Hatton Ferry Carries History Through Charlottesville

By: Marcus Washington
By: Marcus Washington

November 23, 2004

The Hatton Ferry, in southern Albemarle County, is more than just a place to pass by while tubing down the James River. It's also the only hand operated ferry east of the Mississippi River.

It's tucked away from the noise and traffic of the city, surrounded by a serene beauty.

"A lot of people say, 'you should be a motor underneath it,'" said Ashley Pillar, Hatton Ferry Operator. "I guess that would be cheating"

The Hatton Ferry is one of only two hand-poled ferries in the world. It has outlast more than 140 ferries that were started in Virginia, as early as the 1600's.

Its purpose then, and still today, serves as a 5-minute connecter from Albemarle County to Buckingham County. Established in 1870, the Hatton Ferry has been a way of life for many people.

"At the turn of the century they would make anywhere from 80 to 100 trips a day running sunrise to sundown year round," said Pillar.

In those daily runs, people would use the ferry for daily services from going to the post office to grocery shopping. Using the Hatton Ferry was and still is more than just transporting something from one county to another. It is also a place where people make everlasting commitments with 'I Do's.'

"We just thought it would be interesting and quite an adventure to get married on the Hatton Ferry," said Marc Bolen.

Marc Bolen and his wife chose Hatton Ferry to exchange vows and 15 years later, he still remembers every moment of that day.

Bolen explained, "Relatives were dropping roses and that type thing in the river as we were floating by when we were exchanging our vows...and, like I said, I've enjoyed every minute of it."

Hatton Ferry has seen it's moments of happy days, but it's also had its share of disasters. In 1985, a flood came and nearly washed the ferry away. Residents near the James River had to exit their homes by boat.

Through destruction and joy, the Hatton Ferry has outlast them all while keeping its serene since of beauty.

"This is the best office in the world," said Pillar.

The Hatton Ferry opens mid-April until October.

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