Ferries In Virginia
The James, York, Rappahannock and smaller rivers were the primary means of commercial transportation in Virginia until the advent of railroads in the mid-1800's. In most locations ferries provided the only way to cross these rivers. As early as 1641, the General Assembly directed county courts to provide a system of ferries and bridges. Authorized ferries increased from 34 in 1702 to 140 in 1786, reflecting the expansion of 18th century commerce. These ferries were very similar in design and operation to the Hatton Ferry.
The first ferry in what is now Albemarle County was authorized in 1744. It was located on the Rivanna River, north of the present "Free Bridge", just east of Charlottesville. In 1745 a ferry was authorized on the James River near the present town of Scottsville. It remained in use until 1907 when a bridge replaced it. At Warren, a few miles upstream from Hatton, a ferry authorized in 1789 continued service until swept away by Hurricane Agnes in 1972. At least 15 other ferries, including Hatton, were authorized in Albemarle County.
The Hatton Ferry
About 1875, James A. Brown rented a store and ferry rights at this site. Called Brown's Store, in 1881 it became a stop on the new Richmond and Allegheny Railroad built on the bank of the earlier James River and Kanawha Canal. Brown purchased the property the same year. In 1883 a public road was opened to the site, a post office was authorized and it acquired the name of Hatton.
Following the death of Brown and his widow, James B. Tindall purchased the store, ferry and ferry rights in 1914. He operated the ferry until 1940 when it was taken over by the Virginia Department of Highways.
Hurricane Agnes destroyed the ferry in June, 1972 and almost ended service. An interested public persuaded authorities to continue this historic ferry, and a new one was built by Highway Department staff. It was dedicated in September 1973 with the assistance of Richard Thomas, star of the TV series, "The Waltons".
A record flood in November 1985 sunk the new ferry boat, but the Highway Department replaced it with a metal one launched in June 1986. The operator's building was renovated by Albemarle County Historical Society to appear as it may have in early days.(Caption on missing picture: Richard Thomas dedicating ferry)
The Hatton Ferry, the last established in Albemarle County, is the proud and sole survivor of a class of ferries in Virginia dating to 1641. It is one of only two pole-powered, public ferries operating in the continental United States. In 1989, it was one of only four ferries of any kind in Virginia. At least 140 ferries were in Virginia in 1786.
This ferry represents an integral part of commercial traffic on Virginia rivers up to the mid nineteenth century. Barges and shallow draft boats called bateau plied major rivers from the interior to Tidewater. But the rivers presented barriers to overland transport, which ferries, like Hatton, helped overcome. River traffic diminished with the development of turnpikes, bridge and railroads.
Four modes of early transport are seen at this site:
? ? 1. The James River.
? ? 2. Remains of the James River and Kanawha Canal, opened in 1840 from Richmond to Lynchburg.
? ? 3. The Richmond and Allegheny Railroad on the canal bank, opened in 1881, later part of the C&O.
? ? 4. The public road.