Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pratt Stories-The Bartram Family XII (Addendum)

In a response to my Bartram Family XII message of Sunday October 5 my daughter Karen sounded slightly disappointed that I did not speculate as to the watercraft on which the Bartrams would have traveled during their 1818 trek from Connecticut to Oneida County, New York. Can't have that, so here goes:
I believe the family would have boarded three different craft, one to sail from Black Rock Harbor through Long Island Sound to the east River and down the East River to the Hudson River. The East River is a navigable tidal channel between the Sound and New York Bay. (Grandson Adam Tury lived in an apartment on an island in the East River one summer a couple of years ago). There would have been another craft for going up the Hudson to the mouth of the Mohawk and a third for going upstream on the Mohawk. Because there would be no 19th Century equivalent of Sears, Roebuck or Home Depot or Tractor Supply waiting for them in central New York the vessels would have to be large enough to accommodate their household goods and tools etc. Since the only watercraft that could make it up those final two creeks would be canoes we can assume off-loading at Utica.
As a sea captain himself, Ebenezer would be very well informed about ships on Long Island Sound. Maybe he had the new skipper of his ship Anne take him and his family and stuff as far as the Hudson.
The trip up the Hudson would have been by a craft known as the Hudson River Sloop. The sloop is of Dutch origin. In its simplest form it was a vessel of one mast, carrying a mainsail, jib, and generally a topsail. The following is from "Sloops of the Hudson" by Verplanck and Collyer (1908): 
"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 commerce on the river and the Sound. At first she was fitted with "lee boards" after  the fashion of Holland...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 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 was generally carried...The quarterdeck afforded space for cabin accommodations for the altogether the packet sloop was far from being an uncomfortable means of conveyance."
These sloops were also used on Long Island Sound, so maybe an influential ex-captain like Ebenezer could have arranged for a ride all the way from Black Rock Harbor to the Mohawk on a single sloop.
On the Mohawk they would have boarded a so-called Schenectady Boat or Durham Boat. These were double-ended, open-hold boats with partial decks fore and aft. They had cleated "walking boards" along each side for use by polemen and were fitted with a long sweep for steering. They had a hinged mast that could be raised to hold a sail if the wind was favorable. These boats were poled upstream with 18 foot iron-pointed poles (or downstream with long oars). They were flat-bottomed with no keels.
Such boats were used on the Mohawk from about 1790 until the Erie Canal opened in 1825 and were the first kind of boats used on that canal. It was a heavy duty river transport vessel, patterned after the Deleware River ore boats used by George Washington in 1776 to cross the Deleware to attack the Hessians in Trenton.
When the Bartrams sailed up the Hudson past Catskill, New York, they crossed the path that the Woodruff family used to migrate from Litchfield, Connecticut to the hamlet of Triangle in Broome County, New York. In 1813 my great-great-grandfather Levi Woodruff  crossed the Huson at this point and took the so-called Catskill Turnpike to their new homestead. In 1822 my great-great-great grandfather Philosebius Woodruff, the Revolutionary War veteran, followed..
By the way, don't you know that 7 year old Henry had the time of his young life on that trip?

Emailed Oct. 6

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