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
By some manner of coincidence steamboats whose names began with the letter “S” were known to rivermen as “hard luck boats,” and to this group belonged the steamboat “State of New York.”
Built at Brooklyn in 1866 by C. & R. Poillon, the “State of New York” had a wooden hull measuring 268 feet long, a breadth of beam of 36 feet, and depth of hold of nine feet six inches. Her gross tonnage was rated at 1,417 and net tonnage at 1,047. Her vertical beam engine was built by Cobanks & Theall of New York, and the cylinder diameter was 65 inches with a 12-foot stroke.
The “State of New York” was constructed for the Hartford and New York Steamboat Company and her name was scheduled to be “Vermont,” but when she was launched she was christened the “State of New York,” under the command of Captain D.A. Mills. Costing $200,000 the “State of New York” was the largest steamboat built up to that time for use of the Connecticut river, and her passenger rating was listed at 800 people.
For many years the “State of New York” ran in line with the “City of Hartford” and the “Granite State,” and in 1880 she was in service on a route from Stonington to New York. During her entire career the steamboat was dogged by accidents, although no lives were lost as a result of these mishaps.
When the Saybrook breakwaters were built in 1872 a huge boulder rolled into the ship channel - and the “State of New York” hit it and was forced to lay over a day in New York City for repairs. Later, in avoiding a tow in Hell Gate, the steamboat struck another rock and had to be beached at Hallets Point. Her stern was submerged on this occasion but the 90 passengers aboard were saved and most of the freight was salvaged. Captain Peter Cahill, a former wheelsman on the “State of New York” under Captain Peter Dibble, was at that time owner of a salvage tugboat and was called to haul the freight of the wrecked “State of New York” to Hartford. The owners of the “State of New York” refused to pay Captain Cahill’s claim of $300 for this job, and a suit followed in which the tugboat captain received his claim.
On August 28, 1881 the “State of New York” struck a snag on the Salmon river above East Haddam, Connecticut, tore out two planks, and was beached again to save her from sinking. Her bow rode up on the bank and her stern sank in deep water, and this episode cost her owners $40,000 before she could again be placed in service.
Under Captain R.K. Miner the ill-fated steamboat met with another serious accident while coming out of Peck Slip in a strong ebb tide. Before she could straighten out in the river she was hurled into the Brooklyn docks, carrying away one side of her deck house and damaging wharves and dock houses to the amount of $80,000.
Following these latest mishaps, the name “State of New York” disappeared from the steamboat and in its place came the name “City of Springfield”. This change was not long in force before the steamboat broke her walking beam and was laid up for some time at Middle Haddam awaiting repairs.
The spring of 1883 was the occasion for the “City of Springfield” to appear on the Hudson river- and became known to local rivermen. In that year she was chartered to the Cornell Steamboat Company of Rondout, because of two events which had happened previous to the spring of 1883. On March 27, 1882 the steamboat “Thomas Cornell” had been wrecked on Danskammer Point, and the steamboat “City of Catskill” had been chartered to replace the “Thomas Cornell.” After running one season on the “Thomas Cornell’s” route, the “City of Catskill” was destroyed by fire at Rondout on February 11, 1883, and then the “City of Springfield” (“State of New York”) was chartered to run on the route of the “Thomas Cornell.”
The “City of Springfield” plied the route of the “Thomas Cornell” for one season, under the command of Captain William Van Keuren. Henry Briggs served as pilot and Nicholas M. McLean was chief engineer. The following year marked the appearance of the steamboat “City of Kingston,” and brought to a close the term of service of the “City of Springfield” on the Rondout route.
The next account of the former “State of New York” concerns a collision with the “City of Boston” off Cornfield Point Light. In this encounter one of the “City of Boston’s” boilers was rolled off her guard and her smokestack tumbled onto the deck of the “City of Springfield.”
The “City of Springfield” remained in commission until 1895 when she was tied up and later sold and converted into a coal barge named the “Jimmy Hughes”. Fate still watched over the former “State of New York”- for the converted coal barge finally foundered in a storm off the Jersey coast, ending her 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.
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