The hydraulic hopper dredge General C. B. Comstock was built for the United States Army Corps of Engineers in 1895; the hull was built at Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and the internal mechanisms were supplied by the Bucyrus Steam Shovel and Dredge Company of South Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The ship was named for Cyrus B. Comstock, a prominent nineteenth-century corps of engineers officer. The Comstock was ordered for service in Galveston and designed for southern climates, with a metal-sheathed wooden hull and an airy, well-ventilated superstructure. She had the modern conveniences of her era: comfortable, well-furnished accommodations, hot and cold running water, and electric lighting.
The Comstock was 177 feet long and 35½ feet wide, and drew twelve feet. The two hoppers together held 600 to 650 cubic yards. The dredging system was based on two centrifugal dredging pumps, separately powered, each operating a fifty-foot, jointed suction pipe with interchangeable drags, one set for use in mud or clay and one for use in sand. The pipes were raised and lowered with steam cranes and derrick booms; they were designed to lift automatically over obstructions on the sea floor, and the Comstock could turn without raising the pipes.
The Comstock traveled to Galveston on her own keel in the summer of 1895 and spent most of her career there. The dredge was a very efficient machine that moved material at a cost of approximately 7.4 cents a cubic yard during her first year in Galveston. Wages for forty-two people operating her twenty-four hours a day ran to $2,030 a month in 1896. She could move four or five full loads in a ten-hour day; the hoppers could be discharged in 7½ minutes.
The Comstock suffered wear and tear from the demanding work schedule and accident and storm damage over the years. After being driven ashore by the Galveston hurricane of 1900, she could not be freed until a channel fifty feet wide and eight feet deep was dug to release her. She was converted from coal to oil in 1902 and overhauled several times. After 1910 she was lent to the Wilmington Corps District and sent to work first at Aransas Pass and afterward at Freeport. On February 17, 1913, she caught fire off the mouth of the Brazos River and burned to the water line. The crew was quickly rescued by fishermen from Quintana and the life-saving crew from Surfside, but the Comstock was a total loss. She was relocated during jetty construction in June 1987 and investigated and identified in 1988. The artifacts are in a collection at Corpus Christi Museum.
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Lynn M. Alperin, Custodians of the Coast: History of the United States Army Engineers at Galveston (Galveston: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1977). C. B. Comstock Collection (Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History). Engineering News, November 7, 1895. Galveston Daily News, September 1, 1895, February 18, 1913.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Kay G. Hudson,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 30, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
December 1, 1994