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 steamboat known as the “Crystal Stream” is another of the vessels familiar to folks of the Hudson valley as an excursion boat; but unlike many of her running mates in the same business, the “Crystal Stream” traveled north from the Hudson river to New Brunswick- where she met her end.
The 132 foot six inch wooden hull of the “Crystal Stream” was constructed at Bulls Ferry, New Jersey, in 1875. With a breadth of beam measuring 25 feet six inches, the “Crystal Stream” had a gross tonnage rating of 268 with a net tonnage of 167. She was powered with a vertical beam engine constructed by Fletcher, Harrison & Company of New York, which had a cylinder diameter of 36 inches with an eight foot stroke.
When the vessel was launched she was christened the “Nelson K. Hopkins.” Being a medium-size steamboat, she was placed in the excursion business in and about New York harbor. The “Nelson K. Hopkins” was in service for only a very short time when she was partially destroyed by fire. Records do not disclose the details of this fire, but the steamboat was rebuilt and, when she again made her appearance, she carried the name of “Crystal Stream.”
The initial service of the “Crystal Stream” was on a regular route between New York city and Nyack on the Hudson river. Just how long she remained on this run is not known, but she was later found to be in the excursion business, and was finally purchased by William Myers who used her for towing the excursion barges on the Hudson river during the summer months.
The “Crystal Stream” became a familiar sight along the lower section of the Hudson valley and along the shores of the picnic groves on Long Island Sound. At this particular time in the nation’s history, excursions were a popular sport, and many such outings were a regular part of the program of Sunday Schools and organizations. The “Crystal Stream” hauled many heavily-laden barges of merry-makers to various picnic grounds, and her record does not show any black mark of misfortune in this service.
In the summer of 1902 the “Crystal Stream” was sold to parties in St. Johns, New Brunswick. Thus, instead of traveling south as many of the Hudson river excursion vessels did, the “Crystal Stream” headed north for more service- and her destruction.
The “Crystal Stream” was in service on the St. Johns river until the night of June 21, 1907 - when the flames brought her career to a close. Most of the people aboard the vessel were asleep when fire turned the “Crystal Stream” into a seething furnace. Those who were sleeping aft, when awakened by the choking smoke and roaring flames, escaped in a small boat. Others on the vessel found themselves shut in by walls of fire and were forced to dash through the flames in an effort to escape. Many were fortunate to make the wharf at River Point, where the vessel was tied up, but several women were badly burned, and three of the crew lost their lives. The steamboat was a total loss- thus ending a career of 34 years.
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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