In this highly romanticized painting by Hudson River School artist Robert Weir, Henry Hudson and his crew are depicted landing at Verplanck Point in Westchester County. Considerably south of Albany, this image is nevertheless typical of 19th century depictions of Hudson's voyages. "Landing of Henry Hudson, 1609, at Verplanck Point, New York" by Robert Weir, 1835. Public domain.
Since we are staying in Albany for the day, we thought we should take some time to discuss the very earliest history of Albany and environs - its Indigenous history.
Our North Hudson Voyage travels through Mohican lands, which includes Albany and the Capitol District. Mohican people came out to meet Henry Hudson as he approached the Albany region in late September, 1609. The Half Moon ran aground several times attempting to continue north. In one of their more peaceful encounters with Indigenous residents of the river valley, the crew of the Half Moon eat and trade with Mohican people near Albany before heading back downriver to return to the Netherlands. Despite this peaceful encounter, Henry Hudson and his crew maintained a prejudice against the Indigenous people of the valley. In the surviving excerpts from his journal, Hudson notes that he "dare not" trust them. His first mate, Robert Juet, indicates in his surviving log that on September 20, 1609, "And our Master and his Mate determined to trie some of the chiefe men of the Countrey, whether they had any treacherie in them." The crew got them drunk on distilled liquor to see what they would do, but the incident caused no violence from either side and the crew continued to trade with the Mohican people the next day. Over the next few days, smaller boats headed miles upriver, but the waters north of present-day Albany were too shallow for the Half Moon to continue. Disappointed in his failure to find the Northwest passage, Hudson and his crew headed back down river.
When Hudson returned to the Netherlands, he reported good timber and fur trading and a navigable river and claimed the valley for the Dutch, despite it already being inhabited. In 1614, the Dutch East India Company sent Adriaen Block to verify Hudson's reports and map the country. That same year, they established a trading post at what came to be called Castle Island.
The area now referred to as Westerlo Island was once five separate islands: Castle Island/Westerlo Island, Cabbage Island, Bogart Island, Marsh Island, and Beacon Island. In 1614 the Dutch built Fort Nassau under the command of Hendrick Corstiaensen on Castle Island, but the fort was destroyed by flooding in 1618. Later it became part of the Rensselaerswyck patroonship and was farmed. In 1624 the replacement to Fort Nassau, Fort Orange, was built in what is now present-day Albany. A dispute with the Rensselaers meant that Fort Orange, was considered separate from the patroonship.
The fur trading post at Castle Island and those established by the Dutch throughout the Hudson Valley depleted the wildlife stock in the region. Tensions arose between the Mohican and their western neighbors the Mohawk as both were competing for dwindling resources. The coming of the Dutch changed the Mohican way of life as the drive for furs meant increasing dependence on European goods. Introduced diseases like smallpox, diptheria, and scarlet fever decimated indigenous tribes throughout the Eastern seaboard, but as they had some of the earliest contacts with Europeans, Lenape/Delaware and Mohican people of the Hudson Valley were among the most affected. By the 1700s the Mohican had been pushed from the Western shores of the Hudson River, eastward into present-day Massachusetts and Connecticut.
As Dutch settlers moved into the area, European ideas of land use meant that Mohican people were often pushed off of their lands unwillingly, even when a "sale" had taken place. Moving eastward, many Mohican people settled in the Housatonic River Valley. An English missionary named John Sergeant came to live with them in the 1730s and by 1738 he had convinced them to allow him to build a mission, which the Europeans called Stockbridge. Many Mohicans converted to Christianity and were thereafter called "Stockbridge Indians."
Many indigenous people, including the Mohican, Oneida, and Tuscarora fought in the American Revolution on the side of the colonists. But their rewards for doing so were few and far between. The Mohican in particular found themselves returning from war, having lost many warriors in battle, to find that plans were underway to remove them from Stockbridge, their own village, where Europeans had decided they were no longer welcome. They found refuge for a time with the Oneida, who in the 1780s invited them to their lands in the Mohawk River Valley. But the reprieve was not to last. By the turn of the 19th century Indian removal policies in New York had begun.
Throughout the first half of the 19th century the Mohican people moved and were removed several times, ultimately settling in Wisconsin, on negotiated Ho-Chunk and Menominee territory. Joined by Munsee people there, they became known as the Stockbridge-Munsee tribe.
Having weathered the turbulent and destructive 19th century, the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, like many Indigenous people, still exist. Although most continue to live in Wisconsin, they make frequent trips back to the Hudson Valley to visit their ancestral lands.
If you would like to learn more about their history, please visit the Stockbridge-Munsee website, which provided much of the information for this post.
And as we travel through Mohican territory, let us remember that the history of this region did not start with the Dutch.
We had a great Day Two of the North Hudson Voyage. Fair winds helped Apollonia make the rest of the journey north to Albany and we made the 30 mile trip in just a day!
Map of today's journey:
Working on Apollonia's galley:
We saw our friends from Riverkeeper out on the water:
How the solar panels on Solaris work!
We saw the tugboat Betty June out on her shakedown cruise!
We spent the evening rafted up together with Clearwater at Scarano's Boatyard in Albany. See you tomorrow!
As we depart Catskill and pass along the Catskill Mountains, we thought we'd share this wonderful video about the Hudson River School of Art, which was inspired by the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River.
Do you have a favorite Hudson River School artist or painting? Post it in the comments!
By 1845, when the above image was created, Catskill was already a tourist destination. Popularized by the works of Hudson River School artists, most notably Thomas Cole, the Catskill mountains quickly became the playground of the wealthy and artistic. The landing at Catskill was an important port for packet sloops and passenger steamboats alike.
Thomas Cole's 1844 painting, "A View of the Two Lakes and Mountain House, Catskill Mountains, Morning," is a typical example of the Hudson River School of Art. A smocked painter stands in the foreground for scale, and wild, gnarled trees and tumbled boulders emphasize the wilderness. And yet, in the distance, perched on the edge of the wilderness, is some civilization - the Catskill Mountain House.
Opened in 1824 near Palenville, the Catskill Mountain House remained in operation for over a century - its last season was in 1941. The hotel was burned in the 1960s by the NYS DEC to conform to requirements for the state's "forever wild" clause which prohibited structures on land deemed "forever wild." Today, you can visit the site of the Catskill Mountain House and take in the breathtaking views that inspired generations of artists.
If you'd like to learn more about Thomas Cole, you can visit his home in Catskill, now a National Historic Site.
We had a great first day out on the water, despite the lack of wind to fill Apollonia's sails. Today was the summer solstice, so Solaris had plenty of fuel!
Here was our morning muster, albeit sideways! We're still learning how best to share the Hudson River with you.
We had some cool moments on the river. Because there wasn't enough wind, Solaris towed Apollonia part of the way into port.
A fan took some great photos off of Malden:
We passed under the Rip Van Winkle Bridge just as the Juneteenth celebration and march was happening!
We ended the day safely in port at Catskill. Here's the evening summary in video format:
If you have enjoyed this first day of our North River Voyage, please donate by the mile or make a donation of any amount to support our virtual education programs and even more videos and photos. Stay tuned tomorrow for the next adventure!
It's the first day of RiverWise! Solaris and Apollonia are on their way to Catskill, and they'll pass by several lighthouses along the way up to and returning from Albany. We thought we'd share this documentary film from ABC News in the early 1980s. Thankfully, all seven of these remaining lighthouses have since been saved and many have had major restoration work done. But it's good to see how far we've come!
Can you snag a photo of Solaris or Apollonia as they go by the Rondout and Saugerties Lighthouses today?
This beautiful Hudson River School painting by Rondout resident Jervis McEntee illustrates the mouth of Rondout Creek c. 1840 (note the tiny Rondout Lighthouse at the entrance to the creek - it was built in 1838). You'll note that the wide vista entrance to the creek is much different than it is today. Sloops and schooners were able to approach at a wider angle, allowing them to sail right up the creek.
In this detail, you can better see the entrance to the creek and the lighthouse. The tall, full sails of a sloop propel it out toward the Hudson, where a steamboat and other sailing vessels go by. The two story Rondout Lighthouse looks tiny in comparison.
Here is another view of the Rondout Lighthouse in 1845. The perspective is not quite the same, although you'll note the ferry landing at right and the inscription "Delaware & Hudson Canal" near the lighthouse.
The lighthouse was replaced in 1867 and the site moved slightly to the south. But as steamboat towing traffic increased, and the use of sloops and schooners decreased (but did not disappear) in the latter half of the 19th century, the mouth of the Rondout Creek needed "improvement." Deeper drafted vessels like larger passenger steamboats and the new screw-propelled tugboats needed a deeper river channel. Although Rondout Creek is a natural deep water port, the combination of tidal action and silt from spring floods had left the mouth of the creek shallower than desired.
In 1877, the Army Corps of Engineers began a dredging and improvement project that included the construction of breakwater sea walls far out into the Hudson.
Where previously, shallower-drafted vessels could take a wide approach into the creek, they now were blocked by the installation of the breakwaters. Completed in 1880, with the dredge spoils dumped behind the walls, the "shallows" were now much shallower, and impassable by all but the smallest of vessels. The narrow approach made it much more difficult for sailing vessels to get in and out of the creek, and even some steamboat captains had trouble.
In addition, the 1867 lighthouse - marked on the map above - was now well behind the entrance to the creek. Red stake lights were installed at each side of the mouth and on the north curve of the breakwater walls, but boatmen complained the lighting was inadequate. In 1915 the old lighthouse was replaced with a new one, right on the north point of the breakwater walls.
As Solaris and Apollonia leave Rondout on the North Hudson Voyage, we will pass along those breakwater walls, still in place and still maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Fair winds and bright sun - the adventure begins!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“RiverWise” Albany to Kingston Hudson River Trip
Maritime Museum’s Solaris and Apollonia Partner on Educational Voyage
Kingston, NY – Are you RiverWise? The Hudson River Maritime Museum, in partnership with the Schooner Apollonia, is pleased to announce a new educational initiative to bring the Hudson River to the general public through virtual programs. “RiverWise: A North Hudson Voyage,” brings Solaris and Apollonia together for a fleet sail from Albany, NY to Kingston, NY between June 20 and June 26, 2020. The vessels leave the museum docks on Saturday, June 20, 2020.
Introducing the general public to the realities of sailing on the Hudson River, its historic sites and landmarks, and the fascinating stories of people past and present, “RiverWise” seeks to help everyone better understand the river that defines our valley.
Members of the public can follow along via the voyage website – www.hudsonriverwise.org – tracking the boats themselves, reading the daily Captains’ Log, and learning more about the history and maritime heritage of the Hudson River through interactive maps, educational videos, documentary films, and more. Livestreamed footage from each boat will also be available on the museum’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/hudsonrivermaritimemuseum.
All public programs will be done virtually. When the vessels are in port, no shore programs will be provided and visitors will please refrain from gathering in groups at port to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The public is encouraged to view the vessels on their voyage from suggested public parks available on the RiverWise website. Solaris and Apollonia may encounter partner vessels like the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Riverkeeper’s patrol boat the Ian R. Fletcher, and the newly launched historic 1903 racing sloop Eleanor along the way.
The Hudson River Maritime Museum plans future voyages to the Mid-Hudson and South Hudson portions of the river. If you would like to support these ventures, including our planned series of documentary films, please visit www.hudsonriverwise.org/support for more information on sponsorship and donation opportunities.
About the Hudson River Maritime Museum. Located along the historic Rondout Creek in downtown Kingston, N.Y., the Hudson River Maritime Museum is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the maritime history of the Hudson River, its tributaries, and related industries. HRMM opened the Wooden Boat School in 2016 and the Sailing & Rowing School in 2017. In 2019 the museum launched the 100% solar-powered tour boat Solaris. www.hrmm.org
About Solaris. Solaris was built by the Hudson River Maritime Museum’s restoration crew under the direction of Jim Kricker. Solaris is the only US Coast Guard-approved 100% solar-powered passenger vessel in the United States. It does not plug in. Designed by marine architect Dave Gerr from a concept developed by David Borton, owner of Sustainable Energy, Solaris is commercial in design, meeting all U.S. Coast Guard regulations for commercial passenger-carrying vessels. www.hrmm.org/meet-solaris
About the Schooner Apollonia. The Apollonia is the Hudson Valley’s largest carbon-neutral merchant vessel. Powered by the wind and used vegetable oil, Apollonia can transport her cargo sustainably. This mission-driven, for-profit business has a transparent and reproducible business model - to provide carbon-neutral transportation for shelf-stable local foods and products. Connecting the traditions of slow food, fair trade, and carbon neutrality, we will inspire and train a new generation of Hudson River stewards and create green living-wage jobs in the growing river-based economy. www.schoonerapollonia.com
This Captains' Log is kept by the captains and crew of Solaris and Apollonia and staff of the Hudson River Maritime Museum.