A Transportation Network
Ferries were a critical link in the colonial road system. The ferry crossing at London Town was part of a larger transportation network that extended from Virginia to New York, moving people and goods to market along with the news of the day.
By the 1730s, nearly every road in Anne Arundel County led to a ferry crossing or a boat landing. Travelers often had to wait for the ferry, giving rise to a number of taverns or "ordinaries" at the landings. Due to its location, London Town became a busy port town, which at its height had perhaps 300 residents.
[map of colonial Maryland]
Colonial Transportation System: This detail from The State of Maryland, by Samuel Lewis, 1795, shows the road network that existed in the Chesapeake Bay region during most of the colonial period. London Town was located at an important junction of roads. Anyone traveling from Williamsburg, Virginia, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or New York, New York most likely came through London Town and crossed the South River by ferry. Ferry crossings are shown in blue and roads are shown in yellow.
[c1840 painting of the London Town ferry]
Ferry Landing: Painting of the London Town Ferry, looking across the South River to the London Town peninsula, by Mary Duvall circa 1840. Courtesy of Elizabeth and Peter Edmondo.
Crossing the South River
The London Town ferry was a small vessel, about 30 feet long and rowed by slaves or indentured servants owned by the ferrykeeper.
A ferry crossing was established at London Town sometime in the 1680s, or before.
Ferryboats crossed the river several times a day. The landing across from London Town was called Ferry Point and the road from there led to Annapolis, only three and half miles away.
Ferrymasters at London Town
David Macklefish, an immigrant from Scotland, was London Town's first ferrykeeper. Running a ferry was often a family affair. When Macklefish died in 1711 his wife, Alice, applied for and received a license to operate the ferry and their nearby tavern.
Each year the license had to be renewed. A ferrymaster could lose his or her license if they did not run a safe and efficient service. The days and times of ferry service, as well as prices were regulated.
From 1715 to 1740, traffic was so brisk in London Town that it supported two ferryboat crossings. William Wooton took over the Macklefish ferry, or the "old"ferry, in 1727. This was abandoned after Wooton's death in 1740.
Edward Rumney, the tavernkeeper, started the second or "new" ferry in 1715, located at the end of Scott Street. Later operated by Stephen West and William Brown, the ferry continued to operate well into the 1800s, after the town's demise.
[image of colonial ferry boat]
Ferry: A colonial ferry boat. Illustration by Edwin Tunis.
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