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 “Chauncey Vibbard” was a wooden hull steamer built by Lawrence and Foulkes of Brooklyn for dayline service running between New York and Albany. When constructed in 1864, her original length was 265 feet, but after two seasons on the river she was hauled out of the river, cut in two, and lengthened 16 feet which gave her a hull span of 281 feet. At this time her 55-inch cylinder was replaced with a 64 ½ inch cylinder.
Destined to become one of the famous river boats, the “Chauncey Vibbard” began her passenger-carrying career on June 20, 1864, and her appearance was the cause of a great deal of comment concerning her graceful proportions and beauty of structure. While running at high speed she portrayed a dignity and grace which was almost unseen up to that period, and scarcely a wave broke from her stem to the paddlewheels. She was for years the pride of the late Commodore Van Santvoord who spared neither time nor money in his efforts to make the “Chauncey Vibbard” second to none of the steamboats plying the waters of the Hudson. In 1864 she made the run from New York to Albany in 6 hours and 21 minutes- fast time for a steamboat of that period.
In 1880 the “Chauncey Vibbard” was rebuilt. Her two boilers located on the guards were removed and three new boilers were placed in the hold of the vessel with three smokestacks going up from the center of the vessel- an operation which altered the appearance of the vessel considerably. Thus she ran for seven years, then giving way to the steamer “New York.”
Following her retirement from regular service, the “Chauncey Vibbard” was held in reserve as the “Daniel Drew” had been, but her territory was soon shifted and her last years were spent away from the Hudson river. In 1895 she was sold, going to the Delaware river for service between Philadelphia and Lincoln Park, being used both on regular runs and for excursions. During the peace jubilee in 1899 directly following the Spanish-American War, she joined the naval parade - and this was the beginning of the end for the once-proud vessel. Crowded with passengers celebrating the return of peace, the “Chauncey Vibbard” began leaking and was run on a sand bar to prevent disaster. She was later towed to Cramer’s Hill and there dismantled as late as 1902 where the wreck of her hull remained for many years.
One noteworthy fact in the career of the “Chauncey Vibbard” was her clean slate- no disaster or accident until her last trip to the sand bar. During her quarter-century activity on the Hudson river she carried millions of travelers from all over the world who viewed with delight the wonderful scenery of the highlands of the Hudson from the deck of one of the finest steamboats ever to ply the waters of the Hudson river- the “Chauncey Vibbard.”
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.
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