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.
Known by rivermen as a “hard luck steamboat,” the “Saratoga” plied the waters of the Hudson river for 33 years, and during that time was responsible for some loss of life as well as doing a great deal of damage to the vessel itself. She played a foremost part in the coincidences which labeled steamboats whose names began with the letter “S” as “hard luck vessels.”
John Englis and Son of Greenpoint, N.Y., built the wooden hull of the “Saratoga” in 1877. Her keel was 285 feet long with an overall measurement of 300 feet, the breadth of her hull was 56 feet (over the guards she was 70 feet), and she was listed for 1,438 gross tons and 1,281 net tons. Her vertical beam engine came from the “Sunnyside” and was a product of Secor Iron Works of New York city- built in 1866. The cylinder diameter measured 56 inches with a 12 foot stroke. She had two steel return tubular boilers, and her wheels were 32 feet in diameter with 26 buckets to each wheel with a dip of 30 inches.
The "Saratoga" and the "City of Troy" ran in line between New York and Troy, forming the Citizen’s Line; the “Saratoga” having replaced the steamboat “Neversink” which had seen service on this route for a year, having replaced the “Thomas Powell” which was discarded in 1876. The month of June, 1877 makes the first trip of the “Saratoga” to Troy, sailing under the command of Captain Thomas Abrams, with Abram Parsell as chief engineer [editor's note - Abram Parsell was a relative of Rondout Lighthouse keeper Catherine Murdock]. She boasted sleeping accommodations for 550 people, a large freight carrying capacity, and a speed of 16 miles per hour. She was built at a cost of $175,000.
The first accident recorded in the history of the “Saratoga” occurred on September 29, 1886. She left Troy on Monday evening, bound for New York with 230 passengers and 80 tons of freight aboard. About 2 o’clock in the morning, when the “Saratoga” was a mile south of Tivoli, she suddenly came in contact with something with such force that her joiner work was cracked and the vessel halted. It developed that her pilot had miscalculated his whereabouts and had run at full speed on the flats between Little Island and the tracks of the Hudson River railroad. Soundings showed that the steamboat was embedded in the mud in only five feet of water- and it was not until October 11, 1886 that she was floated again.
On March 26, 1897, the “Saratoga” left her wharf at Troy for New York at 7:30 o’clock. Upon turning around she refused to obey her rudder, with the result that she smashed into the Congress street bridge at Troy. The river was high and the current swift, and she was thrown against the pier on her starboard side, carrying away much of her upper wood-work. Distress signals were immediately displayed which brought the steamer “Belle Horton” and a tugboat to her aid, and she was towed to the dock where she was later repaired.
July 29, 1897, the “Saratoga,” while steaming up the river bound for Troy, collided with a large steam yacht, the “Hermonie.” She almost went to the bottom on this occasion- the accident occurring near Stony Point. The “Hermonie” struck the “Saratoga” on the starboard side, destroying her barroom, injuring one passenger and tossing many sleeping passengers from their bunks.
Other accidents are recorded in which the “Saratoga” was a factor, but she continued on the New York-Troy line until sunk in a collision with the steamboat “Adirondack” on Friday, October 12, 1906, off Crugers Island, 60 miles below Troy. She was carrying a large number of passengers when this accident occurred, and was running in a light fog. Two lives were lost and several were injured. Clarence Sherman, an oiler on the Saratoga, was crushed to death, and George E. Horton, a freight clerk on the “Adirondack,” was knock overboard and drowned. The “Saratoga” was struck on the port side, being torn up from a point just aft of the wheelhouse almost to the stern. The port boiler was torn from the guards and dropped overboard. The “City of Troy” came along at this time and took off the passengers before the “Saratoga” went to the bottom.
The “Saratoga” was raised, repaired, and sold, and was then taken to the Jamestown Exhibition (1907), where she was used as a hotel during the summer. The “City of Troy” burned in 1907 and her boilers were installed on the “Saratoga” which was then placed on the route between New York and Albany (the summer of 1908), as an opposition vessel in line with the steamboat “Frank Jones” and running under the banner of the Manhattan Navigation Line. The “Saratoga” plowed the waters of the Hudson river until the fall of 1910 when she was deemed worn out and dismantled. Her hull was purchased by Charles Bishop of Rondout, in 1911, and taken to Port Ewen and broken up.
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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