The City Of Chester.
May, 1849, Jacob Sinex, who had been a shipwright in Marcus Hook, removed to Chester, and in connection with Mr. Hargis, established a boat-yard in the ancient borough. On Dec. 8, 1852, this firm launched the schooner "Mary Pickup," of two hundred and sixty tons, the largest vessel ever built up to that date at Chester. In 1856, William B. Fortner had located as a ship-builder at Chester. The first steamboat shaft ever forged in the borough was made for the steamboat "Young America," in June, 1859, at the foundry of Chester A. Weidner & Co.
Roach's Ship-Yard. - In 1859, Thomas Reaney, who had been a member of the firm of Reaney & Neafie, in Philadelphia, removed to Chester, he having purchased the lot of ground on the Delaware River, where the Pennsylvania Oil-Works had been located in 1855, and had been destroyed by fire several years subsequent to that date. There he established an extensive ship-yard in connection with William B. Reaney and Samuel Archbold, the firm being Reaney, Son & Archbold, the industry itself being known as the Pennsylvania Iron-Works. Here a large business was done, which required the erection of costly buildings, wharfing, and filling in of the river-front, together with an outlay of many thousands of dollars in the purchase of machinery. At these works during the civil war the United States war vessels, the double-enders "Wateree," "Suwanee," and "Shamokin" were built, hull and engines complete, ready to go to sea, as were also the monitors "Sagamon" and "Lehigh," and the light-draught monitor "Tunxis;" two powerful tug-boats for the United States, the "Pinta" and "Nina," were constructed at these works. Among the list of other vessels built by Reaney, Son & Archbold, was the fleet river-steamer "Samuel M. Felton." In 1871 the firm made an assignment, and the yard and machinery was purchased by John Roach, who established "The Delaware River Iron Ship-Building and Engine Company" thereat, which since that time has become so familiar to the people of the United States. In the year 1873-74, at these works, were built for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company the "City of Peking" and the "City of Tokio," each being four hundred and twenty-three feet in length, with a capacity of five thousand and seventy-nine tons, - the largest vessels built in this country. The "City of Para" was launched April 6, 1878, in the presence of the President of the United States, and hundreds of distinguished guests from all parts of the country and thousands of spectators. The following-named vessels have been built since for the same company: "City of San Francisco," "City of New York," and "City of Sydney," each three thousand and twenty tons; "San José," "San Juan," and "San Blas," each two thousand and eighty tons; the "City of Panama" and the "City of Guatemala," each fourteen hundred and ninety tons.
In the year 1873 the iron-clad sloops-of-war "Alert" and "Alliance" were built for the United States government. The name of the latter was later changed to "Huron." It was wrecked and lost off the coast of Virginia.
In 1875 the United States monitor "Miantonomah," iron-clad, double-turret, was built, and is now at Hampton Roads. There are at present in process of construction for the government the "Boston," "Atlanta," and "Chicago" (still on the stocks), the "Puritan," a monitor, double-turret, with a capacity of two thousand eight hundred and ninety-eight tons, and the dispatch-boat "Dolphin," the last two lying at the docks.
The following United States monitors have been refitted at the yards: "Wyandotte," "Nahant," "Jason," "Passaic," "Nausett," "Niobe," "Cohoes," "Modoc," and "Napa."
In 1875 the "Graciosa" was built as a dispatch boat for the Spanish government.
On Tuesday morning, May 22, 1877, the steamship "Saratoga'' which was on the ways, after it had been blocked up to be launched on the high tide, was observed to be pulling, and the order was passed down along the side of the ways to "stand clear." A number of men under the vessel ran from beneath it, and after a few moments, no others appearing, the order was given to cut the shoes which held the vessel, for it was straining hard to tear itself loose. As the ship started swiftly to the river, those who witnessed it greeted her movements with cheers, which in a moment after were hushed, when a cry of terror went up from those nearest the ways that a number of the workmen, who had not gotten from under the "Saratoga" when the shoes were cut, had been caught in the packing, which had been carried down with the vessel (a mass of timbers and block at the point where the ways are nearest the ground on the margin of the river), and had been killed or were so injured that death must ensue. The news spread with marvelous rapidity. The workmen in the yard were from all sections in the city and South Chester, and the anxiety to learn whether among the killed and wounded were relatives and friends caused a general suspension of business. The streets leading to the ship-yard were soon thronged with people hastening thither, and a crowd of men, women, and children besieged the outer gates clamorous for admission. The physicians - for every medical man in the city had been summoned to the works - had directed that to avoid confusion and excitement the public should not be admitted to the office where the dead and dying had been carried. All that medical skill could do was done, but with the exception of three men who were slightly injured, all those who were under the "Saratoga" at the time the vessel was launched were killed or died in a few hours thereafter. The following is a list of the dead: Edward Burke, Charles Wright, Sr., Edward Fawley, John J. Crewe, John Neilson, George Woof, and Bernard Cannon.