Home Fitness Kingston’s Boat Building Industry, 1906

Kingston’s Boat Building Industry, 1906

by Ohio Digital News

A. McMullen Marine Railway and Shipyard advertisement Rondout (Kingston), NY (Hudson River Maritime Museum)The following article, “All The Yards Are Busy And In Need of More Help. Builders Pay $25,000 Annually In Wages. Several Hundred Men Are Employed,” is from the Kingston Daily Freeman of August 15, 1906.  It was transcribed by Hudson River Maritime Museum volunteer researcher George A. Thompson and additionally edited and annotated by John Warren.

One of the most important branches of industry that this city [Kingston] is blessed with is that of boat building, which has more than doubled itself within the past ten years [1896-1906].  But few people outside of the men employed on the yards have an adequate conception of the magnitude of this particular work and the number of men employed at good, substantial wages.

All the yards are located on the Rondout Creek, extending from Ponckhockie [a neighborhood at Kingston Point] to Eddyvllle (a community west of Kingston on Rondout Creek]. In order to give the readers of The Freeman an idea of what is being done at these yards a representative of this journal made a tour of the yards today and gleaned the following facts:

The leading boat building establishment is that of [Conrad] Hiltebrant at South Rondout, and this was the first one visited. At this yard at the present time 133 men are employed.

There are seven barges in course of construction and a large amount of repairing work is going on.  Two floating dry docks are used at the works, the largest being able to take on a vessel of 1,300 tons burthen [an old form of burden], and the second one accommodating a vessel of 800 tons.

At short intervals large cargoes of timber are received at the yard for the construction of all classes of freight-carrying boats. Yesterday the work of discharging a big cargo of timber was begun and there will be several more before the snow flies.

One cargo of lumber that is due at this yard almost any day now was shipped on a large sea vessel which left Puget Sound with its load on February 15th last. The failure of the vessel to arrive long before this is attributed to adverse weather.

Mr. Hiltebrant, on being asked what the prospects were for a busy winter’s work on the yard, replied, with a chuckle, that it was a little early to state positively, but things looked remarkably bright. The last few words mean a great deal, and it is dollars to doughnuts that, the yard will be busy all winter.

Mr. Hiltebrant volunteered the information that there is as much money paid out here weekly among the boat yards as there was on the Delaware & Hudson Canal in its palmiest days. So busy, indeed, has the work been at the yard since early spring that Mr. Hiltehrant has been compelled to refuse several orders for new boats.

Boatbuilders along Rondout Creek from Joan Dwyer, Dwyer BrothersMore good mechanics would be a welcome addition to his works and he needs them very much.  The workmen all hold Mr. Hiltebrant in high esteem. They know his kind and generous nature and every man is happy and contented with his lot.

The pioneer in the boat building business on the Rondout Creek is John J. Baisden, who has in active operation two yards, one at Sleightsburgh [in Port Ewen] and the other at Eddyville. Mr. Baisden began his boat building experience at Mongaup, Pa., in the year 1853.

On October 2, 1882, he opened a yard at Eddyvllle, which he has continued ever since, many fine boats having been launched from the ways there. In the year 1897 he branched out and established a yard at Sleightsburgh. which before long became his main plant.

Today Mr. Baisden has three barges in course of construction, two of which are well advanced toward completion. Over 40 men are at work on the two yards, which is small in comparison to the number which he usually employs.

At the Sleightsburgh yard much repairing is done, this part of the industry at his works being a little slack just now. During the past few years Mr. Baisden has built for the Old Dominion Steamship Company of New York ten large lighters and one steamer, and all his work has given the best of satisfaction to the Old Dominion people.

[Old Dominion was founded in Norfolk, Virginia, and operated between there and New York City‘s Hudson River Pier 26; In the early 1920s,  Old Dominion became a subsidiary of Eastern Steamship Lines.]

On the dock close by the South Rondout ferry on the Rondout side of the creek is located the boat yard of J. Rice & Son, the selling agents of the building firm being Schoonmaker & Rice [John D. Schoonmaker and probably Jacob Rice]. Here 45 men are employed, and no good mechanic who applies for work is turned away.  But for the delay in receiving timber fifty more men would have been at work on the yard some time ago.

At present there are three large barges in course of construction, and it was learned from Mr. Rice that the outlook for a busy winter’s work on the yard was very rosy. This firm expects, before navigation closes, to have over 1,000,000 feet of lumber on its yard, which will be used up in the building of boats before next spring.

Boat builders along Rondout Creek from Joan Dwyer, Dwyer Brothers (2)All the barges built at this yard are now constructed for Schoonmaker & Rice, who find a ready market for them in New York and elsewhere. On Saturday J. Rice & Son gave their employees, who were accompanied by their wives and sweethearts, an excursion down the river on the new house barge Central, recently completed at the works.

The tug J. D. Schoonmaker towed the barge.  The firm provided its guests with an abundance of refreshments and music was furnished by an orchestra. Every one on board had a delightful time. As the reporter was taking leave, Mr. Rice said: “Any man who understands the work of boat building will not be turned away.”

At Derrenbacher’s Corners [on Rondout Creek] near the foot of Ravine street can be found another boat building establishment. that of [Richard] Lenahan & Company, which now gives employment to 65 men.

On the stocks three big freight barges are being put together and as soon as they are finished and launched work on others will be begun, as the firm has several nice orders ahead which will keep the men busy for a long time.

There will be plenty of winter work at this yard. The firm has large consignments of timber on the way to the yard and for a concern that developed not such a long time ago it is doing remarkably well. First-class mechanics and sober and industrious laborers are ever welcome at this yard.

Adjoining the yard of J. Rice & Son is the Rondout boat yard conducted by [William] J. Turck Jr., and John Turck, with A. M. Cooper as manager. This yard was formerly known as the [Jefferson] McCausland ship building works. The present occupants have forty men busily engaged in building two barges, and have many orders ahead for the construction of others.

At this yard a large amount of repairing work is done, and the only trouble seems to be the shortage of help.  Good ship carpenters are needed badly. The specialty of this concern is the building of ice, coal and brick barges. A member of the firm said that the prospects for a busy winter’s work on the yard were exceedingly bright.

On Turck’s dock in Ponckhockie is still another boat building industry, that of Captain Dennis Donovan. Although not as large some of the others, it materially increases the number of men employed in this branch of industry. Mr. Donovan employs, on an average, 22 men, and would give work to more, but sometimes is hard pushed to retain his usual force.

Two barges are in course of construction on his yard, and he told the reporter that he had enough orders ahead to keep his men — and he would be pleased to engage more good mechanics — busy for a year to come. He said that the demand for freight barges at the present time was great, and the yards hereabouts could not turn them out fast enough.

The J. Graham Rose Freighting Line is the title of another boat building enterprise doing business on the upper island dock of the Delaware & Hudson Company. This firm employs at present on its yard 35 men. The building of coal and cement boats is the principal feature of its business.

In conjunction with this yard are the Consolidated Cement Company’s plants at Eddyville and Creek Locks, which give employment to 30 men or more. At the present time all the yards are busy.

Nearly a quarter of a million dollars is paid out annually by the boat builders of Rondout and vicinity to their workingmen, who find steady and lucrative employment in the yards that line both sides of the Rondout Creek from Ponckhockie to Eddyville.

Illustrations, from above: A. McMullen Marine Railway and Shipyard advertisement (Hudson River Maritime Museum); and a list of boat builders along Rondout Creek from Joan A. Dwyer’s Dwyer Brothers (2024).

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