As is well known, many a Hudson River steamship found its final resting place at the bottom of the river or run aground on the abundant rocks of its shorelines.
One such ship was the Thomas Cornell, a 200′ ship with a crew of 20. The wreck of the Thomas Cornell was no great story, these steamer wrecks and sinking stories had played out many times before on the river. The strange tale related to this ship had happened two years earlier, but let’s start at the end and work back.
On March, 27 of 1882, it was reported that the steamer Thomas Cornell had run aground on the rocks at Danskammer Point on the Hudson River (where the Central Hudson plant is today). The ship was making one of its regular night runs. On this night the ship departed Rondout at 7:30PM on the down run to New York City in a dense fog. The ship had left Marlborough Landing and traveled a few miles downriver at which point, the pilot thinking he had already passed Danskammer Point, ran her aground on that very same point. This was the ship’s second grounding. It had run aground opposite Crum Elbow in 1879.
The steamer John L. Hasbrouck, heading south from Poughkeepsie rescued the passengers and crew without any loss of life. The Hasbrouck was herself wrecked on a river reef at New Hamburgh in 1896.
The Thomas Cornell was one of two passenger ships owned by the Cornell Line that made daily runs from lower Manhattan to Rondout (Kingston) and back, carrying a mixed cargo of goods and passengers.
The strange story came about on Saturday evening, October 2, 1880.
The Thomas Cornell had pulled into Kingston on its upriver run. The ship was battened down for the night and a watchman placed aboard. An hour later the watchman heard doors opening and closing and footsteps up on the hurricane deck. The watchman made a search of the ship, found nothing and let the incident rest.
The next morning large amounts of blood were found on the upper deck around the wheelhouse. It was obvious that a desperate struggle had taken place, but the crew stated that they neither heard or saw anything unusual.
Some thought that perhaps some of the crew may have been murdered, but all crew had been accounted for. Nonetheless, the prevailing theory was that there was indeed foul play that occurred on the ship (based on the large amount of blood) and that the body/bodies must have been thrown overboard.
Local authorities launched an investigation and a dragging of the Rondout Creek to try and shed some light on this event, but nothing ever came of it and to this day, the mystery goes unsolved.