approximately half of children dying before reaching the age of 3. Even with this mortality rate, birthrates still averaged eight surviving children per mother! Towards the end of the century, women began having fewer births with slightly lower infant mortality rates – averaging 6 surviving children per mother.
Catharine Schuyler fit these averages. According to the family bible, Catharine gave birth to fifteen children. Eight survived to adulthood. Her last child came when she was 47 years old. In other ways, Catharine was unusual - among the seven children who didn’t survive infancy, there was one set of twins and one set of triplets. Multiple births were rare, and the fact that Catharine survived those dangerous births was a testament to her health.
As one can imagine this pattern was both physically and emotionally devastating for women. The majority of their lives were spent being pregnant, recovering from pregnancy, and taking care of young children, many of whom did not survive. Throughout this cycle, the Schuyler women were also managing the household and the social affairs of the family. Catharine thrived as a manager and Philip seemed to put a great deal of trust in her logistic abilities. She made purchases for the home, received orders, and was responsible for decisions concerning the estate in Schuyler’s absence. Aided by Schuyler’s military mentor John Bradstreet, she also acted as overseer for the initial construction of Schuyler Mansion while her husband was on business in England.
Schuyler Mansion once had 125 total acres with 80 acres of farmland and a series of back working buildings. Catharine was often placed in charge of the property in Schuyler's absence and managed the slaves who worked in the household.
While attending to business, political, and military affairs, men were not home to prepare for or entertain high caliber guests whose support was often needed to maintain said business, political and military affairs. It fell on Catharine and the girls to foster a social atmosphere for their home. They threw parties, called on other households, and were ready to receive unexpected visitors at any time – including, for instance, the more than twenty military visitors sent to the home when Burgoyne was taken “prisoner guest” after his surrender to General Gates at the Battle of Saratoga.
Catharine also acted as an overseer for the unsung women of Schuyler Mansion – the enslaved servants. The head servant Prince, the enslaved women including Sylvia, Bess and Mary, and the children like Sylvia’s children Tom, Tally-ho, and Hanover, who helped serve within the home, all reported directly to Catharine. These women did the majority of labor within the home – cooking, cleaning, mending, laundry, acting as nannies when the girls travelled, and perhaps even producing the materials used for these tasks – like rendering soap and dipping candles. All this was done while raising their own families. Sources on the enslaved women of the Schuyler household are even sparser, of course, but we tell the stories we have and hope that we will someday know more.
Documents do not always allow us to tell the full range of stories we would like to tell. Thankfully, the Schuyler women were accomplished. Though they did not always fit the ideals of their society perfectly, they made themselves a prominent part of it. They married well, managed their family’s social connections and households, and very importantly, raised children who valued history and valued preserving their family’s legacy. While there are many questions that we at Schuyler Mansion still wish to answer about these women, we are fortunate to have the sources to interpret their lives, not just during Women’s History Month, but year round. To get more stories about these women, visit Schuyler Mansion’s blog or visit Facebook for information on our upcoming “Women of Schuyler Mansion” focus tour.
Danielle Funiciello has been a historic interpreter at Schuyler Mansion since 2012. She earned her MA in Public History from the University at Albany in 2013 and has been accepted into the PhD Program in History for Fall 2017. She will be writing her dissertation on Angelica Schuyler Church.
This blog is written by Hudson River Maritime Museum staff, volunteers and guest contributors.
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