Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hudson's Early Maritime Industries

From Anna Bradbury's History of the City of Hudson, published in 1908.

Ship-building was commenced in the first year of the settlement and was carried on extensively for many years. A number of vessels were brought here by the proprietors and in 1786 there were twenty-five, carrying twenty-five hundred tons owned here; more than were at that time owned in the City of New York. In 1784 Titus Morgan made the first application for the privilege of building a shipyard on the purchase, "adjoining the northernmost street," agreeing in consideration of a lease being granted him for four years, (afterward extended to ten), to open a street from Market street to the river passable for wagons, at his own expense." This was the opening of North Front street and the yard was situated at the foot of State street.

Ship yards were built immediately after by Obed Sears, Marshall Jenkins, John T. Lacy and others. As many as five large ships were known to be on the stocks in these various yards at one time.

Launching days were frequent and were always kept as a holiday. Booths were erected outside the yard for the sale of refreshments which consisted principally of Mrs. Newberry's gingerbread. Schools were dismissed, the people from the country came in, and with the greater part of the population of the city, would gather at the yard and often wait patiently for hours for the moving of the vessel, which was the signal for the firing of guns, and the cheers of the crowd.

In addition to the yards here, there were several at Athens, in which were built some of the largest vessels owned by Thomas and Marshall Jenkins.

The first ship launched was in 1785 by Jenkins and Gelston; it was of three hundred tons, called "The Hudson" and commanded by Captain Robert Folger.

The extensive commerce of the settlement gave great impetus to every branch of business, connected with the building and fitting out of ships. Sail-making, rope-making, painting, blacksmithing and many other industries furnished employment to a large number of men.

In 1785 Thomas Jenkins, Josiah Olcott and others, built a rope walk six hundred feet long, on the westerly side of Third and north of State street.

Many of these ropes were of such weight, as to require several yoke of oxen to convey them to the river to be shipped.

"The rope walk was ever with the boys a favorite Saturday resort, the processes of spinning and twisting amusing them, while its great length afforded an ample field for the foot-race." Many a staid citizen of a later day proved himself there "a fast young man."

Another industry connected with ships was sail making. This was conducted by Seth Jenkins and Stephen Paddock, in a hemp and ducking factory erected on Third street. They sent a portion of their manufactures to New York but the greater part were used in the sail lofts here.

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