The Old Skillypot - Purple Mountain Press


by Glendon L. Moffett

From "The Sleightsburgh Ferry":

"In April 1912, Governor Dix signed a bill authorizing and funding the building of a bridge across Rondout Creek. . . . By June 1914, the need to complete the bridge became undeniable. At one point there were 15 cars and half a dozen wagons waiting to cross the ferry, while the ferry could only handle four cars or wagons at a time. Furthermore, while it took about ten minutes to make a round trip, it could take nearly an hour to get across the creek. Still not much was done to complete the bridge until 1917. Lack of materials required by the war effort caused suspension of work on the bridge. . . . After the Sleightsburgh ferry was shut down in October 1922, its guide chain and main chain were removed and the entrances to the ferry slips on both sides were boarded up. The Riverside [known as the Skillypot] was stored temporarily at its Sleightsburgh slip, eventually to be beached on the Sleightsburgh Flats. John A. Fischer, a former alterman of Kingston, purchased the venerable craft in October 1923 on speculation, with no particular use for the boat in mind. Fischer hired the tug Earl to tow the Riverside to South Rondout and later had the ferryboat broken up for salvage."

Ferries plied the Hudson River and Rondout Creek from the earliest days. The first rowboats were replaced by horse-powered boats on the river and by chain ferries on the creek. They, in turn, were replaced by steam- and diesel-powered vessels.

The most beloved of the Rondout ferries was the Riverside (nicknamed the Skillypot), a chain ferry powered by a 12-horsepower engine. It began service in 1870 and was a fixture for more than fifty years. In addition to the Sleightsburgh, Hamiliton, and South Rondout ferries, steam yachts carried passengers and goods between points along the creek.

The first regular ferry service across the Hudson between Kingston and Rhinecliff (as it was called after 1861) began in the early 1700s, when Jacob Kipp and Moses Cantine operated under a patent from King George II. Between that time and 1942, when the Rhinebeck and Kingston Ferry Company ceased operations due to World War II gas rationing, the crossing saw ferryboats with names like Knickerbocker, Astoria, Wallabout, Lark, Rhine, Oriole, Transport, and Kingston. Following the war, the New York State Bridge Authority operated the ferryboat George Clinton until the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge opened in 1957, and ferryboats joined trolley cars as symbols of transportation in a bygone era.

Glendon Moffett specializes in transportation histories for the Mid-Hudson Valley. Other works published by Purple Mountain Press include Down to the River by Trolley: The History of the New Paltz Trolley Line, To Poughkeepsie and Back: The Story of the Poughkeepsie-Highland Ferry, and Uptown--Downtown; Horsecars--Trolley Cars: Kingston Urban Transportation, 1866-1930.

127 pages, illustrated, 6 x 9, appendices, index, 1997
$12.50 paperback--A Purple Mountain Press original

Copyright © 1998 Purple Mountain Press. All rights reserved.