Newburgh Again: Newburgh-Beacon Ferry

Newburgh Beacon Ferry

Photo made March 14th, 1920


In this as in every winter since 1881. the Newburgh-Beacon Ferry has kept up regular service.

No other Ferry on the Hudson operates during the severe winters.

It would be more profitable if the ferry suspended operations during the season of heavy ice, but that would entail discomfort and exposure to its patrons if they had to cross the ice during the gales, storms, and zero temperature of the winter months, and besides, we have pardonable pride in our record, and intend to live up to it.

Newburgh Ferry Franchise Long Served As A Pattern

The New York Times
Published: March 23, 1930

IN a recent address Governor Roosevelt called attention to the Newburgh ferry, one of the most historically colorful ferries in America, the original franchise of which Governor cited as “an example which has been followed all the way down to within the last few years.” A search of the records discloses that the first ferry franchise at Newburgh was granted to Alexander Colden in 1743, as a result of his petition to the Governor of the Province for the right to operate such & service between Newburgh and Fishkill.
In Colden’s petition are found set forth the two principles, adequate services and nominal cost, which made the franchise an example to be commented upon nearly two centuries later. Colden promised to “provide boats and persons constantly to attend.” His charges were carefully detailed. For every “man and a horse” there will be a fare of 2 shillings and 6 pence; “but if three or more were together, for each man and horse, 2 shillings”; “for every calf or hog, 4 shillings”; “for every full barrel, 1 shilling”; “for every empty barrel, 4 pence,” and “for every pail of butter, 3 shillings.” Competition, historical papers indicate, tended to reduce Colden’s original rates, nominal as the rates of the first franchise may have seemed at the time. Near the end of the eighteenth century the Bogardus-Anderson ferry advertisement quoted a fare of “2 shillings for a horse and a man”; “a phaeton and pair, 12 shillings”; “a ton of iron, 8 shillings,” and “a hogshead of rum, 5 shillings.”
Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck, another pioneer ferry owner, built the first dock in Newburgh in 1731, a few miles south of the Hasbrouck property, which later became Washington’s headquarters. Fishkill, particularly, was a post of great importance in the Revolutionary campaigns of 1777 and 1778. A few hours before the British· sailed up the Hudson to burn Fishkill, two sloops, lying at the Hasbrouck dock, were dispatched to bring troops for reinforcing General Gates, thus escaping destruction. During the war years the Newburgh ferry was operated by the government.
The Colden ferry, after changing hands a. number of times, was bought by Thomas Powell, who, in 1850, passed it on to his daughter, Mrs. Frances E. L. Ramsdell, in whose family ownership of the ferry system has remained

The Hudson River Valley by John Reed

Copyright 1960

Newburgh. The old bell tower for the ferry.
The broad streets of Newburgh run down to the river where some of its last ferry boats shuttle.
Washington’s headquarters, Newburgh.

The Newburgh-Fishkill Ferry

History from the Newburgh-Fishkill Ferry as told by the New York State Bridge Authority:


          In 1743, an “official” ferry was established when Alexander Colden received a royal charter from King George II to carry passengers and goods for profit. The American Revolution brought national importance to the ferry, making it possible to keep open communication between patriots in New England and the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
          George Washington and both John and Samuel Adams used the ferry to lead armies. By the nature of the territory, George Washington was convinced to set up headquarters in the area before the Battle of Yorktown and to use the site to oversee British withdrawal following Cornwallis’ surrender. 
          The right to operate ferries between Beacon and Newburgh was bestowed upon the Ramsdell family by the heirs of Alexander Colden. They ran the ferry through the Steamboat Era until 1956 when NYSBA took over ferry services. When NYSBA took over the Beacon ferry in 1956, it had been in poor shape for years and soon became the last ferry route north of New York City. 
           The last ferries, the Dutchess, the Orange, (both built by Newburgh shipyards) and the Beacon maintained ferry service until Sunday, November 3, 1963, one day after the opening of the original Newburgh-Beacon Bridge.  Shortly after 5 P.M. that day, the Dutchess and the Orange met at mid-river, signaled a final salute and formally retired the Newburgh-Beacon ferry into history after 220 years.