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“F” is for ferries

South Carolina A to Z larger logo

“F” is for ferries. The earliest ferries carried settlers across the Ashley, Cooper, Santee, and other lowcountry rivers. In 1709, the Assembly passed the first of many statues regulating ferries. Most ferries took the name of an early licensee: Nelson, Garner or Mazyck. Others were known only by location: Strawberry Ferry or Ashley River Ferry. Ferry operations in antebellum South Carolina were closely regulated by the General Assembly, which established rates of toll and the duties of ferry operators. Floods, droughts, and storms frequently interrupted ferry operations. With bridges difficult to build and expensive, ferries were a vital link in the state’s transportation system throughout the eighteenth and much of the nineteenth centuries. Steamboats and railroads lessened the need for ferries throughout the nineteenth century, while the arrival of the automobile finished them off.

Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.