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 at right
No. 10- Francis Skiddy
Appearing on the river for the first time in June, 1852, the 1,235 ton, 322 foot “Francis Skiddy” created somewhat of a sensation, as she was one of the most up-to-date vessels that had yet sailed into the waters of the Hudson.
During the “forties,” steamboats began to appear with saloons on the second deck, with the “Empire,” “Oregon,” “Isaac Newton” and “Hendrick Hudson” among the first to be so constructed. These vessels were used on the night lines, and the dayboats had their dining rooms in the hold aft. They all carried pilot houses on the second deck, but in the year 1852 the “Francis Skiddy” was launched with the saloon on the second deck and the pilot house resting on a third deck. As a further departure from the usual standards, the “Francis Skiddy” sported a long and extensive promenade on her second deck for the use of the passengers. This innovation was formed by a roof extending from just forward of the boilers to a point a short distance aft of the after boilers, and from that point to the stern a light framework was erected on which an awning could be stretched. The design was the creation of George Collyer, of New York city.
On June 30, 1852, the “Francis Skiddy” left the foot of Chambers street, New York, and sailed up the river to Hudson in the time of five hours and three minutes, allowing 20 minutes for five landings en route. This is a speed of 23.04 miles per hour and established a record which this vessel held until some time after the Civil War. On her regular run between New York and Albany, the “Francis Skiddy” averaged seven and a half hours and made a round trip every 24 hours for a period in 1853.
In 1855, the “Francis Skiddy” was rebuilt into a three-deck night boat, the cabins being placed on the second and third decks. This added weight brought her down lower in the water and caused her speed to be considerably less than before. These state rooms, built into her in much the same manner as those on the “New World” and the “Isaac Newton,” caused her to draw too much to make the trip to Troy, and so an additional hull was built around the old hull, decreasing the draft by two feet and thus making it possible to put into Troy. The larger hull was framed the same as that of a new boat and was fastened around the hull of the “Francis Skiddy” in such a manner that amidships there was a distance of six feet between the inner and outer hulls.
On the night of November 21, 1861, the “Francis Skiddy” was proceeding down the river off Blue Point, two miles below Poughkeepsie, and encountered the schooner “W.W. Reynolds.” It was a “pitch dark” night and the schooner had failed to hang out her lights, and before the pilot of the “Francis Skiddy,” Hazzard Morey, realized his proximity of the schooner, there was a crash. Morey veered his vessel to the windward but too late to avoid the collision, and the schooner’s bowsprit entered the galley’s window and penetrated the boiler of the “Francis Skiddy,” causing an explosion in which three of the firemen were killed and four passengers fatally scalded.
The damage was repaired and the “Francis Skiddy” resumed her schedule. Then on the night of November 5, 1864, she ran aground at Van Wie’s Point, four miles below Albany, and was wrecked. Her engine was salvaged and placed in the new steamboat, “Dean Richmond,” in 1865, but her hull was broken up for scrap.
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.
This blog is written by Hudson River Maritime Museum staff, volunteers and guest contributors.
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