Sunday, April 28, 2013

On the Waterfront . . . A Hundred Years Ago

Ray Clapper, who provided Gossips with the news item from November 4, 1888, that defined the location of Standard Oil, also provided documentation about the death of Andrew Houghtaling, the manager of the "Hudson station of the Standard Oil company." Houghtaling died when he was struck by a train on Sunday, December 13, 1914. The account of his death, which appeared the next day in the Hudson Evening Register, gives insight not only into the location of Standard Oil in relation to other buildings on the waterfront but also into how the people of Hudson lived and went about their business in relation to the industrial waterfront of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Manager of Standard Oil Plant Here Failed to Hear the Approaching Train.

Instantaneous death came to Andrew Houghtaling, of 211 Allen street, manager of the Hudson branch of the Standard Oil company, about 11:30 o'clock Sunday morning. With his head bowed somewhat, Houghtaling was walking on the northbound track of the New York Central railroad, and just east of the lower plant of the New York and New England Cement company, when a fast train struck him. Houghtaling was hurled to one side, and the train brought to a stop some distance above.

According to his friends, it was Mr. Houghtaling's custom each Sunday morning to go to his company's stables a short distance below the cement plant to attend to some chores. He had evidently concluded these duties and was returning toward the station when the fatal accident occurred.

It is probable that deep meditation caused him to fail to note the approaching train from the rear, the shrill whistle, which the railroad crew state was sounded, or the ringing of the bell at the cement crossing. The locomotive apparently struck him on the head and shoulder, for the neck was broken, a shoulder blade fractured and the rear of the head stove in. Dr. Bradley was immediately called, and he pronounced it instant death.

Mr. Houghtaling, who was about 58 years of age, was a very popular man, who made and retained friends by his honesty and integrity. He had been in the employ of the Standard Oil people for many years, and having always performed his duties conscientiously, was held in high esteem by his superiors. On two occasions, it is said, previous to Sunday he had been in railroad accidents, each time being injured. It was only about a year ago that the wagon upon which he and a little boy were riding was struck by a train on the crossing opposite the car wheel shops here. . . .

Houghtaling's widow, Mary Best Houghtaling, sued Standard Oil for compensation. The statement of the claim provides more insight into how things were on the waterfront a hundred years ago.

The case was heard in the the spring of 1915. The report about the hearing, which appeared in the Hudson Evening Register on April 1, 1915, contributes further to the picture of life in the First Ward in the early 20th century.

Arises Over Death of Andrew Hotaling, 
Killed on Railroad Tracks.

. . . Several days ago the case came up here and witnesses testified. An adjournment was taken until to-day, when testimony was completed. Superintendent Bentley of this district, declared that Hotaling at the time of his death was employed by the Standard Oil company; that he met his death on the New York Central tracks, where he had no business to be. Bentley asserted that he had forbade Hotaling from walking on the railroad tracks to and from his work, but that the company issued no orders to that effect. Besides this, the witness stated, there was a road provided for employees, that crossed the tracks, about opposite the car wheel shop.

Edward J. MacArthur, of this city, appearing for the claimants, inferred that there might have been a car consigned to the local station of the oil company, which necessitated Hotaling going on the tracks. William Ballinger, of Albany, who has charge of the shipping of oil in this district, declared that at the time there was no car in Hudson with which Hotaling had any business.

William Tompkins, employed by the Standard Oil company here, stated he had examined the books and found that there was no duty to be performed by Hotaling on the day he was killed that would take him on the railroad tracks. Mr. MacArthur questioned him about walking on the tracks. Witness admitted he walked on them quite frequently. The road was muddy some time. However, he said, when Hotaling was killed the road was frozen up. Mr. MacArthur interrogated witness about short cuts from the station to Hotaling's boarding place on Allen street, intimating that by crossing the tracks some distance below car wheel shops, it would be quicker to reach his home by going up Alger's hill.

Michael F. Carbine, who for about nine years was employed at the Standard Oil company's plant here, gave information relative to the location of the station. On cross-examination he said he considered the Alger hill was a short cut.

A daughter of Hotaling testified that she had seen him come up the Alger hill several times.

The contestants . . . contended that Hotaling was not killed while in the course of his occupation; that he met his death on the railroad, some distance above the Standard Oil company's plant, and where he should not have been.

It is the contention of the claimants that Mr. Hotaling was pursuing his duties when killed. A casualty company is contesting the claim.

Alger's hill no doubt refers to the stairs at South Second Street that lead up from Cross Street to Allen Street. Charles C. Alger, who owned the Hudson Iron Works, lived in the brick Gothic Revival house (now painted yellow) that stands at the top of the hill. Alger owned the house, which he called "The Hermitage," from 1858 until 1876, when he divorced his wife, moved her and the children to 150 Allen Street (now 330 Allen), and departed for Connecticut (with a new and younger wife). Four decades later though, people apparently were still using his name to refer to the stairs up the hill. 

The car wheel shop was the Allen Paper Car Wheel Company, established in 1873 by Richard N. Allen. The 1884 Sanborn map, reproduced below, shows the location of the Allen Paper Car Wheel Company to be across the railroad tracks and slightly north of the Hudson Iron Works.   


  1. So many lessons in this story.

    First, walking the tracks in a daze ... never recommended.

    But if you do walk the tracks, and if things go horribly wrong, don't try and sue a gigantic company over it. Rapport & Myers, Monahan and Crawford will all swear that the company was never there.

    1. ^ Oh my god,that is hysterical!! Thank you unheimlich for the laugh!!

  2. ...along with the denials issuing from those Mensa members Don Moore and Cheryl Roberts.

  3. Mr. Whitbeck is a Partner in Rapport Myers, and Ms. Roberts is "Of Counsel" for the firm.

    So instead of doing what she was asked to do (a title search), she brought in her colleague to condescend to us about local history. In effect, she told our legislators to go to hell. (Nothing new about that!)

    Eventually it will dawn on Mayor Hallenbeck that voters identify Roberts with him, period. He'll feel that heat too, but only after we turn it up. So what are we waiting for?

  4. Do you smell something burning? Somebody leave the fire under the kettle on?

  5. Thank you Gossips for covering this Standard Oil saga, so thoroughly.
    All of your research and also what was contributed by your readers,
    is very appreciated
    Thank you Mr. Roy Clapper, for providing such great historic material.
    Besides being such fascinating insights into more of the history of Hudson,
    all of this has been so supportive of Hudson's community. We are at this turning point for our riverfront and the very long term consequences of excepting this "AS IS " land deal with Holcim(US),Inc.; for their terms for 50 years.
    I hope that the very people We entrusted , with our best interests,by electing them to Office..will pay heed and not recklessly follow these appointed City Attorneys,we pay, who just continue to demonstrate, that the citizen's best interests..are not theirs.

  6. Well Said PA.

    Thank you Gossips and all involved shining a light on truth while our Attorneys hold us hostage for their overlords.

  7. Yes, how to get free of the overlords?

    I've had first-hand experience - and I'm probably not the only one - in 3rd World countries whose overlords kept the people in check with violence.

    In Columbia County it's done with lawyers, but we still behave as if we're scared.

    Any response that compromises our rage at being treated this way, and at letting the ecology we're meant to be stewards of be so compromised, is a total luxury.

    People who stand up to corruption elsewhere in the world aren't just dealing with corrupt lawyers.

    But what does it take in our more "evolved" society to break up this tight cluster of lawyers (Rapport Myers), title searchers (Monahan), engineers (Crawford), politicians (the usual suspects) and industry (Holcim, O&G, et al) so that residents have an opportunity to decide their own fates, and what we want done with our money.

    We are certainly talking about corruption, but the challenge for citizen lawyers is to make a criminal complaint that sticks.

  8. If you follow the circular path the money makes, you'll get dizzy.
    1 Riparian

  9. Weeks behind on Gossip's entries and catching up this evening, so perhaps I missed explanation of a detail I'm curious about: the change in spelling of the name Houghtaling to Hotaling during the course of these events. Does anyone know more?

    1. Hi, Reusethematerialgirl--There's probably not a deep dark secret here. The two spellings appeared concurrently in newspaper articles and documents. Hotaling was undoubtedly an Anglicized and more phonetic (by English sound-letter correspondences) spelling of the name. The first vowel sound in Hotaling is long o--rarely in English represented by the letters ough (though is the only example that springs to mind).