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Bulloch History with Roger Allen: Ferries become part of transportation in Southeast Georgia
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Roger Allen

Note: The following is the first of a series of columns exploring the importance of rivers, ferries, bridges and waterways in the early history of Georgia and Bulloch County.

In 1770, the Rev. John J. Zubly of the Independent Church of Savannah operated his Zubly Ferry between Georgia and South Carolina. Many called it the Middlesex Island Ferry.

Robert Dunn's Ferry was established in 1765 in Screven County. Thomas Burton bought and renamed it Burton's Ferry in 1772. Hudson's Ferry was established just below Brier's Creek near Newington on River Road.

Other landing areas included Demaries (Demarey's) Ferry, Hagerslager's Point, Jacob's Leap, Limestone Bluff, Matthew's Bluff, Poor Robin and Wallicaon's Ferry.

In 1767, Rodolph Burgholser (or Rudolph Burkhalter) received a land grant of 400 acres on the south side of the Ogeechee River. There, he established a ferry in the 1770s, which became known as Burkhalter's Crossing.

The Great Ogeechee Ferry was established near Ogeechee Old Town in Jefferson County near Louisville. In 1781, the British set up a guard post at this ferry, which was called by locals "the white house."

John Deveaux was given a charter to build a ferry in 1761, crossing the Ogeechee at Pine Bluff. Donaldson's Ferry crossed the Little Ogeechee River on the road from Savannah to Louisville.

Clifton's Ferry began operating near Scull's Creek, and Lanier's Ferry crossed the Ogeechee River at the intersection of Bulloch, Bryan and Effingham counties.

Ebenezer Jencks took over Lanier's Ferry operations in January 1808. John O'Neal (and grandson William Edwards) operated a ferry beginning in 1821, across the "Canoochie" River just north of Bull Creek.

Joseph Tillman (or Tighlman) and his wife, Mary Kennedy, operated a ferry on the Canoochie River between Hound Creek and Dry Creek, near the head of Scott's Creek.

Later, her family built Kennedy's Bridge in its place. Apparently, there was another Tillman's Ferry/Bridge across the Ohoopee River further west along the road that crossed Edward's Ferry into Bulloch County.

Henry and Isaac Well established a ferry on the Canoochie River in 1805 at the Well's Ferry/Lane's Ford Road (in the western portion of what is now Fort Stewart) on the river.

Bridging the Savannah River

Both the first foot-passenger and horse-and-wagon bridges in the colonies were built over the Charles River in Ipswich, Massachusetts: the foot-passenger bridge in 1635, then the horse-and-wagon bridge in 1700.

"The Report of His Excellency Governor Means on the Subject of the Augusta Bridge and the Navigation of the Savannah" (1852) was written by Georgia's Attorney General I.W. Hayne. The report concerned the controversy of who controlled the Savannah River: South Carolina declared that "before 1732, the Savannah River ... was wholly within the limits of the then colony of South Carolina," but the state of Georgia wanted dual ownership.

Hayne referred to Britain's Lord Chief Justice Hale's ruling that "if a common bridge be broken ... each State must necessarily depend upon the cooperation of the other."

He cited Oglethorpe's "New and Accurate Account of the Provinces of South Carolina and Georgia" (1733), which stated, "The new province of Georgia ... is divided from it on the north by the river Savannah. ... Its southern boundary is the river Alatamaha."

Hayne then referred to the case of Handley's Lessee vs. Anthony, which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In this case, citizens of the states of both Kentucky and Indiana claimed the same land. Chief Justice John Marshall declared that "when a great river is the boundary between two nations and states, if the original property is in neither, (then) each holds to the middle of the stream."

Finally, Hayne consulted Henry Wheaton's "Elements of International Law," which declared, "When a navigable river forms the boundary of coterminous States, the middle of the channel ... is generally taken as the line of separation between the two States."

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at



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