Editor's Note: Last week we visited the confusion around two Thomas Collyers, one of which ferried Abraham Lincoln to the Hampton Roads Conference, but the Conference itself took place aboard the River Queen, which we feature today.
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.
Although having the distinction of once being General U.S. Grant’s private dispatch boat and also honored by being selected to convey one of the United States greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln, on a mission of peace, the “River Queen” was one of the steamboats about which little is remembered by followers of the famous Hudson River vessels.
Benjamin C. Terry built the wooden hull of the “River Queen” at Keyport, New Jersey, in 1864. She was 181 feet long, breadth of beam 28 feet five inches, depth of hold nine feet. Her gross tonnage was 578 with a net tonnage of 426, and she was propelled by a vertical beam with a cylinder diameter of 48 inches with a 10 foot stroke.
The “River Queen” was originally built for service in and about New York waters but she was soon chartered by the federal government and placed in service as General Grant’s private dispatch boat on the Potomac river during the last year of the Civil War. The year-old vessel was recognized as a steamboat of extreme beauty, and because of this she was selected to convey President Abraham Lincoln and the peace commissioners from Washington to City Point on the James river, where they were to meet a similar delegation representing the Confederate government.
At the close of the Civil War the “River Queen” was returned to service in New York harbor, and she was placed on a route between New York and New Hamburgh on the Hudson river as a freight and passenger vessel. She plied this route until 1871 when she was taken east and operated under the banner of the Newport Steamboat Company between Providence and Newport. From 1873 to 1880 the “River Queen” was in service crossing Nantucket Sound as a running mate to the steamboat “Island Home.”
During this period of service the “River Queen” was operated on Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds by the Vineyard Company, replacing the steamboat “Monohansett,” which had been chartered to the Old Colony Railroad to run in connection with its Woods Hole branch line. The Vineyard Company finally sold the “River Queen” for $60,000 to the Nantucket & Cape Cod Steamboat Company who kept her in island service until the autumn of 1881. For several years afterwards she was chartered to various parties around New York and farther south.
During the winter of 1891 the “River Queen” was sold to the Mount Vernon & Marshall Hall Steamboat Company of Washington, D.C. Under the ownership of this company she saw service on the Potomac river until 1911 when she was deemed completely worn out and dismantled. The hull of the “River Queen,” a steamboat once honored by the presence of Abraham Lincoln, was finally converted into a coal barge- ending a brilliant and notable steamboat career.
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.
This blog is written by Hudson River Maritime Museum staff, volunteers and guest contributors.
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