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 “Empire of Troy” was constructed in 1843, being 307 feet long, and was one of the leading Hudson river boats of her time, running in line with the steamboat “Troy” on the New York-Troy route. She was the second large steamboat built for the Troy Line and was supposed to be called the “Empire” but her owners feared that she might be mistaken for an Albany boat so they had the name “Empire Of Troy” painted in large, black letters on her paddle-wheel boxes. These owners had plenty of reason to be proud of their vessel because she was the largest of her type that had been built up to that time.
However, despite her size and construction, she turned out to be a rather unfortunate craft, meeting with many mishaps. In April of 1845, she met with a most peculiar accident. During a dense fog she ran into the pier at the foot of 19th street in the North River. Although this pier was constructed of solid, ballasted crib-work, the impact was so great the steamer’s hull cut through the pier for a distance of 30 feet, doing little or no damage to the vessel but completely wrecking the pier.
On the night of May 18, 1849, the “Empire of Troy” left New York bound for Troy. While proceeding up Newburgh Bay at 10 o’clock at night, she was in a collision with the sloop “Noah Brown”. The “Empire of Troy” began to settle immediately and the steamer “Rip Van Winkle” which was following the ill-fated vessel, succeeded in rescuing a great number of passengers, but even at that some 24 lives were lost. The “Rip Van Winkle” towed the “Empire of Troy” over to the flats on the eastern side of the river where she settled on the bottom. She was later raised and repaired, and continued to run on the Troy route until another accident of a similar nature eventually put her out of service.
This second accident which wrote “finis” to the steamer’s career happened between two and three o’clock in the morning of July 16, 1853, of New Hamburgh. The pilot of the “Empire of Troy” saw the sloop “General Livingston” trying to beat across his bow. He threw over his wheel so as to give the sloop leeway, but the “General Livingston suddenly sheered off and struck the “Empire of Troy” on the larboard side, throwing her boiler from its anchorings and staving in the guards and paddlebox. The passengers, alarmed by the terrific crash and the noise of escaping steam, rushed from their berths and staterooms into the upper cabin and saloon, only to be submerged in the cabin and scalded in the saloon. A chambermaid, frightfully scalded, jumped overboard and was drowned. Captain Smith ordered the bell rung to call help but before any aid arrived, the vessel had careened to the leeward and was rapidly filling. The sloop “First Effort” and the propellor-driven “Wyoming” then came alongside and took off the passengers, and later the “Wyoming” pushed the “Empire of Troy” into the shallows on the eastern shore where she sank in eight feet of water.
The accident caused the death of eight people and injured 14 others. Those that were scalded were given first aid at the residence of Mr. Van Renssaleer at New Hamburgh.
The “Empire of Troy” was finally raised but it was found that her hull was badly damaged and so she was dismantled after a record of only 10 years service.
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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