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
The “Ansonia” was built for the New York-Derby, Conn., route in the year 1848, with George Deming, captain, Frederick Perkins, pilot, and John M. White, chief engineer. She was 190 feet long with a 28 foot beam, and ran on Long Island Sound on the Derby route until 1860, when she was purchased by Brett & Matthews of Fishkill Landing, refitted and renamed the “William Kent.”
Under the name of the “William Kent,” this steamboat sailed the Hudson between Fishkill Landing and New York until 1861, when she was chartered by the government for the transportation of troops for the sum of $700 per day. She was employed by the federal government for a period of 77 days and was then discharged from service.
About this time the government passed a law which said that unless a steamboat was entirely rebuilt, her name could not be changed. The purpose of the law was to protect the public who might think they were traveling on a new boat when in reality the only thing new would be the name. This law necessitated the name “Ansonia” being again emblazoned on the sides of the “William Kent,” and so under the original name of the “Ansonia” she plied the Delaware river between Philadelphia and Cape May in the year 1862.
Following this sojourn at the Quaker City, the “Ansonia” was brought back to New York and placed in service on her former route between Fishkill Landing and the metropolis as a freight and passenger carrier under Captain J.T. Brett. Following this she was sold to the Saugerties Steamboat Company and began regular trips between Saugerties and New York.
In the winter of 1892 the Ansonia was rebuilt at South Brooklyn, being lengthened to 205 feet, and her name was changed to the “Ulster,” with a tonnage rating of 780 gross tons or 580 net tons.
On November 11, 1897, the “Ulster” ran on the rocks at Butter Hill, just below Cornwall-on-Hudson about midnight and rested there with her stern submerged in the water and her bow on the rocks. She slipped off the rocks and sunk in 30 feet of water. At the time of the accident she was heavily loaded with freight and carried 105 passengers, all of whom were safely landed on shore.
A further account of this disaster tells of the “Ulster” leaving New York about seven o’clock in the evening on an exceedingly stormy night. When she reached Haverstraw Bay, a wind storm arose and blew down the river at a rate of about 30 miles an hour. The pilot hugged the west shore of the river so as not to face the full force of the gale. The river was very rough and when opposite Butter Hill, the “Ulster” was blown on the rocky shore and a hole stove in her hull. Most of the passengers were in their berths at the time but they were quickly aroused and gotten off with a minimum of confusion.
The “Ulster” was raised and rebuilt and placed in service on her regular route, running until the fall of 1921, when she was taken up to Rondout creek to Hiltebrant’s shipyard and was there rebuilt in the winter of 1922. The Vulcan Iron Works of Jersey City constructed a new boiler for the steamer and her name was changed to the “Robert A. Snyder” in honor of the late Robert A. Snyder who was for many years the president and superintendent of the Saugerties and New York Steamboat Company. She ran on the Saugerties line in conjunction with the steamboat “Ida."
On Friday, February 20, 1936, the “Robert A. Snyder” was crushed by the ice as she lay in the lower creek off Saugerties where she had been tied up with her sister ship, the “Ida”, since the Saugerties Line ceased operation some four years before. The water was shallow at that point and the remains of the once famous boat now lies rotting to pieces on the muddy bottom of the Saugerties Creek, a sight that will bring back many memories of the olden days on the Hudson river to any of the old boatmen who were active at the time when the “Robert A. Snyder” was running on her regular schedule.
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.
If you enjoyed this post and would like to support more history blog content, please make a donation to the Hudson River Maritime Museum or become a member today!
This blog is written by Hudson River Maritime Museum staff, volunteers and guest contributors.
Hudson River Maritime Museum
50 Rondout Landing
Kingston, NY 12401
The Hudson River Maritime Museum is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the maritime history of the Hudson River, its tributaries, and related industries.
Become a member and receive benefits like unlimited free museum admission, discounts on classes, programs, and in the museum store, plus invitations to members-only events.
The Hudson River Maritime Museum receives no federal, state, or municipal funding except through competitive, project-based grants. Your donation helps support our mission of education and preservation.