William Edward Verplanck.

The sloops of the Hudson; an historical sketch of the packet and market sloops of the last century, with a record of their names; together with personal reminiscences of certain of the notable North river sailing masters online

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Online LibraryWilliam Edward VerplanckThe sloops of the Hudson; an historical sketch of the packet and market sloops of the last century, with a record of their names; together with personal reminiscences of certain of the notable North river sailing masters → online text (page 1 of 8)
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The '^

Sloops of the Hudson

sloops of the last CENTURY, WITH A RECORD


William E. Verplanck


Moses W. Collyer




ZIbe ftntclterboclter press


Copyright, 1908




TTbe ImicJicrboclier iPrcBS, Hew »ocft




No history of the sloops of the Hudson,
so far as I can learn, has ever been written,
nor has any more than a bare reference
here and there been made to them in the
literature of the past sixty years.

Cooper and Irving make mention of these
useful vessels, and in a way that makes it
quite evident that their importance in the
daily life of the people struck the imagina-
tion of those writers in a lively manner.
But later writers have apparently ignored
the sloop. Perhaps, it was because she was
like those worthy persons who make no
noise as they go through the world and whose
quiet and useful lives are taken as a matter
of course.

The sloop was the forerunner in the estab-
lishment of the vast commerce of the Hud-
son which has now reached an extent that

iv Preface

is exceeded by few, if any, rivers in the
world, and as this vessel played so important
a part in the development and growth of the
State of New York, particularly in connection
with the Erie Canal, causing the city of New
York to rise to be the chief city of the United
States, it seems quite fitting that something
should be written to preserve the memory
of these inland merchantmen.

The steamboats of the Hudson beginning
with the Clermont have been described and
catalogued both in popular and technical
style in compliance with the wishes of the
reading public, so it occurred to me that a
book on the sloops might also be a warrant-
able venture on the sea of literature. If
some critic insists that such books are in
great part mere lists of names of vessels
long since gone to oblivion, then I retort
that Homer had his "Catalogue of the

My acquaintance with sloops goes back
to my early boyhood when I began sailing
a skiff with a leg-o'-mutton sail. My home

Preface v

was on the east shore of Newburgh bay,
and a capital place for sailing it is. Sloops
and schooners then were constantly passing
the house, frequently as many as twenty-
five in a day, and often they would lie at
anchor off our place for hours at a time
waiting for a change of tide. It was then
that I would sail out, and by one pretext
or another manage to get aboard. Perhaps,
baskets of apples or cherries made it easier
to cross the gunwale. In this way I got to
know several of the skippers or captains,
and soon learned to tell the vessels apart
at a distance. I had my favorite sloops
and hated to see them outsailed or looking
shabby as was sometimes the case. The
proudest day of my life was when Captain
Geo. Woolsey of the Samsondale gave me
the tiller, and I called out "Hard-a-lee" to
the man at the jib, as I put the sloop on the
other tack.

A great event in my life was a voyage to
Albany with Capt. John Bradley, of Low
Point, in his sloop J . L. Richards. I was

vi Preface

then twelve years old, and several boys of my
own age were in the party, the captain's son
among them. The river was teeming with
sturgeon in those days — big fellows weigh-
ing 250 lbs. would be seen leaping several
feet into the air, and now and then one
would fall on the deck. The catching and
packing of these fish was then an important
industiy along the Hudson. The product
was known as "Albany beef," but, owing
to its cheapness and abundance, it was
disdained as a food, albeit the flavor and
nutriment, when well prepared, were of
a high order. We were gone a week and
I well remember that we lay at anchor
two days off Coeymans waiting for the
south wind, with several other vessels,
for the flood-tides were weak, and we
thought the tugs demanded too much to
tow us to Albany, twelve miles farther up
the river.

Later in my career as the possessor in turn
of a catboat and of a twenty-eight-foot sloop,

Preface vii

I took part in the many regattas which
occurred on Newburgh bay. Mr. Irving
Grinnell of New Hamburgh with the Fidget
and Judge Charles F. Brown of Newburgh
with the Lorelei, were leading spirits on
these occasions. Nor should the Van Wyck
brothers of New Hamburgh with their Bonita
be forgotten.

In collecting the material for my part
of this book, I have had much assistance
from my old friend, Capt. Moses W. Colly er
of Chelsea (formerly Low Point), and he
has been several years gathering facts for
his part. With him I have spent much
time on the water and on the ice, too, for
that matter, from the days when he began
his career as a mere lad on the Sloop Benj.
Franklin with his father, the late John L.
CoUyer, a brother of Thomas Collyer of
steamboat fame.

Capt. Moses Collyer has had an ex-
perience of over forty years on the River
and the Sound, as captain and owner sue-

viii Preface

cessively of sloop, schooner, steam barges
and lighters. lie has been faithful and
consistent in following the water, and has
ver>' justly prospered in so doing.

William E. Verplanck.


September, 1908.



I. — The Sloop as a Packet Vessel. i

IT. — The Sail in Competition with

Steam ..... 76

III. — Personal Reminiscences of Cap-
tain George D. Woolsey . 112



The "Half Moon" on the Hudson

From the painting by L. W. Seavey in State
Capitol, Albany,

A Typical Hudson River Sloop . . 2

From a painting by W. Sheppard. Repro-
duced from "The Rudder" by permission
of The Rudder Publishing Co., New York.

Schooner "Wm. A, Ripley," formerly
Owned BY Robert CollyerofChelsea 38
From an old photograph.

The Palisades of the Hudson . . 50

From a photograph by W. J. Wilson.

Captain John Paye of Fishkill . . 52
From a photograph by Cramer, Matteawan,
N. Y.

Captain Augustus Wesley Hale, late
OF Saugerties ..... 58
From a photograph by Austin.

Captain Martin V. Drake of New Ham-
burgh, N. Y. . . . . .66

From a photograph by the Benedict Studios,
New York.

xii Illustrations


Sloop "Mary Dallas". ... 68

Owned by Captain Martin V. Drake of New
Hamburgh. From an oil painting owned
by him.

Captain Moses Wakeman Collyer of
Chelsea ...... 76

From a photograph by Whitney, Pough-
keepsie, N. Y.

Sloop "Benjamin Franklin" with Cap-
tain John L. Collyer on the Deck 82
From a photograph taken at Seabring's dock,
Low Point, 1 88 1.

The Schooner "Iron Age," Captain
John Pinckney of Low Point, now
Chelsea ...... 92

From an oil painting.

Captain John Lyon Collyer, late of
Low Point ..... 102
From a photograph by F. E. Walker, Fish-

Captain George Davis Woolsey, late
of Newburgh ..... 112
Reproduced from an old print.

Sloop "General Putnam," Built by
Charles Collyer .... 168
From an oil painting.


The Sloops of the Hudson



The three hundredth anniversary of the
discovery of the Hudson, soon to be celebra-
ted with the centenary of Fulton's success
in steam navigation, serves to direct the
attention to that river, and its commerce.

Between the Half Moon and the Clermont
there were two centuries, and it was during
that period that the North River sloop was
developed and perfected. The Hudson, let
it be said in passing, became known in early
colonial times as the North River to dis-
tinguish it from the Delaware or South

The sloop proved so useful a vessel, that

« Written by William E. Verplanck.

2 Sloops of the Hudson

it is only within the past twenty years that
she has passed away. The sloop died not
directly because of the Clermont and her
successors, — those giant steam passenger
boats that now ply between New York and
Albany, — but she succumbed, with the
schooner, rather to the great steam drawn
"Tows" that now pass slowly and silently
up and down the river bearing on their
barges, scows and canal boats the vast ton-
nage that makes up the commerce of the
river. The sloops did not feel the competition
of the early steamboats, and in fact often
made better time between Albany and New
York, when the wind was fair; nor at first
did the sloops appear to have difficulty in
withstanding the competition of the tow-
boat companies, but when they were com-
bined to meet the great increase in the size
and number of cargoes, necessitating vessels
of larger tonnage to transport the commo-
dities to the New York markets with reason-
able despatch and regularity, then the sailing
vessels of the Hudson were doomed. They


From a painting by W. Sheppard and reproduced from The Ruiitier by permission of
The Rudder Publishing Co., New York

The Packets 3

made a good fight, however, and with their
defeat has disappeared one of the most pic-
turesque features of the Hudson River.

The sail is rarely seen on the river to-day,
except here and there a small schooner, cat-
boat, or other yacht, and the larger sailing
yachts that twenty years ago passed up and
down have been superseded by the steam
yacht or motor boat. Even the occasional
yacht will use her "auxiliary" instead of
spreading her sails. The Hudson is fast be-
coming a canal, as the Rhine has already
become, with double-track railways on both
banks and twenty factory chimneys to one
castle. The width of the Hudson is however
sufficient to hide or obscure many of the
ugly objects that now line the shore.

The sloop, as its name indicates, is of
Dutch origin. They called her a sloep. It
is the same word as the French chalupe,
and the Portuguese chalupa. In its simplest
form, it is a vessel of one mast, carrying
a mainsail, jib, and generally a topsail, Ad-
ditional jibs and other sails are, of course.

4 Sloops of the Hudson

carried on yachts. The sloop differs from
the cutter, and other one-masted "fore-and-
aft" vessels in having her bowsprit fixed,
while with the cutter it can be drawn in
or "housed." The cutter is narrow, deep,
and sharp and has a keel. For steering the
sloop a long tiller was used instead of the
wheel which was not introduced until later.

The Dutch settlers of New Netherland, as
well as the English and French, who soon
merged with them, saw the advantages of
the sloop rig for the commerce of the river
and the Sound. At first she was fitted with
"lee boards" after the fashion of Holland
where they still linger. But the advantage
of the centre board, or shifting keel, for
shoal water and sailing to windward was
soon introduced, perhaps from England,
where the device is known as the "drop

The sloops of the Hudson were about of
the same size, say one hundred tons' capacity
and about 65 to 75 feet in length. They
were full forward, like the other Dutch

The Packets 5

vessels, and had a high quarter-deck, which
is a survival of the poop-decks of the
medieval vessels. The mast was placed
well forward, thus giving the boat a large
mainsail, and small jib. A topsail too was
generally carried, but not set like the club
topsail of the modem yacht. The quarter-
deck afforded space for the cabin accommo-
dations for the passengers of the packet
sloops, many of which before the days of
steamboats were fitted up as such, and
carried no bulky freight, only parcels, letters,
etc. There was an ample deck for prom-
enade or dancing, so altogether the packet
sloop was far from being an uncomfortable
means of conveyance. The packets held
the river for many years. I have family
letters in which mention is frequently made
of the sloops showing that they were a
favorite means of travel and for shipping
light articles, parcels, and letters.
Some of the letters are given below :
Miss Mary Walton writing from New
York under date of October i6, 1806, to

6 Sloops of the Hudson

her sister, Mrs. Daniel C. Verplanck at
Fishkill, says:

My dear Sister:

I was very happy to hear by DeLancey that
you had so good a passage up — and that you
found all well at Mount Gulian. He got back
to the old mansion [the Walton House on
Franklin Square] about ii o'clock on Sunday
night; not expecting him before Monday all
hands were gone to Bed. I had just put out
my Candle when he knocked at the door. I
regretted you hurried away last friday, so did
old Abby who came back from the Sloop a few
minutes after you left me. She expected to
meet you and tell you the Sloop was not to go
till 2 o'clock. I suppose you had stopped at
the Booksellers which made her miss you. She
carried your slippers on board & put them in
your Basket. Beautiful weather again this
week I walked out to Nut Shell Hall yesterday
afternoon and found the three Sisters together.
... I have not heard from Heathcote Hall since
you left me — I must write to Mrs. De Lancey
soon. Mrs. Quick & Mrs. Van Wagenen sent
me word this Minute they would take tea with
me this afternoon — I will leave my letter to
finish in the evening. — My party are just gone.
Henrietta Hook came with her sister. Mr.
Quick came to tea, but the other Benedicts did

The Packets 7

not make their appearance till the Tea Table
was removed. I treated them with Pears and
Grapes and we were very social. Nothing oc-
curred in conversation to put in my letter except
Mrs. Quick's saying you made her very happy
by staying to dine with her. She desired her

best regards to you

Charlotte Ogden was shopping the other day
& met Mrs. Cooper with her son Tom — She
stopped & said to her what fine relations I
have. They scarcely know if I am alive or not —
I have begun Housekeeping a very short dis-
tance from Dey Street. Mrs. O. told her she
was only in Town for a few hours. Should not
move in till the last of the month — She talks of
calling to see Mrs. C. as she must pass the House
so frequently. Grace L. said she was afraid to
visit her as she might have more of Mrs. C.'s
good company than was agreeable. She has
heard how well Charlotte O. lives & makes
advances to be noticed by her. Joanna wants
to lounge where something good is to be got.
No one can assume affability better than our
cousin Mrs. C. when she pleases. Her jaunt to
Virginia did not mend her Health as she ex-
pected — had a bad turn there without making a
misgo, — is in a Family way — she breeds like a
Rabbit, Grace R. is a woman. . . . Maria
R. is well but subject to those strange sensa-
tions that she had last winter. Mrs. O. wished

8 Sloops of the Hudson

you could have spent a day at the Nut Shell
with her. ... I drank tea with Uncle G.
on Sunday, went twice to Church. . . . Did
you think of telling Helen, Abby saw her Hus-
band & gave him her letter ? — She has not seen
him since. The old woman went to the Bishop
this afternoon to be christened — her mind will
be easy now. . . . God bless and preserve
you in Health with those most dear to you, my
dear Sister is the fervent prayer of

Your truly affectionate sister
Mary Walton
P. S. Abby's respects & her regards to Helen.
My love to Mrs. Dewint and the girls.

This letter folded and sealed in the fashion
of the day before the invention of envelopes
was forwarded by sloop to Fishkill, and this
was the year before the Clermont made her
first trip. The address on the letter has
this note "To the care of Capt? A. Weeks
with a Pot & Basket."

James DeLancey Walton* writing to his
sister at Fishkill, September 8, 1826, sends
the letter " care of A. Davids, Sloop Caroline,
with a Basket." He says:

> He was a warden of St. George's Church, the first
independent offshoot from Trinity. — W. E. V.

The Packets 9

My dear Nancy:

I have packed your medicine in the Basket
with the Sweet Potatoes — The Bark and Rhu-
barb I had put in bottles. . . . GuHan
dined and went to the funeral of Judge Van
Ness. I had to go to the Steam Boat to forward
a letter covering one from Walton. Neither
of the Mail Boats were there and I gave it to the
Captain of the Sandusky who promised to send
it on shore at Newburgh. I hope he will not
take it on to Albany. , . . The More-
woods, Lydes and Ogdens were all well yesterday.

. . . Tell Mary her old acquaintance
Charlotte White called to pay her a Visit with
her sister Amelia. She was well made up and
both were smartly dressed.

On July 8th of the same year he wrote his
sister from New York " care of Capt. A.
Davids, Sloop Caroline with, a. Box & Basket."
He says:

I bought a box of spermaceti Candles and
put them on board the Caroline yesterday after-
noon with a Basket of Crackers which were all
the commissions for this week, ... I found
it very warm in the Market and walking in the
Streets, have a hot walk to take to the Sloop
with the letter, and if Davids was as punctual
in leaving the City as he is from the Long Dock

lo Sloops of the Hudson

[Fishkill] I shall have my walk for nothing. . . .
Mr. Adams is Dead and there is a report of
the death of Mr, Jefferson this morning.

The same Mr. Walton writing to his young
niece at Fishkill, September 9, 1825 says:

" I am much gratified on receiving your letter an-
nouncing your safe arrival with your aunt. . . .
If the weather will permit and I can meet with
suitable Fruit I will send it by the Sloop. . . .
Mrs. Lagrange has not sent home your Corsette;
if it comes in time I will forward it. . . .
Miss Van Ness & her Brother called — a Visit
intended for your Ladyship — supposing you still
in the City.

P. S. I send two Baskets of Peaches & i of
Damsons. I have picked them over carefully to
try & preserve them. Your Corsettes were
Brought Home just in time to be put in the
Box with the Shoes.

On July 22, 1824, Mr. Walton writes to his
sister at Fishkill and sends the letter "care
of Capt. T. Brett, Sloop Levant with a

July 16, 1824, he writes her again:

I wrote a few lines to send by the Boxer with
a Demijohn of Brandy. I could not find a man

The Packets ii

that I was acquainted with to take it to the
Sloop. I now send it by the Belvidere, Capt. J.

Here is an account of a trip by sloop in
early winter, written from Fishkill.

My DEAR Mary:

... I arrived here yesterday between the hours
of four & five and found all the family well from
Mamma and Aunt to Goliath and Cherry. I had
a very pleasant passage notwithstanding my
melancholy forebodings, which, had they been
yours, would doubtless have been realized. The
weather was sufficiently mild to allow us to
remain on deck, at first. For about thirty miles
we met with large cakes of ice, but after we
entered the Highlands we met with none to
impede our progress. I think I never admired
the scenery of the North river so much as I did
yesterday; the water was as smooth as glass
and reflected the mountains as distinctly as a
mirror, and the mountains themselves covered
with snow presented a much more imposing
effect than in summer — We landed first at the
Long dock, as we had on board some bales of
cotton for Matteawan — Phil, whose gallantry
would hardly suffer him to allow me to ride two
miles alone, went on shore to look for a safe and
sober driver, and finding Mr. Rogers there,

12 Sloops of the Hudson

he asked him to take me home, which Mr.
Rogers very poHtely consented to do — See! how-
easy it is for a poor helpless maiden to travel

Travellers from New England even made
use of the sloops to reach New York by way
of Poughkeepsie. They would travel across
the country on the Dutchess Turnpike, a
famous road of past days running from
Northern Connecticut through Dutchess
county to Poughkeepsie and there embark
for New York. The diary of Samuel Miles
Hopkins, who came from Litchfield, Conn,
in 1 791 to practise law in New York,
states: "I embarked at Poughkeepsie on
the good sloop, John Jay and soon saw the
wonderftd city, the compact parts of which
extend to St. Paul's Church and then up
Chatham Street to the Tea Water Pump,
or nearly." The John Jay kept the river
as late as 1865.

Frequently, better time was made by the
sloop than by the stage-coach, particularly in
the summer months, on the passage to Albany

The Packets 13

when the south wind prevailed. The packet
sloops held their own until the steamboats
were perfected which was some time after
the Clermont. She was slow, and did not
disdain to carry a sail, and the sloops and
schooners had no difficulty in passing her
when running before the wind when a speed
of eight to ten miles an hour was attained.
The sloop Caroline once sailed from New York
to Fishkill a distance of sixty miles in five
hours. She was built about 1820, by the
late John Peter De Wint, Esq., of Fishkill
and named in honor of his daughter, who
married A. J. Downing, the originator of
landscape architecture in the United States.
While such a run was unusual, if not un-
precedented, yet it was often approached
by other sloops of the early part of the last
century. In tacking or sailing against the
wind, the sloops did good work and a speed
of five to six miles an hour was often reached,
when the tide was favorable. Though con-
siderable "sea" is kicked up when the tide
and wind are in opposite directions, it was

14 Sloops of the Hudson

rarely enough to retard the larger sailing
vessels. The sloops too could "beat" to
windward against the tide when there was
a fresh breeze. But as a rule, when the
wind and tide were unfavorable they lay at
anchor until the tide turned, as it does every
six hours.

As the tide plays an important part
in the navigation of the Hudson a few
words on the subject may not be amiss.
Now the Hudson is an estuary or arm of
the sea, and the tidal influence extends as
far up as the State dam at Troy, above
which the river, properly so called, may
be said to begin. In the lower part of the
Hudson, and particularly at New York
where filling in and new piers on both shores
have narrowed the original stream by half
a mile, the tide reaches a speed of over three
miles per hour, while at Tappan Zee, where
the river is nearly four miles wide the speed
is much lower. I refer to both flood- and
ebb-tides. At Hudson, which is about
one hundred and twenty miles up the river,

The Packets 15

I have seen the flood-tide rush past the
docks at a lively rate, which made it hard
to tack against. But this was during the
dry summer season when the Hudson's
tributaries were low. During the spring
freshets of the upper Hudson and Mohawk,
the flood-tide is checked in its movement
northward for thirty to forty miles below
Albany, so that the effect of the flood- tide
pressing upward from the ocean is merely
to raise the level of the surface of the river.
Further down, say from Kingston south-
ward, the flood- tide seems to run at all
seasons nearly as fast as the ebb. The effect
of the salt water from the sea is completely
neutralized at Poughkeepsie by the fresh
water from above, and, there the city pumps
the water from the river into reservoirs for
the general use of the inhabitants.

The skippers, or sailing masters, of the
sloops well understood the tide and its
vagaries, and there are many. They knew
how to use them when favorable and how
to avoid their adverse effects. For instance

i6 Sloops of the Hudson

the flood-tide will "make" on some reaches
of the river, nearly an hour earlier on one
shore than on the other, and again, the
ebb will "hang on" in certain parts of
the river longer than another. Nor does the
tide always run up and down parallel to
or following the trend of the shore line. It
glances at the end of a reach just after the
river turns, thus causing the current to be
deflected toward the opposite bank at an
angle of nearly forty-five degrees. The
pilots of the steamboats also take advantage
of these eccentricities, crossing and recross-
ing the river several times on a trip between

1 3 4 5 6 7 8

Online LibraryWilliam Edward VerplanckThe sloops of the Hudson; an historical sketch of the packet and market sloops of the last century, with a record of their names; together with personal reminiscences of certain of the notable North river sailing masters → online text (page 1 of 8)