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.
No. 3- Isaac Newton
The “Isaac Newton" was built for William H. and Curtis Peck in 1846 (sic). The hull was of wood, constructed by William H. Brown, and her engine was a product of the Allaire Iron Works. Her original length was 38 feet but she was rebuilt in 1885 and was thereafter 405 feet in length.
The intentions of the owners were to use the new boat as a dayliner and to name her the “George Washington,” but while she was still on the ways she was sold to the People’s Line, who had her christened the “Isaac Newton” in honor of one of the principal owners of the line, who was a pioneer steamboat man.
The “Isaac Newton” had but two decks during the first nine years of her existence, but she was rebuilt in 1885 by John Englis of Greenpoint, and a third tier of staterooms was added, thus making her the second three-decker to appear on the Hudson river; the first being the “New World,” which had a third deck added the previous year. The “Isaac Newton” and the “New World,” when rebuilt into three-deckers were the most beautifully furnished and numbered among the celebrated steamboats of the world.
The two upper decks, aft of the engine trunk, were arranged in the form of large apartment galleries, and the ceiling of these decks sported enormous glass chandeliers, lighted by gas. The effect of this decoration was pronounced the most beautiful that had been conceived and the novel arrangement was copied not only on many paddle-wheel boats but on large ocean steamships as well.
The “Isaac Newton” met her fate December 5, 1863. She left the foot of Cortlandt street at 5 o’clock in the evening, carrying 150 passengers, and when passing Fort Washington point, her starboard boiler exploded, sprinkling the deck with hot coals, and enveloping her from stem to stern with raging flames. The towboat “Herald” of Rondout, with Captain Harry Barber in command, was instrumental in saving many lives at this disaster. In all, 10 passengers lost their lives. By most fortunate circumstances the others were rescued by small boats of the “Herald” and the “Daniel S. Miller.” Among the dead were two brothers who made their home in Troy, named John and James Hodgso. The rescued passengers and crew were landed in Yonkers. The steamer was totally destroyed.
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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