Sloops of the Hudson Chapter One

Sloops of the Hudson

An Historical sketch of the Packer and Market
Sloops of the last century, with a record
Of their names; together with personal
Reminiscences of certain
Of the notable North River
Sailing masters.

By William E. Verplanck
Moses W. Collyer

G. P. Putnam’s Sons
New York and London

The Knickerbocker Press


 This book is available through the public library system. Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin


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

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

The sloop was the forerunner in the establishment of the vast commerce of the Hudson which has now reached an extent that is exceeded by few, it any, rivers in the world, and as this vessel played so important a part in the development and growth of the State of New York, particularly in connection with the Erie Canal, causing the city of New York to rise to be the chief city of the United States, it seems quite fitting that something should be written to preserve the memory of these inland merchantmen.

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

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

A great event in my life was a voyage to Albany with Capt. John Bradley, of Low Point, in his sloop J. L. Richards. I was then twelve years old, and several boys of my own age were in the party, the captain’s son among them.  The river was teeming with sturgeon in those days—big fellows weighting 250 lbs, would be seen leaping several feet into the air, and now and then one would fall on the deck. The catching and packing of these fish was then an important industry along the Hudson. The product was known as “Albany beef.” But, owing to its cheapness and abundance, it was distained as a food, albeit the flavor and nutriment, when well prepared, were of a high order.  We were gone a week and I well remember that we lay at anchor two days off Coeymans waiting for the south wind, with several other vessels, for the flood-tides were weak, and we thought the tugs demanded too much to tow us to Albany, twelve miles farther up the river.

Later in my career as the possessor in turn of a catboat and of a twenty-eight-foot sloop, I took part in the many regattas which occurred on Newburgh bay. Mr. Irving Grinnell of New Hamburgh with the Fidget and Judge Charles F. Brown of Newburgh with the Lorelie, were leading spirits on these occasions.  Nor should the Van Wyck brothers of New Hamburgh with their Bonita be forgotten.

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

Capt. Moses Collyer has had an experience of over forty years on the River and the Sound, as captain and owner successively of sloop, schooner, steam barges and lightes. He has been faithful and consistent in following the water, and has very justly prospered in so doing.

William E. Verplanck.
September, 1908.

Part I   

The Sloop as a packet vessel
Written by William E. Verplanck.

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

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

The sloop proved so useful a vessel, that it is only within the past twenty years that she has passed away. The sloop died not directly because of the Clermont and her successors,--those giant steam passenger boats that now ply between New York and Albany,--but she succumbed, with the schooner, rather to the great steam drawn ”Tows” that now pass slowly and silently up and down the river bearing on their barges, scows and canal boats the vast tonnage that makes up the commerce of the river. The sloops did not feel the competition of the early steamboats, and in fact often made better time between Albany and New York, when the wind was fair; nor at first did the sloops appear to have difficulty in withstanding the competition of the towboat companies, but when they were combined to meet the great increase in the size and number of cargoes, necessitating vessels of larger tonnage to transport the commodities to the New York markets with reasonable dispatch and regularity, then the sailing vessels of the Hudson were doomed. They made a good fight, however, and with their defeat has disappeared on of the most picturesque features of the Hudson River.

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

The sloop, as its name indicates, is of Dutch origin.  They called her a sloep. It is the same word as the French chalupe, and the Portuguese chalupa. In its simplest form, it is a vessel of one mast, carrying a mainsail, jib, and generally a topsail.  Additional jibs and other sails are, of course, carried on the yachts. The sloop differs from the cutter, and other one-masted “fore-and-aft” vessels in having the bowsprit fixed, while with the cutter it can be drawn in or “housed.”  The cutter is narrow, deep, and sharp and has a keel.  For steering the sloop a long tiller was used instead of the wheel which was not introduced until later.

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

The sloops of the Hudson were about of the same size, say one hundred tons’ capacity and about 65 to 75 feet in length.  They were full forward, like the other Dutch vessels, and had a high quarter-deck, which is a survival of the poop-decks of the medieval vessels.  The mast was placed well forward, thus giving the boat a large mainsail, and small jib.  A topsail too was generally carried, but not set like the club topsail of the modern yacht.  The quarter-deck afforded space for the cabin accommodations for the passengers of the packet sloops, many of which before the days of steamboats were fitted up as such, and carried no bulky freight, only parcels, letters, etc.  There was an ample deck for promenade or dancing, so altogether the packet sloop was far from being an uncomfortable means of conveyance.  The packets held the river for many years. I have family letters in which mention is frequently made of the sloops showing that they were a favorite means of travel and for shipping light articles, parcels, and letters.

Some of the letters are given below:

Miss Mary Walton writing from New York under date of October 16, 1806, to her sister, Mrs. Daniel C. Verplanck at Fishfill, says:

My Dear Sister:
I was very happy to hear  by Delancy that you had so good a passage up—and that you found all well at Mount Gulian. He got back to the old mansion [the Walton House on Franklin Square] about 11 o’clock on Sunday night; not expecting him before Monday all hands were gone to Bed.  I had just put out my candle when he knocked at the door. I regretted your hurried away last Friday, so did old Abby who came back from the Sloop a few minutes after you left me.  She expected to meet you and tell you the Sloop was not to go till 2 o’clock.  I suppose you had supposed at the Booksellers which made her miss you. She carried your slippers on board & put them in your Basket. Beautiful weather again this week I walked out to Nut Shell Hall yesterday afternoon and found the three Sisters together. 

I have not heard from Heathcote Hall since you left me—I must write to Mrs. De Lancey soon, Mrs. Quick & Mrs. Van Wagenen sent me word this Minute they would take teas with me this afternoon—I will leave my letter to finish in the evening.—My party are just gone. Henrietta Hook came with her sister. Mr. Quick came to tea, but the other Benedicts did not make their appearance till the Tea Table was removed.  I treated them with Pears and Grapes and we were very social.  Nothing occurred in conversation to put in my letter except Mrs. Quick’s says you made her very happy by staying to dine with her.  She desired her best regards to you.

Charlotte Ogden was shopping the other day & met Mrs. Cooper with her son Tom—She stopped & said to what a fine relations I have.  They scarcely know if I am alive or not—I have begun Housekeeping a very short distance from Dey Street.  Mrs. O. told me she was only in Town for a few hours.  Should not move in till the last of the month—She talks of calling to see Mrs. C. as she must pass the House so frequently. Grace L. said she was afraid to visit her as she might have more of Mrs. C.’s good company than was agreeable.  She had heard how well Charlotte O. lives & makes advances to be noticed by her.  Joanna wants to lounge where something good is to be got.  No one can assume affability better than our cousin Mrs. C. when she pleases.  Her jaunt to Virginia did not mend her Health as she expected—had a bad turn there without making a misgo,--is in a Family way—she breeds like a Rabbit. Grace R. is a woman….Maria R. is well but subject to those strange sensations that she had last winter.  Mrs. O. wished you could have spent a day at the Nut Shell with her….I drank tea with Uncle G. on Sunday, went twice to Church…… Did you think of telling Helen, Abby saw her Husband & gave his her letter?—She has not seen him since.  The old woman went to the Bishop this afternoon to be christened—her mind will be easy now….God bless and preserve you in Health with those most dear to you, my dear Sister is the fervent prayer of

                                                                   Your truly affectionate sister
Mary Walton

P. S.   Abby’s respects & her regards to Helen.  My love to Mrs. Dewint and the girls.

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

James DeLancey Walton* (He was a warden of the St. George’s Church, the first independent offshoot from Trinity.—W.E.V.)  writing to his sister at Fishkill, September 8, 1826, sends the letter “care of A. Davids, Sloop Caroline, with a Basket.”  He says:

My Dear Nancy:

I have packed your medicine in the Basket with the Sweet Potatoes—The Bark and Rhubarb I had put in bottles…… Gulian dined and went to the funeral of Judge Van Ness. I had to go to the Steam Boat to forward a letter covering one from Walton. Neither of the Mail boats were there and I gave it to the Captain of the Sandusky who promised to send it on shore at Newburgh.  I hope he will not take it on the Albany….the Morewoods, Lydes and Ogdens were all well yesterday….. Tell Mary her old acquaintance Charlotte White called to pay her a Visit with her sister Amelia.  She was well made up and both were smartly dressed.

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

I bought a box of spervaceti Candles and put them on board the Caroline yesterday afternoon with a Basket of Crackers which were all the commissions for this week…. I found it very warm in the Market and walking in the Streets, have a hot walk to take to the Sloop with the letter, and if Davids was as punctual in leaving the City as he is from the Long Dock.  [Fishkill]  I shall have my walk for nothing……

Mr. Adams is Dead and there is a report of the death of Mr. Jefferson this morning.

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

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

P. S. I send two Baskets of Peaches & 1 of Damsons. I have picked them over carefully to try & preserve them. Your Corsettes were Brought Home just in time to be put in the Box with the Shoes.

On July 22, 1824, Mrs. Walton writes to his sister at Fishkill and sends the letter “caree of Capt. T. Brett, Sloop Levant with a trunk.”

July 16, 1824, he writes her again:

I wrote a few lines to send the Boxer with a  Demijohn of Brandy. I could not find a man that I was acquainted with to take it to the Sloop. I now send it by the Belvidere, Capt. J. Wiltse.

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

My Dear Mary:

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

Travellers from New England even made use of the sloops to reach New York by way of Poughkeepsie. They would travel across country on the Dutchess Turnpike, a famous road of past days running from Northern Connecticut through Dutchess county to Poughkeepsie and there embark for New York.  The diary of Samuel Miles Hopkins, who came from Litchfield, Conn. in 1791, to practise law in New York, states: “I embarked at Poughkeepsie on the good sloop John Jay and soon saw the wonderful city, the compact parts of which extend to St. Paul’s Church and then up Chatham Street to the Tea Water Pump, or nearly.”  The John Jay kept the river as late as 1865.

Frequently, better time was made by the sloop then by the stage-coach, particularly in the summer months, on the passage to Albany when the south wind prevailed. The packet sloops held their own until the steamboats were perfected which was some time after the Clermont. She was slow, and did not disdain to carry a sail, and the sloops and schooners had no difficulty in passing her when running before the wind when a speed of eight to ten miles an hour was attained. The sloop Caroline once sailed from New York to Fishkill a distance of sixty miles in five hours.  She was built about 1820, by the late John Peter De Wint, Esq., of Fishkill and named in honor of his daughter, who married A. J. Downing, the originator of the landscape architecture in the United States. While such a run was unusual, if not unprecedented, yet it was often approached by other sloops of the early part of the last century.  In tacking or sailing against the wind, the sloops did good work and a speed of five to six miles an hour was often reached, when the tide was favorable. Though considerable “sea” is kicked up when the tide and wind are in opposite directions, it was rarely enough to retard the larger sailing vessels.  The sloops too could “beat” to windward against the tide when there was a fresh breeze. But as a rule, when the wind and tide were favorable they lay at anchor until the tide turned, as it does every six hours.

As the tide plays an important part in the navigation of the Hudson a few words on the subject may not be amiss. Now the Hudson is an estuary or arm of the sea, and the tidal influence extends as far up as the State dam at Troy, above which the river, properly so called, may be said to begin.  In the lower part of the Hudson, and particularly at New York where filling in and new piers on both shores have narrowed the original stream by half a mile per hour, while at Tappan Zee, where the river is nearly four miles wide the speed is much lower.  At Hudson, which is about one hundred and twenty miles up the river, I have seen the flood-tide rush past the docks, at a lively rate, which made it hard to tack against. But this was during the dry summer season when the Hudson’s tributaries were low.  During the spring freshets of the upper Hudson and Mohawk, the flood-tide is checked in its movement northward for thirty to forty miles below Albany, so that the effect of the flood-tide pressing upward from the ocean is merely to raise the level of the surface of the river. Further down, say from Kingston southward, the flood-tide seems to run at all seasons nearly as fast as the ebb. The effect of the salt water from the sea is completely neutralized at Poughkeepsie by the fresh water from above, and, there the city pumps the water from the river into reservoirs for the general use of the inhabitants.

The skippers, or sailing masters, of the sloops well understood the tide and its vagaries, and there are many.  They knew how to use them when favorable and how to avoid their adverse effects.  For instance the flood-tide will “make” on some reaches of the river, nearly an hour earlier on one shore than on the other, and again, the ebb will “hang on” in certain parts of the river longer than another.  Nor does the tide always run up and down parallel to or following the trend of the shore line.  It glances at the end of a reach just after the river turns, thus causing the current to be deflected toward the opposite bank at an angle of nearly forty-five degrees. The pilots of the steamboats also take advantage of these eccentricities, crossing and recrossing the river several times on a trip between Albany and New York.

I once lost a race in a regatta on Newburgh bay in not fully knowing the local tide movement. The yachts were beating down to the lower stake boat against a good breeze on the ebb-tide. There was quite a sea running in which my boat was at there best but I knew that a good lead was necessary, as the second boat was faster then mine running before the wind. I turned well ahead of the others, and squared away to run home before the wind, confident of winning, but quite ignoring the direction of the tide current and thus lost the race, for the boat, second at stake, followed a course while somewhat longer, yet thereby avoided the strength of the ebb, and passed the mark well in the lead.

There is another peculiarity of the tide—while it may reach a speed of even four miles an hour at flood or ebb, the tide ‘crest’ moves at the rate of about fifteen miles an hour.  For example when it is high water at New York at noon, it will be high water at Newburgh, sixty miles up the river, at four o’clock, so that a fast steamboat can and does many weeks, at intervals varying with the moon’s tidal influence, carry the flood-tide all the way to Albany; and again, the same boat may have the ebb-tide to contend with throughout the whole of her nine-hour trip from New York to Albany. Thus, as the boat proceeds up the river at the rate of say fifteen miles an hour she keeps in the same stage of the tide with its retardation of about an hour for every fifteen miles up stream. The trip down the river, on the other hand, gives quite dissimilar results, for than a steamboat and even a sailing vessel, running before the wind, will encounter a different tide about every four hours. Suppose, for instance, the boat left Albany on the middle of the ebb, by the time Catskill was reached the flood would be met, owing to the earlier time of high water there, and so, as the vessel passed down the river always going to meet the tide as it were, the ebb would again be running long before the expiration of six hours.  The result of this is that the steamboats of the Day Line between New York and Albany, which make the trip in about nine hours, encounter but one tide on the way up and three on the way down.

When it is high water at New York it is low water at Kingston; when on Newburgh bay the flood is running at full strength, at Albany it is high water. The tide continues to run up for more than an hour after high water and to run down after low water for about the same period. In this respect the Hudson is like other estuaries.

So much for the tide, and without it sail-navigation on the Hudson would be quite another affair, and the voyage to Albany might indeed have taken a week or more in old times, as one is told was often the case. Perhaps Irving is responsible for this error as he was for others in regard to the early history of New York, because his facetious Diedrich Knickerbocker seems to have been taken seriously by many of its early readers.  All that concerned the Hudson was of great interest to him, and naturally the sloops came under observation. In Dolph Heyliger the departure of one of them for Albany is thus described:

He [Dolph] was unconsciously carried along by the impulse of the crowd, and found it was a sloop on the point of sailing up the Hudson to Albany. There was much leavetaking, and kissing of old women and children, and great activity in carrying on board baskets of bread and cakes and provisions of all kinds, notwithstanding the mighty joints of meat that dangled over the stern; for a voyage to Albany was an expedition of great moment in those days…..I have said that a voyage up the Hudson in those days was an undertaking of some moment; indeed it was as much thought of as a voyage to Europe is at present. The sloops were often many days on the war; the cautious navigators taking in sail when it below fresh, and coming to anchor at night, and stopping to send the boat ashore for milk for tea, without which it was impossible for the worthy old lady passengers to subsist, and there were the much talked of perils of the Tappaan Zee, and the Highlands. In short a prudent Dutch burgher would talk of such a voyage for months, and even years, beforehand; and never undertook it without putting his affairs in order, making his will, and having prayers said for him in the Low Dutch Churches,…..On the second day of the voyage they came to the Highlands.

The last paragraph is somewhat surprising, for the author previously tells us that the sloop sailed early in the morning with a spanking breeze and favorable tide, and soon was “ploughing her way past Spiking Devil and Yonkers, and the tallest chimneys of the Manhattoes had faded from his [Dolph’s] view.”  Such a tide and breeze would have carried the slowest of sloops as far as Kingston by sundown, unless, of course, there were detentions caused by the “old lady passengers” sending ashore for milk. Later on in the story were are told that the Highlands were thought to be under the dominion of supernatural and mischievous beings which seemed to have taken some pique against the Dutch colonists. In consequence of this they have ever taken particular delight in venting their spleen and indulging their humors upon the Dutch skippers, bothering them with flaws, head winds, counter-currents and all kinds of impediments insomuch that a Dutch navigator was always obliged to be exceedingly wary and deliberate in his proceedings; to come to anchor at dusk, to drop his peak or take in sail whenever he saw a swagbellied cloud rolling over the mountains; in short to take so many precautions that he was apt to be an incredible time in toiling up the river.

The evidence is quite convincing of the fast time that the sloops actually made in the voyage up and down the river.  By taking the tide on the first of the flood with a good south wind, and leaving the Battery at, say six o’clock A. M., the vessel would be in Newburgh bay at noon, and at Poughkeepsie by two and Hudson at eight or nine.  Unless the wind failed at sundown, which is often the case for an hour or so, rising afterwards, Albany would be reached easily the next morning, or twenty-four hours from the time of leaving. This run has been made in less time.

As the south wind is apt to prevail in summer the return trip would experience headwinds, and assuming there were no calms, the sloop could easily be back in New York at the end of the four days, and in seven if calms prevailed most of the time. But it is very rare, if indeed it ever happens, that there is no breeze at any time of day or night. The sloops sailed at night, unless the weather was thick, and took advantage of every turn of the tide.

From Cooper, too, we learn much of the history of the days of the sloops, and he is always more accurate than Irving is, without being any the less interesting. Now Cooper was a seaman, having served for several years in the navy. Besides he had practical knowledge of the navigation of the Hudson and its sailing craft.  I quote from Afloat and Ashore, chapter XXX.

In 1803 the celebrated river we were navigating, though it had all the natural features it possesses to-day, was by no means the same picture of moving life.  The steamboats did no appear on its surface until four years later, and the journeys up and down the river were frequently a week in length.  In that day the passenger did not hurry on board just as a bell laws disturbing the neighborhood, bustling his way through a rude throng of porters, cartmen, orangewomen, and newsboys to save the distance by just a minute and a half, but his luggage was often sent to the vessel the day before; he passed the morning in saying adieu, and when he repaired to the vessel, it was with gentlemanlike leisure, often to pass hours on board previous to sailing; and not infrequently to hear the unwelcome tidings that this event was deferred until the next day. How different, too, was the passage from one in a steamboat. There was no jostling of each other, no scrambling for places at the table, no bolting of food, no impertinence manifested, no swearing about missing the Eastern or Southern boats, or the Schenectady, Saratoga, or Boston trains on account of a screw being loose, nor any other unseemly manifestation that anybody was in a hurry—on the contrary wine and fruit were provided, as if the travelers intended to enjoy themselves, and a journey in that day was a fiesta.

…..Passages were certainly made in twenty-four hours in the sloops, but these were the exceptions, a week being much more likely to be the time passed in the enjoyment of the beautiful scenery of the river.  The vessel usually got aground, once at least, and frequently several times in a trip, and often a day or two were thus delightfully lost giving the stranger an opportunity of visiting the surrounding country.  The necessity of anchoring with a foul wind on every opposing tide, too, increased these occasions, thus lending to the excursion something of the character of an exploring expedition….There might have been thirty sail in sight when the Wallingford got fairly into the river, some turning down with a young ebb, making fifteen or twenty miles in six hours, and others like ourselves stealing along against it at about the same rate. Half a dozen of these craft were quite near us, and the decks of most of these, which were steering north had parties including ladies, evidently proceeding to the “Springs.”……

We were soon coming close up on the quarter of a sloop that had its deck crowded with passengers of the better class, while on the fore-castle were several horses and carriages, customary accompaniments of such a scene at that day.

The skipper of the sloop as a rule used a long tiller for steering. The wheel was slow in coming into use.  In beating to windward he always gave his boat a good “full” and in going about he liked to forereach. How the loose and heavy canvas of the sloop flapped and roared while she was in stays and what a cloud of lime dust arose from the sails when the first trips of the season were being made!  The sloop was “able” and could carry sail in a fresh wind. To shorten sail the taking in of the topsail was generally sufficient and the necessity of reefing was rare. To do this the mainsail was lowered the required space, and fastened securely at the leech and hoist only. Reef points or nettles were not always used, nor were they needed to prevent the loose canvas from bulging out along the boom, for the “lazy jacks” kept that part of the sail in place.  As for the jib it seldom had a bonnet, and was carried full with a reefed mainsail, except in thunder squalls, which generally struck the river from the westward. Then the mainsail would be lowered about half way down and a small part of the jib set.  This was a slouchly reef to be sure, but it was surprising how well it served its purpose and what good windward work the sloop would make under it.

I well remember the Illinois, when she was owned in Newburgh in 1868, and was said to be fifty years old.  Old boatmen said she had been a packer sloop in younger days, having been built in Newburgh, but when I first recall her she was carrying lumber between Albany and Newburgh.  Many a gay party have I taken part in when this sloop was chartered for a day’s excursion on the river, or by moonlight.  The broad, clean deck covered by an awning made a capital place for dancing and games.  Small boats were carried so that we might go ashore at the many banks. The Illinois was lost off Point Judith. When she was a packet sloop her captain was Elijah, the father of George D. Woolsey, whose reminiscences follow.

The Illinois was painted with stripes of somewhat gaudy colors, as was the fashion of the times, but not so elaborately as the Nyack sloops. They were very smart in their appearance and good sailers too, for now and then, as they passed through Newburgh bay on the way up and down the river, they would try conclusions with our home sloops and sometimes worst them. The Illinois carried but three sails, mainsail, jib, and topsail. The latter was attached to the topmast by hoops like the mainsail, and sheeted out to the end of the gaff. There was no “club” to it, nor did it set much flatter than the mainsail of jib.  It seems to have been the idea of the old time sail-makers that a certain amount of “bag” was an advantage and some of the sailing masters and skippers shared this error.  They would occasionally declare that a flat sail did not hold the wind and that it was better to have the leech shortened so as to give the rest of the sail room to belly out a little, and this was quite compatible with their ides of keeping the sail “rap” full, when beating to windward, and never “pinching.”

The result of this was that the old sloops did not point as high as the modern yacht with her flat sails, yet she went through the water at a good pace so that when she went into stays to go about on the other tack she forereached several times her own length, though often losing a good deal of her way in so doing. But as the jib was used to aid in putting the boat on the other tack the older skippers could not be made to see that what they gained to windward in being several minutes in stays was much more than lost in the speed and momentum that the new yacht retains in going on the other tack at once.  I shall never forget the reproof that I once got as a boy from an experienced old skipper of New Hamburgh after a race of small sloops and catboats. Said he:

Why the—did you always put your “helem” over so hard when you went about. I seen you do it over and over again, and now after all our scrapin’, and pot leadin’ her bottom, and tightenin’ the leech you’ve lost the race. Why didn’t you let her go ‘round easy and not slam your rudder over as if it was a barn door on a cold day. Gosh, Willie, I thought you knew better nor that.  But you worked the tide right this time, in crossin’ the river at Danskammer P’int, and not fightin’ the ebb, as most of the others done by huggin’ the east shore.

The Mohican* (See List of Vessel; page 94,---W.E.V.)  had been a famous sloop, albeit she fell to carrying limestone from the quarries at Malden to the blast furnaces that formerly were places of activity along the river for reducing the ores of Dutchess and Orange counties.  At Cold Spring, Poughkeepsie, and Peeksill there were several such thirty years ago.  To-day they are in ruins, for these industries could not complete with the newer ones of Pennsylvania and the Southern States where the coal and the ores are close together.  How brilliantly the sky was illuminated at night on Newburgh bay when the furnace at Kaal Rock* (From the Dutch word “Kallen.” Vessels were formerly hailed here.---W.E.V.) soon near us.  The wind freshened as we passed the reef, and the “sea” began to get up under the ever-increasing tide and a wind that now had a sweep of nearly ten miles up the bay.  The waves were dashing over the deck forward of the mast, and the foot of the jib was wet with spray. This gave the Mohican a slight advantage over our boat.  It was a nip and tuck between us until we got to the middle of Newburgh bay where the wind had become a reefing breeze and the ebb-tide had kicked up a sea that made the ferry-boat roll as she crossed back and forth in the trough.  It was then that the Mohican began to forge ahead, and she crossed our bow before we put in at Sherman’s Dock. We were indeed disgusted and our captain was full of reasons to explain the defeat.  I had felt confident that we would win, though realizing that the Mohican was a fast boat.  Neither of us carried topsails the last hour; they had to be taken in soon after passing Danskammer Point (the Devil’s Dance Chamber made famous by Irving). How the topsails ballooned out when they where first lowered to the crosstrees!—and it took some time to clew them down.

The North River sloop when running directly before the wind was at the worst. The jib hung idle and useless, lazily flapping from time to time, for there was no effort made to throw it out opposite the mainsail as is done with the spinnaker of a yacht, and with her long boom well our toward the shrouds it was inevitable that she would steer hard and have a tendency to yaw and luff. Jibing occasionally became necessary, even though the wind held steady. The many reaches of the river run in somewhat different directions so that the captain had to change his mainsail from one side to the other as he sailed up or down stream before the wind. To do this successfully in a freshy wind was a feat requiring no little skill, for the big booms were from seventy-five to ninety feet in length and were they allowed to “fetch up” suddenly the mast would be apt to be carried away. To obviate this danger, the sailing master would put his helm hard up and keep it there until the vessel was at an angle of nearly forty-five degrees to her course, then the big mainsail would take the wind on the other side and begin to swing around dragging the loose mainsheet with it, all the while gaining velocity. For a few moments you think there is going to be a big smash, especially when the boom passes over the taffrail with a roar.  But no, for the skipper has kept his helm hard up all the while and the big sloop has turned more and more so that before the mainsheet is taut again, the wind has caught the mainsail on the other side and it is all aluff.   The helm is then thrown to the opposite side, the jib hauled to windward, and the sloop is one her course again.

The schooner had a decided advantage in running before the wind, for then the foresail is thrown out opposite the mainsail wing and wing and jibing is not so difficult; but when it becomes necessary, the peak of the mainsail has to be lowered when the wind is fresh, for the tactics of jibing a sloop cannot be followed. The two-master began to be a favorite rig on the river in the late sixties. In some instances sloops were altered into schooners. The old Sloop Milan of Rondout, for instance, had capsized off Cornwall in a fresh southeaster when carrying a cargo of flagstone, and was afterwards raised and appeared as a schooner under the name of George Hurst.

The North River schooner differed greatly from the “Down East” schooner that formerly sailed up the river for coal as far as Newburgh, or Rondout where the Delaware and Hudson canal reached the river.  These vessels, especially when light, were clumsy looking craft with their blunt bows and bowsprits pointed high. How sluggish they were compared with the North River vessels.  We used to say of them that they were built by the mile and sawn off to suit, so devoid of lines or models were they. Yet these “Down Easters” could sail well when in their element.  The North River schooner was built on somewhat the same plan as the sloop, having a center board, and her bowsprit carried out almost horizontal, and one head-sail, the single jib, attached to a jib-boom, as with the sloop.* (A few of the later schooners carried a flying-jib.---W.E.V.)  She carried not foretopmast. The skippers contented themselves with a maintopsail only and set it like the sloop’s. The foresail was of good size compared with the mainsail and not a mere “ribbon” such as the racing schooner yacht now carries.  The quarter-deck was replaced in the later schooners by a trunk cabin, lighted from the side and end, affording smaller and less pleasant accommodations than those below the quarter-decks of the old packet sloops with their large windows for light and air at the stern.

The Greene County Tanner was a good example of an old North River schooner.  She was built at Catskill in 1832 and had been a sloop in her earlier days. I well remember her as she passed through Newburgh bay or at other points along the river on her frequent trips, carrying different sorts of cargoes, for as time went on her owners became less particular as to what was put aboard of her. She was often engaged in the flagstone trade—large quantities of the stone being quarried in Ulster and Greene counties.  The latter county gave the boat her name and freights, for it was the home of the industry of tanning hides with the bark of hemlock and so energetically was it carried on that the trees are well-nigh exterminated.

It was the morning after the assassination of President Lincoln when I first recollect this schooner. I was in a rowboat with my father who was rowing to Newburgh from our place on the opposite shore about three miles north. It was Saturday and there was no school.  The wind was from the south and the tide on the last of the ebb, as we reached the channel. Being a mere lad I was set at steering, and felt very important when I reported a schooner approaching. Her mainsheet was dragging in the water so light was the wind, and jib and foresail stood flat and lifeless. We passed close under her stern and I read her name as the sailing master shouted to us the news of the appalling tragedy at Washington on the night before.   I can see the schooner now as she swung slowly round when the skipper left the wheel and ran to the end of the taffrail to tell us all that he knew of the details of the murder.

The schooners were not as good in windward work as the sloop, but with a fair or beam wind they were faster.  The rig, however, soon commended itself for the sloop with her long boom, tall mast, and heavy mainsail was difficult to handle at all times and especially in a blow and required a crew of six men to the schooner’s four. The first of the schooners were converted sloops. From which many of the larger ones were changes to save expense of operation. Late, about 1865 there was built  a new type of schooner for the Hudson which though rigged the same was a wider and shallower boat thus giving her greater carrying capacity and permitting all the cargo to be placed on deck for expedition in loading and unloading. She was quite sharp forward, which—with other good points in her model—made her good sailer. Of this type was the Robert A. Forsythe of Newburgh, between which place and Albany she plied as a carrier of lumber. The Wm. A. Ripley of Low Point on Newburgh bay was another schooner of somewhat the same style and rig. The Ripley was built at Newark, N. J., in 1874 and was sixty-nine feet in length and twenty-two feet beam. Her carrying capacity was one hundred and twenty-five tons. Her captain was Robert S. Collyer.* (The Uriah F. Washburn, built by Jacob Woolsey at Tompkins Cove in 1866, was undoubtedly the best example of these modern schooners. Her captain was James Monahan, who sailed her for 17 years, and is now first pilot of the steamer City of Newburgh of the Central Hudson Steamboat Co. This schooner was built for the Washburn Bros., brick-makers of Glasco-on-Hudson, and she now hails from Perth Amboy, N. J. Her carrying capacity was about 200 tons.—W.E.V.)  when the schooner began to be a favorite rig, and none of them so far as I know ever ran as a packet boat for passengers.

The sloop in the early days was a seagoer, making voyages to the West Indies; even the North River and Sound sloops ventured so far amain. A sea-going sloop of my early boyhood that joined the company of North River vessels was the old Benjamin Franklin. She had been built in Huntington, Long Island, in 1836 for the trade between New Bedford and the West Indies, taking out cattle and fetching molasses back.  Her length was sixty-five feet and her beam twenty-one and her capacity eighty-five tons; a small vessel for such a trade we would account her to-day. She was owned at one time by John Van Keuren of Poughkeepsie, who sold her in 1864 to the late John L. Collyer while he was living at Tivoli, then known as Upper Red Hook. But afterwards her owner moved to Low Point, now Chelsea, on Newburgh bay. Although much like other sloops of the time she had some features that were different. There was more free-board and her bow was blunter.  In her younger days she had carried a large topsail but when I knew her she contended herself with only two sails.  In fact the sloops began to dispense with topsails when wages got high after the Civil War, for they were difficult to handle and requires an extra man.  But the Benjamin Franklin was a fast sailer and under her lessened canvas, when the wind blew fresh from the south and the ebb-tide had kicked up a sea, it was then that she was in her element and could show the way to many of the fast sloops of the river.* (The flood-tide and northeast wind make a greater sea on the Newburgh bay.—W. E.V.)

J. L. Collyer had previously owned and sailed the First Effort, a packet sloop sailing between Red Hook and New York, and later he owned the sloop Perseverance. This was before the Hudson River railroad was built when the only other means of communication along the river was the stage-coach over the Albany post-road, a slow and uncomfortable journey.  J. L. Collyer was a brother of the lat Thomas Collyer who is his younger days was a sloop builder and afterwards with Daniel Drew built the Hudson River steamboats Daniel Drew, Armenia, and others.

When the steamboat began to take passengers away from the packet sloops they became in turn “market boats.” Their business consisted of taking on produce at points along the river and selling it on arrival at New York, carrying back drygoods, etc. Such a trip from Catskill or Kingston was completed in ten to twelve days,--Captain John L. Collyer maintained such a line form Tivoli for several years. This business was in turn absorbed by large double deck barges towed by steamboats. The barges were fitted with sleeping accommodations, and many trips have I made on them.  The bleating of the calves and sheep from the lower regions of the boat was not conducive to sleep. Many of these barges still survive here and there along the upper river.  The propeller and side-wheelers of the Hudson River companies now control this large and lucrative business.

The Middle Grounds of the Upper Hudson were a vexation to the early navigators, and they still perplex the inexperienced, albeit they are now marked with lights, buoys, black, and red.  These sunken shoals conceal no rocks. Did they do so the “bones of many vessels would now be found on them. These shoals are flats of mud and sand, and at hightide are covered by three to four feet of water, enough to conceal the sedge grass or water weeds that grow there, and which, at low water, are plainly seen only when full grown at midsummer. How easy it was to run on them, there to lie with your keel in the soft mud until the tide fell and rose again, unless perchance your went on at low water.  But more likely it would be at high water while running up the river before a strong southerly wind. Before it was possible to change your course your boat was in shoal water and refused to answer her helm and soon you were hard aground.

Vessels have been known to go on so hard and fast that they had to be dug off, even after removing the cargo. A schooner from Long Island went on the Middle Grounds in the Livingston channel just above Tivoli about forty years ago and lay there nearly a month, and was finally released at great expense.  But it was seldom that the sloops were caught in this way, so familiar were their skippers with the river, its shoals, reefs, and tides.  The Middle Grounds are in the upper Hudson where the water is always fresh. They begin a short distance south of Kingston Point near the Esopus lighthouse, and extend all the way to Albany in perplexing irregularity. Between Catskill and Coxsackie there are several baffling ones. Formerly there were two channels of islands and Middle Grounds occupying the center of the river. They are shown on an old map which I have, made in 1810, and which is called “Hudson’s River from Sandy Hook to Sandy Hill”—a point north of Saratoga where the river turns sharply to the west. The dredging and diking operations of the Federal Government have since resulted in a single and well marked channel below Albany.

There was formerly a picturesque sight, which was occasionally seen before the passing of the sail from the Hudson.  This was the fleet of sloops and schooner, twenty-five to thirty in number, which brought together at the south end of the Highlands.  With such winds vessels New York and bound up the river would reach Jones Point off the Dunderberg to find it impossible to pass through the Race.* (The Race extends from the southeastern end of the Dunderberg to Anthony’s Nose in the Highlands. Washington Irving jocosely accounts for the name by saying that one morning as the sun rose over the mountains its rays glanced from the rubicund nose of the redoubtable Anthony Van Corlears who was on the deck of a sloop on a voyage to Fort Orange, and killed a sturgeon that was swimming near the surface. The fame of this event was so great that the promontory was ever afterwards known as Anthony’s Nose.—W.E.V.)  Here the river’s turn to the westward would cause the wind to be dead ahead, and as the flood-tides had been so weakened by the prevalence of such winds, it would not be possible for the vessels to proceed farther and thus they assembled as they came up from below.

It was near this point that Captain Kidd’s treasure ship was supposed to have sunk and for years fruitless efforts were made to find her.  Old boatmen have told me that as many as fifty vessels would be wind-bound here.  When the southerly wind came at last or the flood-tide reasserted itself the boats all started, slowly growing apart as the faster ones began to draw away from the others.  Still it would take an hour or more before the fleet was disbanded.  By the time Newburgh bay, twenty miles above, was reached the vessels would be strung out into a line a mile or more long.

Among the sloops of Fishkill on Newburgh bay were the Commodore Jones, and the New Jersey, which were owned by the late Thomas Aldridge, who had extensive brickyards at Dutchess Junction. The captain of the Jones was John Paye of Fishkill. He is now a brick manufacturer, for he retired from boating long since, but is fond of relating his experiences on the river in past days.  He began sailing the river before he was twenty, and became the skipper of the Commodore Jones over fifty years ago. She was the fastest sloop above the Highlands and has made the  record for the round trip to New York and return from Fishkill.  She was built at Derby, Conn., in 1835.  Her companion sloop the New Jersey was built in 1830. Other sailing vessels of Fishkill were the sloop Delaware, of which Larrie Flarrety was captain, and the schooner Thomas Jefferson, afterwards called the Carrie McLean. The Commodore Jones, like other sloops and schooners of the Hudson, was registered at the U. S. Customs  in New York. Her capacity was one hundred tons, though the registered tonnage was considerably less. Captain Paye assures me that he once made the run from New York to Denning’s Point (on Newburgh bay), fifty-eight miles up, in four and one half hours with the schooner Harriet Ann.  Once, in 1868, he left Hamilton Ferry, Brooklyn, with the sloop Commodore Jones  at nine P. M. next day. Of the twenty-three hours’ interval, four were spent in loading.

The usual time required for a sloop or a schooner to beat down to New York from Fishkill or Newburgh was “two ebbs” and “one flood” as the boatman put it. The vessels would get underway at high water, when they could pass of the Flats fully loaded, thence with the favoring ebb they passed down through the Highlands, and Verplanck’s Point was reached in about five hours.  The flood-tide would now be encountered, but even though the wind was light good headway could be made against it by keeping on the Croton Flats with the centerboard half down. Thence they passed into Tappan Zee and over on the Nyack Flats to avoid the strength of the flood.  By the time Piermont was reached the ebb-tide had again begun to make, and with it New York was reached in about five hours more. In other words the trip from Fishkill against the wind was made in fifteen or sixteen hours. With wind abeam or fair, the run was made in half the time. The sloops always sailed at night unless wind or tide was unfavorable. During periods of calm, there were occasionally “land” breezes at night, that is, currents of air that drew strongly from the shore toward the river. Off the palisades or the “Rocks” as the boatmen called them, there is at times a decided land breeze of this sort which was always observed and taken advantage of by the skippers. While it had been quite calm all over the river through the day and early part of the night during the summer months, in the “small hours” these breezes would rise and carry a vessel for several miles.

The flood-tides in the Lower Hudson, so the boatmen declare, have tricks that are hard to account for. They will tell you that the tide sometimes rises while the current is running down on the surface, and that a deeply laden vessel will feel the influence of the current moving up while the light vessel is held back by the surface current moving in the opposite direction, and this they declare is not dependent upon the wind. The moon’s position with relation to the earth has of course a marked effect upon the tide as is well known. Thus the tides are apt to run low when the moon is in Apogee, “Pogy Tides” as they are called in New England, while when the moon is near the earth or in Perigee the tides are apt to run higher.  On Newburgh bay I have heard the boatmen speak of these moons as “Pear Tree” and “Apple Tree” moons, and of “Witch Tides.” By this they meant a slow flood. Now and then along the river when progress was slow and there were three or four days of calm weather, on a still night when not more than four or five miles would be made on one tide, and the vessels would drift together, and oftentimes foul each other, particularly in the Highlands, the conversation between the captains would be like this:

Captain of Benj. Franklin—“Well, this is very slow, getting up. I have only drifted ten miles in the last two tides (Twenty-four hours).”

Captain of Sam’l Marsh* (Her captain was John Ward of Cornwall, a brother of the champion oarsmen._W.E.V.)—“Yes, Captain John, we are having ‘Witch Tides.’ The moon is in the ‘Apple Tree’ and tides is running poor. No floods. No wind.”

Captain of Benj. Franklin—“I guess to-morrow the flood will bring a good breeze of south wind. I see the cobwebs hanging in the rigging.”

Captain of Sam’l Marsh—“I hope so. I have been three days getting up from New York to the Highlands.”

And the next day a good south wind would come.

The old sloops were formerly furnished with long oars known as “sweeps” which were used, particularly in the Highlands, during calms to prevent the vessels being run ashore by the tide, for the currents there are swift and at certain places would throw a sloop on the rocks were she not kept off. But in later years the sweeps were done away with and the yawl boat used to keep the sloop on her course by towing when the wind failed.

The upper end of the Highlands from Cold Spring to Storm King* (Formerly Butter Hill with Breakneck on the opposite bank. The name was changed at the instance of the late N. P. Willis, whose country seat, Idlewild, was at its base near Moodna Creek, formerly Murderer’s Creek, a change also made at Mrs. Willis’s suggestion.   Newburgh bay begins at this point and extends northward to beyond Danskammer Point, a distance of about 12 miles   On this reach the river has a width of over a mile.—W.E.V.)  is called the “worragut,” a corruption, perhaps, of the old Dutch name. On this reach, especially when the wind is westerly in the spring and fall of the year, there is apt to be a gale which draws down from Pollopel Island past Crow’s Nest to Little Stony Point. The wind at this point is directly down the river and sometimes attains a high velocity, so much so that the sloops and schooners often have to run under bare poles, with all sails lashed down. In 1824 the packet sloop Neptune of Newburgh was capsized here by a flaw while beating up the river and thirty-five passengers were drowned.

Owing to the tide being earlier in the East River than the North, a sailing vessel can rundown the East River on the first of the ebb, round the Battery and find the flood still running in the North; or she can go down the North River on the last of the ebb round the Battery and take the flood-tide which will then be running in the East River.

A sailing master of long experience furnishes this information:

Down the river with head winds—With a good full-sail breeze of head wind from Catskill to New York it would take the advantage vessel, sloop or schooner about five ebb-tides to beat down. Up river with head winds—I have come around the Battery several times about six P. M. at nearly high slack water with the wind northwest by west (which is one of the best head winds to beat up the river with). Beat a full ebb-tide out, took the first of the flood about Piermont and went to Low Point on the tide. That would be called beating from New York to Low Point in one flood tide.

This captain added that the longest time he ever took to reach the upper end of Newburgh bay from New York was five days which was due to being wind bound at the south end of the Highlands.* (Calms and poor floods produced the same.—W.E.V.)  One of the shortest round trips was that of the Heneritta Collyer.*(Her captain was M. W. Collyer.—W.E.V.)  She was a schooner built in Nyack in 1880, for the iron trade which was then carried on along the river, and in which about a dozen sailing vessels were profitably engaged, carrying iron ore and limestone to the blast furnaces and taking away the pig iron,--a business that has now all ceased as I have mentioned. This schooner left Manhattan Iron Works, which was then (1880) at 140th Street and North River, at six P. M., with a fresh south wind and flood-tide. At eight o’clock the next morning she was at Catskill one hundred and fifteen mile up the river. She went up light. By noon that day the schooner was loaded with limestone and got under way with a northwest wind, and at three o’clock the next morning she was back at the dock of the Iron Works.

During the Civil War, and for a few years after, canvas became very dear, and the sloop owners were reluctant to fit with new sails when needed, and often when the wind was fresh several sloops and schooners would be seen lying at anchor rather than risk having their old sails blown away while beating to windward.

In 1860 there were as many as two hundred sloops and schooners engaged in the commerce of the Hudson, some of which had been built as early as 1816 such as the sloop Mad Anthony now of Verplanck’s Point. She is still in commission, and is the oldest sailing vessel afloat on the river to-day.* (She was altered into a schooner several years ago.—W.E.V.)  The records of the Custom House at New York contain the names of many of these vessels though it is hard to identify them owing to change of names. The largest sloop on the river was the Utica of Athens,--two hundred and twenty tons’ capacity, built at Albany in 1833. She was sailing as late as 1890, but is now a lighter in New York Harbor.  Other up-river sloops of the seventies were the sloop Bolivar of New Baltimore, built in 1826, and the Victory of Athens, built in 1814. She had no center-board, being a keel vessel like the Illinois of Newburgh.

Captain N. S. Cooper, who is now Superintendent of the Catskill and Hudson Steamboat Company and until recently captain of the steamer Onteora, comes of an old family of North River sloop owners. With his father, Ira Cooper of Athens, he owned and sailed various sloops, among others the Dutchess, Victory, Utica, Holbrook  and Reindeer. Captain Cooper has kindly contributed the following information:

In the year 1864, the Sally Frances was sunk at Red Hook, Brooklyn, in a blow.

September 20, 1876, the schooner Dutchess was sunk at Barrytown Bluff, by the steamer St. John.

October 17, 1879, the schooner Catskill was sunk by a steamer City of Troy, off the plaster mills at Newburgh.

August 14, 1888, the Holbrook was sunk by the Saratoga off Catskill Point.

April 12, 1889, the Revenue was sunk by the Peoples’ Line Steamer Drew at Esopus.

The Victory was sold to a party in Brooklyn by the name of Hall, who changed her into a lighter. The Reindeer was also sold to the same party.

The sloop Congress was put on the beach in Rondout Creek, near the West Shore R. R. Bridge.

A veteran captain of the upper Hudson was Capt. A. Wesley Hale. Not long before his death, July, 1906, he published, in the Saugerties Herald, part of his recollections of the river. The following is quoted form that newspaper:

I saw a short time age a statement in your paper written by a Newburgh friend and I think he is laboring under a false impression when he says our big single stick sloops were unmanageable unless under full sail, or as he expresses it, under a full spread of canvas. Some of our big sloops, such as the Tanner was then a sloop, and the Utica, the Oregon, the Canaan, the Wm. Mayo, the Asa Bigelow, the Gideon Lee, and hundreds of others that I could mention would go to windward or any other way under a two reef, and many of them under a three reef sail and turn around, or go about as the boatmen say, almost as quick as our ice boats. And then he says the Tanner had a mast one hundred six feet and topmast fifty-eight feet, and she hailed for Saugerties, eight miles above Kingston. Saugerties is twelve miles above Kingston, and the Tanner  never hailed from Saugerties, and never had a long topmast when a sloop; her mast was ninety-six feet only with a short topmast. She carried a large square topsail, and only used it when sailing with a fair wind. The Tanner was built at Catskill in 1832, and hailed from Catskill until bought by the well known Captain called Gus (Augustus) Decker, to run from Wilbur carrying wood and stone to New York. He afterwards sold her to Ezra Fitch to run in the stone and lumber trade. In about the year 1850 she lay up at Rondout. There was a fire that winter near where she laid up. The sparks set her rigging on fire and her rigging and spar were burned to her deck. She was then rigged into a schooner and had a long topmast and jib-boom. Capt. Wm. Hyde then bought an interest in her and sailed her nearly forty years, carrying stone from Wilbur to Eastern ports. She carried her mainmast away in a blow near Point Judith, and lost mast, rigging, and mainsail. A fishing smack fount it and towed it the Newport. The Tanner is still in the stone trade.

The Wm. Mayo was built at Coxsackie in 1836 by Wm. Mayo and she has quite a record.  She was bought by Robt. Kerr to carry stone from Wilbur. Capt. James Schoonmaker took command of her. He capsized her and carried her topmast away. In about 1846, E. J. McCarthy bought her to carry stone from Saugerties. She changed captains quite frequently. Capts. Josiah Joy, David Searles, Chas. Felto, Harry Snyder, Andrew Simmons, and others commanded her.  Capt. Joy capsized her in a squall opposite Poughkeepsie and her mast landed on the ferryboat’s deck. Capt. David Searles in a race from New York to Newport against the smart sloop Oliver Ames, when near Point Judith, carried her mast away. The Ames, after three trails, succeeded in getting a hawser to her, and towed her into Newport, costing the owner, J. P. Russell, over $500.

In 1868 J. P. Russell rebuilt the Mayo at an expense of $12,000.  He then rigged he into a schooner, and J.V. L. Crum took charge of her. A few years after, Capt. Crum, when bound to Newark, struck rock and sunk her near Shooter’s Island in quite shoal water. They got her up, and about 1874 J. P. Russell sold her to John Maxwell. Ezra Whitaker then took charge of her and ran her to Eastern ports with stone.

In 1879, while laying at anchor in Flushing bay in a northeast gale, she dragged her anchors and went ashore on the rocks on Riker’s Island and filled with water.  In 1880, when bound down the East River loaded with sand for the rubbing mill at Malden, he made a mistake and ran her in a slip near Bridge Street, E. R., striking a ship, and carried both masts away.   He tore the sails into ribbons and smashed a barge’s stern all in, and came very near sinking her. After that they ran her as a barge until 1882, when she was sold to New Jersey parties, and she is now a lighter in New York harbor.

The Oregon was built at Coxsackie in 1846 for parties in Coeymans. Her mast was ninety-four feet long and twenty-eight inches in the partners. It came from the West, I think from Oregon, and cot $500. Her topmast  was sixty-five feet. The Oregon was one of the first North River sloops that carried a long topmast and gaff topsail. About the year 1850 Wm. F. Russell bought her from Coeymans to carry iron from Ulster iron mill. Capt. Peter Sickles took command of her, In 1867 Capt. Jeremiah Paris bought her. He ran her in the stone trade a short time, and then rigged her into a schooner and ran her to the East with stone and lumber.

The sloop Canaan was built at Albany in 1826. Capt. Lewis Freligh bought her in 1851. In 1853 he transferred half of her to his son, Capt. B. M. Freligh. B. M. was captain. His brother Peter was sailing master, and Austin was captain of the forecastle. She was a hard weather sloop. She was called the old horse and very few, if any,  could blanket her when beating up the river in a heavy northeast blow.  Capt. Freligh ran her principally in the brick trade. At one time brick was dull, he took a load of lumber from Albany to Providence, R. I. When going around Point Judith they got caught in a blow and had a rough time. They were all fresh-water sailors, and they thought their time had come, but being a good able vessel, she weathered the gale, and they reached Providence all right. They did not make another trip.

The sloop Victory was built at Marlborough, N. Y., in 1814. She ran as a merchant sloop and carried passengers for several years, and was afterwards bought by John V. L. Overbaugh and Wm. Thorp to carry brick from Glasco. In about 1843 they rebuilt her and raised her main deck. About 1890 he sold her to New York parties, and she is now a lighter in New York harbor.

The Bucktail, afterwards converted into a schooner and called the Dutchess, the Catskill a schooner which sank in Newburgh bay, and the big sloops Addison and Ambassador, built at Coxsackie in 1819, and the Iowa of Malden, were among the other up-river vessels of my time.  Poughkeepsie was the home port of several more. The two blast furnaces, the famous Buckeye mowing-machine works, the Vassar brewery, and other industries gave them profitable freights. In earlier days Poughkeepsie had even sent out waling vessels and the Whale Dock is still pointed out.  The Mohican was one of the old sloops that hailed from this port. She was built in 1837 at Peekskill by Isaac Depew, Senator Depew’s father, who ran her as a packet and market boat. During the Civil War she passed into the possession of Edward Tower and others who were interested in the furnaces and who used her in conveying limestone and iron ore to the Tower furnaces at Poughkeepsie. Her skipper was Joseph Reynolds. The Mohican was sixty-eight feet long, twenty-five feet beam. Under her quarter-deck, which extended almost to midships, were a dozen berths. She was always painted red, and was a fast sailer. Her timbers and planking were of locust and white oak. The old sloop now lies on the shore of Chelsea in front of the home of Capt. Moses W. Collyer who brought her there for a breakwater and dock a few years ago when she was dismantled and withdrawn from the river. Other vessels of Poughkeepsie were the big sloop Margaret, built at Sing Sing in 1835 (her captain was Abe Lansing), the schooners Buckeye, Flying Cloud,  and Peter Valleau, pronounced by the boatmen “Vallew.” The last two plied between Newburgh and Poughkeepsie, while the Margaret brought lumber from Albany. The Henry Barclay, the Kemble,  and the Annie Tower like the Mohican were employed in the iron trade.

At New Hamburgh eight miles below there were, among other boats, the sloops Mary Dallas and General Ward, and the scow sloop Little Martha of which ‘Clint” Williams was skipper. He and his two brothers, colored men, comprised the crew and capital boatmen they were.

The Leroy brothers, William, Peter, and Charles, as well as the Drake brothers, Charles, William, and Marin, were all experienced and skillful boatmen. They could also handle small yachts with great ability.  For both William Drake’s and Peter Leroy’s skill in this respect I had great admiration. They, too, were experts in handling ice-boats, and when Peter Leroy had the tiller of the Zero, there were few yachts on the ice between Poughkeepsie or Newburgh that could pass him.* (Other ice-boats of this neighborhood were the Flying Cloud, owned by Mr. Irving Grinnell, and the giant Icicle, by Mr. John E. Roosevelt; but the latter was so heavy that she showed her speed only in a heavy wind and on hard ice.  On Capt. M. W. Collyer’s Vision I have run from Newburgh to Danskammer Point, a distance of six miles, in seven minutes.—W.E.V.)  William and Peter Leroy were excellent shots, and no one knew better that they where to find woodcock and quail.  The Leroys were among the first to foresee the doom of the sloop, and about 1876 they built the first of the barges for Garner & Co.  This was the Mary and Emma—a vessel of about three hundred tons’ carrying capacity.

Captain Martin Drake has kindly contributed the following:

I will give you as near as I can, the vessels and their captains, belonging to New Hamburgh, from about 1860 to 1873 or 1875:





John I. Wiltse

Charles S. Drake


Utica* (see below)

Charles S. Drake


Ella Jane

William Percival


David Sands

Jacob Leroy


General Ward

William P. Drake


James Coats

James R. Lawson


Harriet Martha

Charles Leroy


Mary Dallas

Martin V. Drake


North America

Austin Griffin


Samuel Cunningham

William P. Drake



Charles S. Drake



Van Nort Carpenter


Joseph Griggs

Marvin Vananden


Lucy Hopkins

Martin Griffin



Charles Leroy


Jane Grant

William P. Drake


Abraham Jones

William B. Leroy


First Effort

Peter Leroy


Little Martha

Clinton Williams


Kate Hale

Charles S. Drake



William P. Drake



William P. Drake


Samuel Hall

Harry Smith



Austin Griffin



Martin V. Drake


Chas. Rockwood

Edward Griffin



Charles S. Drake



William P. Drake



Harry Smith


Christopher Columbus

Charles S. Drake

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

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

Will mention a few incidents:

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

The sloop James Coats was rounding West Point, when the main sheet caught around the neck of Benj. Hunt, and severed his head from his body, the head going overboard leaving the body on deck. This happened in the summer of 1866.

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

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

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

At Low Point  (now Chelsea) they could boast the eight sloops and schooners during the period between 1868 and 1888. In the list were the Benjamin Franklin, Lydia White, Iron Age, Fancy, Wm. A. Ripley, and Henrietta Collyer. During this period Newburgh was the home port of nearly twenty sailing vessels. In this list were the Illinois, of which “Pomp” (James) Wilson was captain, and the Samsondale, whose captain was George Woolsey. He had a good voice and was fond of singing as he stood on the quarter-deck by the tiller of the moonlight night.  In Part III. will be found the reminiscences of Captain Woolsey, which his widow had kindly given for publication.

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

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

Cold Spring is in the Highlands at the south end of the Worragut, so dreaded by the old Dutch skippers, if Washington Irving is to be believed. This reach has always borne a bad reputation for its baffling and gusty winds. Nevertheless several sloops made that their home port, drawn thither by the blast furnace and the West Point Foundry where the famous Parrott guns were made during the Civil War. Many of them were carried on the Victorine of which “Dave” Lyons was captain, who I believe is still living. She was the fastest sloop on the river and once took part in a yacht race at New York and acquitted herself with credit.  She kept the river as late as 1890. The sloop was built in 1848 at Piermont, and had a carrying capacity of one hundred and twenty-five tons. She is now a lighter of an Oil Company at Edgewater, N.J.  Her companion was the schooner Norma built in Nyack in 1852.  In the cove between Constitution Island and Cold Spring the old Missouri and John Jones lie abandoned.

Nyack and Piermont on Tappen Zee were the homes of many sloops and schooner of past days whose sails whitened the waters as they sailed by Point No Point, Verdrietege Hook, and Teller’s Point.

It was not until abut the year 1862 that sailing vessels on the Hudson were required by law to carry lights at night.* (General B. F. Butler, at one time owner of the yacht America, was the author of this law as I am Credibly informed.—W.E.V.) Notwithstanding this there were comparatively few collisions, either with each other or with the many fast passenger steamboats that then piled up and down the river. Yet there were noteworthy disasters due to collisions among which were the following:

The Schooner Catskill while beating down the river the night of October 17,1879, was struck by the steamboat Saratoga off Newburgh, and sunk. She now lies near the track of the ferry at Fishkill, about five hundred feet from the Newburgh shore. On the ebb-tide the ripple of the water running over the hulk can readily be discerned, and serves as a mark for the pilots of the ferry-boat during a fog. In the summer of 1849 the schooner Noah Brown collided with the steamer Empire in Newburgh bay. The steamer sank and thirty passengers were drowned. She had just left the dock at Newburgh at the time of collision. The Empire was raised and four years later was in collision with the sloop Chancellor Livingston.  On this occasion the sloop was beating up the river on the night of July 16, 1853. When off New Hamburgh she struck the Empire bound from Troy to New York.  The impact of the sloop not only threw the steamer’s boiler from its bed, but sank her as well, with the result that many passengers lost their lives from scalding and drowning. The sloop First Effort, of which the late John J. Collyer was then owner and captain, was passing at the time and went alongside and rescued many of the passengers. The Empire was beached on the east shore a short distance below New Hamburgh.

On the night of the 21st of November, 18--, the sloop W. W. Reynolds was beating down the river and off Blue Point—which is about two miles south of Poughkeepsie, where the sloop belonged—she ran into the steamer Francis Skiddy. The sloop’s bow-sprit struck the boiler causing it to explode. Three firemen and several passengers were scalded to death. The steamboat was on her way down the river from Albany to New York, and was then making the return trips by day. She was the only boat that ever made such a regular trips.  The Francis Skippy was built by George Collyer.

The dangers of jibbing, to which reference has already been made, were shockingly exemplified in the case to the Sloop James Coats, of which James R. Lawson was captain. This sloop ran between Kingston Point and Brooklyn, and once made the round trip within forty-eight hours.  On one occasion in the year 1865, or ’66, she was running down the river with a fair wind and had of course to jibe as she rounded West Point. As the main sheet, all slack, came over the deck it formed a loop over the head of Ben Hunt, who was at the wheel, taking off his head, which fell overboard, leaving the headless trunk lying on the deck. Jibing poles which some sloops carried might have obviated such a casualty.

The sail has almost disappeared from the Hudson, for the big seagoing schooner of three, four and even five masts that still comes up the rover, rarely spreads her sails. She makes part of a great tow—consisting of fifty or sixty vessels that move slowly along the river, drawn by three or four powerful tugs, which in turn have superseded the paddle-wheel towboats of my boyhood.  Then the towing steamer was generally an old passenger boat which had her day on the line between New York and Albany. Stripped of cabins, saloons, and upper deck, a mere skeleton of a boat, she would be seen wearily drawing a huge assemblage of barges, scows, canal boats, and down-east schooners laden with lumber, flagstones, grain, coal, and other commodities. To this extremity had the swift and once popular Alida sunk, and she was a melancholy sight indeed, when her former grandeur and the fame of her quick passage between New York and Poughkeepsie, were recalled, which I believe has never been lowered by any of her successors.

Though occasionally a schooner is seen sailing on the river, the North River sloop has vanished from the Hudson.

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