Quick Links Menu.
S.S. Brunswick, ex Niagara, circa 1912-1918
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.
Design: Passenger & cargo, 1877
Displacement (tons): 2,265 gross, 5,221 displ.
Dimensions (feet): 274.0' pp x 38.0' x 19.5' mn
Original Armament: 2-6pdr (1898)
Later armaments: --
Speed (kts.): 12
Propulsion (HP): 1,600
Machinery: Vertical compound, 1 screw.
||11 Apr 98
||John Roach & Sons SB
||28 Apr 77
||16 Apr 98
||14 Oct 98
||20 Apr 99
||19 Jul 99
In 1876 John Roach of Chester, Pa., laid down an iron-hulled passenger and cargo ship for the U.S. and Brazil Mail S.S. Co. (Empire Line). She was launched as NIAGARA for the Ward Line (the New York & Cuba Mail Steamship Co.) in April 1877 and entered service in June as their first iron passenger liner. Her sister SARATOGA became the Russian auxiliary cruiser AFRICA in 1878, and was replaced later that year by a slightly larger SARATOGA. The Ward Line ran a service between New York and Cuba and later extended its operations to Mexico. In these early Ward ships speed was the most important consideration and public rooms and staterooms were relatively utilitarian.
On 12 Mar 98 the U.S. Secretary of the Navy appointed a Naval Board on Auxiliary Cruisers to select and purchase civilian vessels for Navy use in the impending war with Spain. The Board initially focused on potential auxiliary cruisers and on tugs and yachts, but in early April the Navy Department ordered it to secure additions to the Navy's fleet of colliers. On 8 Apr 98 the Ward Line withdrew all its ships from service because of the "Spanish trouble." On the same date it was reported that the Government would with little doubt secure two of the line's older ships including NIAGARA. She and several other vessels were inspected with a view of securing them for colliers and distiller ships. On 9 Apr 98 the Board bought NIAGARA from the Ward Line Steamship Co. plus the cargo ships STERLING and MERRIMAC. NIAGARA would probably be used as a water distilling ship but might be needed as a collier; the other two would be used as colliers. On 11 Apr 98 three members of the Board inspected the British steamship SOUTHERY at New York, and the New York Times reported the next day that her purchase would complete the fleet of colliers according to the present plans. There had already been purchased for this purpose the steamers SATURN, LEBANON, NIAGARA, STERLING, and MERRIMAC.
The Navy initially hoped to use NIAGARA as a distilling ship. Unlike IRIS and RAINBOW, no special distilling equipment was procured for her, but the Navy may have thought that, as a passenger ship, her ability to produce and store fresh water was large enough to be of use. She proved a failure in that respect, however, and, after a trip or so as a collier, was used as a supply ship, particularly for ammunition. Commissioned on 16 Apr 98, the "collier NIAGARA" departed New York on 25 Apr 98 on the first of her two wartime voyages to the Caribbean. During this voyage she visited Key West, Cap Haitien (Haiti) and Puerto Plata (Dominican Republic) and accompanied the fleet during the naval bombardment of San Juan (Puerto Rico) on 12 May 98. She returned to Hampton Roads on 26 May and was again in the Caribbean between 10 Jun 98 and 2 Sep 98. This time she spent much of her time at Key West and Guantanamo Bay but also visited Ponce and Guanica in Puerto Rico. She then returned to New York and was decommissioned on 14 Oct 98.
Struck from the Navy list on 20 Apr 99, NIAGARA was advertised for sale on 13 Jun 99 and was sold on 19 Jul 99 to Henry P Booth of New York (president of the Ward Line) for $75,563. NIAGARA resumed service with the Ward Line in 1899 and remained in operation until she was laid up at New York in 1906. She was purchased in 1910 by the Brunswick S.S. Co. (Bee Line), which operated out of Brunswick, Georgia, to New York and Havana. Refitted and renamed BRUNSWICK, she was chartered back to the Ward Line in 1910 and 1911 and then sold in 1912 to Gulf & Southern S.S. Co. Sold again in 1918 to the United Fruit Co., she was renamed TRUXILLO. Again sold in 1920 and 1921, she was scrapped in 1925.
||Ex merc. NIAGARA (completed Jun 77). Merc. NIAGARA 1899, BRUNSWICK 1907, and TRUXILLO 1919. Scrapped 1926.
Compiled: 01 Jan 2013
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2013