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. 89- Nuhpa
Built originally for service on the Hudson river, the “Nuhpa” was in use for 33 years and was finally broken up at Boston, Massachusetts, after spending her last years on Long Island Sound. During her career on the Hudson river, she ran afoul of the ice on two occasions, sinking in one instance and being run aground to save herself in the second encounter.
The hull of the “Nuhpa” was rebuilt from the hull of the ill-fated steamboat “Berkshire” which was destroyed by fire in 1864 with a loss of 30 lives. [Editor's Note: see "Berkshire"'s story below.} J.R. Baldwin and H.S. Baldwin rebuilt this hull in 1865 at New Baltimore, N.Y., the length recorded as 253 feet, breadth of beam 37 feet, depth of hold 10 feet. The gross tonnage of the “Nuhpa” was listed at 1232, not (sic) tonnage 906, and she was powered with a vertical beam engine with a cylinder diameter of 37 inches with a five foot stroke. A feature of this engine was its placement- crosswise of the vessel with a direct connection with the propeller which was a departure from the usual custom of gears. This resulted in an exceptionally fast steamboat, and the “Nuhpa” was the largest propeller steamboat built for the Hudson river up to that period.
The “Nuhpa” was constructed for George H. Powers and other parties of Hudson, N.Y., for service on the Hudson and New York night route, and she has the distinction of being the largest and fastest vessel that ever made the city of Hudson her home port.
April 7, 1873, is the date of the first encounter with the ice- and the “Nuhpa” came out of the affair “second best.” She was on her way from the up-river city to the metropolis when she was crushed by the ice off Barrytown about 2 o’clock in the morning. She sank and was abandoned, and about April 25th was raised and towed to New York. She was repaired and returned to her regular route. In December, 1876, she again met defeat before the crush of the river ice- this time she was cut through by the ice and run ashore on Esopus Island to avoid sinking. This accident took place just above the location where the “Sunnyside” met her fate a year before.
In the spring of 1877 the “Nuhpa” was returned to her regular route- seeing service for another year, when she was transferred to the excursion business, making a round trip per day from New York to Iona Island. On August 24, 1878, she was sold by the New York and Hudson Steamboat Company to parties in Bridgeport, Conn., and in 1879 she was again placed in service on excursion trips to Iona Island. In July, 1879, the name of the “Nuhpa” was changed to the “Metropolitan” and in 1880 the “Metropolitan” was sold to the New London Northern Railroad Company who operated her in line with the “Tillie” and “Doris” between New York and Groton, Connecticut, until 1896 when two new steamboats, the “Mohawk” and “Mohegan,” made their appearance, and the “Metropolitan” was laid aside as a spare vessel.
In 1897 the “Nuhpa” under the name of the “Metropolitan” was sold to a concern in Boston, Mass., who took her to Boston where she was broken up.
No. 22- Berkshire - 1864
The largest steamboat ever constructed for the Hudson-New York Route, the “Berkshire,” was one of the show boats of her time, but her career was short, and the memory of the “Berkshire” is one of those horrors which occurred in the early days of steamboating.
The “Berkshire” was built at Athens in 1864 with a 250 foot keel and a beam of 37 feet. She was owned by George H. Powers, of Hudson, and had a speed of 18 miles per hour.
On June 8, 1864, one of the most heartrending disasters in the annals of steamboating occurred to the “Berkshire.” She left Hudson early in the evening for New York City, and as she was rounding Krum Elbow about two miles from Hyde Park, a fire was discovered in her crank pit. The cause of this blaze was never determined but it was thought that some interested passenger who had been watching the great crank revolve, had actually dropped the lighted stump of a cigar into some cotton waste in the pit.
It was not long before the flames were roaring up through the engine shaft and setting fire to the deck cargo of bailed hay, cutting off communication from either end of the boat. There were 130 passengers aboard, most of whom had embarked at Hudson and Catskill, and of these 40 were either burned to death or drowned. The scene of the catastrophe was one that will long be remembered by the survivors, and the bravery of a Mr. Carter, of the editorial staff of the New York Times, who crawled over one of the paddle boxes to safety, leading with him many more, was one of the highlights of the accident. A Mrs. Hannaford, with a baby in one arm and her daughter in the other, leaped overboard, leaving her little son on the deck. Both her baby and daughter slipped from her grasp in the water and she herself was saved by a man who was obliged to let go his grasp on his own little boy in order to save the woman. All the children were lost. A Saugerties merchant by the name of French, jumped from the hurricane deck with his son and daughter clinging to him, and escaped the clutching fingers of death.
The heat of the flames had driven the engineers from their posts and the paddle wheels continued to revolve after the boat had run aground. Many of the struggling passengers who found themselves in the water, were disabled by being struck by the paddles or were forced out into the river by the current set up by the motion of the wheels, and were drowned. Those who were fortunate enough to escape were picked up by the “James W. Baldwin” of Rondout, which hurried to the rescue and put out small boats to pick up those in the water.
What remained of the “Berkshire” was rebuilt into a freight and passenger craft named the “Nuhpa”, which ran the same route between Hudson and New York.
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.
If you enjoyed this post and would like to support more history blog content, please make a donation to the Hudson River Maritime Museum or become a member today!
This blog is written by Hudson River Maritime Museum staff, volunteers and guest contributors.
Hudson River Maritime Museum
50 Rondout Landing
Kingston, NY 12401
The Hudson River Maritime Museum is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the maritime history of the Hudson River, its tributaries, and related industries.
Become a member and receive benefits like unlimited free museum admission, discounts on classes, programs, and in the museum store, plus invitations to members-only events.
The Hudson River Maritime Museum receives no federal, state, or municipal funding except through competitive, project-based grants. Your donation helps support our mission of education and preservation.