February 1884, when the old warship New Orleans, which
had been on the stocks since 1815, was undergoing demolition,
it parted directly in the center and fell to the ground, instantly
killing a workman named James Oates, and seriously
injuring Ralph Godfrey, Manuel
Jeffrey and John Hemens. Eight
other workmen narrowly escaped. Oates was terribly
mutilated, a spike being forced entirely through his head
and a bolt through his back.
New Orleans was begun by Henry Eckford, of New
York, about the first of January 1815, under contract with
the government. Her name was fixed by the authorities after
Gen. Jackson's victory at New Orleans on January 8th
the same year. She was to be 3,200 tons burden, 187 feet length
of keel, 56 feet beam, and 40 feet depth of hold; pierced
for 110 guns, but could carry 120.
Eckford was awarded the contract a large force of men
was secured and timber was gathered from the surrounding forests.
Nails, spikes and bolts were forged on the ground, the bolts
being entirely of copper. The timbers were mostly cedar and
oak, the beams in the keel being of an extraordinary size.
The gun carriages were carried across the country from the
Mohawk Valley, and were composed of mahogany and lignumvitae,
and are yet  in the storehouse at Sackets Harbor.
police commissioners from England and the United States met
at Ghent, Belgium, and declared peace on December 24, 1814.
The news did not reach Washington till the February following,
and it was not until two weeks later that Eckford received
orders to cease work, which he did about March 1. During 60
days the immense ship had been nearly finished, the main deck
was laid and supports for the bulwarks were raised. The New
Orleans was intended to be used as a sort of floating
battery, to be stationed at the head of the St. Lawrence river
to prevent the British fleet from entering the lake. As she
was constructed entirely of green wood it was an open question
whether she could ever have been navigated.
government caused a house to be erected over the New Orleans
early in the 1830's, but that was finally destroyed. The ship
was visted by hundreds of tourists and curiosity seekers each
season, thanks in part to its portrayal on currency circulated
by the Sackets Harbor Bank.
1882 Congress ordered the sale of the New Orleans at
auction. Alfred Wilkinson, of Syracuse, bid her in
for $400. While being demolished under his orders the accident
occurred. Wilkinson, it is said, cleared about $4,000 from
When the New Orleans was dismantled, its parts were
sold off to anyone who would pay. Some of its beams were incorporated
into homes in the village, and some were crafted into furniture.
An exhibit about the New Orleans can be seen today
at the Sackets Harbor Visitors Center in the Augustus Sacket
Mansion, which commands a view of where the mighty ship was
Mark A. Wentling, 2000
Ralph Godfrey was a sailor on the Great Lakes and for
a time was owner of the Dyer Burnham
House at 205 West Washington Street in Sackets Harbor.
He married Jane Stoodley,
who was first cousin of Manual Jeffrey.
Manuel Jeffrey was son of English immigrants Robert
Jeffrey and Jane Lane,
daughter of Thomas Lane and Nanny Stamp, who
are buried in Sulpher Springs Cemetery. Manuel was reared
for a time by his aunt Elizabeth Lane and her husband
also English immigrants. He survived his injuries at the
New Orleans and died 24 July 1922 in Sackets Harbor,
aged 85 years. Learn more
about Manuel Jeffrey elsewhere on this site.
John A. "Growth of a Century: A History of Jefferson
county, New York 1793-1894." Phila.: Sherman &
Co., 1894. pp. 600.
County and Its People: A descriptive Work on Jefferson County,
New York." Boston: Boston History Co., 1898. p. 646.