Southern Agenda

A Ferry Tale

If the James River was the I-95 of 1800s Virginia, ferries were its Ubers. The state’s largest tributary was dotted with mom-and-pop poled barges, and James A. Brown wanted in on the waterway action. The entrepreneur began operating a ferry in the 1870s to attract clients to his fledgling general store three miles west of Scottsville. It became a transportation workhorse, moving travelers between Albemarle and Buckingham Counties for twenty-five years. As other ferries vanished with the arrival of bridges, Brown’s ride, known today as Hatton Ferry, hung on and now bears the distinction of being the last American ferry of its kind open to the public. “It stuck around because the bridge in Scottsville wasn’t built until 1910,” says Sterling Howell, programs manager of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, the ferry’s operator. The community’s appreciation for the old-timey watercraft keeps it afloat. Thanks to the historical society’s significant fundraising and custodianship, anyone can take the ferry free of charge Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., mid-April through October (water levels permitting).