An Innovative Ferry Service is Launched in Virginia

February 26, 1925

In the southeast region of Virginia, Captain Albert F. Jester launched a then-innovative type of ferry service on the James River between the community of Scotland in Surry County on the southern bank and historic Jamestown Island (site of the first permanent English settlement in the Americas) in James City County on the northern side.

Ferries were a longtime tradition in Virginia, with more than 100 in existence by the early 20th century. There had even been ferries crossing between Jamestown and Surry County as far back as the 1660s. Jester, however, had the distinction of implementing the first automobile-ferry service on Virginia’s longest river. 

The ferryboat that Jester used for the new service was named after Captain John Smith, the soldier and explorer who played a pivotal role in establishing Jamestown. The 65-foot (19.8-meter)-long wooden vessel was built by the Isaiah Hundley Marine Railway. This vessel could accommodate 16 automobiles at one time on its vehicle deck. The ferryboat’s upper deck had space for as many as 100 passengers. 

The inaugural crossing proved to be a festive affair, with a brass band from the local community of Norge performing on the Jamestown side and various dignitaries subsequently sailing to Scotland for a celebratory meal at the Surry County Court House. Jester continued to operate the ferry service until 1946, when he sold it to the Virginia Department of Highways (a predecessor of the present-day Virginia Department of Transportation). The Captain James Smith remained in use on that route until being sold and scrapped in the early 1950s. 

The Jamestown Ferry – also known as the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry – continues to be operated on a daily basis by the Virginia Department of Transportation. This service remains a vital and valued link in the state’s transportation infrastructure. Over the years, the Jamestown Ferry has also made an imprint on the larger culture. In 1972, for example, it was both the title and subject of a top-ten country song performed by Tanya Tucker.

Photo Credit: Bobjgalindo (licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license at Creative Commons — Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International — CC BY-SA 4.0

For more information on the Jamestown Ferry, please check out Jamestown Ferry – Wikipedia

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