The Hatton Ferry, the last rare pole-powered ferry in the United States, is located over the James River near Scottsville, Virginia.
The James River, along with the York, Rappahannock, and other smaller rivers, were the primary means of commercial transportation in Virginia until the advent of railroads in the mid-1800s. Ferries generally provided the only way to cross the waterways. As early as 1641, the General Assembly directed county courts to provide a system of ferries and bridges. 1 The number of ferries increased from 34 in 1702 to 140 in 1786, reflecting an expansion of population and travel throughout the state.
The first ferry in Albemarle County was authorized in 1744 on the Rivanna River north of the “Free Bridge” east of Charlottesville. 1 Another was added in 1745 on the James River near Scottsville which remained in use until 1907 when a bridge replaced it. At Warren, a ferry authorized in 1789 remained in operation until it was swept away by Hurricane Agnes in 1972.
In the late 1870s, James A. Brown began operating a store and ferry 5½ miles west of Scottsville along the James River. The store, ferry, and ferry rights were acquired by James B. Tindall in 1914. In 1940, the Virginia Department of Highways took over operations of the ferry.
A new ferry was built and rededicated in September 1973. The dedication ceremonies included actor Richard Thomas, who played the character John-boy Walton on The Waltons television series, and Mrs. Doris Hamner, the mother of Waltons creator and writer Earl Hamner, Jr., who lived at nearby Schuyler that provided the basis for the fictional stories.
As of 1989, the Hatton Ferry was one of two pole-powered public ferries in the continental United States, and one of four ferries remaining in the state. 1
The Virginia Department of Transportation ceased funding for the Hatton Ferry as part of budget cuts in 2009. 2 The county appropriated $9,300 to keep the ferry running throughout the year. 3 In early 2010, the state transferred the ferry to the non-profit Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society who continues to operate the ferry, funded entirely from donations.
- State: Virginia
- Type: Ferry
- Status: Active - Automobile
- “VDOT Finalizes Service Area Proposals.” Virginia Department of Transportation, 20 May 2009.
- “Board of Supervisors Approves Hatton Ferry Funding.” Albemarle County, 1 Jul. 2009,