Our Incrredible Valley Page 3 - Columbia County Historical Society

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Our Incrredible Valley Page 3 - Columbia County Historical Society

SPRING 2005

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Published by the Columbia County Historical Society Volume 4 Number Two IN THIS ISSUE:

Hudson River Steamboats

in Paintings and Prints

Page 30

Mythic River

PAGE 5

The Pre-Revolutionary Landings

of Columbia County

PAGE 8

Hudson, the River Seaport

PAGE 11

The Hudson River,

Path of Progress

PAGE 13

The Tale of a Hudson Captain

PAGE 16

Painting the River Sublime

PAGE 20

Ice Yachts on the Hudson

PAGE 22

A Bee in Bob’s Bonnet: Robert

Livingston and the “Steam-boat”

PAGE 24

The Henry Clay vs the Armenia

A Fatal Steamboat Race

PAGE 26

Hudson River STEAMBOATS

in Prints and Paintings

PAGE 30

The Swallow House of Valatie

PAGE 38

CCHS Collections Highlights

PAGE 41

News of the Columbia County

Historical Society

PAGE 44

CCHS Calendar

PAGE 48


Our Incrredible Valley Page 3

Cover: A Night on the Hudson. Lithographer-Publisher: Currier & Ives, 1864.


Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

Columbia County

HISTORY& HERITAGE

COLUMBIA COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

John B. Carroll

President

Willis Hartshorn

Vice President

Woodruff L. Tuttle

Treasurer

Russell Pomeranz

Assistant Treasurer

Susan Gerwe Tripp

Secretary

Dr. David William Voorhees

Assistant Secretary

Lawrence P. Ashmead

Arthur Baker

Nancy Clark

Joan K. Davidson

John R. Dunne

Sheldon Evans

Henry N. Eyre, Jr.

Peter Haemmerlein

John Hannam

Timothy Husband

Cathy M. Kaplan

Deborah Dutton Minton

Dianne O’Neal

Julia Philip

Richard Ryan

Samuel O.J. Spivy

Colin Stair

Dr. Will Swift

STAFF

Sharon S. Palmer Executive Director

Helen M. McLallen Curator

Ruth Ellen Berninger Educator

Rita Laffety Membership

Juanita Knott Administrative Assistant

COLUMBIA COUNTY HISTORY & HERITAGE

EDITORIAL BOARD

Editor

Henry N. “Jim” Eyre, Jr.

Assistant Editor

Dr. John C. Fout

Editorial Committee

Lawrence Ashmead, George N. Biggs, III, Albert S. Callan,

Joan K. Davidson, John R. Dunne, Mimi Forer,

James P. Hamilton, Mary Howell Dominick C. Lizzi,

Julia Philip, Mary Faherty Sansaricq, Dr. Will Swift,

Ron Toelke, Dr. David William Voorhees

Design and Production

Ron Toelke and Barbara Kempler-Toelke

Ron Toelke Associates, Chatham, NY

Columbia County History & Heritage is published by the Columbia

County Historical Society and is mailed to all members of record

at the time of publication. Copies may be obtained, as available,

at $4.00 per copy from the Society offices at the Columbia County

Museum, 5 Albany Avenue, Kinderhook, New York, 12106;

518-758-9265; www.cchsny.org

Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.,

Saturday 10:00 – 4:00 p.m. (May 28 through September 3)

2

In our technocratic society we have become accustomed to, and

even expect, the quantification of all discussions, even those of

cultural issues. We have all seen, even on these pages, arguments

that the value of historic preservation in our county cannot be

reduced to economic terms of employment, tourism income, and

appreciating property values. Equally important, but harder to

reduce to formulas, are the aesthetic values of preserving what has

been called our cultural landscape. The impact of the built world

on all of our senses and our reaction to it individually and as a community

has a profound influence on the quality of our lives. This is

part of the reason why people choose to visit and move to

Columbia County rather than many other areas of the country. We

are the custodians of the work, sacrifice, and legacy of our ancestors.

For the most part that legacy exists in the context in which

they left it to us. This interplay between architecture and landscape

is a natural resource that also deserves attention and preservation.

Aesthetic and spiritual values and the richness and vibrancy of our

community cannot be quantified but they are no less valuable

because they cannot be reduced to numbers. We should strive to

preserve our historical context for these reasons and let the economic

benefits which will ensue be a pleasant secondary benefit of

enhancing the quality of our lives.

John B. Carroll

President

A Message from the President

Editor’s Foreword

It is of continued and great amazement to me that our magnificent

Hudson River is presently so little known and heralded by

travelers from both near and far. It is easily as rich and colorful

as the heavily traveled Rhine, the fabled and serenaded Danube, or

the barge filled rivers of France. In fact James Fenimore Cooper said

it so well: “The Hudson is this nation’s Rhine… The mighty river

complete with our own humble castles, legends and ancient associations.”

The river served as the major gateway to our country and

county. The settlements, and the towns and homes that line its

banks are time laden with colorful tales and history. Its waters

bounded by cliffs, woods filled mountains and valleys — its waterfalls

and spectacular sunsets — are immortalized by famed artists

such as Frederic Church, Thomas Cole, and Sanford Gifford.

Native Americans traversing in their canoes called it “Orioque,”

meaning beautiful river.

The river’s very being and bounty provided the sustenance upon

which the settlers, merchants, whalers, fishermen, industrialists,

and sportsmen who followed would prosper. It provided the raison

d’etre for the many ports and grand estates that were to develop on

its shores. Steamboats would in their day carry both passengers and

cargo on runs from New York to Albany and back making scheduled

stops at key ports. Sometimes they would race each other —

run aground — or overheat and explode. Gaily decorated single

mast private vessels named after — and thus advertising available

maiden daughters of the wealthy would gracefully slither over the

waters for all to see and admire. Heavily-laden barges would plod

Continued on page 37


By Joan K. Davidson

Joan Davidson is President of Furthermore

Grants in Publishing, Former Commissioner

Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic

Preservation and is a Board Member of our

Society. She lives in Germantown. Reprinted

from the Foreword to The Hudson River,

Monacelli Press, 1995,

New York’s Hudson Valley belongs to

all Americans — and to me alone.

For decades I have known and revered

the valley from afar for the beauty of its

mountains and waterways, for its grand

and vernacular architecture, its classic river

towns, broad farmlands; redolent history,

and the most splendid of vistas — and for

the mysterious symbolic power it appears

to hold in the American psyche. Today it is

my good fortune to live there.

The Hudson Valley of legend provides

inspiration and engenders pride while

never letting us forget that natural and historic

resources, marvels on so vast a scale,

are always vulnerable to depredation and

loss. Here, intimations of our national

future can be caught, if we attend.

The centerpiece of the region is the

great river that runs from the Adirondacks

to the sea. Only three hundred miles long,

it is deep and wide. Its nether reaches ebb

Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

and flow with the salty tides of the

Atlantic: and its upper end drains bubbling

springs and lakes of the Catskills,

Shawangunks, and Taconics.

The valley is a large scale integrated

economy — a historic area in which natural

and cultural resources, and a population

diverse in background and talent

abound. Public and private sector forces

are endeavoring to come together in common

cause. This is an experiment of

immense importance for and potential

benefit to states, regions and communities

throughout the land, attempting to discover

if local authority and character can be

preserved at the same time that more wide

ranging societal goals are pursued.

There is much to learn in the Hudson

Valley about land — how it fares in the

care of public and private entities and in

the face of competing claims. Seventeenth

and eighteenth century ownership of land

on a colossal scale by families of rank and

fortune has — through the passage of

time, through circumstance, through

changing mores and values — been translated

from patrician excess to populist

benefaction, even entitlement. The great

Dutch and English Hudson Valley estates,

some exceeding hundreds of thousands of

acres, once marched side by side along the

Hudson shoreline. In some pockets their

remembrance is still surprisingly intact —

and in one particular instance, more than

twenty miles of their glorious riverfront,

distinguished by dazzling natural and cultural

resources, have been enshrined since

1990 as the Hudson River National

Historic Landmark District, the first and

one of the largest such protected areas in

the country. Some properties within this

official district have entered public realm

as parks: most remain in private hands.

Together they protect air and water quality,

plant and animal life, open views and

human scale communities.

The Hudson Valley lays out dramatic

lessons not only in landscape, agriculture,

and land management but also in the story

of human habitation and in how the War

Never has there been more urgent need to uphold the

public interest in the way Americans organize their

neighborhoods, their local economies, their surrounding

environments, and the quality of their lives.

3

for Independence was won. There is much

to learn here about our culture, its early

literary and visual aspects as evinced in the

Knickerbocker writers and the Hudson

River School of painters; about specialized

industry, and about the modern environmental

movement, which arose out of the

1960s struggle to to save Storm King

Mountain from despoliation by a power

plant.

We live in unsettled times when hard

environmental advances are being rolled

back in state and national legislatures, fast

moving sprawl is engulfing cities, towns,

Our Incredible Valley

Photo “ The Catskills from Hudson” by Jake Rajs from The Hudson River, Monacelli Press, 1995, courtesy Joan Davidson.


Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

and open space across America. The future of our communal holdings

is in doubt. Never has there been more urgent need to uphold

the public interest in the way Americans organize their neighborhoods,

their local economies, their surrounding environments, and

the quality of their lives.

Sharing these beliefs and working to these ends is New York State’s

spirited population of citizen activists. They are the energetic battalions

in land trusts, environmental and preservation societies, park advocacy

organizations, enlightened businesses and public agencies, philanthropies

and editorial pages. In the Hudson Valley, where their voice is

especially loud and clear, they have so far made it possible to protect,

maintain, and preserve for future generations streams and wetlands,

historic buildings in towns and rural places, acres of park and farmland,

and scenic views in record number — although not yet enough.

The devout wish of all who love it is that the Hudson Valley in its

many parts will thrive and go on representing for future generations,

as it does for our own, a gift of infinite value. The worry (that small

dark cloud on the horizon) is that ever-present specters of indifference,

short-sightedness, and worse will finally, despite all effort, alter

and diminish the cherished valley beyond the point of no return.

This is the profound American dilemma being faced in so many

parts of our country as the twenty-first century looms: must we

inevitably lose what we love, or might it yet be possible to summon

the vision, the generosity of spirit, the grit to think about what we

are doing, and to find the way to pass on to others the good things

that those who went before have passed on to us? �

Shallo, Galluscio, Bianchi & Fucito

Certified Public Accountants

21 North Seventh Street, Hudson, NY 12534 • 518-828•6500 • www.empirecpa.com

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4

Handbill for the Henry Clay and the Armenia, c1840s. Image size: 7" x 4"

(See article on page 26.), image courtesy William P. Palmer.


Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

Mythic �iver:

Legends, Ghosts and

Spectral Events in the Hudson Valley

By: Dale Nicholson

Mr. Nicholson is a retired Hudson High

School social studies teacher with a doctorate

in history and education. He maintains an

avid interest in history and is currently

authoring a book entitled An Invisible Past:

An Ethnic History of Columbia County,

1640-2000.

Washington Irving apparently

started it all when in 1820 he

published two stories destined to

become famous throughout the world. The

Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the story of Rip

Van Winkle slowly gained currency. Today

they are part of the cultural baggage everyone

carries with them simply by virtue of

being an American. E.D. Hirsch, Jr. in his

Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What every

American Needs to Know includes listings for

each tale. The Legend is favored with “a story

by Washington Irving. Its central character,

Ichabod Crane, is a vain and cowardly

teacher and the rival of Brom Bones for the

hand of the comely Katrina Van Tassel.

Bones terrorizes Crane by disguising

himself as a legendary headless horseman

and the latter is never seen or

heard from again.” Rip’s story by

Washington Irving goes this way:

“The title character goes to sleep

after a game of bowling and much

drinking in the mountains with a

band of little men. He awakens

twenty years later, an old man. Back

home, Rip finds that that all has

changed: his wife is dead, his daughter

is married, and the American

Revolution has taken place.” To prove

that Rip has achieved even international

recognition, it might be mentioned that he

is also immortalized in Brewer’s Dictionary of

Phrase and Fable, a volume concentrating on

mythic Europe and especially Great Britain.

Myths, legends and tall tales, endemic to

the valley, long predate Washington Irving

(1783-1859). They go back to Native

American tales of Manitou, or the Great

Spirit, the numinous source of all things

inexplicable. They surfaced in the years just

after the first Europeans penetrated the area

in the seventeenth century. There are many

reminders, both natural and man-made,

which might serve to inform one of the area’s

legendary past. Here in Columbia County

we have the Ichabod Crane school district

centered in Valatie and the Rip Van Winkle

bridge, the span connecting us with

Greene County. The mountains which

Irving helped to make famous — the

Katterskils or Catskills — their sometimes

misty, sometimes blue or purple-hued peaks,

lurking in full view just to our west, served as

Washington Irving

5

the location of the famous game of ninepin

bowls, accompanied by much boozing,

which set old Rip off on his twenty-year

snooze. But they are so much a part of the

passing scene that locals tend to spare nary a

thought to their place in the valley’s traditional

lore. Olana, home of famed Hudson

River School artist Frederic Church gains a

bit more attention, but only because of its

prominent place as a tourist attraction.

Irving then hardly manufactured these

tales out of whole cloth. Each has a background

from mythic Europe. To take just

one example, stories of headless riders and

the grim cult of the severed head may be

connected to ancient mythologies of several

European and non-European peoples,

including the Dutch, Germans, Celts, and

Arabs. A similar group of myths relate stories

of headless horsemen in terms of the “Wild

Hunt,” in which a great supernatural force

sweeps across the land, almost always at

night. Common in north European legend,

the horseman is usually clothed all in black

and, as in Irving’s rendition, is often

headless. The rider’s appearance,

accompanied by hounds, hell-fire, and

smoke usually portends death and

destruction. In Ichabod Crane’s disappearance,

Irving suggests that the

unfortunate schoolmaster may simply

have wandered off to a nearby

village. European immigrants to the

Hudson river valley brought with

them this rich deposit of legends

and myths similar but not always

identical to the ones just described.

They no doubt talked of them in casual

discourse to neighbors and friends.

Over the years a rich local oral tradition of

spectral sightings and tall tales was created.

As things worked out, someone took a special

interest in all of this and inevitably began

to write down some of the more interesting


stories. Others followed. Hence oral

tradition turned to a literary one.

William Shakespeare derived his

source material for his historical

plays, such as Henry V and Macbeth,

from Raphael Hollingshead, a noted

English chronicler of the day, and

from his own great knowledge of the

European world of myth and magic.

Irving undoubtedly studied this same

world as he prepared his Sketch Book

published in 1819 or 1820, which

drew together the many legends and

tales of the Hudson River valley.

Few places in America are as rife

with tales of the supernatural as our

own valley locale in upstate New

York. Many writers have speculated

why this should be so. Some have

maintained that the atmospheric

landscape of the valley is uniquely

conducive to the workings of the creative

imagination. Filled with dramatic

alpine scenery rising up from

the shores of a majestic river, one of the most

picturesque in the world, the Hudson valley

is compared often to the valley of the river

Rhine of Germany and the Netherlands,

another river valley replete with a vast fund

of associated myth.

The writers and artists of the Romantic

age, loosely gauged to include the years from

1780 to 1850, were particularly fascinated

with the sublime, emotional, and weird

aspects of the natural and preternatural

worlds. Hence it should come as no surprise

that the moody, almost Gothic natural

landscapes of the Rhine and Hudson rivers

set the artistic imagination aglow. It was

within this framework of ideas in which

Washington Irving and the artists of the

famed Hudson River School — Thomas

Cole, Asher Durand, among them —

worked. The primordial deep valleys and

gorges, the broad expanses of riverfront, and

impressive wooded hills kept their brushes,

pens and creative sensibilities engaged for

many years.

Others have maintained that the Hudson

Valley’s ethnic diversity also played a part in

all of this. From the start of European settlement,

the river and its environs became

home to an almost bewildering assortment

of peoples. First the Dutch accompanied by

Frisians, French Protestants called Walloons,

the Scots-Irish, and others arrived. The

Dutch brought with them some black slaves.

Then, after New Netherlands became New

York in 1664, the English came over in great

Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

Picture courtesy of the Collection of Greene County

Historical Society/Vedder Research Library.

…the famous game

of ninepin bowls,

accompanied by

much boozing, which

set old Rip off on his

twenty-year snooze.

numbers. Germans from the Rhineland

(They must have felt right at home on the

banks of the Hudson!) moved here in the

early part of the eighteenth century. Later

came the Irish, and in the latter part of the

next century and into the twentieth, south

and east Europeans from Italy, Poland,

Russia and many other lands. As we mentioned

earlier, each people brought their own

special attitudes toward the super-rational or

supernatural. These peoples obviously did

not always get along with each other, a fact

underscored in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Ichabod Crane, the romantically inclined

schoolmaster who ran afoul of Brom Bones,

actually, was a Yankee immigrant from

Connecticut: Brom, actually Abraham Van

Brunt, was of original Dutch or Knickerbocker

stock The galloping horseman was a

Hessian trooper killed during the War for

6

American Independence. Thus it is

easy to see that social tensions and

rivalries between peoples could be

reflected even in the valley’s traditional

tales.

Most recently we have what might

be labeled a postmodern interpretation

of the valley’s proclivity toward

ghostliness, in which the above

described ethnic variety and competition

has a major place. In her book,

Possessions: the History and Uses of

Haunting in the Hudson Valley, Judith

Richardson, a native of Haverstraw,

New York in Rockland County, but

now on the faculty of Stanford

University in California, confesses

that from youth she has been interested

in river lore and the study of

haunting as reported phenomena.

Richardson’s contribution to the subject

is that she centers the hauntings

or reported instances thereof not in

historical continuity — as Irving

himself was inclined to do — but rather in

historical change.

Richardson’s thesis goes something like

this: the Hudson valley, as we have seen above,

has been for many years a place where social

change was more the norm than the exception.

As one people followed another into the

region, as the economy changed markedly

over a relatively small number of years from

small farm holdings to a mercantile arrangement,

and then to rapid industrialization, the

constant transformations led to

“anxieties over transience, mutability, and historical

uncertainty.” Just when a stable social

system seemed to have been achieved, a new

immigrant group would show up to change the

demographic matrix, with the result that a new

equilibrium between the competing groups

would have to be worked out over time.

As Richardson put it, “The restless history

of the region… created a sense of social

and historical tenuousness that was crucial to

producing ghosts.” They seemed to inhabit

places suggestive of mutability or change,

such as crossroads, bridges, and footpaths.

The spooks (Dutch for ghosts), themselves

were often described as the wayward spirits

of wandering folk, like “itinerant musicians,

peddlers, hitchhikers, and pirates.”

Local Hauntings and Legends

We have concentrated on the Rip Van

Winkle and Sleepy Hollow legends but they

are hardly the only memorable tales of the

weird and ghostly to have been conjured in


Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

As Richardson put it, “The restless history of the

region… created a sense of social and historical

tenuousness that was crucial to producing ghosts.”

the valley region. Others abound, especially the story of Spook

Rock. In the eastern part of town of Greenport there is a street

lying hard by Claverack Creek called Spook Rock Road. Local legend

has it that an Indian princess of great beauty ran off with her

lover without her father’s blessing. In their flight the two youths

paused to rest on a boulder in the creek. By breaking Indian tradition

and religious laws they had greatly angered the tribe’s God who

upon seeing them at the rock caused a great flood which carried the

lovers to their death. The boulder and the spirits of the lovers came

to rest along the banks of the stream near Spook Rock Road. The

young maiden’s spirit supposedly haunts the spot to this day.

Formerly a popular swimming hole for neighborhood youngsters,

some locals attest that at certain times of the year a low moaning

sound may be heard in the wind as it sweeps across the river from

the Catskills. Supposedly, the spirit of the dead maiden remains to

this day in constant search for her lost lover. But Columbia County

is not the only place to hold a spook rock tale. They emanate from

places all over the United States and in at least a couple of other

places in New York State.

In Rockland County to our south the Spook Rock theme receives

a different twist. Here on another Spook Rock Road, as the story

goes, a baby was killed by a nun, who doubled as a devil worshipper.

But it was later proved that the killer was the baby’s own father. Both

father and son’s ghost are said to have taken up residence in an old

mansion, a proverbial haunted house, adjacent to the road.

In Coxsackie of Greene County, Judith Richardson tells of the

middle eighteenth-century tale of Anna Swarts, a servant who was

dragged to her death by her employer, a wealthy Catskill landowner,

named William Salisbury. In 1824 a newspaper editor from New

York City visiting the area grew interested in the story and visited the

site where the murder was said to have occurred. He told a dramatic

tale of “sighs and lamentations heard in the air, like the plaintiveness

of the soft whistling wind… A white horse of gigantic size, with fiery

eyeballs, and distended nostrils, was often seen running past the fatal

spot… dragging a female behind, with tattered garment and streaming

hair, screaming for help.”

I consider myself any thing but superstitious and not much a

believer in the paranormal. However, I have a tale of haunting of my

own to relate, along with some other strange stories. My maternal

grandmother, of old German Palatine stock (the family arrived here

in 1709) once told me a story involving her own home — the old

manse of the Moore family, lying on the banks of Claverack Creek in

Mellenville. Local tradition had it that when it was first built the

woman of the house was murdered, perhaps by her husband. In good

archetypal tradition, she of course, or at least her apparition, was

reported to walk the premises. Nobody in the family ever related any

such spectral sightings, yet strange creaking noises and other phenomena

were occasionally heard and seen. My uncle, also of a skeptical

turn of mind in these matters, explained it all way by saying that

old houses often made these sounds as they contracted or expanded

in tune with the elements.

7

But on certain days bizarre things happened. I recall as a boy

watching Uncle Donald making certain that the downstairs doors

were securely latched before going to bed. They were the old-fashioned

door latch handles now rarely seen, except in very old colonials.

I was staying over in the house that night and slept well. But

on rising in the morning, all of the downstairs doors had swung open

sometime during the night! I can recall uncle muttering, “Never saw

that happen before.” He promptly closed the doors as I joined him

in the kitchen for a bit of breakfast. As we were talking at the table,

we heard a low creaking noise. The doors had again re-opened. It

happened once more the next afternoon which I think may have

been Thanksgiving Day, as everyone gathered at table for dinner.

This time the creaking noise was much louder, with all heads turning

as one toward the offending doorway.

Another tale involves the sighting of the old man of the mountain.

One of my earliest boyhood memories is of the time when my

parents pointed out to me that if you look at the Catskills from our

eastern perspective in a certain way on a very clear day, it is quite easy

to discern a series of adjacent peaks and valleys resembling the profile

of a recumbent human figure — from right to left, one peak

resembles the head, the next, the knees, and finally, the feet. It does

not take one to be a rocket scientist to jump to the conclusion that

in traditional lore the figure would come to be associated with Rip

Van Winkle, his profile engraved permanently and magically in his

beloved mountains. And this is precisely what occurred. But one

hears today very little talk of the old man, so called, primarily

because so many modern Columbians are new to the area, and the

old timers who might be aware of the old valley legends and stories

are dying off.

The final incident happened in Hillsdale, just a mile or so from

the Massachusetts border. At the time as a college student visiting my

parents in their small house on Route 23, I had occasion to drive to

North Egremont, Massachusetts via an old logging road connecting

the two communities. As I drove along I suddenly noticed a large

blue light which seemed to inhabit the deep woods on my right. I

stopped and peered into the wood but could see nothing. As my car

moved, the light seemed also to move. After about ten minutes the

light disappeared.

I had not thought of these experiences for many years, recalling

them only as I prepared this article. I am sure they mean nothing. We

can just chalk it up to a series of strange happenings in the equally

strange valley of the Hudson River in upstate New York. But hold!

What was it that Hamlet said to Horatio upon the appearance of the

apparition of the former’s father, the murdered king of Denmark, in

Act I of Shakespeare’s play?: “There is more to heaven and earth,

Horatio, than is dream’t of in your philosophy.” Let’s leave it at that,

shall we? �


By Dr. David William Voorhees

Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

Prior to the nineteenth-century development of turnpikes and

railroads, waterways were the major, if not sole, means of transportation.

As was true throughout most of pre-Revolutionary

America, roadways in present-day Columbia County before the 1770s

— even the one called the King’s Highway — were little more than

mere “tracks” through woodland and meadow. Land travel was laborious,

slow, and expensive. Because of the county’s situation on a large

river, boats were the cheapest and most convenient mode of transportation.

Thus goods to and from the region’s scattered farms and

villages went to the closest Hudson River landing, while the river

served as the lifeline to the outside world. Along the Hudson’s eastern

banks, the mouths of creeks, inlets, and sandy beaches developed into

dockage places for the movement of people and goods.

The prehistoric tribes who settled the region were the first to establish

primitive ports. Moving inland from the river at Stockport Creek

on the north and Roeliff Jansen’s Kill on the south in search of game,

they fanned out along Kinderhook, Claverack, and Taghkonic creeks

and the smaller streams and ponds that fed them. When in 1609

Henry Hudson explored the region, he found in the vicinity of

Stockport Creek a Mahican village “consisting of forty men and seventeen

women,” a well as canoes and, to his astonishment, “a great

quantity of Indian corn and beans… enough to load three ships” —

more stores than needed to feed the community. Archeological investigations

on the Roeliff Jansen’s Kill, the dividing line between

Mahican and Wappanger nations, also

uncovered sites containing exotic articles,

suggesting that these locations were places

for exchange. Such communities became

stepping off points for the European trappers,

traders, and treasure seekers who

explored and exploited the interior.

The European development of

Columbia County’s river landings, however,

began in the decades after 1649. In

that year, Gerrit van Slictenhorst, acting

as agent for the Van Rensselaer family,

purchased from the Mahicans a tract

“We came to anchor

at Kinderhook, in

order to take in some

grain… to be carried

down the river.”

8

that eventually comprised approximately one third of present-day

Columbia County. A slow migration of farmers out of Beverwijck

[Albany] to the unclaimed lands around Kinderhook Creek after

1650 and the Van Rensselaer lands along Claverack Creek by 1670

led to the necessity for river ports. Not until the end of the seventeenth-century

did European development of the southernmost portion

of the county commence. As a result, the chronological

development of Columbia County’s landings mostly flowed in a

southerly direction down river from Albany.

About 1657 Major Abraham Staats, who arrived in New

Netherland in 1642 as a surgeon in the employ of the West India

Company, constructed a fur-trading post and farm on the north side

of the mouth of Stockport Creek. Staats’s Landing, where Staats

docked his ship, the Claverack, to take on furs and grain may thus be

considered the first European port in the vicinity of Columbia

County. A tenant farmer was found burned to death in his house at

the original landing in July 1664. Even though it was during the

Mahican-Mohawk War, it was widely believed that the Indians had

been ordered to do so by the English. Though Staats quickly rebuilt

the post, its importance as a landing was rapidly eclipsed.

In June 1664 West India Company resident director Petrus

Stuyvesant issued a patent to several men for land along the river

about two miles south of present-day Stuyvesant Landing. This place

of embarkation was known as Kinderhook Landing until about

1800, when a change in the current of the river caused the port to be

moved south. In 1680 Dutch missionary Jaspar Danckaerts wrote of

Kinderhook Landing, “We came to

anchor at Kinderhook, in order to take

in some grain… to be carried down the

river.” The following day, he noted, “We

began early to load, but as it had to come

from some distance in the country, we

stepped ashore to amuse ourselves. We

came to a creek where near the river, live

the man whom they usually call The

Child of Luxury, (’Kind van Weelde),

because he formerly had been such an

one, but who now was not far from

being the Child of Poverty (’t Kind van


Armoede), for he was situated poorly enough.

He had a sawmill on the creek, on a water

fall, which is a singular one, for it is true that

all falls have something special, and so had

this one… for it came down in steps… sixty

feet or more high.” The lumber and grain of

the saw and gristmills on the great falls and

its vicinity were sent to Kinderhook Landing

to be transported down river.

The most important port to emerge in

pre-Revolutionary Columbia County was

Claverack Landing, the site of the presentday

City of Hudson. The possibility of harbors

formed by the norder bought (North

Bay) and souder bought (South Bay), and the

promontory between them, attracted the

Dutch. In 1661 Jan Franse van Hoesen purchased

from the Mahicans a tract clearly

within the bounds of the Van Rensselaer

patent. Petrus Stuyvesant nonetheless confirmed

the Van Hoesen purchase to encourage

population of the colony. The virtue of

Claverack Landing as a site for funneling produce

from inland to the river was apparent by

1678, when farmers squabbled about their

rights of way on the road to the landing. Two

years later, Jaspar Danckaerts noted in his

journal, “We set sail in the evening, and came

to Claver rack, sixteen miles further down

[from Kinderhook Landing], where we also

took in some grain… which had to be

brought in four miles from the country.”

Danckaerts then provides a fascinating

description of the region in the

last quarter of the seventeenth

century:

The boors (farmers) who

brought [the grain] in wagons,

asked us to ride out

with them to their places,

which we did. We rode

along a high ridge of blue

rock on the right hand, the

top of which was grown

over [roughly present-day

Partition Street to Route

22B]. This stone is suitable

for burning lime, as the

people of the Hysopus

(Esopus), from the same

kind, burn the best. Large,

Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

The most important port to emerge in pre-Revolutionary Columbia County

was Claverack Landing, the site of the present-day City of Hudson. The possibility

of harbors formed by the norder bought (North Bay) and souder bought (South Bay),

and the promontory between them, attracted the Dutch.

clear fountains flow out of these cliffs

or hills, the first real fountains, and

only ones which we have met with in

this country [the “fountain” is today

contained in a small brick structure on

Route 22B]. We arrived at the places

which consist of fine farms. The tillable

land is like that of Schoon ecten

deel (Schenectady), low, flat, and on

the eastside of a creek [Claverack

Creek], very delightful and pleasant to

look upon, especially at the present

time, when they were all green with

the wheat coming up. The woodland

also, is very good for [making] tillable

land, and it was one of the locations

which pleased me most, with its agreeable

fountains. Coming back to the

shore, I made a sketch, as well as I

could, of the Catskil mountains,

which now showed themselves nakedly,

which they did not do to us when

we went up the river. They lie on the

west side of the river, deep in the

country, and I stood on the east side of

it. In the evening, we obtained a still

more distinct view of them.

By the time of the American Revolution,

Clavarack Landing contained a dozen houses,

two stores, two wharves, a grist mill, and a

ferry to Lunenburgh (present-day Athens),

and served as the port for an estimated 800

The Abraham Staats house (c. 1660s or later), located on the north side of the

Stockport Creek near the Hudson River, Stockport.

9

households in an area of roughly160 square

miles along the east side of the Hudson River.

Catskill Landing, later known as Catskill

Station, on the border of present-day

Greenport and Livingston, originated in the

late seventeenth century as the southern portion

of the county’s embarkation place for

the similarly named Catskill Landing on the

opposite shore of the river. The earliest mention

of this landing occurs in 1690, when

messages between the Hudson’s west bank

and southern New England were carried

across the river at this point. In the eighteenth

century a small community arose here

as the Livingston family developed the interior

but it has now disappeared.

Roeliff Jansen’s Kill is named after an

early Van Rensselaer tenant who traded but

never lived on the creek. In 1683 “two hundred

acres of good land and eighteen hundred

acres of woods” on the kill were granted

to Robert Livingston and the following year

was confirmed by patent as the Manor of

Livingston. At the time of the grant only a

handful of European squatters lived on the

flats along the creek. By 1695 the manor

had expanded to one hundred and sixty

thousand two hundred and forty acres.

Livingston established his manor house and

port at the mouth of Roeliff Jansen’s Kill,

present-day Linlithgo. By the mid-eighteenth

century this was a thriving port due to

the Livingston family’s development of

industrial works.

The most well known of the

Livingstons’ industrial endeavors

arose from the settlement of

Germantown further south.

Two small creeks enter the

Hudson River near Germantown

Station and below East

Camp Landing. In 1710,

Queen Anne purchased from

Robert Livingston six thousand

acres in this area for securing

a place of settlement for

German Palatine refugees. The

primary royal objective, however,

was the manufacture of

naval stores — ships lumber

and masts, pitch, and tar —

and its management was given


to the Livingstons. The failure of this shortlived

endeavor is well known. Even the exact

site of Germantown Landing is unclear,

although it is possible that there was one

at Sharp’s Landing in 1710–1712. Philip

Livingston’s development of the Ancram

Ironworks after 1743 dramatically increased

port activity at Linlithgo. Water transportation

was necessary to carry the ironworks’

bar iron and finished metal products to market

and to bring stores to the manor’s workers.

By 1730, Robert Livingston of Clermont

had established the county’s southernmost

landing at his Clermont estate.

Manor lords such as the Livingstons and

wealthy merchants such as Abraham Staats

owned their own vessels for transporting

lumber, agricultural products, and livestock.

Both Philip and Robert Livingston, Jr.,

owned barques, large square-rigged sailing

ships. But shoals and primitive docking facilities

in Columbia County made such vessels

impractical. The craft most frequently used

were yachts and sloops. The term yacht,

derived from the old Dutch verb jaagen (to

Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

The sloop originated from the Dutch longboat...

hunt or pursue), was applied in the seventeenth

century to a variety of shallow draft

sailing vessels. Initially these were small craft,

fore and aft rigged, and possibly equipped

with leeboards. By the late seventeenth-century

the unique Hudson River high-sterned

yacht had evolved with fore-and-aft rigging.

The sloop originated from the Dutch longboat

and was originally equipped with oars

but the name came to be applied to a slightly

larger for-and-aft rigged work boat. In the

eighteenth century the “Albany sloop”

became a larger freight and passenger carrier.

Skiffs were also used in shallow waters and

creeks. For local traffic, and particularly ferry

service to the Hudson’s west bank, both the

Dutch and the English adopted the native

canoe for transport. These were of two types,

a dugout often made of tulipwood and a

bark canoe usually made of elm bark.

During most of the seventeenth and eighteenth

centuries passports were needed to go

up and down river when leaving Albany

County, of which Columbia County was

then a part. Ships and passengers could be

10

searched by officials in Albany and New York

City. Jaspar Danckaerts left a vivid description

of his voyage up the Hudson in 1680,

“We left New York about three o’clock in the

afternoon with a southerly wind, in company

with about twenty passengers of all kinds,

young and old, who made great noise and

bustle in a boat not so large as a common

ferry-boat in Holland; and as these people

live in the interior of the country somewhat

nearer to the Indians, they are more wild and

untamed, reckless, unrestrained, haughty

and more addicted to misusing the blessed

name of God and to cursing and swearing.

However there was no help for it; you have

to go with those with whom you are

shipped.” Such scenes remained commonplace

until the more sophisticated expansion

of Columbia County’s ports after the

Revolution. �

JOHN A. ALVAREZ & SONS, INC.

Manufactured Housing

3572 ROUTE 9, HUDSON, NEW YORK 12534

518-851-9917 • FAX 518-851-9937


Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

HUDSON, THE RIVER SEAPORT

The Early Gateway to the Interior

By Margaret Schram

Margaret Schram is the author of the wellreceived

book Hudson’s Merchants and

Whalers which was reviewed in the Summer

2004 issue of this magazine. She is a highly

regarded authority on the whaling industry

and Columbia County history. She has been a

long-time resident of Claverack.

It was the perfect landing site! Deep water

flowed past the shoreline, almost lapping

the banks. permitting unobstructed passage

directly to land, with nothing to impede

a vessel from skimming directly to the mooring.

Was Jan Frans Van Hoesen aware of the

prize he had acquired when he bought his

tract from the native Americans in 1662?

The Hudson holds few sites suitable for

landing a vessel. In some places rocky cliffs

and boulders hug the shore. More often,

however, vast expanses of marsh and mud

flats extend for long distances along both

banks, blocking access to land. The Van

Hoesen shoreline, which would extend from

the South Bay to a mile above the city of

Hudson offered many safe mooring sites.

North of the tract, the river becomes shallow

and filled with shoals and sandbars. This

made navigation difficult, if not impossible

for all but shallow draft vessels. The city

became known as the “head of navigation”

on the Hudson River, a boast continuing as

late as 1928 in a local paper.

For nearly two centuries, the sloop was

Southeastern view of the City of Hudson, New York, from Academy or Prospect Hill, c1841.

Picture from Hudson’s Merchants and Whalers, courtesy Black Dome Press

the workhorse of the river. Adapted from the

Dutch yacht, the vessels were broad, nearly

flat bottomed, could skim the shoals and

carry tremendous loads. Sloop captains

adapted unique maneuvers to propel the single

masted craft in the contrary winds. There

were two hundred and six sloops on the

Hudson by 1810, used for carrying freight

and passengers.

The area between the two bays of the Van

Hoesen parcel became known as Claverack

Landing. Claverack was the name of the

reach on this eastern section of the river and

a settlement a few miles inland. Sloops

stopped at the Landing to pick up farm

products to be shipped to other river market

harbors. As farms were established in the

interior, a “wagon” road was made to the

Landing. The importance of the Landing

was illustrated in 1679, when Maria Van

Rensselaer petitioned to have a house built

near the shore for the convenience of the

farmers needing accommodation after a long

wagon journey.

Meanwhile, the Van Hoesen heirs had

proliferated. The original parcel was divided

among them. In 1745, Jeremais Hogeboom,

married to Annatje Van Hoesen, acquired the

parcel adjoining the North Bay. Here he built

a wharf and storehouse, as well as a mill nearby.

A public landing was located at the point

where the road from inland met the river.

Colonel John Van Alen, married to another

Van Hoesen heir, laid claim to the river

11

shoreline near the South Bay, where he too

erected a wharf and a storehouse. He applied

for water lots (laid under water) one thousand

yards along his holdings and extending

five hundred yards into the river.

There was a need for storehouses. This

was especially true when the roads were

frozen and passable goods were stored until

the river, closed by ice, was open for passage

in the spring. All this illustrates the importance

of this piece of river frontage: excellent

landing sites, deep water to shoreline, an an

active commerce with the interior.

In 1783, these advantages brought a pair

of New England Quakers to the Landing

with offers to buy the entire settlement.

These Jenkins brothers represented eighteen

men seeking a safe port and a commercial

settlement, because their businesses were

ruined during the Revolutionary War. The

purchase prices must have been favorable for

the entire original Van Hoesen holdings were

soon in the hands of the Proprietors, as they

were called. The Proprietors’ agreement,

which they all signed, bound them to “settle

there in person, and carry his stock” on or

before 1785. It also stated that all should be

merchants or “ concerned in navigating the

deep.” Eight more joined in 1785 and five

more a few years later.

The first parcel purchased was the

Hogeboom holdings. The wharf there was

designated the city dock. The Van Alen parcel,

as well as the entire waterfront, was in

The Proprietors met to name the settlement Hudson and

to plan the city — laying out the streets in a grid pattern.


Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

the hands of the

Proprietors by 1785.

Families and their vessels

followed. Soon houses

were up, produce was

being shipped and

whaling commenced.

The Proprietors met to

name the settlement

Hudson and to plan

the city — laying out

the streets in a grid pattern.

In 1785 an act of

incorporation created

the area a city. The

waterfront was divided

among the Proprietors

with underwater lots

extending into the

river.

Titus Morgan began

the first shipyard. Ship

building became a

major industry with

over seventy vessels

constructed in Hudson yards during the first four decades. Goods

flowed into the city from the interior: grains, lumber, salted meats

and fish, and a variety of country goods. During the winter they were

stored in huge brick warehouses near the shore. Sloops, schooners,

and brigs left Hudson for Caribbean and southern coastal ports with

these products returning with sugar, molasses, and cotton. Other

ships traded in Europe and the Mediterranean. Artisans, merchants,

laborers, and seamen flocked to the city. Businesses, related to shipping

and whaling were created: a ropewalk, sail lofts, rope makers, as

well as oil and candleworks. Here the whale oil, brought back in barrels,

was graded and refined and candles made from the spermaceti

oil. Inns multiplied, vice appeared and remained, and families settled

to start new businesses. Vessels of all sizes left the wharves including

twenty whaleships between 1785 and 1818. They plied the whaling

grounds and also sealed on and around the desolate islands of the

South Atlantic. The skins were brought back to be made into shoe

leather in the city’s tanneries.

12

In 1795 the city was

designated a port of

entry. With a customhouse

and two officers,

the city had jurisdiction

over vessels from

the Catskill Creek to

the northern extent of

the river.

For twenty years the

city was booming with

only the Quasi-War

with France putting a

short check in maritime

activities. Then came

the wars in Europe

threatening trade with

France and England. A

series of embargoes culminating

in the War of

1812 spelled ruin for

ocean journeys. Ships

were sold, the whalers

moved away, and grass

grew over the wharves.

In 1813 Hudson lost its port of entry designation and all ships were

required to register in New York City. With the opening of the Erie

Canal in 1825, the magnitude of farm products coming from western

lands far surpassed any from the area serving the port of Hudson.

It was an added killing blow to the city’s shipping industry.

A short-term demand for whale oil to be used for lighting and

lubricating steam driven engines led to a misguided revival of

Hudson’s whaling in 1825. Twelve “used” whaleships were sent out

by the Hudson Whaling Company and private individuals. The project

ended in financial distress for investors just a decade later with

ships sold, sunk or condemned. Hudson’s glory days were over. In

1850, as if to assure no return to its port status, citizens elected to run

a railroad track (the Hudson River Line) across the front of the valuable

shoreline. Original plans had a tunnel carrying the track under

the lower part of the city. Hudson has remained a city — at times

such as now, a vibrant, exciting city — but, as a port, a seaport —

those days were ended by 1844. �

A map of Claverack landing “taken in the year 1774,” original courtesy of the Office of the

Columbia C0unty Clerk. This illustration and the one on page 11 are taken from Hudson’s

Merchnats and Whalers by Margaret Schram, published by Black Dome Press in 1994.


Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

By Donald and Ann Eberle

Donald Eberle was a charter member of the Hudson Valley Chapter

and a director and past president of the board of the Steamship

Historical Society of America. Ann Eberle is a published writer and

served as Recording Secretary for the board and chairperson of the

Hudson Valley Chapter. The Eberles live in Voorheesville.

Columbia County, a part of Albany County until 1786, has

important connections, not surprisingly, to the Hudson

River. New Englanders seeking a safer whaling port —

one not so easily attacked by the British — laid out the City of

Hudson. They chose to settle on this inland area on the tidal

estuary called Hudson’s River. The first whale oil

rendered by residents of the Hudson River

Valley was obtained when a whale ran aground

near the mouth of the Mohawk River in 1647.

Displaced New England whalers had a fleet of 25

vessels home-ported in Hudson City in 1786.

By 1807 a new type of vessel was adding distinction

to Columbia County. Chancellor of

New York State, Robert R. Livingston, Jr., combined

forces with Robert Fulton, who had

designed the first profitable steamboat. They

had met in Paris where the Chancellor had just

finished arranging for the Louisiana Purchase.

They realized the great advantage they had by

being the first to license steamboats for use on

the Hudson.

The North River Steamboat, Fulton’s prototype,

made a stop at Livingston’s Clermont

Wharf on its maiden voyage from New York

City to Albany. This led to the vessel’s nickname,

the “Clermont.” The Chancellor and Fulton

obtained a monopoly to run the only steamboats on the river and

it continued about 17 years before being denied by the United

States Supreme Court. By then Fulton had succumbed to pneumonia

and died at the young age of 50 in 1815.

When the Erie Canal was completed in 1825, Chancellor

THE

HUDSON

RIVER


PATH

OF

PROGRESS

13

Livingston was aboard the towboat Seneca Chief, along with

Governor Clinton, and Steven Van Rensselaer to celebrate the

canal’s opening. Horses pulled their boat from Buffalo east to

Albany. The opening of the Erie Canal brought about the need for

another type of towboat. Steam powered towboats were used to

pull the canal boats up and down the river between Albany and

New York City. The Seneca Chief was itself towed to New York

from Albany at the time of the big celebration by a river steamer

named the Chancellor Livingston. Later steam towboats led long

tows of fifty to one hundred canal boats. They were assisted by

small tugboats, which escorted individual canal boats into ports

such as Hudson.

After the Erie Canal was open, a huge number

of people from New England and foreign

countries migrated west to farm the newly available

vast and fertile lands. This changed the

landscape in river valley too. No longer were

lumber, wheat, and tanning the valley’s primary

industries. The farmlands around Rochester

became the country’s breadbasket, producing

superior wheat and new varieties of wood

became available. The Hudson’s floodplains were

turned into fertile dairy and fruit farms.

Columbia County and the west shore farms produced

apples, pears, plums, berries, as well as

grapes. Boatloads of fruit were carried down

river to the big market of New York City. Some

were destined for Europe. The valley’s fruit,

including the popular Macintosh apples grown

in Columbia County, are still sold today.

The Industrial Revolution found the county

using another set of resources. Between 1875 and

1898 the Hudson River Ore and Iron Company

was worked in conjunction with the Iron Mountain mines in

Linlithgo. The Burden Iron Works was located nearby and ore and

iron goods were shipped out of the county by boat and rail.

The Hudson’s beauty has long been an attraction to artists and

in 1872 Hudson River School artist Frederick Church completed

The sidewheel paddle steamer Alexander Hamilton, acquired by the Day Line in 1924 passing the Palisades c1960s. It was retired in 1971.


his ornate Persian-style

home, Olana (“our castle

on high”), in Columbia

County. Today it is a popular

tourist destination.

The beauty of the river

valley and the views of the

Catskill Mountains from

the east shore helped to

bring a new kind of business

to the area. With the

industrial age came time

for workers to take vacations

and for city dwellers

in places like Philadelphia

and New York City to

head to cooler climes. At

first medicinal springs

were the main attraction

and in Columbia County

there were the Lebanon

and Columbia Springs.

Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

River travel to and from these destinations was part of the pleasure

of travel and soon the Hudson was known as a great “Pleasure

Highway.”

With the end of the Livingston/Fulton monopoly on steamboat

travel on the river, Commodore Vanderbilt came on the scene and

provided some of the competition. In 1836 he started what would

become the “People’s Line” with the Daniel Drew and then the night

boat Rochester, which cut the running time to Albany from New York

to nine hours from Fulton’s 32. Thomas Cornell of Kingston/

Rondout saw the need to move barges laden with coal that was

mined in Pennsylvania down river once they reached the Hudson.

He built what became the largest fleet of towboats on the river. His

business was located on the Rondout Creek, which was the eastern

terminus of the new Delaware and Hudson Canal. Next came

Abraham Van Santvoord, who started a towing service, which he

called the Day Line. He purchased retired passenger steamers and

converted them to towboats. The first, the Oswego, transported food

and coal to New York City. By the 1850s the Hudson River Railroad

was completed on the east shore. It allowed city workers to commute

daily to and from their country homes, as they do today.

The 1860s saw the rise of the Hudson River Dayline. In 1863

Albert Van Santvoord, son of Abraham, formed a partnership to run

day steamers for passengers between New York and Albany, stopping

at numerous landings along the way including Hudson. In 1864 the

People’s Line added three night boats: the 393' St. John, the 348'

Dean Richmond, and the 360' Drew. These floating hotels carried

1,000 ± passengers, between New York City and Albany in nine

14

hours. Throughout the

valley there were scores of

passenger and freight boats

criss-crossing the river.

Each town had its own

operating boats, such as

the Catskill Evening Line

with its mid-sized Onteora

and Katterskill and the

Saugerties Evening Line

with the Saugerties and

the Ulster.

Imaginative entrepreneurs

in the mid-Hudson

Valley, realizing the recreation

needs of the crowded

residents in New York City,

began to build hotels and

various vacation retreats

throughout the Valley.

The Catskill Mountains

and their scenic vistas provided

ideal locations for such majestic hotels as the Catskill

Mountain House, the Laurel House, the Hotel Kaaterskill and many

others. The staffs, supplies, and vacationers created an economic boom

for the mid-Hudson Valley resorts and the boats that carried them.

In 1880 the Hudson River Dayline built the 284' Albany, the

first iron-hulled steamer. She became known as a “floating palace.”

In 1892 she was lengthened and modernized. The dining room was

moved from the hull to the main deck aft, offering the passengers

the opportunity to view the majestic Hudson while enjoying fine

cuisine. By 1900 the Dayline was carrying 250,000 passengers

yearly. Alfred Van Santvoord’s son-in-law, Eben Olcott, took over

The Hotel Kaaterskill (pictured above) was built in 1881 by the wealthy Philadelphian,

George Harding to rival the famous nearby Catskill Mountain House. It was said he built

it “in spite” feeling that he had not received the service he believed due him while staying

at the Mountain House. Picture courtesy the Collection of the Greene County Historical

Society/Vedder Research Library.

Imaginative entrepreneurs in the mid-Hudson Valley,

realizing the recreation needs of the crowded residents

in New York City, began to build hotels and various

vacation retreats throughout the Valley.

and in 1907 he built the Hendrick Hudson with a capacity of 560.

Other boats built for the fleet were: the New York, which burned

but was followed quickly by the Robert Fulton; the Washington

Irving; and the night boat Berkshire, the largest steamer ever built

at 440 feet. While the use of automobiles was increasing, the Day

Line’s seasonal passenger count reached 1.5 million. There was a

need for more capacity and a single screw steamer was purchased

and renamed the DeWitt Clinton. At this point the Day Line was in

the mass transit business rather than serving the refined vacationers

to which it once catered. Another paddle steamer, the Alexander

Hamilton, was acquired in 1924 to be the running mate of the

Robert Fulton on the Albany service. In the mid 1920s the Day Line

added the Chauncey Depew and the Peter Stuyvesant, which sailed

the river through the 1950s.

By the late 1930s through traffic to Albany was siphoned off as

people began to own their own autos and more and better highways


Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

were being constructed. Vacation destinations changed too and the

numerous hotels in the Hudson Valley declined.

With the start of World War II the valley had a rebirth as a destination.

The Day Line enjoyed a surge of traffic during the war, because

of gasoline rationing. The hotels were busy again. It was not unusual

to have the Albany and New York bound steamers load and off-load

1,000 passengers at the Catskill landing. The Hudson Landing had a

unique attraction. When the boats arrived passengers would toss coins

overboard to young boys who would dive down to retrieve them. The

swimmers would surface, hold up the coin, then put it in their mouths

and call out for the passengers to toss more coins.

By 1948 ticket sales and traffic declined once again, leading to the

lay-up of the Hendrick Hudson and the sale of the Day Line to a New

York City tour operator, as well as through service to Albany. By the

mid 1950s the Robert Fulton and the Peter Stuyvesant were retired.

The Alexander Hamilton, the last sidewheeler, carried on its daily

round trip service from New York City to Poughkeepsie with its last

trip on Labor Day of 1971, ending a proud tradition of steamboats

on the Hudson. It was replaced by a modern diesel powered vessel

named the Dayliner which served the lower Hudson until the mid

1980s, when it was withdrawn from service, bringing an end to 150

years of scheduled passenger service on the Hudson. Today the city

of Hudson’s antiques dealers, gallery owners, and restaurants find

their customers arriving by automobiles and trains. No longer do the

boat whistles call the diving boys to the pier on the river. �

Ornamental Iron Work • Gates, Handrails,

Security Gates and Windows Grilles

15

Columbia County History & Heritage is interested

in hearing from you — if you have articles, pictures, or

other items about Columbia County history and cultural

heritage suitable for publication, please let us know.

The Editorial Board will review all submissions, and all

submissions considered for publication are subject to

editing.We regret that we cannot guarantee publication.

Want to advertise your business in Columbia

County History & Heritage? Call 518-758-9265

for more information.


By Stephen Tenerowicz

Mr. Tenerowicz is a resident of Hudson and is

a masters degree student in history at the State

University of New York at Albany.

The Hudson River is truly the treasure

of the northeast. Winding and bending

through valleys and past counties,

its history is as magnificent as its splendor.

On its waters sailed mighty ships and on its

banks a brave and hearty people spawned

and thrived. Around such waters of import

and majesty myths and legends grow. Myths

are stories with some historical value but

whose origins have been forgotten or are the

creation of imagination and emotion.

Legends are stories coming down from the

past that are popularly historical but not necessarily

verifiable. Ours is a legend– a romantic

and daring tale of adventure as told by a

citizen of the city of Hudson in Columbia

County — Judah Paddock. Paddock’s

odyssey is as large and fascinating as the

serene river is deep and the truth is captive to

the reporting entered in his “Narratives.”

The adventure of Hudsonian Captain

Judah Paddock began at the turn of the nineteenth

century. Judah, son of one of the first

Proprietors of the City of Hudson, Stephen

Paddock, was known for his skills upon both

the sea and the Hudson. He was a whaling

captain and commercial trader, commanding

the ship Oswego. Paddock took this vessel to

Cork with a cargo of flaxseed and staves in

the spring of 1800. The Oswego was a fast

and graceful ship, making the voyage to

Ireland speedy and successful. In fact, it was

Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

so successful that Captain Paddock decided

to further his good fortune by continuing on

to the Cape Verde Islands just off the coast of

Africa to pick up salt and skins for trade

upon his return to New York.

However, the Oswego would not make it

to the Cape Verde Islands to pick up the

valuable cargo that Paddock so desired. On

April 3, 1800, sailing through a murky,

cloudy night, a crewmember of the Oswego

shouted, “land ahead” and seconds later, the

Oswego plowed into the coast of South

Barbary. After much dispute and arguing

between crewmembers, Paddock decided

that they would go ashore to search for food

and natives living along the beaches. As the

crew searched, they came across nothing of

the sort. According to Captain Paddock’s

“Narratives” they instead found a pile of

human skulls and bones.

Either out of fear or from horror,

Paddock made the decision to march his

crew to Santa Cruz, where a British consul

was located. Santa Cruz was approximately

one hundred and eighty miles from the original

wreck off the coast of South Barbary.

The journey was intense and immensely tiring,

forcing the crew to stop only forty-five

miles into their expedition. Luckily, they

came upon a small deserted village where

they could spend the night. By morning

nine out of the thirteen crewmembers had

opted to return to the shipwreck, leaving

Paddock and three others to carry on to

Santa Cruz.

On the following day, April 5, 1800

Paddock and his party of three were attacked

by what his reporting describes as “monsters.”

However, these “monsters” were no

Lotus Eaters, only four “copper colored”

men otherwise known as Arabs. These “copper

colored” men threatened Paddock and

his crew with guns, eventually forcing them

to march back to where the Oswego lay

shipwrecked. Here the crew members were

reunited but unfortunately then enslaved by

the four Arabs. Ultimately, the Arabs forced

them to march for two straight days without

food or water. They traveled an average of

thirty-five to forty miles per day.

The forced march continued until they

came across another group of “copper colored”

men in an encampment of 750 to 1000 men,

with several slaves. It was there that Paddock

was struck with the idea that if he could convince

the encampment leaders that a large

ransom could be gained for their release, it

…they instead found a pile of human skulls and bones.

16

might eventually save them slavery or death.

He was able to strike up a conversation with

one of them, a tribal leader name Ahmed,

through an interpreter claiming that the

British Consul at Mogadore would pay a

large ransom for their return. Paddock swore

to Ahmed that he would receive forty dollars

per man, plus supplies, including knives and

tobacco. Paddock must have been convincing

for Ahmed bought the men from their

initial captors, believing that he would be

rewarded with this handsome ransom for

their heads.

As the expedition embarked for Santa

Cruz on the trail to Mogadore, another slave

speculator visited Ahmed, claiming that a

plague had overtaken Mogadore. He opined


Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

that the British Consul would pay no ransom, for he had heard the

Consul was devoid of funds. Despite this alarming news, Paddock

persisted and persuaded Ahmed that the consul would pay the ransom.

By doing so he regained their chance at freedom. Reassured,

Ahmed decided to continue on to Santa Cruz.

Upon their arrival there, life for Paddock and his fellow slaves

radically changed in a surprising way. For reasons not detailed by

Paddock in his “Narratives,” the “Moorish Governor” of Santa Cruz

severely condemned Ahmed for his brutal treatment of the captives

and demanded that he transfer Paddock and his crewmembers on to

Mogadore with great care.

As it turned out, while on the road to Mogadore, Ahmed and

his slaveholders had a change of mind. They balked at continuing

unless they received the ransom immediately. And,

according to Paddock’s “Narratives,” the slaveholders or

“masters” were overheard to say they were going to take

“Rais,” which was what they called Paddock, back to

Santa Cruz soon if they did not receive the ransom.

Paddock had become what was known to them as

the troublemaker of the lot, “the worst to manage.”

Luckily, Captain Paddock was again able to use his

powers of persuasion to reach an agreement with his

captors. Paddock would travel ahead to Mogadore,

where he would arrange for payment with the British

Consul. The path to Mogadore was long and arduous,

tapping much of Paddock’s strength and energy.

However, he made it safely. Though the worse for

wear, he was ready to negotiate a ransom for himself

and his crew.

Paddock met with the British Consul Gwyn,

who informed him that the ransom would be paid

with the approval of the American Consul.

However, the American Consular agent had

been ordered by the Emperor to leave Mogadore

and was now residing in Tangier, far to the

north. Because of this, it could take at least a

month for arrangements to be made. After

sending a message to inform Ahmed,

Paddock was forced to wait, living with

Gwyn, until matters were finalized. Upon

notice of the completion of ransom plans,

the rest of the crew was brought to

Mogadore where the ransom was paid by

the British Consul. At last, they were free

after six long weeks.

On July 27,1800, Paddock decided to

take passage back to New York, first

hitching a ride on a Portuguese

schooner heading to Lisbon. However,

this did not signal the end to the

adventure. Upon arrival at Lisbon, he

and his crew were forced into quarantine

because of rumors of the

plague in Morocco. Paddock

refers to this time as the least

adventuresome on his journey,

“boring and quite tedious.”

Then on September 27, with

the quarantine finally ended,

17

Paddock arranged for berths bound for home with a Captain

Herman, who commanded the vessel, Perseverance. Upon arrival in

Baltimore, Paddock and his men stopped to tell their daring and horrifying

tale to the American Secretary of State, John Marshall.

Paddock encouraged Secretary Marshall to make sure that the British

Consul, who paid the ransom giving them their freedom, would be

reimbursed with haste. Finally, on December 1, 1800 Paddock and

his men arrived in Hudson. For Judah Paddock it was an odyssey survived,

and for Columbia County, a legend created. �

A page from a tattered copy of Paddock’s Narratives, published July 23, 1818.

Various notable persons, on this and other pages, attest to Captain Paddock’s

character and veracity in recounting his tale.


Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

18

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Main Office 426 Warren Street, Hudson, 12534, 828-3220


Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

Book Review:

Historic Houses

of the

Hudson River Valley

By Gregory Long

Photography by Bret Morgan • Introduction by James Ivory

Reviewed by Jim Eyre

Author Gregory Long is president of the New York Botanical

Gardens and enjoys a long-term association with the Preservation

League of New York State.

The writer John Reed, author of the book, The Hudson

River Valley appreciatively states: “The Hudson is a great

river first by the grace of nature.” The river is also great for

the wealth of estate buildings and their landscapes both large

and small — some visible and some not — along its shores whose

architecture dramatizes the various periods of its domestic

evolvement and use.

In the introduction to Mr.

Long’s book, James Ivory of

Claverack, New York writes: “the

counties and landscapes lining

the river, very generally comprising

the Hudson River Valley, are

very rich with historic houses of

all types. Some seem to be monuments

to pride and power,

others to a feeling for beauty,

while still others seem like monuments

to eccentricity.” He further

states: “There are few regions

in America that provide as rich a

display of stylistic change and

development in domestic architecture

through three centuries.”

We have all seen books written

on the grand houses of the

Hudson River valley but the goal

of Mr. Long’s Historic Houses of

The Hudson Valley is quite different

— “to trace the development

of domestic style through stories

of, and with the most up to date

information about, 39 houses

built across a period of 252 years.”

19

This the book does in admirable fashion and makes itself at once

special by looking not only at the large and grand houses but also

at smaller indigenous homes. The book’s exclusive quality is further

enhanced not only by stories of origin, ownership, and usage but by

derivation of architectural style and landscaping. Add to this,

sketches of buildings reflecting their original form, interesting

penned details of carvings and façade and you have something

unique and unusual. One cannot overlook Mr. Morgan’s photography.

The architectural details, the interior furnishings, and even the

wall coverings are brought to life with thoughtful pose and vivid

color. This is a book to be read with much to be learned and

appreciated — not only to grace a tabletop.

Columbia County residents

are in for a special treat. Eight of

the thirty-nine houses discussed

and illustrated are within the

county and half of those are open

to the public. Most of the others

are within an hour’s ride or less.

We urge our readers to peruse

this book and then to take the

time to search and visit where

possible. No need to take a ride

on the Rhine — how about a ride

on our beloved Hudson or on the

many roads and rails nearby? The

book may be purchased at the

Columbia County Museum store

in Kinderhook and at bookstores

throughout the county. It was

published in 2004 by Rizzoli

International Publications, Inc.,

300 Park Avenue South, New

York, New York 10010 in association

with the Preservation

League of New York City and

supported by a grant from

Furthermore, the publication

arm of the J.M. Kaplan Fund.�


By Will Swift

Will Swift, a Valatie resident, is the author of the recently

published book the Roosevelts and the Royals. He is a board

member of the Society.

Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

Queen Victoria could not believe her eyes. The vivid

reds, oranges and yellows of the fall foliage in

Jasper Francis Cropsey’s Autumn on the Hudson

River did not seem real. After viewing the painting at the

1861 National Exhibition in London, she told Cropsey

(1823-1900) that he must be exaggerating. Cropsey

ordered some colorful fall leaves shipped to England. He convinced

the queen that his sensational new landscape portrait

did, indeed, capture the true brilliance of fall along the

Hudson River.

Painted from memory while Cropsey lived in England,

Autumn on the Hudson River was typical of the Hudson river

style. It had a foreground with trees sporting red and yellow

leaves, tangles of gnarled tree trunks, and a rocky terrain set

against distant mountains and a sky whose ominous clouds

allow a shaft of light to break through and illuminate the surface

of the sublime river. This painting displayed for the Old

World the vastness and magnificence of the American

wilderness.

By this time the Hudson River had become symbolic of a

unique American identity: infinite expansiveness, a Manifest

Destiny toward freedom and democracy, and a pristine and

dramatic land communing with God.

This new power of the Hudson River as a mythic symbol

dates to two key events in 1825. The opening of the Erie

Canal, which connected the Hudson River westward,

allowed New York to become a burgeoning center of economic

and cultural growth. Newly wealthy American patrons

became interested in promoting the arts and in encouraging a

national style of painting. Until that time, most American

artists focused on portrait painting.

Also in 1825, Thomas Cole’s recent paintings of the Hudson

River were discovered in a frame shop in New York City and

purchased by fellow artists Colonel John Trumbull, Asher B.

Durand, and William Dunlap. These painters

were impressed by Cole’s detailed, painterly,

and dramatic vision of the American

landscape as God’s natural church for his

chosen people. They quickly arranged for

him to have well-heeled patrons. By 1827

Cole’s paintings had become very popular

and an American landscape movement

had begun. Ironically, Cole (1801-1848)

had been born in Bolton, England and he had had

no formal artistic training. He could not draw a

human figure well.

Thomas Cole, also a poet and philosopher,

wrote about one of his works — Sunrise From the

Catskill Mountains: “The mists were resting on

the vale of the Hudson like drifted snow…

The sun rose from bars of pearly hue…

The mist below the mountain began first

to be lighted up… Though dark the

mountainside was sparkling; and the

20

Hudson, where it was uncovered to the sight, slept in deep

shadow.” He believed that it took a poet’s sensibility to do

justice to the Hudson River’s many moods.

Thomas Cole died at the early age of forty-seven. For the

next twenty-five years a loosely allied group of over seventy

New York-based artists expanded his celebratory romantic

and spiritual depiction of the Hudson River valley to paint

New England, the American West, old Europe, South

America, and even the Arctic as well. Even though he was

older and already established, Asher Brown Durand, who

had helped discover Cole, became one of his first disciples.

Durand highlighted the spiritual tranquility of nature in

paintings which included Hudson River Looking toward the

Catskills. It depicts the view from Rhinecliff looking west

to the Catskills.

German-born Alfred Bierstadt (1830-1902), George

Inness (1825-1894) from Newburgh, New York, and

Connecticut’s John F. Kensett (1816-1872) expanded the

reach of the Hudson River School. It is beyond the scope

of this article to do justice to the work of Hudson’s own

Henry Ary (1802-1859) and the Hudson-born Parton

brothers, Arthur (1842-1914), Ernest (1845-1933), and

Henry (1858-1933), who also painted the Hudson River,

but interested readers should explore their work.

Connecticut-born Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900)

was the only Hudson River School painter to study with

Cole. Precocious, Church was a teenager in 1844 when he

began his two-year apprenticeship in Cole’s Catskill studio.

Church’s panoramic masterpieces of the Hudson River

School, Niagara (1857) and Heart of the Andes (1859), were

hailed as marvels of the Western world and convinced erudite

British art critic John Ruskin and the rest of the international

art world that American art had come of age.

Church moved to Hudson, New York, in 1860. Starting

in 1869, after an artistic pilgrimage to the Far East, he built

Olana, his hilltop version of a Persian villa, with architect

Calvert Vaux. From Olana, with its extraordinary views of

the Hudson valley, Church made magnificent paintings of

the river in all seasons and weather. In The Bend in the River

from Olana (c. 1870-1873), he captured the bluegray

tones of an overcast afternoon

in the Hudson River Valley, and in

Winter Looking Southwest from

Olana (c. 1870-1880) the colors of

a gathering winter mist and fading

sky. In his spectacular Sunset across the

Hudson Valley (1870) Church portrays the

view across the Hudson to the cloud-capped

Catskill Mountains. Distant forest, woodland,

brush, and river are illuminated by golden sunlight

which penetrates purple and black storm clouds.

Sanford Gifford (1823-1880)* was the only one

of the major Hudson River School artists who grew

up in the Hudson Valley. He decided to become a

painter while contemplating the view of the

Hudson river and the Catskill mountains from

his hometown’s most conspicuous natural

landmark, Mount Merino. One of eleven

paintings he did of Mount Merino, his South


Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

Asher B. Durand’s Hudson River Looking toward the Catskills, depicting the view from Rhinecliff west to the Catskills. New York State Historical Association.

Bay, on the Hudson, near Hudson, New York (1864) is panoramic in

scope and allows the haze-smothered Catskill mountains along the

river to suggest America’s infinite expansiveness. His transcendent

Morning on the Hudson, Haverstraw Bay (1866), looks northwest

from Ossining, at the Hudson’s widest point, to the mountain High

Tor, which rises eight hundred feet above the river. In the cool blues

of its mountains and river and the pre-sunrise pinks of the clouds,

the painting captures an idyllic morning of boating on the Hudson

and the fresh promise of America itself. In his later paintings he

moved beyond place to specialize in capturing the essence of light

and atmosphere.

By the 1870s Impressionism and modern European movements

focusing on broad, innovative painting techniques, interior scenes,

and figural painting became fashionable in America. The Hudson

River School painters were criticized for being too literal and

grandiose in their depiction of the American landscape. The theme

21

of America as God’s Garden of Eden lost resonance after the fractious

Civil War years. The Hudson River and her champions faded from

prominence. They reemerged after the World War I when the river

was again seen to represent the simplicity and independence of

America. In the undulating tides of cultural favor, after World War II

the river’s artistic legacy was forgotten again when the art world

became fascinated with abstract aesthetics. The river rose again to

prominence in the last thirty-five years of the twentieth century with

the emergence of environmentalists and artists concerned about the

spoiling of our natural resources. The Hudson River is continually

reinventing herself in our national imagination as the symbol of new

directions for our country: Manifest Destiny, spiritual communion,

and environmental purity. Where will she take us next? �

*See my article Hudson’s Luminous Native Son in the Fall 2004

issue of this journal.

By this time the Hudson river had become symbolic of

a unique American identity: infinite expansiveness,

a Manifest Destiny toward freedom and democracy, and

a pristine and dramatic land communing with God.


Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

Ice Yachts on the Hudson

“The breeze sings in the rigging; the runners hum on the ice with a crunching sound.”

By Mary Faherty Sansaricq

Mary Faherty Sansaricq’s column “Recalling Columbia County

appears in the Columbia County Weekly Shopper, and is a resdient

of Ghent. Mary is the Business Administrator of the Hawthorne Valley

School and the mother of four children.

On the frozen wasteland of the river with the wind ghosting

through the tidal inlet, the ice yachts are poised like a flock

of white winged doves skimming across the shining surface

that glistens in the light.

Columbia County has been part of the Hudson Valley history of

ice yachting ever since the sport became popular during the Victorian

period. During the coldest winter months, when the river was closed

to navigation, it would not be unusual to see regattas of sails gliding

past the wharves of downtown Hudson city. In the nineteenth century

ice yachts were the fastest vehicles on the face of the earth reaching

speeds from 70 mph and upward. It was typical for the ice yachts

of the Hudson to race against the trains that traveled along the bank

of the shoreline from New York City to Albany. In 1871 the Icicle,

the largest ice yacht ever launched and commissioned by John A.

Roosevelt, raced the Chicago Express, one of the fastest trains in the

country, between two railroad stops. The Icicle won the race.

Ice yachting is similar to sailing in the water. However ice yachts

can sail at four to five times the speed of the wind because the boat’s

sails act like the wings of an airplane, creating lift and pulling the

boat forward. Also, the yacht is not pushing through the resistant

water but gliding across a very slippery surface.

The boats are built in a cruciform shape, a Christian cross configuration,

which was popular in the late nineteenth century. The

ships have a simple design with a long wooden backbone that holds

the mast and sails. Attached is a shorter crosspiece, called the runner

plank. It holds the shoes or runners that function like “blades” that

skate along the ice. On the backbone rests the oval cockpit or tray

where the captain rests to steer the yacht and where a passenger or

two can sail along for the ride.

In 1866, an “Ice-Boat Expedition from Poughkeepsie to Albany”

received front-page coverage in newspapers up and down the river. It

was not just a major sporting event but also a society occasion. One

of the appointed stops for the fleet of racing yachts was Hudson.

According to Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper of March 17, 1866:

‘All the way from Poughkeepsie to Hudson the river was covered

with one continuous sheet of smooth, glassy ice, and as the

trim vessels ran before the wind, the crinkling sound of their

runners and the whistling of “Old Boreas” through the cordage,

mingled joyously with the shouts of the occupants.’ It was at

22

Hudson’s Worth House that the racers refreshed and enjoyed a

champagne toast before proceeding with the race up to Albany.

In 1881, Charles Farnham described his experience of ice yachting

on the Hudson as follows, “The breeze sings in the rigging; the

runners hum on the ice with a crunching sound, and a slight ringing

and crackling; and a little spurt of crushed ice flies up behind

each runner and flashes like a spray of gems. The yacht seems more

and more like a thing of the air — her motions are so fitful, wayward,

and sudden.”

And even today, thanks to the wonderful work and preservation

of the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club, Victorian sails can still be seen

sailing the ice of Columbia County.

The Hudson River Ice Yacht Club, founded in 1885, numbers

more than 70 members from all over the region who are committed

to the conservation and the preservation of the great ice yachts of the

Victorian era. Members are avid sports men and women who are

dedicated to a unique winter sport rooted here in the Hudson Valley.

The HRIYC boasts more than 30 antique yachts that are ice worthy.

Some of the iceboats have been rescued from basements, old barns,

and abandoned buildings.

Refurbishing the ice yachts requires careful conservation work,”

said Reid Bielenberg, a personal friend, life-long Germantown resident,

and former Commodore of the HRIYC, and owner of the 102year-old

ice yacht, Northwind. “Just the wood varnish, for example,

can be over 100 years old, so refinishing can be very complicated. If

the boat has historical significance, a conservation treatment report

needs to be approved by the National Archives.”

Not so long ago my family and I had the pleasure of joining the

Bielenbergs for an afternoon of ice yachting on the Hudson. The

experience was magical. We had to walk through the wintery woods

to get to the shore of the bay. The air was frigid, each breath released

a cloud of misted fog into the sky and the river surface was a sheet of

smokey gray glass. The most remarkable thing was the sound —

silence. There were no motors, no revving engines, just silence,

punctuated by the cutting, slicing, and gliding of the yachts as they

sailed all around us.

Bielenberg remembers a time about twenty years ago while sailing

on a stretch of smooth frozen ice, when he had the pleasure of taking

folk legend Pete Seeger for a ride on his boat the Vixen, a lateenrig

boat once owned by John A. Roosevelt. As the winds were light,

and the yacht was silently resting on the ice waiting for a gust, Seeger

burst into a series of yodels as if to test the acoustics of the surrounding

hills and the frozen surface with an echoing call.

As Reid Bielenberg says, “Ice boating is like a dream passing. It is

a tangible thing and then it melts away.” �


Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

Queen of the World’s

“Singlestickers”

By Jim Eyre*

By the end of the War of Independence the Hudson River sloop

had already proved its worth on the mighty river waters from

which it took its name. Owners and captains began to cast

anxious eyes at more distant ports and more lucrative markets. The

first of the large sloops to take up the challenge was the 80 ton

Experiment out of Albany and under the command of Captain

Stewart Dean. She sailed in the autumn of 1785 and returned to the

wild cheers of Albany citizens in the spring of 1787 — her holds

laden with a vast variety of teas, silks, satins, taffetas, and porcelains.

She had sailed around the Horn, through the Strait of Sundra and

was the first American vessel to make a direct voyage to Canton.

Thus the Hudson River sloop earned its title of “Queen of the

World’s Singlestickers.”

As many as 200 sloops with single masts and large mainsails could

be spotted on the Hudson River by the mid 1850s. It was a wonderful

sight. Famous among these earlier vessels was the Maria built in

1795 and captained by Andrew Brink carrying passengers and cargo

from Livingston Manor and wharves upriver. Not uncommon were

the splendid private pleasure sloops of the rich visiting New York

City, Hudson, as well as other entertaining and welcoming river

ports. However, the sloop was soon to be joined by the two-masted

schooner and later yielded its titles and prestige to the competitive

and speedier steamboat. The large and powerful sloops finished their

days, for the most part, as common freight carriers. However, they

will always be remembered for their quiet beauty and contribution to

river life. �

*Source: Carmer, Carl, The Hudson, rev. ed. (New York;

Grosset & Dunlap, 1968).

The Voyage of the Experiment, painting by Len Tantillo, showing the ship

under full sail on her journey to Canton, China. Image courtesy Len Tantillo.

23

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Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

A Bee In Bob’s Bonnet

By Travis M. Bowman

Mr. Bowman is Curator of

Collections at Clermont, home of

Chancellor Livingston, and Adjunct

Professor of History at Columbia

Greene Community College. He

earned his BA at Tulane University

and his Masters in Public History at

the University of Albany. He is a resident

of East Greenbush, New York.

Robert R Livingston of Clermont

once wrote: “physics

and mechanics never formed

a more nobler union than in the

invention of the steam engine,

which at once subjects the most

powerful agents to man; he reposes

at ease while fire, air and water

perform his laborious tasks.” When

Livingston’s enlightened colleague

and friend Thomas Jefferson needed

to upgrade the water system at

Monticello, the sage of Clermont

sent him plans for a steam engine to

do the job. Livingston’s true passion

for steam-power, however, was

in its application as a nautical

propulsion system. Prompted by

the geographical proximity of his

estate to the Hudson River and his

close family ties to the shipping

industry, Livingston spent many

Portrait of Robert Fulton

years trying to build a working steamboat. In the 1790s he constructed

a steamboat at nearby Tivoli but it proved insufficiently

powered to be practical. A second boat fared no better. It practically

shook itself apart from the heavy engine’s vibrations.

Livingston remained convinced he could produce a working boat.

His privileged position in New York State government allowed him

to have legal success where the technical had escaped him. He persuaded

the New York State Legislature to grant an exclusive monopoly

for the propulsion of vessels by fire or steam on all waters of the

state for a period of twenty years. Critics ridiculed Livingston’s efforts

but the so-called “hot water bill” granted Livingston his monopoly,

if he could build a boat that averaged four miles an hour from New

York City to Albany.

The election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800 and Livingston’s subsequent

appointment as Minister Plenipotentiary to France put the

experiments on hold. To date, Livingston and his partners had been

unsuccessful in fulfilling the requirements for the New York monopoly

but Livingston’s luck was about to change. On November 12,

1802 he wrote to his brother-in-law about a chance meeting with a

part-time portrait painter, part-time engineer: “You know my pas-

Robert R. Livingston

and the

“Steam-boat”

24

sion for steam boats & the money I

have expended on that object.…I

am not yet discouraged & tho [sic]

my old partners have given up the

pursuit I have found a new one in

Robert Fulton, a most ingenious

young man.” Robert Fulton’s meeting

with Livingston set in motion

events that led to the first practical

working steamboat in the world.

Using Livingston’s technical

knowledge gained from his earlier

experiments and Fulton’s genius for

mechanical proportions and scientific

method, the two partners produced

a working model on the

Seine River in 1803. Diplomatic

duties pulled Livingston away from

the project but the partners were

back working in America by 1806.

Despite a three-year hiatus, Fulton

built a boat in New York City within

a year.

The steam-boat, as it was called,

made its maiden voyage to Albany

on August 17, 1807. Years of meticulous

calculations and successive

experimentation insured the run

went smoothly. By the time the

boat anchored at Clermont on

August 18th, it appeared to Robert

Livingston that he had finally

achieved the fame and immortality

he strove for all his life. From the deck of the boat, Livingston began

making fantastic predictions about the usefulness of steamboats. His

conviction about steamboats one day crossing the Atlantic was met

with considerable skepticism. A Livingston cousin was even overheard

to sarcastically remark: “Bob has had many a bee in his bonnet

before now, but this steam folly will prove the worst yet!” Fulton and

Livingston recognized their steam-boat’s potential, despite the

doubts of others. Shortly after the first run, Fulton wrote:

The power of propelling boats by steam is now fully proved.

The morning I left New York there were not perhaps thirty

persons in the city who believed the boat would ever move one

mile an hour, or be of the least utility and while we were putting

off from the wharf I heard a number of sarcastic remarks.

This is the way in which ignorant men compliment what they

call philosophers and projectors.

The steam-boat was a new invention, the very cutting-edge of

technology and arguably the pinnacle of reason and science for its

era. It represented something altogether different to most of


Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

The boat scared another farmer so badly he reportedly

ran home to his wife and friends and informed them

“the devil [was] going to Albany in a saw mill.”

Livingston and Fulton’s contemporaries. To

the masses, the Livingston/Fulton steamboat

was more abomination than progress.

Its propensity to spit fire from the boiler and

steam-stack drove one astonished local to

label it a “monster moving on the waters,

defying the winds and tide and breathing

flames and smoke.” Sailors seeing the boat

for the first time “[shrank] beneath their

decks at the terrific sight, while others prostrated

themselves and besought Providence

to protect them from the approach of the

horrible monster which was marching on the

tide and lighting its path by the fire that it

vomited.” The boat scared another farmer so

badly he reportedly ran home to his wife and

friends and informed them “the devil [was]

going to Albany in a saw mill.” Far from seeing

the boat as an object that would propel

America into the technological forefront,

most old sailors only saw a monster coming

to end their way of life. Much like Shelly’s

Frankenstein monster of a few years later, the

villagers with torches eventually came for the

steam-boat.

Some sailing captains began staging nearfatal

“accidental” collisions with the steamboat

as it became a regular sight on the

Hudson River. Fulton had to hire guards to

protect the boat at night and later put a protective

cover on the paddle-wheel.

Livingston worked to secure the boat’s legal

protection and he convinced the Legislature

to enact a law imposing a fine and possible

imprisonment for anyone willfully attempting

to damage a steamboat.

Sabotage and superstition did not end the

Livingston-Fulton monopoly but competition

did. Legal challenges began within a

year of the steam-boat’s first run and continued

until a U.S. Supreme Court case

(Gibbons vs. Ogden, 1824) established only

the Federal Government could regulate

interstate commerce. Neither Livingston nor

Fulton lived to see the end of their steamboat

company. Moreover, neither man lived to see

the transportation revolution their invention

started. By the end of the nineteenth century,

steamboats had made an indelible mark

on America and the world, which reached far

beyond the confines of the Hudson River

where Robert Livingston had begun his

experiments a century before. Steamboats

allowed white settlement of the western

lands that Livingston had secured for

America with his Louisiana Purchase. Steam-

The Clermont on the Hudson River, as depicted in a detail from a contemporary watercolor. Picture courtesy the Mariners Museum.

25

powered warships like the CSS Virginia and

the USNS Monitor fighting at the Hampton

Roads battle of the ironclads became cultural

icons. Just as Livingston predicted, steamboats

also crossed the Atlantic. Nearly a

hundred years after the steam-boat’s first

run, the RMS Titanic proved steamboats

could even make the journey too fast

(Titanic was propelled by two massive

reciprocating steam engines and one steam

turbine).

Although historians and apologists have

been arguing the point of who “truly”

invented the steamboat for two hundred

years, the result of the Livingston-Fulton

steam-boat cannot be argued. The Livingston-

Fulton steam-boat began the revolution. The

great irony of the story is that the steam-boat

changed the world but Livingston’s name

is rarely remembered in connection with

the project. A further twist of fate led

Fulton’s earliest biographer to erroneously

name the steam-boat as the “Clermont” after

Livingston’s estate on the Hudson River. The

mistake caught on, and countless school

children have learned about Fulton’s

Clermont without ever hearing the name of

Robert Livingston. �


By Jim Eyre

Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

The HENRY CLAY vs.

the ARMENIA

A Fatal Steamboat Race

At the time of their heyday the Hudson River steamboats

were built and advertised to carry the maximum in cargo

with the greatest number of passengers at the fastest speed

to hurry them from port to port. The steamboats were sleek and

elegant offering the finest accommodations at all levels of price —

competing viciously against one another. Speed was the most

important element in the competition. Captains and owners strived

to set records supposedly to lure business to their ship versus another.

But, beneath it all was the call of the race — two swift ships challenging

each other to the echo of bravado and huzzahs from both

crew and onlookers they charged up and down the river.

In the early morning of July 28, 1852 the newly commissioned

steamboat Henry Clay pulled out into mid-stream at Albany loaded

with passengers and cargo under the command of one of her owners,

Thomas Collyer. The Captain, John Tallman, was bedded

belowdecks suffering from an attack of food poisoning. However,

Collyer was a skilled Hudson riverman and the boat was considered

to be in good hands. Still at the Albany dock and still loading, was

another steamboat, the Armenia. Both boats had been built by

Collyer’s boatworks but the Armenia had been sold to Captain Issac

Smith only a few years before. They had an agreement not to race

each other. However, Collyer was not going to let his new boat be

outshown by the older vessel and the Armenia’s crew was adamant

that they had the better steamboat.

Sparks flew from the stacks of the Armenia as it pulled out and

moved downstream in chase of the Henry Clay. The Henry Clay was

way out ahead when it docked at Hudson to pick up passengers.

The crew of the Armenia saw their opportunity and sailed right on

past Hudson leaving Collyer and the Henry Clay to handle any

Armenia passengers that were waiting there for them. The Armenia

took the lead by almost a mile. Now the gauntlet had been clearly

thrown and the race was on in earnest.

To the terror of passengers who had heard of exploding vessels

and violent shipwrecks from such races, Collyer ordered his crew to

pour on the steam pressure in pursuit of the Armenia. The boat

trembled, blowers hummed, and scalding blasts of hot steam were

emitted from the boilers amidships as it surged to full speed. The

gap had been lessened when both boats made port at the Catskill

landing but, first in was first out, and the Armenia maintained a

three quarter mile lead.

Again the Henry Clay was in hot pursuit — so hot in fact that

passage on deck was made intolerable from the trembling of the

boat, as well as the blasts of heat and cinders of burning anthracite

bombarding the decks from the stacks above. To no avail, passengers

who were afraid for their safety if not their lives, tried to rouse

Captain Tallman from his bed and beseeched other crew officers to

put a halt to owner Collyer’s mad folly.

When they reached Turkey Point about five miles above

Kingston the steamboats were neck and neck. Slowly the Henry

Clay was able to pull ahead by a few yards and pilot Jim Elmendorf

spun the wheel smashing his boat into the port wheelhouse of the

Armenia. Ignoring the screeches of passengers on both boats and

the grinding noises of the collision, the Henry Clay continued to

turn and force her opponent toward shore. The Armenia had no

choice but to cut her engines or go aground — thus allowing her

adversary to leap ahead toward the Kingston Landing. Clearing

Kingston before the Armenia had even landed, Collyer pressed on

in an attempt to outdo the Armenia by as great a margin as possi-

The Henry Clay painting by James Bard 1851, courtesy Mariners Museum. The Armenia by John and James Bard – 1848 watercolor Wadsworth Athaneum.

26


Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

ble. By the time they had reached Poughkeepsie many passengers

had had quite enough of this folly and disembarked. Others

remained on board assuming that the race was won and that Collyer

had made his point.

However, the Henry Clay continued on at full speed. By three

o’clock in the afternoon the Palisades were reaching up beside her.

She had passed Yonkers and was nearing Riverdale. Anthracite ash

was still being spewed upon the decks but passengers had become

calmed and were anticipating their arrival in New York City. No one

knew who first spotted smoke rising from a midship hatchway.

Unknown to them, a fireman below deck was helplessly and hopelessly

throwing water on the flaming cover of a badly overheated boiler.

Overcome by heat and smoke he staggered onto the deck with

clothes now on fire and dove overboard — the licking flames close

behind him. In an instant the whole midship was ablaze. Fearing

explosions pilot Elmendorf once again spun the wheel toward shore

— this time in a desperate attempt to beach the ship and save lives.

The Henry Clay rammed into the shore, slid eight yards up the shore,

and buried its nose in a railroad embankment.

In the ensuing melee screaming passengers who had not been

thrown from the ship by the impact, swarmed through raging flames

to dive or jump into the river. The worst was over in twenty minutes.

A drowned man’s watch had stopped at 3:26 p.m. A few boats had

come to assist those floundering in the water and others to pillage. A

train stopped and would take many of the wounded. By five in the

afternoon nothing was left but a piece of the bow. Dead bodies and

flotsam from the wreck littered the shore for miles downstream and

crews worked well into the night dragging for bodies. The count of

the dead reached 80. Many had been badly burned or injured.

It was interesting to note that the captains of both ships were

absent from duty that day. Pilot Isaac Polemus was in command in

place of Captain Smith who was not on board and Thomas Collyer

was acting for the sick Captain Tallman. Pilot Polemus claimed that

there was no attempt to race on the part of his boat. Charges of murder

against the owners and officers of the Henry Clay were dismissed.

In fact the trial of all other defendants ended in their acquittal.

However, Editor James Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald was

to wage editorial war against this popular and insane practice of

steamboat racing on the Hudson. Whether it was through his efforts

or because of the high cost in human life is not known but in the

early months of 1853 the New York State Legislature put an end to

it by passing the strict “Steamboat Inspection Act.” �

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27


By Joseph E. Persico

Editor’s Note: Mr. Persico is a well known

historian and biographer living in

Columbia County. He is also a close friend

of Albert Callan, our “Renaissance Man.”

It’s an overworked term, “Renaissance

Man.” It is applied to anyone who can

drive an eighteen wheeler and also

recite two verses of Tennyson, or throw a

pass eighty yards and identify Friedrich

Nietzsche. Yet, we have the genuine article in

our own backyard. He captained Union

College’s track team, landed at Normandy

on D-Day, edited one of the country’s winningest

weekly newspapers, took prize after

prize in flower shows, had a song published,

was the county’s “Man of the Year,” wrote an

acclaimed memoir, became a gourmet chef,

was chairman of the county’s Republican

party, rose to Master of the Old Chatham

Hunt, helped redraft the state constitution,

was once Henry Kissinger’s boss, and set a

state record for the Regents exam in algebra

(about which more later).

Our Renaissance Man is a Columbia

County native son, Albert S. Callan Jr., born

in the last year of the Great War on January

23, 1918.

Before D-day, Albert had graduated from

Union (where he wrote the above referred to

song), saw the war clouds darkening and

joined the U.S. Army before Pearl Harbor.

Rising from buck private — his earlier mastery

of French and German made him a prize

catch for the intelligence corps — he was

commissioned a second lieutenant. After the

Normandy landings, he headed a counterintelligence

team tracking down enemy spies

in French villages. Ultimately promoted to

major at age twenty-seven, Al Callan was

given command of all counterintelligence

operations in northern Bavaria. He had a

corporal under him running the office by the

name of Henry Kissinger.

The Chatham Courier was in the Callan

family and in the Callan blood. Soon after

leaving the Army, Al joined his publisher

Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

Columbia County’s Renaissance Man

ALBERT S. CALLAN — a Profile

father on the weekly’s staff and by 1947 he

became editor. Year after year, under Al’s

leadership, the Chatham Courier swept state

and national awards in the weekly category.

The paper was nominated for the Pulitzer

Prize for exposing, “the largest floating crap

game east of the Mississippi” in the city of

Hudson. No penny-ante operation it was

one that on weekends raked in in excess of

$250,000. One high roller offered the

Courier $2,000 to “forget what was happening

in Hudson,” including the operation of

houses of ill fame. Al’s Courier did not.

While running the paper, Al also invented

a persona, “The Man in the Black Hat,”

who wrote a weekly column. He once

explained the origin of the column bearing

this by-line: “All the good guys in the movies

wear white hats. The bad ones wear black.

Why not write a column called the Man in

the Black Hat. Thus cloaked in anonymity, I

could search out all the juicy tidbits of scandal

that only a villainous person would

report.” But for the most part, Al’s columns

had a gentle charm, a powerful evocation of

days gone by, and a wry humor. The Hat was

an instant success and the first columns most

readers turned to in the Courier.

As a county Republican chairman, Al

made no effort to conceal his preferences in

his paper; but he did so with tongue-in-

28

cheek. He described the invariable triumph

of Republican over Democrat candidates in

the county with disarming frankness: the

Courier “Never mentioned the names,” of

the latter. In one of his finest examples of

equal opportunity teasing, Al wrote a

column on how to distinguish Republicans

from Democrats: “Republicans think

Democrats should keep their noses out of

the boardroom. Democrats think Republicans

should keep their noses out of the

bedroom.”

Al’s repeated victories in flower shows

grew from a deep love of the land, particularly

the land of his native county and the

play of the seasons upon it. Note this passage

from the Hat: ”June is gone and now July’s

Our Renaissance Man is a Columbia County native son, Albert S. Callan Jr.,

born in the last year of the Great War on January 23, 1918.

vivid lightning fills the skies. The glorious

Fourth is but a memory and before we know

it, the days will be a tad shorter, the crickets

evensong will be a few measures faster and as

August approaches, loosestrife will blanket

swamplands, the Chatham Fair signs will go

up and summer will suddenly disappear.”

Al’s mastery in the kitchen again reflects

his love of nature and things natural. He

turned up his nose at the “bottles of gray colored

pap sitting on the shelves in supermarkets

“passing itself off as horse radish,” and

in the columns of the Hat one can find Al’s

own tangy recipe for the real thing.

His far ranging mind would write amusingly

of the primitive sex education of his

youth “when sap began running in the lads

and lassies, as well as the maples,” compared to

todays’ near lab demonstrations. Switching

gears, Al discussed, with shocking clarity, a

time in the Twenties when the Ku Klux Klan

ran as far north as Columbia County. It

had its headquarters in what today is the

MacHadyn Theater. He also remembered

how a “skinny-legged, long nosed, almondeyed”

star was born in the mid-Fifties at the

Malden Bridge Playhouse named Barbra

Streisand. Or what General George S. Patton

looked like up close to the men who served

under that mythical leader: “I stared in awe

at this man,” wrote Major Callan, “whose


Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

face was set in an almost ferocious scowl; the chin thrust forward; the

corners of the mouth turned down; and a hard glint shone from narrowed

eyes. Patton called this hard as nails look his ‘war face.’ It was

not a look that came to him naturally. By his own admission, he had

practiced it in front of a mirror throughout his life.”

Indeed, we have a universal man in our midst. His accomplishments,

his interests, his sheer enthusiasm for living, have made not

only his life an adventure but have enriched the lives of everyone who

has known him. Albert Callan, thank you for being our neighbor and

just plain thanks for being. As for that state record on the Regents

algebra exam, it was a mark of 13. As Al explains, “No one has ever

scored lower.” �

29

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Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

Hudson River

Steamboats

in Prints

and Paintings

By Roderic H. Blackburn & William P. Palmer

Rod Blackburn lives in Kinderhook and has art and antiques galleries

in Kinderhook and Hudson. He has written several books on regional

art, architecture, and history. He also is principal of R. H. Blackburn

& Associates, Inc.—Real Estate. Mr. Palmer, a resident of Kinderhook,

is a restoration architect and collects historical prints and paintings

related to the Hudson valley.

As the Hudson River Valley was the inspiration and

focal point of the Hudson River School of landscape

painting (see the article by Will Swift on

page 20), it was also, and at the same period, the

genesis of an American marine art tradition,

specifically portraits of steamboats (and some sailboats)

on the river and of adjacent coastal and ocean vessels. New York

harbor was the biggest and busiest in the nation when steamboating

got its start in this country (see Don Eberle’s article on page 13). Like

European ports before and after, New York became a center of “port

painters,” talented aficionados of beautiful steamboats who found

they could make a modest living painting ship portraits for captains,

owners, crew members, and ship builders. They, and others, participated

in having prints made from the paintings for the masses.

But how did this affect the upper river area and Columbia County

you will ask? Most of the steamboats passed by our county, discharged

and picked up passengers at several docks, loaded farm produce

and in the winter, ice for New York City, and brought the

world’s goods to the county. Steamboats were the heavy haulers of

their day, the freighters of commerce, which economically tied the

county to the nation. Of that vibrant era we recognize little today but

for the stirring paintings and prints that are all but what survives.

30

When it came to commerce, man’s creation could be as beautiful

as Hudson River landscapes, especially if they combined the two.

Unlike landscape paintings of distant unfamiliar scenes, steamboat

painters were following a more ancient portrait tradition of producing

exact likenesses for very exacting clients who knew their own

boats intimately. As a result, draftsmanship and realism (although

often stylized in colorful ways) were characteristic of all the professional

painters. But our story begins earlier with the print tradition

of Hudson River landscapes.

Steamboats in Prints

Throughout most of the nineteenth century, prints were an immensely

popular medium for the commercialization of art. Not only did

prints convey to a wide audience the spectacular natural scenery of the

Hudson River landscape itself, they also celebrated the many recreational

activities and important advances in transportation that were

associated with the proud, young nation and its foremost river — the

railroads, sloops, iceboats, yachts, and the mighty steamboats.

The earliest prints containing steamboats in their scenic views

were based upon works by talented landscape artists and were used

primarily for decorative purposes. Most notable of these early prints

is the Hudson River Portfolio that is still considered to be the finest set

of prints depicting Hudson River views ever produced. Published in

the 1820s, this print series consisted of 20 large-size, hand-colored

aquatints that were skillfully engraved by John Hill from watercolors

by William G. Wall. The aquatint process of printmaking, which had

recently been introduced from England, rendered fine tones and delicate

shading on finished prints from carefully etched copper plates.

The Hudson River Portfolio traces the entire course of the river

in a series of scenic views that begin in the Adirondacks, passing

Steamboats were the heavy haulers of their day, the freighters of

commerce, which economically tied the county to the nation.


Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

Figure 1. Palisades, Hudson River Portfolio No. 19. Publisher: Henry J. Megary, 1821–1825. Artist:

William Wall. Engraver: John Hill. Image size: 14" x 21" (Private Collection). A passenger steamboat provides

scale for the massive rock backdrop of the Palisades in this colored aquatint from the important series

of prints, the Hudson River Portfolio, published in the early 1820s.

the thriving river ports of Troy, Hudson,

and Newburgh, then through the scenic

Highlands to finally arrive in the bustling harbor

of New York. Images of sailing and steampowered

vessels complement the Hudson’s

natural beauty in most of the series’ lower

river views by providing scale, composition,

and a sense of human activity to the scenes.

But most important, these man-made elements

symbolically convey a national pride of

accomplishment and progress (Fig.1).

By the mid-nineteenth century, steamboat

commerce was flourishing on the

Hudson River. This period was notably

marked by technical improvements to the

powerful vertical beam steam engine, with its

characteristic “walking beam,” that permitted

the construction of larger, faster, and

more luxurious steam vessels. Competition

was intense not only among the steamboat

companies but the boats themselves.

Concurrent with this growth in steamboat

commerce was the expansion of the

printmaking industry, especially in New

York City. Perfecting the new printing

process of lithography made this possible.

Lithographs were produced by hand-drawn

images on polished slabs of limestone, in

contrast to the laborious process of engraving

images on copper or steel plates. In fact,

lithography revolutionized the printmaking

industry by enabling large numbers of prints

to be produced at very low cost, which translated

into low prices for the general public.

Perhaps it was inevitable that these two fastgrowing

industries — steamboating and lithographic

printing — would converge with

the mass printing of steamboat portraits.

America’s leading pioneer in commercial

lithography was Nathaniel Currier, who

launched his own printmaking business in

New York in the 1840s. Among the most

31

The Market

To speak of steamboat art works begs

comment on their appeal to collectors

and museums, their availability, and

their cost. Bard paintings come to market

frequently and the best sell for over

$150,000. Jacobsens are also frequently

found at $8,000-25,000. Pansing

paintings rarely come to market but

his excellent lithographs can bring

$2,000 or more. Only one Joseph

Smith has sold at auction, at a whopping

$200,500. Large Parson lithographs

by either father or son (Endicott

or Currier & Ives) sell for $2,500 to

$7,000, depending upon condition.

Where do you find these works of

art? The major auction houses have

them from time to time, Bards and

Jacobsens frequently. Certain art and

print dealers also specialize in marine

pictures. Yard sale discoveries? A Bard

was found in a Hudson garage some

years ago. One Smith that sold at auction

came out of a Columbia County

house (a rare case of a family who owned

the boat, commissioned the portrait and

kept the painting for150 years). Smith’s

portrait of the Drew came out of a house

north of Schenectady (still in the boat

builder’s family). Another Smith was

found in an Old Chatham home,

collected years before by a Wall Street

trader. Years ago, Bards were found in

most Hudson River port towns. A hundred

years ago some were almost thrown

out. Today they are hot commodities

in the art market and extremely valuable.

Yet some will still be discovered.

Figure 2. Loss of the Steamboat Swallow.

Publisher: N. Currier, 1845. Image size: 8" x 12"

(Private Collection). Nineteenth-century print makers

were quick to sensationalize and capitalize on

Hudson River steamboat disasters. This small folio

Currier & Ives lithograph graphically captures the

panic and tragic loss of life aboard the popular and

fast steamboat Swallow after she struck a rock near

Athens (opposite Hudson) on the snowy evening of

April 7, 1845. The Swallow had been racing two

other steamers, the Express and the Rochester, a

common but unsafe practice, when the disaster

occurred. Several other printing firms published

similar depictions of this tragic event.


Figure 3. American Steamboats on the Hudson.

Lithographer-Publisher: Currier & Ives, 1874.

Artist: Parsons & Atwater. Image size: 19" x 32".

(Private Collection). Two of the river’s largest

steamers, the Drew and the St. John, passing in

the Hudson Highlands are shown in this large

lithograph. This composition achieves a dramatic

effect through its illustration of the river’s crowded

steamer traffic.

popular of Currier’s early print subjects were

sensationalized views of marine disasters,

such as the Loss of the Swallow, published in

1843 (Fig.2) (see Swallow House article on

page 38). Currier also capitalized on portrait

prints of what had become the most powerful

and yet romantic symbols of America’s

industrial might — steamboats of the

Hudson river. Currier’s “small folio,” hand

colored prints (generally 8" x 12 ") featured

such popular boats as: the Empire

(1847), the Isaac Newton (1848), and the

Knickerbocker (undated).

After changing its name to Currier & Ives

in 1857, the firm grew to become the most

popular and prolific printmaker in America.

With the adoption of chromolithography in

the 1860s, the firm was able to produce largesize

prints at competitive prices. While traditional

single-stone lithography required hand

coloring after printing, chromolithography

efficiently produced finished colored prints

by utilizing a series of separate stones for each

color. An especially impressive example of the

firm’s work is the large folio print entitled,

American Steamboats on the Hudson, depicting

two huge steamboats — the Drew and

the St. John — drawn by the talented marine

artist, Charles R. Parsons (Fig.3). Currier and

Ives’ equally dramatic nighttime view of the

steamers Francis Skiddy and Isaac Newton

entitled, A Night on the Hudson (Fig.4), was

drawn by Frances (Fanny) F. B. Palmer, the

Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

most talented female lithographic artist of the

nineteenth century. It is considered the premier

Hudson River steamboat lithograph

produced by Currier & Ives.

Although Currier & Ives was America’s

largest and most well known printmaker in

the nineteenth century, they certainly did

not dominate the market for printed portraits

of marine vessels and Hudson River

steamboats in particular. The Endicott

family of printmakers in New York produced

many impressive printed portraits of

steam-powered vessels. During the late

1850s-1870s, Endicott & Company’s large

chromolithographic portraits of Hudson

River steamboats and other marine vessels

marked the zenith of this genre in terms of

quantity and overall quality. Most of these

portraits were probably commissioned by

boat owners for souvenirs and advertising

purposes (similar to modern travel posters)

32

and were revised and reprinted as the boats

were rebuilt and modernized over the years.

The high quality of Endicott’s prints is primarily

due to the work of their extremely talented

marine artists, Charles Parsons and his

son, Charles R. Parsons. These artist/lithographers,

both individually and as a team,

crafted many large-size portrait prints of

Hudson River steamers that were impressively

colored and featured precise, draftsmanlike

details. These visually appealing portraits

of America’s symbols of progress — the

Hudson River steamboats — not only contributed

to the popularity and commercial

success of this advertising medium itself but

to the steamboat industry as well.

A stunning example of a large advertising

portrait by the Endicott firm is the Steamer

Mary Powell (c.1862), which is attributed to

Charles Parsons (Fig.5). Another large and

visually appealing advertising lithograph,

drawn by his son, Charles R. Parsons c.1865,

is a moonlit scene of the famous night boat

Cornelius Vanderbilt shown passing through

the Highlands (Fig.6).

Production of lithographic portraits of

Hudson River steamers was by no means limited

to the two firms of Currier and Ives and

the Endicotts, but they certainly contributed

most to this genre in terms of overall quality,

technical innovation, and output. Other

Figure 4. A Night on the Hudson. Lithographer-

Publisher: Currier & Ives, 1864. Artist: Frances F.

Palmer. Image size: 17"x 27". (Private Collection)

Frances Palmer was especially great at dramatic

steamboat prints, both of the Hudson and the

Mississippi. Look at her use of light at night: a moon

illuminating the sails of a schooner from behind,

and interior lighting of the Isaac Newton with its

searchlight also shining on the Francis Skiddy.


lesser-known firms producing steamboat portraits

follow below, but for the most part they

are obscure and require further research.

Gray Lithographic Co., NYC,

The Adirondack (c.1890)

Chas. Hart, NYC, The City of Troy

for the New York Troy Line (nightboat)

(undated)

Knapp Lithograph Co.,

Hudson River Day Line (undated)

Sackett & Wilhelms Litho. and Ptg. Co.,

C.W. Morse for the People’s Evening Line

(1904)

Steamboat Painters

and their Print Makers

James and John Bard were twin brothers born

in 1815 on Manhattan just as the first steamboats

were being built for Hudson River

transport. By age twelve they produced their

first joint effort, a steamboat broadside portrait

in watercolors. The approach was a little

naive, but the elements of draftsmanship and

coloration that would characterize all later,

more proficient portraits were there at the

beginning. Until about 1850 they worked

together on numerous commissions when

John dropped his painterly activity, dying destitute

in 1856. James, however, carried on,

Figure 6. Cornelius Vanderbilt (no title printed,

probably proof before letters.) Lithographer-Publisher:

Endicott & Co., c1865. Artist: Parsons & Atwater.

Image size: 18 1 ⁄8" x 34". (Private Collection). In

sharp contrast to the lively views of day boats, this

large advertising lithograph of the steamer Cornelius

Vanderbilt assures passengers a night of tranquil,

comfortable, and romantic travel. Visual elements,

which make this view especially appealing, are the

lights reflecting on the water’s surface and the moonlight

illuminating the surrounding land.

Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

painting mostly in oils, sometimes in gouache

(opaque watercolors). He was productive for

another 41 years.

Like other ship painters, Bard’s commissions

were primarily from those with a close

tie to each vessel: owner, builder, engine

maker, or captain, all of whom cared the

most for accuracy. His share of the New York

port painter’s trade were the Hudson River

and Long Island Sound steamboats,

although he did some ocean-going vessels

and a number of Hudson River sloops and

schooners. His method was to do a careful,

detailed, broadside drawing of the boat at

dock, review it with the patron, then take a

week to complete the painting, often more

than four feet wide. In his late career he

charged up to $50 per painting. As most

Hudson River steamers made their way to

New York City regularly or occasionally,

there was plenty of opportunity to fill

commissions of up-river patrons. Many of

his boats have names like Albany, Troy,

City of Catskill, Saratoga, Rip Van Winkle,

33

Figure 5. The Steamer Mary Powell.

Lithographer-Publisher: Endicott & Co., c1862.

Artist: probably C. Parsons. Image size: 17" x 33"

(Private Collection). Endicott & Company

published this large advertising lithograph of the

famous day boat, Mary Powell, for the owners

after she was lengthened and updated in 1862

A full display of her flags and pennants contrasting

with her sleek hull and calm water convey a sense

of speed for which she was well known.

Kaaterskill, City of Hudson, even Nupa of

Hudson. His painting of the towboat Syracuse

was typical in composition, detail, and history

of the commission (Fig.7).

Antonio Jacobsen (1850–1921) was born

in Denmark and developed an early passion

for sketching ships. By 1873 he was in New

York City — painting decorative ornaments

on safes. A chance request for a ship portrait

by its shipping line launched his career. And

what a career! New York City was the largest

ship-filled port in America and Antonio must

have painted most of them. Over 45 years he

may have painted 6000 ship portraits (sometimes

several of the same ship) of which

about 3000 survive. His method was simple:

dockside measurements and small notebook

sketches. Yet he quickly produced fully

detailed, exact images in oil on canvas for five

dollars each, some finished within one day.

Throughout his long career, there was little

change in his meticulous style. Only a few

were of Hudson River steamboats, like the

Day Line’s Albany (Fig.8). His elder contemporary

James Bard seemed to have those

river-born commissions mostly to himself.

Fred Pansing (1844–1912) was born in

Germany and became a sailor before coming

to New York City in 1865, where his brother

Franz kept a grocery store and home at

162 and 163 Perry Street. Also residing at

162 Perry Street was artist James Bard, who

provided inspiration for the young Pansing.

At first he had a more mundane apprentice-


Museums with

Steamboat

Paintings and

Prints

☛ Albany Institute of History & Art,

Albany, NY: steamboat advertsing,

lithographs and paintings

☛ Hudson River Maritime Museum,

Kingston, NY: Steamboat advertising

lithographs

☛ Hudson River Museum, Yonkers,

NY: steamboat paintings

☛ Mariner’s Museum, Newport

News, VA: Bard steamboat paintings,

advertising lithographs, and

steamboat models

☛ Metropolitan Museum of Art,

NYC: Hudson River Portfolio prints

☛ Museum of the City of New York,

NYC: Bard steamboat paintings

☛ New-York Historical Society,

NYC: Bard steamboat paintings,

Hudson River Portfolio prints

☛ New York Public Library, NYC:

Hudson River Portfolio prints

☛ Shelburne Museum, Shelburne,

VT: Bard steamboat paintings,

preserved steamboat Ticonderoga

Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

Figure 7. Syracuse. Signed: Drawn & Painted by James Bard, 163 Perry St., NY. Oil on canvas (Private

Collection). The Syracuse was built by J. J. Austin for the Albany & Canal Line, the painting commissioned

of Bard by Austin, and — a rarity today — still owned by the family. It is hard to conceive that a

boat of utilitarian function — a towboat — would be built with aesthetic quality comparable to the fine

passenger liners, but they were and Bard made sure his paintings demonstrated that quality. George

Murdock, a chronicler of Hudson River steamboat history stated the Syracuse was “the most handsome and

most powerful of any of the fleet of towboats on the river.” Just to make sure its engineering qualities were

equally known Austin had the painting boldly inscribed: Diam. of cyl. 70”; Length of stroke, 12 feet.

Built by J. J. Austin for A & C Line. Engine: Birbeck H [for Birbeck and Hodes]. Hull: Allison, Hoboken.

For boat builders, a Bard was not just a painting but an advertisement designed for ego-enrichment.

ship: painting wagons and signs, and lettering

names on steamboat paddle boxes. He

married in 1872 and moved to nearby

Hoboken on the Hudson River, where

marine artists Antonio Jacobsen and James

Buttersworth lived. He made a more successful

career than most marine artists, no doubt

because he willingly capitalized on his talent

to produce post cards, signs, illustrations,

photographs, lithographs, as well as oil and

gouache paintings. Not just a broadside ship

portrait painter, he skillfully angled his boats

34

for dramatic effect (most maritime artists

could only handle the simple perspective of

broadside views) and placed them in true-tolife

settings (Fig.9). Unlike Bard and

Jacobsen, his paintings are not to be confused

with folk art. His paintings are relatively

scarce compared to the canvases of the

peripatetic Bard and Jacobsen.

Joseph B. Smith (1798–1876) and his son

William S. Smith (1821– after 1865) of New

York City became partners in marine painting.

We know nothing of how the elder acquired

Figure 8. Albany. Signed Antonio Jacobsen. Oil on canvas, Albany Institute of History and Art. The Hudson River Day Line commissioned a new boat, the

Albany, in 1880. It was new in design, having an iron hull and three boilers. Jacobsen, preoccupied almost exclusively with painting anything but Hudson River

steamboats got more than one commission to paint the new Albany, for at least two versions survive. Like many steamboats, as competition and innovations progressed,

improvements to the structure were made, altering the appearance of the boats. That was the case of the Albany when the artist captured her about 1880

as a maiden vessel. Jacobsen’s technique was as literal in detail as Bard’s, but less flashy in coloration, flags and streamers, background, sky, and depiction of passengers

and crew, as compared to Bard’s marvelously concocted figures peopling his decks.


his talent and patronage. His earliest painting

is 1849. Shortly thereafter ship paintings

appeared with both names on them, either

signed on the front or a business card pasted

on the reverse. In 1855 and 1856 lithographs

of five ships appeared inscribed “Sketched by

J. B. Smith & Son, Brooklyn” and were lithographed

by Charles Parsons. Of their paintings,

hardly more than two dozen are known

today, all very well painted with a remarkable

realism combined with naturalism (Fig 10).

If Jacobsen and Bard are the best folk art

marine artists, the Smiths are among the best

academic artists. That did not absolve them

of an error, however. Their sailing ships —

they did a number of the famous clipper

ships — always have the American flag flowing

to aft no matter from where the sails were

receiving the breeze. If not an indicator of

wind, the flag was an indicator of authorship,

for they are all nearly identical and distinctive,

so much so they are the artists’ “signa-

Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

ture,” in the absence of the usual inscription.

The partnership ended when William

joined Brooklyn’s 14th Regiment (age 41,

1862). He survived the Civil War but his

later whereabouts and work are unknown.

His father moved to the Camden/

Philadelphia area in 1864 but after 1865 no

artistic record exists. It is unfortunate that we

have so little to show for their talent. They

were commissioned to do what was in New

York harbor: ferries, sailing ships, inland

steamboats, ocean steamers, and yachts.

The Lithographers

Frances Palmer (1812–1876) was well born,

raised, and married in England. Then the

family came to New York to recoup financial

losses. She and her husband tried a lithographic

business, F. Palmer & Co., but

failed, although not without producing a

fine steamboat image of the Reindeer. He ran

a tavern but fell down the stairs and died; she

35

Figure 9. New York. A chromolithograph of an oil

painting by Fred Pansing. (Private Collection). Like

so many boat portrait prints, this was commissioned

by the Day Line to advertise their new addition to

the fleet, the New York, launched in 1887 to run in

tandem with the Albany between those two cities,

each leaving the other city in the morning and arriving

in the evening. While a print, it accurately reflects

the talent of Pansing to give realism and motion to

his subjects. His New York is really moving right

along. Good reason, she was like the Albany but had

larger boilers, longer length, and two innovations: a

steel hull and feathering paddle wheels — more

strength and a faster and smoother ride.

raised the children (one died) and cared for

siblings. Despite all she excelled at painting

and continued lithography for others, starting

with prints based on Bard paintings.

Perhaps her earliest was done in 1848, the

last in 1872. Many of the best Currier & Ives

lithographs in several subjects were based on

her designs. In an art form dominated by

men she was second to none, one of the

finest woman artists of the period. Little survives

of her original work. She died of tuberculosis,

stooped with age and travail, at her

home on Coney Island in 1876.

Charles Parsons was born in England in

1821 and arrived with his family in New York

where he was apprenticed with lithographer

George Endicott. By 1853–1862 he was producing

elegant large ship lithographs for

Endicott and also for Currier & Ives, considered

among the finest of all subjects produced

by those two leading lithographic companies.

He then started a new career at Harper’s

Weekly Magazine as art director where he

came to influence a wide range of American

artists whose talents he commissioned. Yet he

continued to do lithographs from others’

paintings, both marine and other subjects.

He had a son, Charles R. Parsons, born in

1844 who followed in his trade, becoming an

Continued on page 40

Figure 10. Daniel Drew. Attributed to Joseph

and William R. Smith. Oil on canvas, Albany

Institute of History and Art. Daniel Drew was a

transportation entrepreneur, owner of a steamboat

company who named his new boat after himself.

Actually he had a minority owner, the boat’s

builder Thomas Collyer, who commissioned this

portrait about the year of launch, 1860. It

remained in the family until recent years. By 1863

the Daniel Drew was acquired by what was to

become shortly the Hudson River Day Line, setting

in motion a succession of Albany — New York day

boats, which would dominate river traffic well into

the twentieth century. There is a Bard portrait of

this boat too, making an interesting contrast

between the colorful but static Bard version and

the life-like and animated Smith painting.


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HUDSON RIVER CRUISES

Opportunities to cruise the Hudson River still exist although not on the luxurious

steamboats of old. Ships of many sizes are available for daytrips and parties

as well as some for weekly excursions. Unfortunately most depart and return

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36


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hinkein@valstar.net


By Dominic Lizzi

Mr. Lizzi is an author and Valatie Village

Historian. His new book, Valatie; The

Forgotten History is in first draft status.

The mid-nineteenth century was the

heyday of steamboats in America and

on the Hudson River. Indeed,the

Hudson Morning Republican, August 28, 1905

stated: “Early in the nineteenth century the

Hudson River set the pace for speed with magnificent

steamboats.” Columbia County’s main

ports were the City of Hudson and Stuyvesant

Landing, also called Kinderhook Landing.

Passengers, freight, crops and textile products

were loaded onto the majestic boats

which steamed up and down the Hudson

River. Finished goods, bales of cotton and

passengers were discharged at these ports. The

steamboat, with its chugging engines, smoke

stacks belching black smoke, singing whistles

and splashing paddles, were a common sight

to residents of Columbia County from the

time the ice melted in the spring until the

waters froze again in the winter. There were

continuing reports on the steamboats, their

schedules, and cargoes in the county newspapers

of the era.

Unfortunately, there are no surviving

Hudson Valley steamships as there are on the

Mississippi River. The last steamboats of the

Hudson River Day Line are but

memories of the elderly. There

are scattered momentos in

museums and histories written

that preserve aspects of this

once great river traffic.

However, Valatie, among its

many hidden treasures, has the

most prominent relic of the

Hudson River steamboats. The

Swallow House, a residence

now belonging to Stephen and

Heather Desmonie, is built of

the timbers and other remains

of the Swallow, a vessel that for

nine years plied the river. The

house and its components are

the only known remains of a

steamboat in Columbia County.

The house is located at 1413

Albany Avenue, and is well doc-

Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

umented in numerous news articles and

books dealing with the steamboats on the

Hudson River. The Desmonies live in the well

maintained two-story frame house with their

children, Dominic and Alexander.

The Swallow was destroyed on April 7,

1845, during a race with two other vessels off

the village of Athens (Figure 2, page 31). The

Swallow struck a rock known as Dooper Island

or Noah’s Brig. The ship was described as “a

beautiful, long, rakish, go-ahead steamboat.”

Shipbuilder William Capes built it in his

Brooklyn shipyard in 1836 for Anthony

Hoffman and Associates. The wooden hull

was 226 feet long and weighed 426 tons. In

1837, the vessel was lengthened to 240 feet in

order to give it better navigation and speed.

The two paddle wheels were about 24 feet in

diameter each and turned at 24 rpm. The West

Point Foundry produced the steam engine

which powered the boat. It was a sleek doubledecker

which could easily accommodate about

300 people, including the crew. The vessel was

worth about fifty thousand dollars in 1840.

Anthracite coal was used for fuel on this

steamboat and most others after 1810

replacing thick pine slabs of wood. However,

pine was often added to the burner for quick

bursts of speed. The main fear of passengers

and crew on these “floating volcanoes” was

the ship catching fire due to exploding boil-

38

ers, a common occurrence during this era.

The Swallow was considered one of the

two fastest steamboats in America and better

than any that plied European waters. By the

early 1840s the Swallow had set records for

the trip between New York City and Albany.

It could easily and safely make the trip in a little

over ten hours. The graceful Swallow was

in a bitter rivalry with other steamboats not

only in speed of travel but also for the passenger

trade. Price wars between existing steamboat

companies often broke out. For example

at one time in 1840, fares that had been originally

set at 7 dollars between Albany and

New York City were cut to 25 cents, and on

some boats nothing at all with passengers paying

for stateroom and meals only.

The rivalry, particularly with regard to

speed and condition of the boats, was a matter

of pride for both captains and crews. Their

reputations often depended on the performances

of the steamboats during the 142 mile

long races on the Hudson between the docks

in Albany and Manhattan. Heavy betting also

The Swallow House

The Swallow House as seen today; a depiction of the wreck of the Swallow is

shown on page 31.

took place between rival owners, captains and

other gamblers.

On the day before the tragedy, April 6,

1845, while speeding upstream, the Swallow

lost a close race to its bitter enemy, the

Rochester. The Rochester was a smaller, sleek

steamboat which was very fast. It was about

210 feet long. The next evening

the captain of the Swallow, A.

H. Squires, was determined to

avenge the loss.

At 6:00 p.m., April 7, the

Swallow cast off from Albany’s

steamboat docks, as this part of

the port was known. At the

same time, two other steamboats,

the Rochester and the

Express also left. Immediately

the boats began racing downstream.

The crews quickly

began shoveling large amounts

of coal into the steam engines.

The boilers began hissing and

making great rumblings. Black

smoke poured from the smoke

stacks of the three boats. When

steamboats raced passengers

often became very frightened


ecause the hull would shake and hot steam

blasted from the boilers. Travelers could not

stay on the deck near the boilers because of

the intense heat.

That spring evening darkness came early.

Snow squalls came up the river severely

limiting visibility while the gusting wind

broke large waves on the churning tidal river.

Later, the Committee of Inquiry of New

York State reported that these conditions

were the main cause of the wreck.

The distance from Albany to Athens is

about 28 miles. The speed of all three vessels

has been estimated at about fifteen knots,

much too fast for the deep darkness and

weather conditions. About 8:00 p.m. the

Swallow, in an attempt to gain an advantage,

pulled into the west channel just opposite the

city of Hudson near the village of Athens. The

other two vessels immediately followed with

the Rochester closely behind the Swallow and

the Express in the rear. The Swallow immediately

struck the fifty foot long Noah’s Brig.

The infamous rock was named earlier

Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

of Valatie Here,

after a captain of a raft of logs and lumber.

Captain Noah, his last name is lost in the

midst of history, came upon the rock in the

dim evening light. Noah thought it was a

brig under sail. Several times he hailed, “Brig

Ahoy!” and just before ramming the rock,

yelled through the darkness, “Answer or I’ll

run you down.” He and his timber raft then

struck the rock, thus Dooper Island became

Noah’s Brig. It was later also to be referred to

as Swallow Rock and removed to ensure safe

navigation.

Immediately upon hitting the rock, the

Swallow’s bow was elevated about thirty-two

feet above the water and thirty feet above the

rock itself. The impact caused the boiler to

explode and fire quickly spread through the

vessel. The boat then broke into two sections

and the stern sank quickly. Immediately passengers

began leaping from the decks. Some

landed on the rock while others fell into the

river. Those who fell into the rushing river

were swept away into the bleak night. The passengers

inside the steamboat were thrown off

their beds and sleeping chairs. The women,

who slept on the main deck in a cabin, scurried

on the swaying vessel’s deck. The men

who were in the hold scrambled to the deck.

Unfortunately, Captain A. H. Squires

was below deck when the accident

occurred. Captain Squires was a seasoned

boatman; however, he had spent most of his

career on the Great Lakes and was not very

familiar with the Hudson River. He relied

heavily on his First Pilot, William Burnett.

Burnett was directing the wheel when the

Swallow struck Noah’s Brig. He had just

come up from below deck where he just had

a “cup of tea.” Apparently with darkness

and swirling snow Burnett misjudged the

Swallow’s location in the channel. He

ordered the helmsman to direct the boat 20

degrees portside therefore making the fatal

error which caused the accident. The

exploding vessel and the glow of fire was

immediately seen on both sides of the

Hudson River. Men of Hudson, Athens,

and Catskill immediately set out to aide the

floundering passengers. Fortunately, the

Rochester was close behind the Swallow. She

and the Express quickly began plucking people

from the river, the rock, and the steam-

boat. Captain Squires, following nautical

tradition, stayed with his vessel until it was

secured. Then he spent much of the night

rowing a small boat continuously around

the wreck searching for surviving passengers

and floating bodies.

The casualty list is difficult to determine.

It ranges from fifteen to seventy-five. Most

authorities agree with J. B. Beers,’ History of

Greene County, New York, published in 1884,

that claimed twenty-five died. The early

reports in the daily newspapers were very

high, up to 225. There were also many

injured, some say about 100 or more. The

difficulty in numbers of deaths apparently is

because there were many on the vessel who

were not on the passenger list. The list only

was made up of cabin passengers, as first class

was known. These were the people who had

beds and chairs inside the hull and upper cabins.

There was no exact count of the deck

passengers who stayed on board during the

journey, most of whom would depart in

Poughkeepsie. There was also no count of the

crew or passengers who traveled free. These

assengers were common during the era as

friends of the crew and officers were invited

aboard. Bodies turned up on the river for

39

weeks afterward which also complicated the

count of the dead. To confuse the issue even

more, the passengers saved by the other two

steamboats were taken directly to New York

City. Interestingly, six of the passengers were

New York State legislators returning to New

York City. According to the newspapers there

were stories of heroism and cowardice that

occured during this tragic accident.

In April of 1846 the Grand Jury of the

U.S. Circuit Court indicted First Pilot

William Burnett for “carelessness and negligence.”

He was later acquitted by the Circuit

Court of New York City. Other investigations

carried out by the state government

and the local coroner determined the accident

was caused because “the night was too

dark for navigation” and that the Swallow

should have been “brought to.”

After much difficulty the Swallow was

raised and towed to the mouth of the Catskill

Creek and then grounded. The owners, after

considering towing the boat to a dry dock in

New York City for repair, eventually sold her

on historic Albany Avenue, he built

his two-story frame vernacular house.

to Ira Buckman of Hudson, who was also a

steamboat captain. He ferried the timbers

and other parts across the river to Hudson

and by ox-cart the 18 miles north to Valatie.

Here, on historic Albany Avenue, he built

his two-story frame vernacular house. It

could not be determined what he paid for

the wreck. Salvaged timber was inexpensive.

His son, David Buckman, reports the accident

and the construction of the house in his

book, Old Steamboat Days on the Hudson,

published in 1907. “Old timers” in Valatie

refer to the Albany Avenue house as the

“Captain’s House,” as well as the “Swallow

House.” Over its front door in carved wood

is a “Swallow House” marker. Today the

Village of Valatie and the Columbia County

Historical Society are in the process of placing

a new historic marker in front of the

house. Funds for the marker have been provided

by the Hudson River Bank and Trust

Company Foundation. The house is truly a

hidden gem of Valatie and an important part

of the river’s and Columbia County’s steamboat

history. �


Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

The evolution of the Hudson River steamboat makes for an interesting study. As technology developed, boilers, paddlewheels, and the

vessels themselves became bigger. The following is a chart developed by a study of the Hudson Morning Republican in the early 1900s.

SHIP YEAR BUILT LENGTH IN FEET

Clermont 1807 133

Chancellor Livingston 1816 154

Erie 1832 180

Rochester 1836 209

Swallow 1837 240

Daniel Drew 1860 251

Chauncey Vibbard 1864 281

Albany 1881 325

New York 1887 350

Hendrick Hudson 1906 400

The volume of traffic ensured great profits. By the 1850s Hudson River steamboats became the prototype for America and the

world. “A Steamer, built on the Hudson River Plan, proclaimed acme of construction and rapidity of motion.”

Steamboats continued from page 35

equally accomplished lithographer of marine and other subjects just

when his father moved to Harper’s. In fact the works of both are of

nearly indistinguishable high quality (except for the middle initial

R). The father retired in 1890 to pursue his watercolor hobby. Son’s

last known lithograph dates from 1885, just about the time that new

printing techniques and photography spelled the end of the great era

of exquisite hand-colored prints taken from stone. Undoubtedly the

most dramatic of the son’s Currier & Ives lithographs was that of the

Hudson River steamboats Drew and St. John passing each other in

the Highlands (1878) (Fig. 3). �

Acknowledgements

Our special thanks to Anthony Peluso of Yonkers, dean of marine art

historians in America, whose countless articles (and a future book) on

marine painters, lithographers, photographers and the like has immeasurably

enriched our appreciation of this genre of American art.

William P. Palmer and Roderic H. Blackburn

40

Figure 11. Mary Powell. By Albert R. Nemethy. Oil on canvas 26" x 44"

(Private Collection). This 1998 painting was based on the c. 1862 lithograph

published by Endicott & Co, and Bard paintings (Fig.5). Typical of Nemethy

family boat portraits, it is exact in detail as if Bard himself had painted it. The

Mary Powell was probably the most famous Hudson River steamboat of all

based on appealing lines but also long life and a sterling reputation as a “family

boat.” Large and fast, she made daily round trips from Rondout (Kingston)

to New York City.

Deck passengers on the hurricane deck of

the Albany in 1890, sketched by an artist

working for Harper’s Weekly.


Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

HIghlights from the Society’s Collections

THE HUDSON ATHENS LIGHTHOUSE

Documents in the Society’s Collection

By Helen McLallen, Curator

In 1984 the recently formed Hudson Athens

Lighthouse Preservation Society (HALPS)

negotiated a 20-year lease on the lighthouse

from the Coast Guard, which had

operated the light since its opening in 1874.

The Society and its members have overseen

the repair and restoration of the building and

offer tours and other programs about the

lighthouse. HALPS received full title to the

property in 2000.

Ruth Moser, one of the founding members

of HALPS, donated her papers to the

Columbia County Historical Society in 1995.

The collection documents the work of the

HALPS in the 1980s — particularly its efforts

to obtain the first such lease from the Coast

Guard’s Third District to a private non-profit

organization and the group’s fundraising and

Cross section of the Hudson Athens

lighthouse, n.d. (1992.15)

preservation planning. The papers (primarily

copies), contain measured drawings from the

1870s, 1920s, 1930s, and 1980s, a detailed

1880 inventory of the facility and its contents,

a similar inventory from 1930, and a copy of

the 1983 existing condition report prepared

by William A. Hall & Associates of New York.

Information about fundraising, membership,

and publicity, along with maps and news clippings

are included.

As a tidal river, the Hudson contains

numerous low-lying areas that are submerged

during high tide. The flats off the

Hudson shore created such a hazard to the

many vessels using the river in the nineteenth

century that in 1872 Congress appropriated

$35,000 to build the Hudson City

lighthouse. Completed in 1874 the lighthouse

was constructed of red brick, with a

mansard roof, stone lintels and quoins, and

Cross section of the light tower and

detail of the lens and pedestal,

1926, the year the light was

upgraded to fifth-order Fresnel

lens. (1992.15).

View of the lighthouse, c1940. (1992.15)

41

an attached tower for the Fresnel lens. The

granite pier stands on pilings driven 50 feet

into the riverbed. The pier extends northward

in a point to help break up ice flows

and protect the lighthouse’s foundation.

The lighthouse was updated in the 1930s

with steam heat and an indoor bathroom.

Electricity was added in the late 1940s, and

the light was automated in 1949. Nine keepers

operated the light, including three members

of the Best family who served for over

40 years. Emil Brunner was appointed in

1932, and his family was the last to live in

the lighthouse. The final keeper was William

Nestle, from 1966 to 1986.

Other collections at the Society, such as

the Berlin postcard collection, also include

images of the lighthouse. Researchers are

always welcome to visit the museum and use

these manuscript and photo collections. �

Athens shoreline from Hudson, c1900. The flats lay to the north of

the lighthouse. (Berlin postcard collection, 1992.20.417)


Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

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Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

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Editor’s Foreword continued from page 2

Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

News of the Columbia County Historical Society

their way slowly back and forth between city and town. Dams

appeared to provide electricity and power for industry. A busy

waterway in spring, summer and fall, the river’s usefulness

continued in winter as a source for ice farming, ice fishing, and

ice boating.

Much of its former usefulness has now waned and its influence

upon our lives has to a great degree dissipated. Sadly, I know of

no tourist filled vessel that today carries passengers on a scheduled

basis between New York City and Albany. But the power and the

beauty of our Hudson River remain as a majestic treasure for

Columbia County and its neighbors to preserve, to travel, and to

appreciate. In this issue we will tell some of the river’s story and

in doing so attempt to share with you its glory.

Jim Eyre

Editor

For their Centennial Project, members of the Northern Columbia Rotary are

painting, repairing cabinets and plumbing, and rewiring the basement of the

c1820 James Vanderpoel House for the Society. This restored space will serve as a

storage and work area for the Society’s education programs. Pictured at a day-long

work session are Rotarians Stark Jones, Steve Hadcock, Sara McWilliams, and

Lynn Bell, with Lynn’s husband, John Bell joining in. The Society thanks the

members for their perseverance in revitalizing this useful space.

Building elevations from the Construction Drawings for the 1737 Luykas Van Alen House Restoration Project by John G. Waite Associates Architects,

PLLC. Look for scaffolding and fencing this spring around the site on Route 9H in Kinderhook, as the Society begins its most comprehensive preservation effort

in recent years. Federal Save America’s Treasures funds, a NYS Environmental Protection Fund grant, and other funding sources make this restoration possible.

Visitors will see artifacts from archeological excavation, learn about Native American, Dutch, and more recent habitation, and tour the structure as allowed by

the restoration crew. Opening day at the site is Saturday, May 28th from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.”

44


Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

News of the Columbia County Historical Society

An extraordinary number of artifacts have been unearthed on the historic grounds of the Van Alen House. With Federal Save

America's Treasures, NYS Environmental Protection Fund, and other sources of funding supporting the restoration of the house

and grounds, archeology is required before work commences this spring. These artifacts tell the story of Native American, Dutch,

and more recent habitation on the site. Beginning May 28th visitors to the site will enjoy seeing the artifacts and witnessing the restoration

in progress. Hours: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; Sundays 12:00 to 4:00 p.m.; or by appointment.

Excavated by Hartgen Archeological Associates at the 1737 Luykas Van Alen

House, Rte. 9H, Kinderhook, these chert flakes, pottery shards, buckles, pipe

stems, Delft shards, bones, teeth, and assorted metal, brick, and ceramic pieces

will all be part of the interpretation of the historic site beginning this May.

Photo (above) by David Lee for The Independent.

45

Eric J. Knott of Latham joined

his grandmother, Juanita Knott

(Stuyvesant Town Historian), to

assist in the cleaning of artifacts

excavated at the 1737 Luykas

Van Alen House.

The Fyfes & Drumms of Olde Saratoga will host an

encampment and muster on the grounds of the c1820

James Vanderpoel House, Broad Street, Village of

Kinderhook, on Saturday, June 4th. A colorful parade

through the village will begin at noon followed by a

muster on the field behind the historic house. The public

is invited free of charge. Vendors will offer food and

wares for sale while visitors enjoy the music and festivities.

The historic house will be open from 10:00 a.m.

until 4:00 p.m. with docents on hand to answer questions.

The Farmers Market will take place in the village

square from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. For information

call the Society at 518-758-9265.”


Columbia County Historical Society www.cchsny.org

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Columbia County History & Heritage Spring 2005

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Columbia County Historical Society Calendar of Events ■

Saturday,April 30th

Distinguished Author Series; Ted Widmer, author of the newly

published book, Martin Van Buren; lecture, reception, and book

signing; 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at the historic Nathan Wild House,

Valatie, NY. First annual Stephan M. Mandel Memorial Lecture

sponsored by Columbia County Historical Society, National Park

Service, and Friends of Lindenwald. $25.00/person; reservations

required; call CCHS at 518-758-9265.

Saturday, May 14th

Tour of Edgewater, Barrytown, Dutchess County, at 11:00 a.m.

This c1825 private home, overlooking the Hudson River, is

beautifully decorated with Federal period furnishings. Sponsored

by the Columbia County Historical Society. Reservations required;

call 518-758-9265 for fee information.

Saturday, May 28th

Exhibit Opening at the Columbia County Museum, 5 Albany Ave.,

Kinderhook, 5:30 p.m.; call 518-758-9265 for information.

Saturday, May 28th

Opening day at the historic c1820 James Vanderpoel House,

Rte. 9, Kinderhook and the 1737 Luykas Van Alen House,

Rte. 9H, Kinderhook. Hours: Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays

10:00 – 4:00; Sundays 12:00 – 4:00. Owned and operated by

the Columbia County Historical Society. 518-758-9265.

5 Albany Ave., Kinderhook, NY 12106

Saturday, June 4th

Fyfes & Drumms of Olde Saratoga encampment & muster; parade

at noon; music; vendors from 12:00 noon on the c1820 James

Vanderpoel House grounds, owned and operated by the Columbia

County Historical Society, in the Village of Kinderhook. Free to

the public. Information 518-758-9265.

Saturday, June 11th

KinderCrafter Fair on the grounds of the c1820 James Vanderpoel

House, Broad Street, Village of Kinderhook. 10:00 a.m. to 4:00

p.m. rain or shine. Sponsored by the Kinderhook Business and

Professional Association. Crafts, music, food, fun for all ages.

518-758-9265.

Saturday, June 18th

Antiques Auction and First Columbians Champagne Reception.

Live auction followed by dinners in private homes. Location

to be announced. Admission fee. 518-758-9265. Hors d’oeuvres,

champagne, music, silent auction.

Please note these events and dates in your calendars.

For additional information please call the Society’s office at

(518) 758-9265 or visit our website at www.cchsny.org.

Non-Profit Org.

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