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 4 of 8)
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Capt. Ira Cooper of Athens. He again rebuilt
her and made her a flush deck. About 1890
he sold her to New York parties, and she is
now a lighter in New York harbor.

The Bucktail, afterwards converted into
a schooner and called the Dutchess, the
Catskill a schooner which sank in Newl urgh
bay, and the big sloops Addison and Am-

The Packets 63

hassador, built at Coxsackie in 181 9, and
the Iowa of Maiden, were among the other
up-river vessels of my time. Poughkeepsie
was the home port of several more. The
two blast furnaces, the famous Buckeye
mowing-machine works, the Vassar brewery,
and other industries gave them profitable
freights. In earlier days Poughkeepsie had
even sent out whaling vessels and the Whale
Dock is still pointed out. The Mohican
was one of the old sloops that hailed from
this port. She was built in 1837 at Peeks-
kill by Isaac Depew, Senator Depew's father,
who ran her as a packet and market boat.
During the Civil War she passed into the
possession of Edward Tower and others
who were interested in the furnaces and
who used her in conveying limestone and
iron ore to the Tower furnaces at Pough-
keepsie. Her skipper was Joseph Reynolds.
The Mohican was sixty-eight feet long,
twenty-five feet beam. Under her quarter-
deck, which extended almost to midships,
were a dozen berths. She was always

64 Sloops of the Hudson

painted red, and was a fast sailer. Her
timbers and planking were of locust and
white oak. The old sloop now lies on the
shore at Chelsea in front of the home of
Captain Moses W. Collyer who brought her
there for a breakwater and dock a few
years ago when she was dismantled and
withdrawn from the river. Other vessels
of Poughkeepsie were the big sloop Mar-
garet, built at Sing Sing in 1835 (her
captain was Abe Lansing), the schooners
Buckeye, Flying Cloud, and Peter Valleau,
pronounced by the boatmen "Vallew." The
last two plied between Newburgh and
Poughkeepsie, while the Margaret brought
lumber from Albany. The Henry Barclay,
the Kemhle, and the Annie Tower like
the Mohican were employed in the iron

At New Hamburgh eight miles below there
were, among other boats, the sloops Mary
Dallas and General Ward, and the scow
sloop Little Martha of which "Clint" Wil-
liams was skipper. He and his two brothers,

The Packets 65

colored men, comprised the crew, and cap-
ital boatmen they were.

The Leroy brothers, William, Peter, and
Charles, as well as the Drake brothers.
Charles, William, and Martin, were all
experienced and skilful boatmen. They
could also handle small yachts with great
ability. For both William Drake's and
Peter Leroy 's skill in this respect I had
great admiration. They, too, were experts
in handling ice-boats, and when Peter
Leroy had the tiller of the Zero, there were
few yachts on the ice between Poughkeepsie
or Newburgh that could pass him. 1 William
and, Peter Leroy were excellent shots, and
no one knew better than they where to find
woodcock and quail. The Leroys were
among the first to foresee the doom of the
sloop, and about 1876 they built the first

> Other ice-boats of this neighborhood were the Fly-
ing Cloud, owned by Mr. Irving Grinnell, and the giant
Icicle, by Mr. John E. Roosevelt; but the latter was so
heavy that she showed her speed only in a heavy wind
and on hard ice. On Capt. M. W. CoUyer's Vision I
have run from Newburgh to Danskammer Point, a
distance of six miles, in seven minutes. — W. E. V.

66 Sloops of the Hudson

of the barges for Gamer & Co. This was the
Mary and Emma — a vessel of about three
hundred tons' carrying capacity.

Captain Martin Drake has kindly con-
tributed the following:

I will give you as near as I can, the vessels
and their captains, belonging to New Hamburgh,
from about i860 to 1873 or 1875:


Sloop John I. Wiltse Charles S. Drake

Utica « Charles S. Drake

Ella Jane William Percival

David Sands Jacob Leroy

General Ward William P. Drake

James Coats James R. Lawson

Harriet Martha Charles Leroy

Mary Dallas Martin V. Drake

North America Austin Griffin

Samuel Cunningham . .William P. Drake

Revenue Charles S. Drake

Reputation Van Nort Carpenter

Joseph Griggs Marvin Vananden

Lu/:y Hopkins Martin Griffin

Victory Charles Leroy

Jane Grant William P. Drake

> Largest sloop on the river, as already mentioned,
but she was not fast, though a good sailer. — W. E. V.

Kmin a phfUograph by the Benedict Studios, New York

The Packets 67


Sloop Abraham Jones William B. Leroy

" First Effort Peter Leroy

" Little Martha Clinton Williams

" Kate Hale Charles S. Drake

" Pennsylvania William P. Drake

" Exchange William P. Drake

" Samuel Hall Harry Smith

Schooner Prize Austin Griffin

" Celeste Martin V. Drake

" Chas. Rockwood Edward Griffin

" Glattcus Charles S. Drake

" Anna William P. Drake

" Missouri Harry Smith

" Christopher Columbus . .Charles S. Drake

The only captains living now are Charles
Leroy, Austin Griffin, Clinton Williams, William
P. Drake, and myself.

Will mention a few incidents :

The sloop General Ward's bones lie at Croton
on the Hudson, and those of the sloop Climax
are at New Windsor, and of the sloop North
America, at Hampton.

The sloop James Coats was rounding West
Point, when the main sheet caught around the
neck of Benj. Hunt, and severed his head from
his body, the head going overboard leaving the

68 Sloops of the Hudson

body on deck. This happened in the summer
of 1866.

Sloop Mary Dallas capsized on Long Island
Sound, E. S. E. of Faulkner's Island, and was
towed into New London by the tug Wellington,
August 6, 1866.

Sloop David Sands was sunk in collision with
a steamer New York harbor, and three out of
five of the crew were drowned.

Sloops General Ward and James Coats came
near being burned in the great railroad accident
at New Hamburgh drawbridge where Doc. Sim-
mons, engineer, and twenty-three passengers
lost their lives, February 6, 1871.

At Low Point (now Chelsea) they could
boast of eight sloops and schooners during
the period between 1868 and 1888. In
the list were the Benjamin Franklin, Lydia
White, Iron Age, Fancy, Wm. A. Ripley,
and Henrietta Collyer. During this period
Newburgh was the home port of nearly
twenty sailing vessels. In this list were
the Illinois, of which "Pomp" (James)
Wilson was captain, and the Samsondale,


From an oil painting owned by him

The Packets 69

whose captain was George Woolsey. He
had a good voice and was fond of singing
as he stood on the quarter-deck by the
tiller of a moonlight night. In Part III.
will be found the reminiscences of Captain
Woolsey, which his widow has kindly given
for publication.

The Illinois was wrecked off Point Judith
about fifteen years ago. The fate of the
Samsondale was to become a lighter, and to
lay her bones on the Jersey Flats.

Counting the sloops at Cornwall, Fish-
kill, Low Point, New Hamburgh, and New
Windsor with those at Newburgh there
were at least thirty sailing vessels hailing
from Newburgh bay.

Cold Spring is in the Highlands at the
south end of the Worragut, so dreaded
by the old Dutch skippers, if Washington
Irving is to be believed. This reach has
always borne a bad reputation for its baf-
fling and gusty winds. Nevertheless several
sloops made that their home port, drawn
thither by the blast furnace and the West

7o Sloops of the Hudson

Point foundry where the famous Parrott
guns were made during the Civil War.
Many of them were carried on the Victorine
of which "Dave" Lyons was captain, who
I beHeve is still living. She was the fastest
sloop on the river and once took part in
a yacht race at New York and acquitted
herself with credit. She kept the river as
late as 1890. The sloop was built in 1848
at Piermont, and had a carrying capacity
of one hundred and tw^enty-five tons. She is
now a lighter of an Oil Company at Edge-
water, N. J. Her companion was the
schooner Ai^orma built in Nyack in 1852. In
the cove between Constitution Island and
Cold Spring the old Missouri and John
Jones lie abandoned.

Nyack and Piermont on Tappan Zee
were the homes of many sloops and schooners
of past days whose sails whitened the waters
as they sailed by Point No Point, Ver-
drietege Hook, and Teller's Point.

It was not until about the year 1862
that sailing vessels on the Hudson were

The Packets 71

required by law to carry lights at night. *
Notwithstanding this there were compar-
atively few collisions, either with each
other or with the many fast passenger
steamboats that then plied up and down
the river. Yet there were noteworthy
disasters due to collisions among which
were the following:

The schooner Catskill while beating down
the river the night of October 17, 1879,
was struck by the steamboat Saratoga off
Newburgh, and sunk. She now lies near the
track of the ferry at Fishkill, about five
hundred feet from the Newburgh shore.
On the ebb-tide the ripple of the water
running over the hulk can readily be dis-
cerned, and serves as a mark for the pilots
of the ferry-boat during a fog. In the sum-
mer of 1849 the schooner Noah Brown
collided with the steamer Empire in New-
burgh bay. The steamer sank and thirty

> General B. F. Butler, at one time owner of the yacht
America, was the author of this law as I am credibly
informed.— W. E. V.

72 Sloops of the Hudson

passengers were drowned. She had just
left the dock at Newburgh at the time of
colHsion. The Empire was raised and four
years later was in collision with the sloop
Chancellor Livingston. On this occasion the
sloop was beating up the river on the night
of July 1 6, 1853. When off New Hamburgh
she struck the Empire bound from Troy to
New York. The impact of the sloop not
only threw the steamer's boiler from its
bed, but sunk her as well, with the result
that many passengers lost their lives from
scalding or drowning. The sloop First
Effort, of which the late John L. Colly er
was then owner and captain, was passing
at the time and went alongside and rescued
many of the passengers. The Empire was
beached on the east shore a short distance
below New Hamburgh.

On the night of the 2 ist of November, 18 — ,
the sloop W. W. Reynolds was beating down
the river and off Blue Point — which is about
two miles south of Poughkeepsie, where
the sloop belonged — she ran into the

The Packets 73

steamer Francis Skiddy. The sloop's bow-
sprit struck the boiler causing it to explode.
Three firemen and several passengers were
scalded to death. The steamboat was on
her way down the river from Albany to New
York, and was then making the return trips
by day. She was the only boat that ever
made such regular trips. The Francis Skiddy
was built by George Collyer.

The dangers of jibing, to which reference
has already been made, were shockingly ex-
emplified in the case of the sloop James
Coats, of which James R. Lawson was
captain. This sloop ran between Kings-
ton Point and Brooklyn, and once made
the round trip within forty-eight hours.
On one occasion in the year 1865, or
'66, she was running down the river with
a fair wind and had of course to jibe as she
rounded West Point. As the main sheet,
all slack, came over the deck it formed a
loop over the head of Ben Hunt, who was
at the wheel, taking off his head, which fell
overboard, leaving the headless trunk lying

74 Sloops of the Hudson

on the deck. Jibing poles which some
sloops carried might have obviated such
a casualty.

The sail has almost disappeared from
the Hudson, for the big seagoing schooner
of three, four, and even five masts that
still comes up the river, rarely spreads her
sails. She makes part of a great tow —
consisting of fifty or sixty vessels that move
slowly along the river, drawn by three or
four powerful tugs, which in turn have su-
perseded the paddle-wheel towboats of my
boyhood. Then the towing steamer was
generally an old passenger boat which had
had her day on the line between New
York and Albany. Stripped of cabins,
saloons, and upper deck, a mere skeleton
of a boat, she w^ould be seen wearily drawing
a huge assemblage of barges, scows, canal
boats, and down-east schooners laden with
lumber, flagstones, grain, coal, and other
commodities. To this extremity had the
swift and once popular Alida sunk, and she
was a melancholy sight indeed, when her

The Packets 75

former grandeur and the fame of her quick
passage between New York and Poughkeep-
sie, were recalled, which I believe has never
been lowered by any of her successors.
Though occasionally a schooner is seen
sailing on the river, the North River sloop
has vanished from the Hudson.



This part is a compilation of my ex-
periences and recollections of what I have
seen and heard as cabin-boy, master, and
owner of Hudson River sloops, schooners,
and steam vessels, embracing a period of
nearly half a century ; beginning in the six-
ties, first as cabin-boy, then cook, after that,
cook and hand before the mast, then as mate,
and finally as captain, master, and owner.
It is also a record of old North River sloops
and schooners, their names, some of their
captains, owners, and builders; the trade
they were in, and their home ports.

These vessels have all passed away, as
well as most of their masters and owners
and builders. There is no work for this
class of vessel to-day on the Hudson, where

> Written by Moses W. Collyer.

From a photograph by Whitney, Poughkeepsic, N. V.

Sail vs. Steam 77

in my younger days there were hundreds
owned and employed.

I was born on the banks of the Hudson
River in the town of Red Hook. My father,
John L. Collyer, was known in the thirties
as a North River sloop boatman, having
run from upper Red Hook Landing, now
called Tivoli, to New York, as captain and
owner of a North River packet sloop, which
was engaged in carrying farmers' produce
and passengers to New York, and general
merchandise on his return trip. He was
one of a family of eight brothers, who had
been brought up in their younger days
around the docks at Sing Sing, now called
Ossining. My father was the oldest, and
his brothers were, William, Stephen, Fer-
ris, Thomas, George, Samuel, and Charles S.,
all of whom, at this time, were connected
with the building and running of Hudson
River sloops and steamboats.

Thomas Collyer was the leading member
of this family as a shipbuilder. He went

78 Sloops of the Hudson

to work as an apprentice to Captain Moses
Stanton and worked in his shipyard four
years. He then went to work for a Mr.
Bergh, the father of Henry Bergh of New
York City, who was a shipbuilder. The
first sloop that he built was the First Effort ^
at Sing Sing; then the Katrina Van Tas-
sell, launched in 1838, and which sailed the
river until 1883, when she was laid on the
beach under the Palisades to die. The first
steamboat he built was the Trojan at West
Troy, and from there he went up to Lake
Champlain and built steamers. This was
in 1844. Then he went to New York and
opened a yard with his brother William,
at the foot of 12 th Street, East River, New
York City. There he built the steamers
Santa Claus, Kingston, and Niagara. This
partnership was dissolved in 1847, ^^^
Thomas Collyer started a yard of his own
at the foot of 21st Street, East River, New
York City. Here he built the steamers
Armenia, George Law, and Reindeer to run

' With the aid of his brother William then 14 years

Sail vs. Steam 79

between New York and Albany. He also
built the Daniel Drew and the steamer
Henry Clay which was built in 1850, and
was burned at Riverdale on July 28, 1852,
in which seventy passengers perished. He
also built the steamer Thomas Collyer,
which was the last boat he built before his
death. This steamer was later furbished up
and sold to John H. Starin, and is now
called the Sam Sloan, running in the harbor
of New York. His records show that he
built three sloops, twenty-six barges, four
propellers, twelve schooners, three barques,
two sailing ships, five steamships, thirty-
seven steamboats, and two yachts.

These North River sloops were a great
industry on the Hudson River in those
days, there being hundreds of them running
from the different towns to New York,
and from Albany to eastern ports. From
Red Hook landing, my father ran the
sloops First Effort and Perseverance as
packet sloops, also the sloop Belle, built
by William Collyer at Green Point for this

8o Sloops of the Hudson

The regular sailing time of these sloops
was a trip every two weeks from Red
Hook to New York and return. These
North River sloop boatmen, as they were
called in those days, were prominent men,
and were the business men of the Hudson
valley. They not only had to know how
to sail and manage their sloops in all kinds
of weather, but also to know the depth of
water all along the Hudson, as in those days
most of these sloops were keel boats and
drew from ten to twelve feet of water. ^ Their
captains also had to know good harbors and
anchorages, and where the wind from dif-
ferent quarters would be dangerous to
navigation of these small vessels. And I
might here say, a North River sloop would
only carry from fifty to two hundred tons.
Their captains, also, had to be good business
men, for the captain of a packet sloop took
charge of all the farmers' produce, sold the
cargo, collected the money, and made the

' The lights and buoys now numerous, were formerly
few and far between. — W. E. V.

Sail vs. Steam 8i

cash return to the farmer when he got
home each trip. This was the business of
a North River sloop captain, where to-day
there is not one to be found on the Hudson
in this trade. The principal traffic of the
Hudson valley is now being done by steam-
ers towing large scows, barges, and carrying
from four hundred to one thousand tons, and
by steamboats and railroads carrying the
passengers, produce, and general merchan-
dise of the Hudson River towns.

After the Hudson River railroad came
through Red Hook, and about 1850 my
father sold his storehouse and landing to
that company, as the line went directly
through his property and took away the
dock facilities for the freighting business.
Then he engaged in running a small market
sloop named the Rival, going to Albany
and buying his cargo of flour, feed, grain,
and different things that would sell in their
season to the brickyards and merchants
along the Hudson. This was carried on
for a number of years with the little sloop


82 Sloops of the Hudson

Rival that could carry but fifty tons, but
at this time it was a good business.

As the different lines of steamers pro-
gressed on the Hudson, and the market for
grain got farther west, this business gave
out for sloops and schooners, and the Rival
was sold in 1 86 1 at the beginning of the Civil

In the spring of 1865 he again started
the sloop business by going to Poughkeepsie
and buying the old sloop Benjamin Franklin,
which was built at Huntington, L. I., in
the year 1836. She was owned in Pough-
keepsie by a Captain John Van Keuren,
and ran from Poughkeepsie to Rondout,
carrying coal from Rondout. This sloop
could carry eighty-five tons, so you see
what a sloop of that size could do to-day
in supplying the city of Poughkeepsie with
coal. This was my first experience in joining
a North River sloop. I went to Poughkeepsie
on board the sloop Benjamin Franklin as
a cabin boy in the spring of 1865. Our
first job that went with this sloop was to

From a photograph taken at Seabring's dock, Low Point, 1881

Sail vs. Steam 83

carry crockery and earthenware goods from
Foster's dock at Poughkeepsie for the firm
of Reidinger & Caire, who manufactured
these goods at this time at 146 Main Street,
Poughkeepsie, from what was called potters'
clay. I might here say that this clay was
all freighted by sloops from Woodbridge
and Cheese Creek, New Jersey, to Pough-
keepsie, and then made into this kind of
ware, which was distributed along the Hud-
son. For many years we made these trips
both spring and fall, and between these
times we ran principally to Albany and
river and Sound ports in the lumber trade.

In those days it was not the custom to
have your cargo engaged before going to
Albany, but to go up with your sloop and
have the lumber merchant come and look
you up to take a load of lumber for him.
I have seen these small vessels lay three
and four abreast at the docks in the lumber
district at Albany waiting their turn to get
to the dock so as to be able to load, and
the rate of freight was from $2.00 to $3.50

84 Sloops of the Hudson

per thousand, to dilTerent Sound ports,
where now there is no trade of this kind for
any vessel. Another industry for our sloop
was to carr>' coal from Rondout to the
different residences located along the Hud-
son, such as the Livingstons, DePeysters,
and Clarksons who lived above Tivoli. They
always got their coal in by the cargo for
themselves and their help whom they em-
ployed. This kept us busy for several
months each summer. Another industry
for the North River sloop was to carry
wood to the brickyards. And brick, flag-
stone, lime, cement, and pig-iron were
the principal cargoes coming down the
Hudson to keep these vessels employed.
Gathering ice is also a great industry of the
Hudson but it has always been carried
in barges.

Thus with my brothers, Frank and Robert,
we sailed the sloop Ben Franklin until 1877,
when I left her to join the schooner Iron Age
and later to be captain of the schooner Henry
B. Fidderman in the spring of 1878. My

Sail vs. Steam 85

father sailed the sloop Ben Franklin until
the time of his death in 1889, when the sloop
was sold to do service as a lighter in New
York Harbor.

My father's old sloop the First Effort
already mentioned, met with a singular
disaster after he parted with her. While
lying at anchor on a dark night near Marl-
borough, the big steamboat James W.
Baldwin, mistaking the sloop's lights for
those on the wharf where the steamer was
to land, came alongside and struck the
sloop with such a violent impact that she
sank in fifty feet of water. All on board
were saved, but the sloop was never raised.
The Baldwin bore a bad reputation for col-
lisions with sailing craft. She is still on
the river but under another name.

I found this statement and account of
the first steamboat on the Hudson River
among the manuscript papers of Colonel
Nathan Beckwith of Red Hook in Dutchess
County. He died on the 4th of March,
1865, in the eighty-seventh year of his age.

86 Sloops of the Hudson

The first trip of the steamer Clermont started
from the East River and went to Jersey City.
She was constructed under the personal super-
vision of Robert Fulton in 1807. She was
one hundred feet long, twelve feet wide, and
seven feet deep. This steamboat made two
or three trips to Albany, and was hauled out
at Red Hook, near where Herman Hoffman's
store stood, which was destroyed by the British
in the Revolutionary War. The property is
now owned by Mr. DeKoven. In the winter of
1807 said boat was lengthened to one hundred
and fifty feet and widened to eighteen feet,
the name was changed to North River. The
hull was built by David Brown of New York,
and the engine by Watt and Bolton of England.
The following advertisement appeared in the
Albany Gazette, September i, 1807: "The
steamboat North River will leave Paulus Hook,
Jersey City, on Friday, September 4th, at nine
o'clock A.M. and arrive at Albany on Saturday at
nine o'clock p.m. Good berths and accommo-
dations are provided. The charge to each pas-
senger is as follows: — To Newburgh, $3.00, time
fourteen hours; to Poughkeepsie, $4.00, time
seventeen hours; to Esopus $5.00, time twenty

Sail vs. Steam 87

hours; to Hudson $5.50, time thirty hours; to
Albany $7.00, time, thirty-six hours." A notice
in the same paper of October 5, 1807 announces
that Mr. Fulton's new steamboat left New York
at ten o'clock a.m., against a strong tide and
very high water, also a violent gale from the
north; it made headway beyond the most
sanguine expectations and without being
wrecked by the water, heavy sea and gale."


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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 4 of 8)