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College of Arts & Sciences
Maritime Research Division


Browns Ferry Rope Ferry Boats

Browns Ferry Ferries

As early as 1725 there was a ferry crossing at Brown's Ferry. The ferry service continued until 1954 when a swing bridge was erected in that location. The early ferries would have used ropes and pulleys to cross the river, while later ferries would have shifted to steel cables and machine power. Evidence of this evolution was noted on the site. The Brown's Ferry ferryboat survey was part of the 2013 Black River Project. This is the same area that where the Brown's Ferry Vessel was excavated and raised. The 2013 Black River Project survey team included MRD staff Jim Spirek, Ashley Deming, Carl Naylor, and Joe Beatty, as well as volunteers Nate Fulmer, Bruce Orr, Rick Presnell, Catherine Sawyer, and Jimmy Armstrong. Side-scan sonar was conducted to define the area and came up with an excellent picture of the site. The image shows both ferryboats as well as what turned out to be three cars (1 upside-down Buick, 1 Camero, and a truck).

The site was extremely disorienting as the water was very dark with lots of particulates and a quick current.  At least one day was spent becoming familiar with the sites before recording of each one began.  Once we felt comfortable with our orientation, we laid a baseline on Ferry 2 to begin recording.  In addition to the use of dive slates and measuring tapes, we took many underwater photos and video to record the site.

The team discovered that Ferry 2 had two disarticulated (unattached) stanchions with pulley wheels.  This definitively made it a ferryboat.  It seemed it was likely a rope ferry based on the construction, which makes it one of the older style ferries at the location.  More research on the construction will need to be pursued to define a time period for the vessel.   While Ferry 1 is probably a ferry, we are still not certain. This vessel is missing many attributes that would indicate, for certain, it is a ferry.  It does exhibit two stanchions, but there are no pulley assemblages remaining if they existed at all.  Both vessels are approximately 40ft long and 15ft wide.

For photos of the project, please visit our Black River Project page.

Related Information

2013. Deming, Ashley M. "The 2013 Black River Project." Legacy. Vol. 17, No. 2. November. South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology. University of South Carolina. Columbia, South Carolina. pp. 16-17.

2013. Deming, Ashley M. "2013 Black River Project." Quarterly Reporter. Vol. 4, Iss 3. October. Maritime Research Division. South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology. University of South Carolina. Columbia, South Carolina. pp. 7, 11.

2013. Sawyer, Catherine. "A Week on the Black River." Quarterly Reporter. Vol. 4, Iss 3. October. Maritime Research Division. South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology. University of South Carolina. Columbia, South Carolina. p. 8.