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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Importance Of The Ferry In The Building Of Ohio

Dallas Bogan on 4 August 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Bridge building was a necessity in the improvement of the arteries of travel. Ohio has a natural waterway system, second to none. A ridge of high ground running across the State from east to west near the center forms a watershed from which flows numerous streams, north to Lake Erie and south to the Ohio River.
Before the advent of the bridge, ferries were depended upon for crossing the larger rivers or streams. One of the earliest regular ferry men in the State was Benjamin Urmston, who operated a ferry, as well as a tavern, at Chillicothe. His tavern operated under the "Sign of the Black Horse," and his ferry conducted business under the name of the "Upper Ferry."
He must have been a successful businessman for in 1805 he advertised in The Scioto Gazette that he has taken "the new brick building opposite the tavern, genteelly furnished which he reserved for the accommodation of boarders who may wish to be separated from the tavern, well furnished with attentive hostler and every convenience which could be wished for or expected."
He adds: "Those who are still indebted must not expect any credit at his house until their old accounts are paid."
In contrast, Charles Cone, a tavern operator on the Great Miami in Ross Township, Butler County, stated his case somewhat different. He modestly claims "to endeavor to keep as good accommodation for horses and travelers as our wooden country can afford." He furthermore states that he will supply "those who have cash with whiskey at 6 1/4 cents per half pint and other spirits in proportion," but that he "will invariably charge the usual price if obliged to keep a book account."
The great highway from Western Pennsylvania into Columbiana County passed through Georgetown, Pennsylvania, just east of the Pennsylvania State line on the southern side of the river. This passage made Smith's Ferry a well known river crossing. The ferry stood just at the junction of two of the great paths of emigration to the Northwest Territory, one leading west through Pittsburg and Beaver.
Traveling in and out of the State via the Ohio River meant crossing by way of ferry. Regulations concerning this business were important, even when the Ohio lands were under territorial management. Near the beginning of the 19th Century, Joel Craig had established a ferry on each side of the river for the "Conveyance of Waggons, Passengers &c. &c."
His advertisement in the Cincinnati Liberty Hall, in May, 1806, reads:
"The crafts are in complete order. The road to the ferry on the Kentucky side turns to the left hand, half a mile before the old road reaches the river, and is much nearer to Cincinnati than any other that has yet been established. The flats have hand-rails to keep cattle and other stock from getting overboard."
Kerby Hubbard advertises in the same paper that he has established a new ferry at the mouth of Muddy Creek across the Ohio. His statement reads:
"A large and complete flat is kept capable of carrying a waggon and six horses with every convenience for the accommodation of passengers. The road and banks are in good order. The road to this ferry turns to the right from Reed's road, four miles from Bush's ferry, and it is much nearer to Whitewater, that is, and the best road. Good entertainment for passengers and pasture and feed for horses at the ferry-house."
A ferry was kept across the Ohio nearly opposite Ruffin's tavern in Cincinnati and he "begs leave to inform the public that he has reduced his prices as follows:

Wagon and four horses .50
Man and horse .12 1/2
Single person .06 1/4

Flats and skiffs of the best kind are provided and strict attention shall constantly be paid to those who wish to be conveyed either above or below the mouth of the Licking."
Another glance into The Liberty Hall, October, 1808, reveals a comment by William Fleming that "the public has been imposed on by advertisements at half price and have had to pay the full price." He is speaking in general that certain gentlemen have been advertising half-price ferriage across the river, but he says he has a new ferry at half price on both sides of the river.
His rates, which he claims to have been half-price, were exactly the same as those given by Henry Kerr.
It so happens that in this particular time period certain ferry rates had been authorized by law, regardless of the ferryman. In 1805, the legal rates that were allowable are as follows:

For each foot passenger.......................... .10
" " man and horse........................... .20
" " loaded waggon and team.................. 1.00
" " 4-wheeled carriage or empty wagon & team .75
" " loaded cart and team.................... .50
" " empty cart & team or sled, sleigh & team .37 1/2
" " neat cattle, horse, mare, mule or ass... .10
" " sheep or hog............................ .03

The preceding rates seem to be quite high for the time period, however, ferries were very important to the progress of the settler and encouragement must be given him. The typical ferryman was not obliged to charge the highest rate allowed, and he might charge as low a price as he pleased.
Michael Delornac of Rossville, six years later, solicited in the Hamilton Miami Intelligencer that: "Being far advanced in age and unable to traverse the streets and bye-roads of Hamilton in search of passengers and freight, but wishing to make an honest and honorable livelihood by my profession, I take this method to inform my friends particularly, and public in general, that my ferry is in Complete Repair, the flats new &c. Good entertainment for man and horse. Rates of ferriage at the Upper Ferry:

4 horse team, loaded........ .25
4 horse team, empty......... .12 1/2
2 horse team................ .12 1/2
man and horse............... .06 1/4"

At the confluence of Bullskin Creek and the Ohio River, a ferry served as a link between the Bullskin Trace and the southern trail system. The ferry was named Logston Ferry and was in operation about 1795.
As the population expanded, the Logston Ferry became an avenue of transportation for the people of Rural, a settlement that was washed away during the Flood of 1913, and Wellsburg, a small village established on the Kentucky shore near Locust Creek.
William P. Barkalow arrived in Franklin, prior to 1800, and purchased a tract of land containing 1000 acres that extended from Dry Run to the old hydraulic dam. He is said to have operated the first ferry, just south of the Maciknaw Bridge, across the Great Miami River.
An advertisement in The Chillicothe Supporter, placed by John Gilmore, states that as of December 21, 1811, "The subscriber informs the public that he has opened a Ferry at his Mill, on the Scioto (formerly owned by Joseph Campbell) one mile and a half below Chillicothe, where the inhabitants residing on Salt and Walnut creeks will find it an advantageous place to cross. Persons travelling this road may depend upon being punctually attended, as has procured an excellent boat for the purpose."
The old-time ferry was just a stepping stone in the progress of the Northwest Territory. Without this method of transportation, and the pioneers that operated it, progress would have been much slower.

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