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. 59 - “Saugerties”
She came from “foreign waters” under the name of the Shenandoah, she served on the Hudson River under the name of the Saugerties, and she went to a watery grave as the result of the ravages of flames; thus reads a brief history of the Saugerties.
Her wooden hull, built at Brooklyn in 1882, was 200 feet long with a 33 foot breadth of beam, and she was rated at 424 net tons. A vertical beam engine with a 36-inch diameter cylinder and a 10 foot stroke furnished the power for the Saugerties.
The steamboat was originally named the Shenandoah and was built for the old Dominion Steamship Company in whose service she plied the James river and Chesapeake Bay, carrying freight and passengers to and from the company’s steamships in Norfolk, Va.
In 1888 the Shenandoah was purchased by the Saugerties Company to run between Saugerties and New York on the night line in line with the steamer Ulster. She was completely overhauled and her name changed to the Saugerties, and she was advertised as “the largest little steamboat on the Hudson river.”
On Sunday, November 23, 1906, the Saugerties, under Captain Charles Tiffany, made her last run and ended her career as another steamboat that fell before the flames which wrote finis to the term of service of many of the river steamboats. The fire occurred at the dock at Saugerties village and caused the death of Charles Rosch, a member of the crew from New York city.
The Saugerties arrived at her dock at the up-river village on Sunday morning with a cargo of freight and passengers. It being Sunday, no freight was removed from the steamboat which was scheduled to make her return trip to New York on Monday evening. About 5 o’clock on that Sunday afternoon in November, flames were discovered coming from the oil room of the vessel, and a few moments later the entire lower section of the boat was ablaze.
The men who were aboard the steamer were compelled to flee for their lives and were unable to take the time to gather any of their possessions other than the clothes they were wearing. The ill-fated Rosch, a member of the crew, made his way back to the burning steamer after he had safely reached the wharf, in order to rescue a suit of clothing in which he had four dollars. Others on the wharf shouted to him that his efforts were foolhardy but he dashed into the smoke and flame and was suffocated.
The flames spread to all parts of the stricken vessel with amazing rapidity, eating their way along the upper deck and completely enveloping the steamer within 15 minutes. The roar of the fire could be heard for some distance and the heat from the flames was terrific.
The burned hulk sank at the dock at 2 o’clock Monday morning; the water of the Saugerties inlet squelching the last flames too late to save the fine steamboat. The Saugerties had been practically rebuilt during the years when she was the property of the Saugerties Steamboat Company, and her loss was estimated at $100,000. Of that sum, $80,000 was the estimate placed on the vessel itself and the other $20,000 was the value of the cargo.
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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