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. See more of Murdock's articles in "Steamboat Biographies".
No. 41- James W. Baldwin
The “James W. Baldwin” was one of the better-known steamboats to the people of this section of the Hudson river valley. She was built in 1860 and was originally 242 feet long, breadth of beam 34 feet, and a tonnage rating of 710. Her hull was constructed of wood by M.S. Allison of Jersey City and her engine, a vertical beam with a 60 inch cylinder and an 11 foot stroke, was the product of Fletcher, Harrison & company of New York. She had two iron boilers located on the guards. In later years the “James W. Baldwin” was rebuilt- measuring 275 feet, five inches, and a net tonnage rating of 923.
The “James W. Baldwin” was built for Captain Jacob H. Tremper of Kingston. Captain Tremper was one of the best-known of the old Hudson river skippers, beginning his career back in the thirties by purchasing and operating the steamboat “Fanny,” a stout little sidewheeler formerly used on Long Island Sound, which he placed in service between New York and Marlborough. Later he purchased the “Emerald” and ran her for a short period between Poughkeepsie and the metropolis.
By the year 1860, Captain Tremper had made Rondout his terminus for a line to New York and he was running the steamboat “North America” on that route. In 1860 he ordered a new steamer which he intended to name the “Wiltwyck,” but when he launched her on November 19, 1860, he christened her the “James W. Baldwin.” The new steamboat was placed in regular service in the spring of 1861, and immediately gained attention because she was the speediest vessel carrying staterooms on the river at that time. She had 50 staterooms and sleeping accommodations for up to 100 persons. Later she was lengthened, an extra tier of staterooms added, and accommodations increased to 350 persons.
The “Baldwin” was a typical Hudson river night boat, and she was under the command of Captain Tremper from the day of her first trip until the year 1888 when the Captain died.
In the year 1899 the “James W. Baldwin” was purchased by the Central Hudson Steamboat Company of Newburgh, and in 1903 she was rebuilt, two new boilers were placed in her, and her name was changed to the “Central Hudson.” She saw service on the same route for which she was constructed in 1860.
During her career the “James W. Baldwin” had many running mates. In 1861-1862 she ran in line with the steamboat “Manhattan.” In 1863 she saw service with the “Knickerbocker,” continuing with the latter vessel until the “Thomas Cornell” made her appearance. The “Baldwin” ran in line with the “Thomas Cornell” until that vessel was wrecked on March 28, 1882, and then for the balance of the season she had the “City of Catskill” as her running mate. In 1883 the “City of Springfield” was the companion boat of the “Baldwin,” and then from 1884 to 1889 she ran in line with the hull propeller vessel “City of Kingston.”
In October, 1889, the “City of Kingston” was sold to a company on the Pacific coast, and for the balance of that season the steamboat “Saugerties” was chartered to run with the “Baldwin.”
During the winter of 1890 Romer & Tremper bought out the night line business of the Cornell Line between Rondout and New York, and purchased the steamboat, “Mason L. Weems,” later rechristened the “William F. Romer,” from a concern in Baltimore to run in line with the “James W. Baldwin.”
In 1910 the Central Hudson Line constructed a new steel hull propeller boat named the “Benjamin B. Odell,” and in the spring of 1911 this new vessel replaced the “James W. Baldwin” or “Central Hudson” as she was known at that period. The “Central Hudson” was then chartered out to the Manhattan Line to run between New York and Albany in line with the steamer “Kennebec,” later called the “Iroquois.” On May 20, 1911, on the down trip from Albany, the “Central Hudson” ran aground at Jones Point where she was fast for 13 hours. On the return trip she again ran aground near West Point. This second accident occurred at high tide and was more serious than the first mishap, as the bow of the vessel was fast while the stern was floating. The keel was broken. An investigation in dry-dock showed the damage to be quite serious and the “Central Hudson” was abandoned. She was towed to Newburgh from Hoboken and was partly dismantled. Later she was purchased by J.H. Gregory, and on November 15, 1911, the once proud “James W. Baldwin” was towed through New York Harbor on her way to the bone yard at Perth Amboy where she was broken up.
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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