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.
Constructed as a replacement for a steamboat that had been destroyed by fire, the “Belle Horton” was in service for 25 years on various routes and finally was also the victim of the flames which brought to a close the careers of many of the Hudson river steamboats.
The wooden hull of the “Belle Horton” was built by Van Loan and Magee at Athens, New York, in 1881, and her engine- a vertical beam type with a cylinder diameter of 32 inches with a seven foot stroke- was the product of Fletcher, Harrison and Company of Hoboken, New Jersey. The vessel’s hull measured 135 feet, six inches in length, with a breadth of beam listed at 25 feet five inches, and a depth of hold of seven feet five inches. Her gross tonnage was listed at 305, and her net tonnage at 224.
The “Belle Horton” was built for the Citizens’ Line of Troy to take the place of the steamboat “Golden Gate,” which had been destroyed by fire during the summer of 1880. Due to the shallow water in the upper Hudson river between Troy and Albany, the larger night boats, “City of Troy” and “Saratoga,” sometimes experienced difficulty in navigating the river between these two cities, and the “Belle Horton” was often used as a tender to these two larger vessels. Because of her fine lines and graceful appearance the “Belle Horton” became a favorite with the river-minded public and she was used frequently for excursion parties on the upper Hudson river during the summer months.
The year of 1894 marked the end of the steamboat “Belle Horton” in excursion service, and she was then chartered out to run between Newark and New York. The following two years, 1895 and 1896, found the “Belle Horton” in service between Keyport, N.J., and New York on the route formerly traversed by the steamboat “Magenta,” which had been chartered to run between the Battery, in New York city, to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
During the time of the Spanish-American War, 1897-1898, the “Belle Horton” was running between New York city and Norwalk, Conn., and in 1899 she was returned to Troy where she was again used for excursion purposes. For one month during this period in her career the “Belle Horton” was in service between Peekskill and New York, replacing the steamboat “Chrystrah,” which was laid up for repairs to a broken shaft.
The beginning of the 20th century closed the career of the “Belle Horton” on the waters of the Hudson river. The trim little steamboat was sold and taken to Norfolk, Va., where she was placed in service as an excursion boat on the James river. She sailed the James river between Norfolk and a place called Pine Beach, and the name “Belle Horton” disappeared from her sides- giving way to the name “Pine Beach.” In 1906, after a quarter of a century of service, the “Pine Beach” was destroyed by fire- thus erasing from active service the steamboat which had been known to travelers of the Hudson river as the “Belle Horton.”
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.