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". See more Sunday News here.
No. 31- Iron Witch
The “Iron Witch,” built in 1844 by Hogg and Delamater of New York, was constructed for Hudson river service and was one of the “freaks” of the early forties, having an iron hull. She was designed by John Ericsson, designer of the famous “Monitor” which engaged the Confederate ram “Merrimac” in the first battle of iron-clad vessels during the Civil War, and was fitted with a special type of engine and very small side-wheels.
The “Iron Witch” appeared on the river on August 10, 1846, and was placed in service on the Albany day route in line with the “Metamora”, forming an opposition line.
The first trip, from New York to Albany, required nine hours and 23 minutes. This time, which was the best she could do, placed the “Iron Witch” as a failure, and she was withdrawn from service in September. During the winter her side paddle wheels were removed and side screw wheels geared to the shaft were substituted, but they were of less value as a sped producer, and the steamer was abandoned.
After a time a beam engine with ordinary radial wheels was placed in the hull of the “Iron Witch”, and she was renamed the “Erie”. Under this name she was placed in service between New York and Piermont, the terminus of the Erie Railroad before the Civil War. In 1861 this engine was removed and placed in the ferryboat “Pavonia”, the first ferryboat built for the Erie Railroad Company to operate between New York and Jersey City. The “Delaware” and “Susquehanna” were the next two ferryboats built for the Erie Railroad in 1863. Then in 1869 the Erie Company had the “Jay Gould” and the “James Fisk, Jr.” built and added to their fleet of ferrys which were at that time the most handsome ferryboats in New York harbor.
Thus to the “Iron Witch” goes the honor of being the beginning of the Erie Railroad Company’s present fleet of ferryboats.
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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