Virginians Float Back To The 1800s

By: Venton D. Blandin
By: Venton D. Blandin

June 22, 2005

Residents in Virginia are taking a ride back in time to see how items were shipped along the James River.

Across the bridge at the James River in Scottsville, folks drifted into the past as the annual Batteau Festival got underway.

"We are trying to re-enact history the way it was done back in the early 1800s," explained Robert High, Chairman of the James River Batteau Festival.

The festival in its 20th year kicked off as usual during Father's Day weekend. It centers around the lone instrument used for hauling freights of corn, tobacco, and cotton in the old days. Today, after being taken out by trains, the 40ft. by 65ft. product of solid white oak hauls a lesson in history.

"We're trying to re-create history to bring it up so the children can know what it is," said Chairman High.

During the 1800s, crew-members were able to build a batteau in a year and a half. Giving today's generation the opportunity to float into history on something which seems so long to make, crew-members say it's worth it.

"I really enjoy it. The Batteau is really a nice experience, and a wholesome experience. It's a really family-oriented program," said Captain Dewey Wood, of the batteau named The Maple Run.

Aside from the batteau, festival-goers are able to enjoy music and food, and even camping for the entire eight days the festival runs.

"It's fun to have the batteau here to see the way they come down the river, the way they live on the batteaus, [the way they] dress. It's great, and I love it," explained festival-goer Arthur Meyer.

With the crew members about halfway on their 8-day trek in the batteau festival, everyone in our area is learning about a rich tradition in history. When the festival ends, the crew-members will be about 20 miles outside of Richmond.

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