Nightboat ONTEORA at homeport -Catskill, New York c.1903
In June of 1985 I received a letter from a retired steamboat Captain named William O. Benson. He heard about my legacy relative to building models of the famous steamboats that operated on the Hudson River. The letter contained an article and photos of a nightboat that ran for the Evening Line in Catskill, New York. Captain Benson was from Kingston, but he had an association with another former Captain who lived in Athens, New York. His name was Ira Cooper.
The letter and photos were of the vessel ONTEORA which I didn't anticipate receiving, but felt that Mr. Benson sent them in hopes that I would make this steamboat one of my projects.
Five years passed since that letter and I received a phone call from a prominent Albany attorney who referred me to another attorney who was interested inhaving a model built of ONTEORA. That individual was Stephen E. Cooper of Nassau, New York -the great grandson of Captain Ira Cooper. After carefully researching the steamboat, I went to work on the plans which took a month to draft -finally building the 1/8 scale model. When completed, we celebrated the finish with a trip to New York's South Street Seaport...my first visit.
Three years passed since that event and I received a call from the great grandson and was told by him that a child was delivered on the ONTEORA, 69 years prior, and that the adult was married and living in Catskill where the vessel once operated. Her name was Onteora Freleigh Whittaker.
Mr. Cooper told me that she was delivered early Thanksgiving morning in 1907 onboard the nightboat by his great grandfather, Ira Cooper. She was named Onteora Freleigh, the daughter of Suzette and Barney W. Freleigh of New York City.
Here in these photos, now married, Mrs. Freleigh-Whittaker poses with the steamboat model of the replica vessel where she was born. She also stands next to Stephen Cooper in the supporting photo at his law office in Nassau, NY.
The Hudson River steamboat model ONTEORA was an interesting build with an interesting history. The research was tedious and somewhat challenging since plans weren't readily available.
T.S. Marvel Company at one time had many plans on their steamboats, but over time they were either lost or discarded. I used some of the older, contemporary plans to get the right specs for the hull and superstructure and used my expertise on cabin configurations to achieve the proper balance of design.
The results were both phenominal and accurate...with
all the glory going to The Lord!
ONTEORA was termed a beautiful vessel by both passengers and rivermen. Operating on the Hudson
River as a medium size steamboat, she was the first iron hull vessel owned by the Catskill
and New York Evening Line. Built at the T.S. Marvel Shipyard in 1898, her measurements were 236 feet with a beam of 35 feet and a draft of 10 feet. For many years she ran in line with the steamboat KAATERSKILL. She was considered a fast vessel with fine accommodations for passengers and freight. The ONTEORA continued service until 1917.
Operating as an excursion boat in the Lower Hudson Valley, she caught fire at Bear Mountain and was destroyed on the river in 1936 -ending her prolific career.
Hudson River Nightboat ONTEORA c.1906, Wood Model
ONTEORA c.1906 -Wood Steamboat Model, Port View
For more information about commissioning a fine quality Hudson River or Northeast steamboat model email: Caseships@yahoo.com or call 1-774-757-7137. You may also visit http:// www.rexstewartoriginals.com.