Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Anniversary of a Tragedy

Steve Walsh informed Gossips early this morning that today, September 3, is the 108th anniversary of the collision of Young America and George H. Power. Learning this inspired Gossips to turn to Fulton History to find out more. Among the discoveries was the following article from the Syracuse Evening Telegram for September 4, 1905, which explains what happened.
Rival Boats, Due in Hudson City Together, Crash While Racing in Channel.
Hudson, N.Y., Sept. 4--Three woman, one a New Yorker, returning from the funeral of her husband, were drowned in the Hudson river last evening when the little propeller Young America, on which they were passengers, was sunk by collision with the ferryboat George H. Power.
Others of the twenty-five passengers on the Young America narrowly escaped, for she sank almost immediately after being struck by the Power's paddlewheel.
The Victims
Mrs. Mary Bedell, 477 West One Hundred and Forty-second street, New York city.
Miss Sarah Brown, 20 years of, 24 Van Buren street, Brooklyn.
Mrs. Margaret McCabe, Coxsackie.
Mrs. Bedell and Mrs. McCabe were still alive when taken from the river, but all attempts to resuscitate them failed. Miss Brown's body has not been recovered.
The boats were racing in a narrow channel, near the Hudson lighthouse, in the middle of the river below the city.
The lighthouse is just below the flats which stretch along the river for a considerable distance at this point, and there is a dugway cut out between the lighthouse and the flats, which is used by vessels, this saving a wide sweep, around the lighthouse.
Tried to Cut Across.
Both boats were due here at the same time, and the Young American [sic] tried to cut across her larger rival's bows, it is reported. A great gash was cut in her and she soon sank.
That more were not drowned is due solely to the fact that the Young America's upper deck and the Power's main deck were practically on a level. More than a dozen escaped from the smaller boat by stepping from one deck to another before the boats drifted apart.
Mrs. Bedell and her son were returning from her husband's funeral at Coxsackie. Young Bedell could not swim, and he stood on the upper deck of the sinking boat, shouting to those on the ferry-boat to save her. Later in the evening he was taken to the Hudson Hospital, were he now is. He was nearly crazed by grief when he learned of his mother's death.
Miss Palmer, a cousin of Bedell, was rescued and taken to the City hospital here. She is suffering from shock. Miss Caldwell of Brooklyn, and Miss May Brown, Miss Sarah's sister, are also at the hospital, but it is expected they can leave today.
Small boats put out from here, as did a launch from the lighthouse, and rescued nine or ten persons, among them William S. Hallenbeck, mayor of Hudson; Carl Rowley of Brookyn and Prof. Henry H. Esselstyn of the Brooklyn Polytechnic institute.
None of the Young America's crew was drowned. Her pilot was Alexander Rainey, who three days ago left the Catskill Hudson steamer Isabella after a service of twenty-four years; Engineer Morris Webber and a deckhand named Leonard Edwards. Ernest McKnight of Athens was the Powers' pilot.
According to accounts of the collision in the New York Press and the New York Sun, there was a fourth victim: Jennie L. Bedell, daughter of Mrs. Mary Bedell and sister of Webster Bedell, the young man who survived.

The report in the New York Press, which identified Mary Bedell and Jennie L. Bedell as sisters rather than mother and daughter, alleged that no effort was made to rescue the drowning women.
. . . from all that has been gathered the crew of the craft did nothing to save them. Investigation is to be made to learn what became of the lifeboats, lifebelts and liferaft on the Young America, and to clear the mystery of why one of the several floating appliances on the vessel was not brought into use to float the young women for a few minutes until a rowboat had put back from the ferry.
The accident was witnessed by about 200 passengers on the Power, and there were pathetic scenes when it was seen the four girls were drowning. About half of the passengers were women, and they grew frantic at the tragic sight, some of them in the excitement actually battling with members of the crew to jump into the river in the frenzied hope of effecting a rescue. When at last the water sped smoothly over the heads of the lost girls a score of women fell fainting to the deck of the ferry, and the utmost excitement prevailed until the vessel was in Hudson. Then, when the passengers had left the Power, they gathered in the street and denounced the captain for having raced and thereby invited disaster. It was said by many that they would volunteer as witnesses in any action that might be taken.
Action was taken. Although Alexander Rainey, the pilot of Young America, claimed that the accident was unavoidable because he had been "thrown out of his reckoning by the tide," the Albany Evening Journal reported on September 16, 1905, that his license and that of the pilot of the George H. Power had been revoked.
Pilots of Young America and George H. Power Held Responsible.
Andrew Gaul and Robert B. Keller, local inspectors of steam vessels, this morning sent to Captain Ira Harris, at New York, their decision in the matter of the investigation into the collision of the Young America and the George H. Power. They revoked the licence of the pilots of both boats on the grounds that they were guilty of "reckless navigation and the violation of the rules of navigation."
The pilot of the Young America is Alexander Rainy [sic], of Athens, and the pilot of the other boat is Ernest McKnight, also of Athens. Rainy, the inspectors find, did not blow his whistle when approaching the George H. Power and both pilots failed to take the [illegible] precautions to prevent the collision, which resulted in the death of four persons.
As a footnote to this story, Hudson's first Mayor William Hallenbeck was rescued from the collision, but six months later, on March 6, 1906, The New York Times reported that he dropped dead on the way to his office in City Hall.

Photograph of the George H. Power ferry slip courtesy Historic Hudson

No comments:

Post a Comment