Our Tug is Built to Withstand the Test of Time

On November 1, 1925 our tug boat is commissioned.

In just over a year it will become the mighty Tug DeWitt Clinton.

Theodore D. Wells, a naval architect in NYC completed the design. The Race Brothers Corp in East Boothbay, ME built the tug boat.  An inscription can be viewed on the back of the photo below: “Photo of New York State Tug Boat made March 10, 1927.” It is believed that the photo was taken at the East Boothbay shipyard just before delivery.

Tug DeWitt Clinton 1927
First known photo of Tug DeWitt Clinton.  Courtesy of NYS Archives. 

According to the vessel inventory cards, Tug DeWitt Clinton was purchased by New York State on April 14, 1927 for $37,950.  The Hull # 22611 tug was 45′ long with a 14′- 4″ beam and 30 ton displacement, 11 ton net.  It had living quarters for four crew members and was originally fitted with a 4 cylinder, 125 horse powered, Kahlenberg semi-diesel engine.

Tug DeWitt Clinton.

We do not know when the above photo was taken.  Note the crew member’s head on the starboard side just behind the quarter bitts!

In 1958-59 Tug DeWitt Clinton was re-engined at the Syracuse canal shops. The superstructure was changed from its original mid-house arrangement to its current configuration.  We do not have an exact date but that change may have occurred in the late 50’s.

A 350hp Cummins engine was installed in 1996.

Current photo of Tug DeWitt Clinton.

Ninety-two years later, Tug DeWitt Clinton is the oldest tug working on canal maintenance and still a viable mainstay on the western end of the Erie Canal.  The Tug still houses living quarters for the crew. An 850a Cummins engine currently powers Tug DeWitt as it works its way along the canal.  Every day!

Many thanks to the NYS Archives for the original 1927 photo and accompanying information about Tug DeWitt Clinton’s history.  


Just off NYS Thruway exit 28 (Fonda/ Fultonville) sits Tug Urger inside the Canal Corp fenced in area.  As you can note from these untouched photos, it has been sitting here for awhile.

Rear view of Tug Urger.


Front view of TugUrger.  Notice the name has been removed from the front, just under the windows.

If you haven’t yet signed the petition to save Tug Urger, there is still time.  Please don’t wait.  You can follow this link to the Preservation League of New York  to sign and learn more about the Urger and their campaign to keep our historic canal boats afloat.

Tug Gotham

This evening Tug Gotham passed by Spencerport on its way to Buffalo.  The Tug is from Connecticut.


Tug Gotham begins to pass Tug DeWitt Clinton, who is docked for the night waiting for Saturday’s Spencerport Heritage Festival.


Tug Gotham approaches the lift bridge as it travels on to Buffalo.

For more information on Tug Gotham and others, you can go to the “Travels of Tug44” website by clicking on this link.



DeWitt Clinton Passes the Glass Barge

The DeWitt Clinton is heading to Spencerport to participate in the Spencerport Heritage Day at the Depot and Canal Museum.

The Tug had to travel through Brockport to get to Spencerport and this time passed by the Glass Barge (in the background), Lois McClure, C.L. Churchill and South Street Seaport Museum tug.  They are part of the Corning Glass tour and are parked at Brockport’s canal welcome center.



Events like these are big draws for small canal communities. The Glass Barge is sold out for the entire weekend. It will then move on to Spencerport.

The Spencerport Depot and Canal Museum is sponsoring the August 18th Spencerport Heritage Day. It is from 11am – 4pm in Spencerport. Stop by and say hello to the Tug DeWitt Clinton if you attend. The Tug enjoys meeting new people, especially Erie Canal enthusiasts.

Http:www.spencerportdepot.com/events for more information.

Glass Barge Passes By


The DeWitt Clinton was working in Hulberton today when the Corning Museum Glass Barge passed by.  The barge was being pushed by a tug from the South Street Seaport Museum.  Its next stop is Brockport.


Tug DeWitt is putting legs under the Hulberton lift bridge.


A group of bicyclists from Connecticut and Kentucky stopped to meet Tug DeWitt.  They are on vacation traveling the length of the Erie Canal and stopping in small canal towns along the way.


And here is the Lois McClure passing by Tug DeWitt.  This schooner is a replica of an 1862 canal sailing boat.  It is part of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and is accompanying the Corning Glass Barge on its journey across the canal.

Click on this link to learn more about the Lois McClure. 

Who would have thought so much was going on in the little hamlet of Hulberton on a Monday?


Cousins on the Canal


Cousins Jim and David pause for a photo on Tug DeWitt Clinton. 

The DeWitt Clinton was busy putting in a typical day of work in the small hamlet of Hulberton when it was surprised by a visit from the captain’s cousin! Jim was looking for a new bike and stopped by Trailside Bicycles & Mercantile. The bike shop is in a perfect spot directly on the canal between Buffalo and Rochester and is a destination for people looking for bicycles, accessories and service.

Read this 2013 Orleans Hub article for more information about Trailside Bicycles & Mercantile.

If you spend any time at all on the canal you will notice many bicyclists.  Parks & Trails New York and Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor identify increasing use of the Erie Canal by bicyclists for exercise, travel and heritage tourism. Some bicyclists travel the canal in organized groups and tours while others travel on their own.

Hopefully Jim found the perfect bicycle and will start traveling the Erie Canal along with Tug DeWitt Clinton.





The DeWitt Clintons


Erie Canal exhibit at NYS Museum in Albany. 

Understanding and appreciating history is all about questioning and attempting to discover the truths of the past. Then, armed with this knowledge, going forward –  asking more questions as the past guides us into the present. Given our logistical, cultural and socio-economical attachment to the Erie Canal we are moved to ask; who was this steadfast canal enthusiast DeWitt Clinton and why is our favorite tug named in his honor?

First, the past . . .

Some would think the answer is obvious as we all know that DeWitt Clinton, twice the Governor of New York (1817 – 1822 and 1825-1828), was the primary political force in support of building what many called “Clinton’s Folly”. And thus, at the very least – why not name a boat after him? But there was so much more to his motivation, and we now know it was never a folly; in fact far from it. The canal became a driving force in the political, economic and social evolution of the Empire State, which then became one of the major commercial and cultural centers of early 19thcentury America.

Mr. Clinton was a lifelong New York politician, raised in a family of early American politicians. But he was also a fervent naturalist, and for his times very much an economic and political visionary. Contrary to the politics of the day which were dominated by regionalism he was able to see beyond New York and promoted the belief “that infrastructure improvements could transform American life, drive economic growth, and encourage political participation.” This was not to be his canal, not even New York’s canal; he saw it as a way to connect the east to the western interior and open the doors of a new America to an America far beyond its reaches.

Now to the present . . .

And so our tug’s namesake was not just a politician who wanted to build a canal; he was a man who wanted to build America. The Tug DeWitt Clinton, which continues to be fully operational, was designed, built and put into service on the Erie Canal over ninety years ago. It works every day in our midst carrying out the dream and legacy of The Man DeWitt Clinton.

An article in the esteemed New Hampshire Sentinel, honoring Mr. Clinton’s “noble enterprise” ended with the following . . .

“Yield credit to Clinton, and hail him by name.”

To this day, his name continues to be honored by






Have you heard about the NY Canal Corp and NY Power Authority’s plans for the oldest Tug on the Erie Canal?

This famous teaching tug was launched in 1901 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Through the years multitudes of children throughout NYS have visited the Tug to learn about the history of the Erie Canal – OUR history!  Now plans are underway to pull it from the Erie Canal and make it a dry land exhibit along the NYS Thruway.

Here is a link from our local online newspaper, OrleansHub.com.  The editor posted a press release from the Preservation League of NYS and its campaign to save Tug Urger and the entire fleet of historic canal vessels. I urge you to read the press release.  In addition, go to the Preservation League of NYS website, and read their position paper.  You can also sign the petition to #SaveTheUrger.  I did.

I think Bob Radliff, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Corridor said it best, “Its hard to imagine the future of the canal system without Tug Urger and other significant historic vessels on the water.  These vessels contain the sense of New York State pride, stewardship, and heritage that are integral to a thriving, living waterway.”

Express your concerns.  Do it now.  Because once these historic vessels are gone, they are gone forever.



Photo of Tug Urger crossing over Culvert Road in Medina N.Y.  This is the only place on the Erie Canal where vehicles can pass under the Canal.  Many thanks to Will Van Dorp for use of his exceptional photo.




Trailing through the rustbelt


Pictured: Kerry, Jeanna, Alain and Victoriya take a photo with Tug DeWitt Clinton (look, our Tug is smiling!)

Today Tug DeWitt Clinton met two great couples that ride tandem bicycles.  They are on a 100 day bike trip.  They started in Central Ohio, rode to the KATY Trail in Missouri and then north and east to the Erie Canal. They will circle back and end in Ohio.

They spent the night in Medina and stopped down to the Medina canal port.  They checked out Tug DeWitt and posed for a photo before moving on to their next destination.

You can follow their bicycle trip on CycleBlaze.com, a place for bicyclists to journal about their journeys.  Scroll down to the section titled “On The Road Now” and click on their journal TWO FAR: Trailing through the Rust Belt.  Check out their post titled “Rest Day in Medina New York” to see photos of their time in Medina and a few special photos onboard the Tug.