Happy Birthday, Jamestown-Scotland Ferry

2015 seems to be the year for celebrating special dates in the history of our area.

Tuesday, Motor Man and I attended a gathering to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the ferry which crosses the James River, connecting Surry County (my “home” county) and historic Jamestown. “Scotland” refers to Scotland Wharf, the dock on the Surry side of the river.

The ceremony, which began in Jamestown, concluded at the Surry Historical Society. Guests there were treated to a preview of the restored 1925 ferry, the Captain John Smith.  The original ferry:

1925 j smith ferry

rootsweb ancestry.com photo

 It wasn’t until the late 1990’s, when I went to work for a Surry business,  S. Wallace Edwards & Sons, which specializes in country cured hams, that I learned the complete history of this ferry.  Captain Albert Jester had the idea for the ferry in 1923. The boat, the Captain John Smith, was built in Battery Park, Virginia, located about 25 miles from Surry. (Battery Park is a tiny waterfront town, practically in sight of where Motor Man and I now live.)  The ferry, which could accommodate 16 Model A cars at the time, began operation in 1925.  It was the first boat to transport vehicles across the James River.

Captain Jester’s son-in-law, S. Wallace Edwards, Sr. worked alongside him on the ferry.  Since there were no restaurants where motorists could stop for a meal, Mr. Edwards began selling ham sandwiches to folks traveling on the ferry. The ham was cured by his family on their nearby farm.

Demand grew for the ham, and ultimately lead to the creation of Edwards Ham Company. 

One of my jobs at Edwards’ was to give tours of the plant, and the history of how the ham company came to be – because of the ferry – was included in the information shared with our visitors.  Third and fourth generation Edwards family members now operate the company.

This is the restored Captain John Smith, located on the grounds of the Surry Historical Society.

captn john smith restoration 3-17-2015 12-53-11 PM

After it was retired as a ferry, the deckhouse was sold. In the 1940’s, it was given new life as a summer house on pilings in the Elizabeth River, another of our southeast Virginia rivers. This photo was taken in the 1980’s.

ferry as cottage

rootsweb ancestry.com photo

In recent years, the deckhouse was recovered and donated to the Historical Society. Through donations and grants, restoration work began, and is now, nearing completion.

Years ago, the ship’s wheel had been donated to Mariners Museum in Newport News. Upon learning that the Captain John Smith was being restored, the museum gifted the wheel to the Surry Historical Society in 2012.

My friend, Linda, an Edwards employee, whom I first met while working there, accompanied us to the ceremony on Tuesday.

db linda ships wheel 3-17-2015 1-16-25 PM

And took a picture of Motor Man and me. (No captain nor first mate material here, I’m afraid…)

jrdb 3-17-2015 1-17-30 PM

As a Surry County native, ferry traveler and friend (and former employee) of the Edwards family, it’s heartwarming to see the Captain John Smith being restored.

ferry and flag 3-17-2015 12-57-07 PM

I hope she has many visitors at her new location.

~These Days Of Mine~

17 responses to “Happy Birthday, Jamestown-Scotland Ferry

  1. You’re blessed to live in such a historical area, Dianna. Thanks for sharing it with us. I love the photo of you and MM! 🙂

  2. So glad another little bit of history is being kept alive with the restoration of the Captain John Smith……….great photos and background!


  3. Love the history lesson and photos (old and new). Riding the ferry and feeding the seagulls has been a rite of growing up for many a local youth. Great memories. Still like taking the ferry – slows life down a little:>

  4. I love all the rivers and water related history and boats in your area. Rich with history! We have a lot of that river history here too but I am drawn to the Virginia area because of your blog and that we lived in Virginia for four years. Very nice that the Captain John Smith was restored! Love the deckhouse and tickled that it is being restored.

  5. This brought back fond memories of taking the ferry as a child on my first trip to Williamsburg and Jamestown and taking my own children to that historical area. I think they enjoyed the ferry ride more than anything else on those trips!

  6. I love it! What a great piece of history! Thanks for sharing and I love the picture of you and Motor Man!!!

  7. Such an info-packed TheseDays today!
    It’s a fantastic story about how the two are linked..
    Edward’s ham & the ferry are both icons !

  8. That is a historically wonderful write-up for those of us that could not be there! loved it Dianna, and as always the pictures were great! Really liked that you put the old picture in there too! Keep the history coming-like you said-this must be the year for anniversary’s and celebrations and we count on you to keep us posted!

  9. We were actually there on Monday, on our way home from Williamsburg (via the ferry, of course!)…I would have loved to be thre for the ceremony but had a previous commitment. Thanks for sharing this.

  10. Shirley Matthews Dunn

    How wonderful that we have this history in our home town. I also have great memories of the Jamestown Ferry. Very nice blog, Dianna, thank you.

  11. You two look fabulous behind the wheel. I think you might have found your next career–instead of a ferry, grab a yacht and take off around the globe!

  12. Great to learn more about the history!

  13. A lot of history there. I agree, great shot of you and MM. You didn’t run her aground, did you? 😉

  14. Nice story. I don’t think I had heard the complete history. BTW, the photo of the “Summer House” was taken by Yours Truly from the Police Helicopter. It was on a pier off the Beazley Farm on the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River. My friends used to spend the summer nights in it. There was chicken wire strung up to keep the pigeons and sea gulls out. I think Hurricane Isebel decided it didn’t belong there and it was salvaged and trucked to Scotland. Glad to see it restored. Thanks for sharing the story.

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