BITS and PIECES of RIVERBOAT LORE
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IN THE BEGINNING . . .
The following submitted by site visitor Leroy BrinkDave I dug up this blurb from an old book and scanned it in -sorry for the glitches. Leroy THE EARLY HISTORY of SAUGERTIES 1660-1825 by Benjamin Myer Brink CHAPTER XXXVII. THE DAYS OF SLOOPS.When the Treaty of Peace between Great Britain and this country was at last in effect in 1783 the interest and concern of the people of this town turned in the direction of the peaceful pursuits of life. So far almost the sole occupation had been agriculture. The grinding of grain and the sawing of lumber were about the only work of mills. As the British had swept the river of what sloops there had been in 1777, river commerce had almost disappeared. A former chapter told of the purchase of the sloop of Capt. Benjamin Snyder during 1776 for a fire ship, and a subsequent one of the burning of two sloops in the Esopus at this village by Vaughan's marauding ex- pedition. Soon after the keel of another was laid by Capt. Snyder, and for some years it ran regularly to New York on monthly trips. Some time about the middle of the decade (1790- 18oo) Capt. Andrew Brink built a large sloop, which he named for a favorite sister, " The Maria." His father had instituted many years before the scow ferry which crossed the river from his door at the mouth of tire Sawyer's creek to Chancellor Livingston's, just opposite, and the son was born with a love of the water. The Maria was thought by the people of those days a craft of wondrous size, and its owner immediately secured from the Chancellor the transportation of the products of his manor, and from other up-river towns a most profit- able trade. The captain of a Hudson river sloop before the advent of steam occupied a unique position. He was the link socially between the river towns and. city life. He was the business agent not only of the merchant, but of the farmer. He selected the merchant's stock; he sold the farmer's products; he was the expressman; he carried the news; he matched the goods in the city from samples which the housewives of the river towns gave him , bore the messages of friendship and bus- iness with which he was entrusted at each end of his route; he was the welcome guest in the city families on which he called, to whom he told of their country friends, and through him the news of sorrow and bereavement of his patrons, or the tidings of their prosperity, were conveyed, for he often carried the written missives as postman, but more frequently he was intrusted with the verbal message which bore the tidings of a sad death or burial; or was the happy messenger to announce a marital engagement of youthful lovers -. or he bore the gossip of the river village as he was asked to carry to city friends and relatives what had passed since the last voyage. When the boat arrived at the pier in the city and her lines were thrown the captain went ashore to deliver his messages from house to house and do his errands from store to store. With him went the ladies who had been confided to his care during the voyage and whom he delivered to their friends. When his errands were all done he set about drumming up a return cargo. The pur- chases for merchants and farmers made he would peradventure find the sloop not yet half 'laden. He must use his influence to secure some business ventures on the part of mercantile friends. Meanwhile days slipped by. The date of the return of the vessel was problematic. But when at last a satisfactory cargo was obtained, or in default when the captain decided that a cargo of grain and timber, or hay, or skins, or other products of the soil or chase could be more readily obtained up the river than one of goods in the city the captain gave the announcement that on a certain day the sloop would sail. It quickly circulated from mouth to mouth and when the appointed day and hour arrived there was a gathering on the pier that rivaled a modern farewell at the departure of a European steamer, and amid the fluttering of handkerchiefs and good-bye cheers the vessel -dropped out from her pier into the stream. It was an Elysian delight to lie on deck on a summer day under the shadow of a sail and watch the transformation of the Highlands, or the lights and shadows of Catskill mountain scenes. But all days were not summer days, nor all days Elysian. There were voyages in storms of snow, or when ice was forming. There were days in late autumn when the hay from farms was loosely piled in a mighty stack on the deck of the craft. And then no fire must be built on the vessel, despite the discomfort. For no ardent mariner dared risk the danger, as baling hay was unknown and the idea of stoves was yet unborn. Once started on the voyage, the uncertainty of its duration was the most prominent feature. A sloop setting sail on an afternoon might have reached her destination at Saugerties when her passengers awoke the next morning. And again, it might be becalmed before Spuyten Duyvil was reached, and be a week on the trip up the Hudson. And light winds often blew so gently that the travelers would go ashore in a small boat and buy butter, eggs or milk and regain the vessel a mile or two from where they left it. As stated above the sloop Maria carried much of the produce of Livingston. Manor. And during the ten years Captain Brink sailed her, Livingston was a frequent passenger. He had been experimenting with steam before he went as Minister to France in igoi, and while there had been interested in the steam- boat that Robert Fulton had put on the Seine in igo4, and which had broken down. The men became very intimate and Fulton married a niece of the Chancellor. So he came to be a frequent and welcome guest at Clermont, the home of Livingston. In the cabin of the Maria the Chancellor and Fulton often discussed the problem of steam navigation as a quicker means of communication, and a more reliable power than wind, and around the captain's table talked over their plaiis, the obstacles encountered and the causes of their failures. They were now in the presence of a practical navigator, who had been on the water from boyhood and was in command of the fleetest of river craft built under his own supervision. Fulton was a man of great scientific knowledge for one of those days, and had many a mechanical invention to his credit and Livingston to a profound knowledge of law and statecraft added a rare skill in mechanics, and besides was the possessor of one of the largest of Americati fortune& On a voyage up the river the three decided to attempt once more to solve the problem and use every means to succeed. They went to work. Chancellor Livingston furnished the capital. Robert Fulton obtained from Scotland a Watt engine of twenty horse power, with a copper boiler, which he adapted to his plans, while Captain Brink set about embodying his ideas as to what the craft should be from his experience as a navigator of the Hudson. The latter part of the year i8o6, and until midsummer Of 1807 were spent upon the boat and the engine, to the ridicule of many of the acquaintances of the captain in his own town. Even his own wife laughed at him to which he replied that he he would soon go to Albany in command of the steam craft and stop opposite his father's place on the river.and take her along. All she could say was "when I see you and Mr. Fulton driving a boat with a tea kettle I will believe it." We will see how the captain's wife took her ride. The morning of August 3, 1807, was bright and warm. At a pier in the harbor of New York a vessel was lying which the events of that day were to make historic and the trip she was just to undertake would never be forgotten. A motive power would be utilized that day which would change the face of the earth and would plow every sea. The power of millions of millions of horses would not be able to accomplish during the century then just begun what would be wrought by the force confined in what was derisively called "a tea kettle." Fulton's copper boiler, bubbling and hissing at that North River pier that morning, seemed to be throbbing with a consciousness of its power and what it was to do when it would come to its birth. And all the material forces of modern civilization awaited a touch of a hand on a lever there that day to spring full-grown into being. The craft that was lying at the pier that morning in the early days of the Nineteenth Century would have excited the contempt of those who saw that century's close. A long narrow vessel with two masts on each of which was to be spread a sail; a low cabin on each side of the deck; somewhat forward of the center of the vessel a revolving wheel on either side with ten paddles like the arms of a wind-mill, and these unenclosed in a wheel house; and on the pier a jeering crowd of spectators exchanging cheap witticisms with each other at the expense of Fulton and his associates on board, silent, but confident. When the appointed hour had arrived the vessel was cast loose, and the scoffing crowd became quiet, for they saw her paddles revolve and the boat worked its way out into the stream. Soon after reaching the middle of the river there was a break in the machinery which occasioned alarm, and which took some time to repair. This was duly accomplished and the vessel slowly proceeded up the Hudson, and the crowd was quiet as the visionaries with their jeered-at boat propelled by a tea kettle passed out of sight. The trip excited great interest along the river and some alarm, especially at [light], as it was thought to be a vessel on fire. Dry pint wood was used in the furnace and its light illuminated the sky for miles. The boat left the pier in New York at one o'clock in the afternoon of Monday, August 3rd, and reached Clermont (opposite Saugerties), the seat of Chancellor Livingston, at one o'clock, on Tuesday. The one hundred and ten miles had been covered in just twenty-four hours. Here the boat was anchored in mid-stream and Fulton went ashore to spend. the night with Livingston, while Captain Brink, at his father's on the opposite bank, at the mouth of the Saw creek, came to redeem his promise and take his wife to Albany in the boat driven by a tea kettle. Anchor was raised on Wednesday morning at nine o'clock and Albany reached that afternoon at four so that the actual traveling time had been thirty-one hours. The next morning at nine the return began and Saugerties was not made until six in the evening - nine hours. Here they anchored for the night and left for New York at seven on Friday morning, which was reached at four that afternoon, or in nine hours, the whole return trip in eighteen hours of actual traveling. Both on the trip to Albany and upon the return the wind had been dead ahead and no benefit could be derived from the sail. It is a fact but little known that Fulton had named the craft "Experiment" and it was not until her return to New York and her paddlewheels had been enclosed and cabins and other accommodations provided for carrying passengers that the name "Clermont" was substituted. By the latter name she has always been known. It is a striking comment on the lack of news enterprise in those days that the Albany journals contained no notice of this trial trip. The vessel arrived in Albany on her second trip on Saturday, September [5?]th. 1807. The Albany Gazette of that date notes in an obscure corner of an extra, without flourishes; "The steamboat which left New York on Friday morning arrived at Albany on Saturday, having twenty-four passengers on board." It left on Monday morning following with forty ladies and gentlemen as passengers. On October 1st following the New York Evening Post announced that the steamboat arrived from Albany with sixty passengers in twenty-eight hours. She left New York next day at ten o'clock against tide and a strong head wind, ran foul of a sloop eighteen miles up which tore away one of her paddle wheels, and after various detentions arrived in Albany on the evening of October 4th, at ten o'clock, with ninety passengers, having forced her way up against a constant wind with one paddle wheel. She was now put on the regular course to Albany for freight and passengers. The writer has in his possession the following letter of instructions written to his grandfather by Robert Fulton: New YORK, Oct. 9. 1807 CAPT. BRINK - - Sir-enclosed is the number of voyages which is intended the Boat should run this season. You may have them published in the Albany papers. As she is strongly man'd and every one expert Jackson under your command, you must insist on each one doing his duty or turn him on shore and put another in his place. Everything must be kept in order, everything in its place, and all parts of the Boat scoured and clean. It is not sufficient to tell men to do a thing, but stand over them and make them do it. One pair of quick and good eyes is worth six pair of hands in a commander. If the Boat is dirty and out of order the fault shall be yours. Let no man be Idle when there is the least thing to do, and make them move quick. Run no risques of any kind when you meet or overtake vessels beating or crossing your way. Always run under their stern if there be the least doubt that you cannot clear their head by 50 yards or more. Give in the accounts of Receipts and expenses every week to the Chancellor. Your most Obedient, ROBT. FULTON. The boat was advertised to sail from " Pauler's Hook ferry (now Cortland Street Ferry) provisions, good berths and accommodations provided. For the first time in history travel on the Hudson river [a boat] could arrange its journeyings with regard to time. It was the beginning of the day of time tables for journeys by water. The schedule of rates was as follows:
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CHAPTER XXXVIII. THE TRIP OF THE CLERMONT.
New York to Newburgh . . . . .$3 00 14h NY to Poughkeepsie ......4.00 17h Ny to Esopus ..... . . . . . . 5.00 20h NY to Hudson ....... . . . . .5.50 30h NY to Albany ..................7.00 36hIt was proposed to accomplish three entire trips from Albany to New York and back in two weeks. On November 6th the boat carried over one hundred passengers. "The Hudson Bee" in June, 1808, contains this interesting description of the boat: The steamboat is certainly a curiosity to strangers. To see this large and apparently unwielded machine without oars or sails, propelled through the element by invisible agency at a rate of four miles an hour, would be a novelty in any quarter of the globe, as we understand there is none in Europe that has succeeded in the plan upon which this is constructed. The length of the boat is 160 feet, and her width in proportion so as not to impede her sailing. The machine which moves her wheels is called, we believe, a twenty-horse-power machine, or equal to the power of so many horses, and is kept in motion by steam from a copper boiler, 8 or io feet in length. The wheels are on each side, similar to those of water mills, and are under cover. They are moved backwards or forwards, separately or together, at pleasure. Her principal advantage is in calms, or against head winds. When the wind is fair, light square sails, etc., are employed to increase her speed. Her accommodations, 52 berths, (besides sofas, etc.,) are said to be equal, or superior to any vessel that floats on the river, and are necessarily extensiveas all the space unoccupied by the machinery is fitted in the most convenient manner. Her route between New York and Albany is a distance of 160 miles, which she performs regularly twice a week, sometimes in the short period Of 32 hours, exclusive of detention by taking in and landing passengers. On her passage last week she left New York with 1oo passengers, upwards, and Albany with 8o or 9o. Indeed this aquatic stage, the Experiment, from Albany, together with the public sloop, the Experiment, of this city, bid fair to attach the greatest part of the travelers which pass the Hudson, and afford them accommodations not exceeded in any other part of the world. Thus the connection of this town with the introduction of steam navigation was vital and close.
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