History of Hatton Ferry.
The Hatton Ferry began operation in 1870, when Buckingham County authorities issued a court order to construct a public ferry across the James River to the Albemarle County lands of Thomas P. Gantt (ca. 1846-1896), a distiller near Totier Creek. The ferry would move traffic across the James River from Buckingham County to the James River and Kanawha Canal, situated in Albemarle County. In December 1873, Gantt sold 18¾ acres of riverfront property to James A. Brown (1835-1896), who established a store on the land. Brown also gained the ferry rights with his purchase, but met opposition from landowners on the Buckingham side of the river, who did not wish ferry traffic to cross their property. As a result of continued protests by landowners, Buckingham County ordered the ferry to cease operations in January 1874. While Brown's operation met all legal requirements in Albemarle County, difficulties on the Buckingham side of the river likely resulted in irregular ferry crossings during this period. Seeking to operate his business at a more welcoming location, Brown moved his store and ferry upstream to its current location, near lock 24 of the James River and Kanawha Canal. The site became known as "Brown's," "Brown's Store," or "Brown's Landing."
Brown's became a thriving transportation
hub on the James, where river, rail, and roadway traffic converged. Railroad construction and rail travel outpaced canals by the late 1870's, but did not supplant them altogether. In 1878, the newly formed Richmond and Allegheny Railroad gained control of the James River and Kanawha Canal Company. Laying tracks on the old canal towpaths, the Richmond and Allegheny established a stop at Brown's in 1881. In July 1883, Albemarle County authorized the building of a public road from Brown's Landing to an existing county highway. Several months later, a U.S. Post Office began operating from Brown's Store. Because a post office in northwestern Albemarle County already operated under the name Brown's, the new Brown's Store office took the name Hatton, after then Assistant Postmaster General, Frank Hatton. By the late 1890's, Brown's ferry, too, had adopted the new moniker and became known as "the ferry at Hatton" or "Hatton Ferry."
Following Brown's death in 1896, his daughter, Cora, and her husband, Edwin Raine, continued the enterprise on the James. In 1914, J.B. Tindall, who had previously leased the store from the Raines, purchased the store, the surrounding land, and the ferry operation. The Tindall family managed the ferry until 1940, when they deeded it to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Passenger rail service continued at Hatton Ferry until 1950 and the U.S. Post Office
operated until 1973.
Operational costs, as well as damage sustained during Hurricane Agnes in 1972, nearly ended the Hatton Ferry's run. In 2009, however, the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society (ACHS), along with citizens from Albemarle and Buckingham Counties, initiated efforts to save the ferry. ACHS gained formal ownership of the ferry in 2010, establishing the non-profit corporation "Hatton Ferry," which has enabled the continued operation of the Hatton Ferry—now the sole remaining poled ferry in the United States.
The Name "Hatton".
In 1883, James A. Brown named his new post office the Hatton Office in honor of then-Assistant Postmaster General, Frank Hatton (1846-1894). Born in Cambridge, Ohio, Hatton was
the son of Virginian parents, Richard and Sarah Green Hatton. His father was editor of the Ohio newspaper The Cadiz Republican, from 1850 to 1866. Hatton served as his father's apprentice until the start of the Civil War, when the eighteen year-old enlisted in the 98th Ohio Infantry on December 7, 1864. He attained the rank of full second lieutenant in 1865.
Discharged from the United States Army in 1866, Hatton became a newspaperman in Iowa. In 1867, he married Lizzie Snyder. The couple had one son, Richard. As editor of the Burlington Daily Hawk-Eye, Hatton became an influential Republican
Party member in the Mississippi Valley area and an ardent opponent of civil service reform. As a reward for his devotion to the Republican Party, United States President and fellow Ohioan, James A. Garfield,
appointed Hatton to the position of First Assistant Postmaster General. Following Garfield's assassination, Hatton continued his role in President Chester A. Arthur's administration. Promoted to Assistant Postmaster General in 1881, Hatton became Postmaster General on October 14, 1884, serving in that capacity until the end of Arthur's term in 1885. Hatton was the youngest Cabinet officer since Alexander Hamilton.
After his public service tenure, Hatton returned to his career in journalism. the time of his death in 1894, Hatton was editor and owner of the Washington Post. While still a Republican, in his later years he dispensed with the staunch partisanship of his past. At the Post, Hatton was an even-handed editor, critical of both political parties. Well-respected by the public and his peers, Hatton twice served as president of the prestigious Gridiron Club of correspondents. Hatton died eleven days after suffering a massive stroke at his desk, and just two days after his forty-eighth birthday. He was interred at Rock Creek Cemete in Washington, D.C.
It is unclear whether or not Hatton knew of his namesake Albemarle County post office.
There is no known evidence to suggest that he ever made a visit to the post office or the ferry that have kept his name and memory alive for subsequent generations.
(sidebar)James A. Hatton became Postmaster General on October 14, 1884, serving in that capacity the end of Arthur's term in 1885, the youngest Cabinet officer since
The relations of
President Arthur and Frank Hatton were very close. I doubt whether (President) Arthur had a truer friend or a more conscientious counselor:
—Evening Star, Washington, DC,
February 25, 1693
(sidebar)Frank Hatton first went to work for his father's newspaper learning to set type at the age of 11. An article in the Los Angeles Herald, January 11, 1893 featured "Printers in Politics: They Exercise a Potent !Often(
Washington." Described as "rich and lazy now, he had not forgotten the tricks learned." such as type setting. He was described as the most popular newspaper editor in Washington.
In May 1771, a vast flood known to Virginians as the "Great Freshet of 1771," resulted from nearly two weeks of sustained rain in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Throughout its history, rivers have served a vital role in the
social and economic development of Virginia. Traditionally, riverside
enjoy scenic beauty, industrial prosperity, and convenient transportation. During heavy storms and exceptionally rainy seasons, however, the waterways can transform into forces of destruction. Floods have long wreaked havoc on river transportation systems and their neighboring communities. In May 1771, a vast flood known to Virginians as the "Great Freshet of 1771," resulted from nearly two weeks of sustained rain in the Blue Ridge Mountains. To the surprise of residents in Richmond and eastern Virginia, the deluge flooded the lower James, Rappahannock, and Roanoke Rivers. Just east of Richmond, the floodwaters reached a reported forty-five feet above the normal water level.
In the nineteenth century, flooding halted or destroyed construction on portions of the James River and Kanawha Canal on several occasions. In 1836, two major floods damaged the Lynchburg dam, which supplied water for the canal project. Describing the difficulties to stockholders, president of the James River and Kanawha Company, Joseph Carrington Cabell, noted, "Two such floods in the same year, constitutes a combination of events of very extraordinary and remarkable character." Another bout of flooding followed in 1842 and 1843. In October 1870, as the financially strapped company worked to refurbish the canal following the Civil War, the greatest flood of the century ravaged nearly the entire
line. Further large-scale flooding in 1877 and 1878 ultimately brought the canal company to its knees.
The James River watershed experienced some of its greatest flooding during the twentieth century. Two of Virginia's "100-year floods" occurred within several years of one another. On August 19, 1969, the James and its central Virginia tributaries suffered extensive flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Camille, one of just three twentieth-century hurricanes to make landfall in the United States as a Category Five storm (with sustained winds above 157 mph). Overnight rainfall accumulations in central Virginia ranged from ten inches to an unprecedented twenty-seven inches. One hundred and fifty-one people perished in flash floods and landslides during the storm, which remains Virginia's deadliest natural disaster. On June 22, 1972, the torrential rains of Hurricane Agnes brought unparalleled flooding along the James River. In Richmond, the James crested at 36.51 feet — 6.5 feet higher than during the Great Freshet of 1771 — and Albemarle County experienced its highest recorded crest of the James, at 34.02 feet. At the time, Agnes was the costliest storm ever to strike the U.S. The flooding significantly damaged the Hatton Ferry and obliterated the nearby Warren Ferry.
While Virginia's waterways have provided significant economic and aesthetic
benefits for surrounding communities, flooding remains a persistent danger. Recognizing the history of flooding in the region enables an appreciation and respect for the power of the mighty James River and its tributaries.
The ideal water levels for operating the ferry is between four and ten feet. Eighteen feet of water is at the door threshold of the ferryman's building and thirty feet will cover the building altogether. which happened twice in the 20th century.
The ferry can typically ride out a flood, but there have been exceptions. The mayor floods occuring in 1969, 1972 and 1985 took out the ferry. The ferry was replaced each time and in 1985 it was replaced with the current metal ferry, a departure from the previous all wooden ferries.