The Famous Old Sloop Emperor

Footnotes to Long Island History

JULY 14 1949


Thomas R. Bayles


       The Brooklyn daily Eagle of February 10,1895, carried a story about the old sloop Emperor, which was riding peacefully at anchor for its sixty-sixth winter in Port Jefferson harbor.

       This once famous craft had an interesting history, extending back to the good old days when such property was considered valuable, and anyone with money was eager to invest it in such a boat.

       In the spring of 1828 Capt. Caleb Kinner of Port Jefferson contacted with Zephaniah and Israel Hallock, ship builders of Derby, Conn., to build him a vessel which would be a fast one. How well they succeeded is shown by the Emperor's record.

       At this time Elisha Bayles was the boss calker on long Island and of course was sent for by the Hallocks to work on the new sloop. Elisha with his son Alfred and brother Lloyd  rowed across the Sound in a yawl boat and up the Housatonic river to Derby a distance of 40 miles. Imagine anyone rowing such a distance today! They calked and rigged the sloop and assisted in its launching.

       The sloop was at once taken to Port Jefferson where it was placed on the route between Port Jefferson and New York as a packet where it remained in service for 30 years. When the boat started running it was the only means of communication with the metropolis with the exception of a stage coach than ran twice weekly and carried the mail. There was no railroad on Long Island when the Emperor was first placed on the packet line, and she was considered as great an innovation as the railroad, when it came later.

       Sail would be set at 10o'clock in the morning in Port Jefferson harbor, and with a good stiff breeze the boat would be at her wharf in New York before sundown. She carried passengers as well as freight, and was well patronized by the residents of Port Jefferson and vicinity.

       Travel was cheaper in those days than at the present time, and the fare on the packet to New York was 50 cents, while those who dined at the captains table were charged a shilling a meal.

       Four years after the line was established the cholera epidemic broke out in New York and it was necessary to make extra trips to accommodate the many passengers who were fleeing from the city. Many times the Emperor had 60 passengers on board with a cabin only 20 feet square.

       The emperor was a fast boat and was never beaten by any sailing vessel of her size and was always a money maker, from the day she was launched.

       In the summer of 1895, she was sold complete with sails, rigging, etc. for $100. Her usual good luck went with her, for her  new owner cleared that amount the first trip.

       We can imagine the success a sloop of this kind would have on this route today, and the numbers of people who would be glad to pay several times the fare charged on the old Emperor, for the novelty of a trip down the Sound in a sailing vessel.

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