Historic ferries of the Atlanta area

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There were several historic ferries around the metro Atlanta, Georgia area, for which many of its current-day roads are named. Most of the ferries date back to the 1820s and 1830s, when crossing the river was a challenge for Atlantans. An assortment of private ferries carried travelers and loads across the Chattahoochee River and several other smaller rivers providing much needed at that time service.[1] After the Civil War, many of them were replaced with bridges, which later became the historic bridges of the Atlanta area.

Bell's Ferry[edit]

Bell's Ferry was a privately-run ferry across the Little River in Cherokee County. This location is now part of a narrow arm of Lake Allatoona, and the present-day Bell’s Ferry Road does cross the Little River. Bells Ferry Road runs from Church Street (former Georgia State Route 3 (SR 3), one block west of former SR 5 on Cherokee Street) in Marietta north to Marietta Street (former SR 5 in Canton). It is an alternative route between the two county seats, departing well west of former SR 5 (which is now renumbered onto Interstate 575). Until 1984, the section of this road from SR 92 at Oak Grove north to Canton was designated as SR 205.

Within the city of Marietta, street name signs use the proper "Bell's" rather than "Bells". However, the southernmost end of the road is called Church Street Extension, despite being a turn off of Church Street, and being a straight continuation of Bells Ferry Road. The counter-intuitive name change occurs at an arbitrary place in the road (near Cobb Electric Membership Corporation), instead of at a major intersection like Cobb Parkway. This section was once the main street through the small town of Elizabeth.

According to Cherokee County court documents of 1835, James H. Bell operated a ferry across the Etowah River.[2] It has been suggested that, since James Bell owned Land Lot 252/21/2 at the time and as it contained both banks of the Etowah, this was the probable location of his ferry. This site is near present day BridgeMill community, northwest of Bells Ferry Rd. and Sixes Rd.[3]

In June of 1835, Bell sold the land and ferry.[4] In January 1837, Bell purchased Land Lot 478/21/2 on the Etowah and a ferry was established there in 1834 by Jonathan J. Johnson.[5] Bell operated this ferry until December 1855, when he sold the property to Samuel Lovinggood, who built a bridge across the Etowah near this location.[6] Land Lot 478 is near present day Victoria Landing on Lake Allatoona.

These two Bell's ferry locations account for the Bell's Ferry Rd. between Canton and Marietta, and also for the Bell's Ferry roads found across the Etowah River, running north and west from the Land Lot 478/21/2 ferry site.[7]

DeFoor's Ferry[edit]

Originally Montgomery Ferry. Run by Martin DeFoor.

Johnson Ferry Road[edit]

Main article: Johnson Ferry Road

Although the name of the road is now Johnson Ferry, the actual ferry that crossed the Chattahoochee River at that point was called "Johnston's Ferry" because it was operated by the landowner there, William Marion Johnston. There is a historical marker placed by the Georgia Historical Commission in 1963 that states, "300 ft. W. stood the res. of Wm. Johnston who operated the ferry in the 1850's, where Johnston's Fy. Rd. crosses the Chattahoochee River. July 5, 1864. Gen. Kenner Garrard's cav. div. [US] en route from Marietta to Roswell via this rd., camped on Willeo Cr., from which point he sent a regiment S. to burn the Paper Mills on Soap Creek. July 9. Newton's 4th A. C. div. [US], moving from Vining's Station, traversed this road to Roswell to support Garrard's passage of the river at Shallow Ford -- retracing July 12 & crossing the river at Power's Ferry, July 13. " -033-93 GEORGIA HISTORICAL COMMISSION 1963

Johnson Ferry Road (often incorrectly referred to as "Johnson's Ferry Road") is a major arterial road between Cobb County and Sandy Springs. From Columns Drive on the northwest riverbank of the Chattahoochee River, southeast to Abernathy Road, and continuing east on Abernathy to Roswell Road (SR 9), the roads have been temporarily designated by GDOT as SR 947.[8] This is due to the heavy volume of rush hour traffic traveling this route to get to and from SR 400, and the failure of Cobb and Fulton counties to come to an agreement on their own, with Fulton at one time timing the traffic lights to cause further morning backups into Cobb. While all of the homes along Abernathy will be destroyed for widening, the neighborhoods along the 1.25 miles (2.01 km) of Johnson Ferry Road will be spared. Johnson Ferry and Abernathy will be "broken", such that they flow directly into each other, and will require a turn to stay straight on the original roads. The 1969 bridge at the former ferry location will be widened between Columns Drive on the Cobb riverbank to Riverside Drive on the Fulton riverbank, from its current four lanes to six plus bike lanes, wide sidewalks, and a raised road median. Currently, Johnson Ferry Road is four lanes on the Fulton side (two southeast of Abernathy), and six lanes on the Cobb side (four north of its own Roswell Road, SR 120).

Jones Ferry[edit]

See Jones Bridge.

Heard's Ferry[edit]

Heard's Ferry, originally Isom's Ferry, was operated by John Heard (1835-1931). Named for Judge John Stevens Heard, served as a corporal in the 9th Georgia Battalion Artillery and buried in the Heard family Cemetery off Heards Ferry Road not far from the ferry location.[9]

Howell Ferry[edit]

This ferry was near Duluth and crossed over the Chattahoochee River. There is currently a street off of Peachtree Industrial Boulevard bearing its name. The ferry is named for Captain Evan P. Howell and the Howell Family.

Hutcheson Ferry[edit]

Near Palmetto.

Isom's Ferry[edit]

Isom's Ferry was operated in the 1860s by James Isom. The ferry went by many names, include Isham's Ferry, Isham's Ford, Phillip's Ford, and Cavalry Ford. John Heard took over Isom's Ferry in 1868 and operated it until 1890 as Heard's Ferry.[10]

John Isom – Jr. 1st Lieutenant Appointed 2nd Corporal, March 4, 1862 Private in Captain Sentell’s Company, Leyden’s, Artillery Battalion This company subsequently became Company B, 9th Battalion Georgia Artillery Age 45, Enlisted Atlanta, Ga. March 4, 1862 Under A. Leyden for 3 years or war. From March 4, to May 1, 1862 Present Acted as Corporal up to date May 1, 1862 Elected 2nd Lieutenant, May – June 1862 not stated, May 20, 1862 Bounty Paid $50, Resigned as Captain April 15, 1864 for health reasons, Captured in Berrien County Georgia July 16, 1864, Appeared on a Register of Prisoner of War received at Military Prison, Louisville, Kentucky received at military prison Louisville, Ky. Released north of the Ohio River. Took oath to US Aug 27 1864, Complexion Dark, Hair Light, Eyes, Blue, Height 5’ 7”, Born in Jackson County Georgia in 1818 Buried in Grady County Ga. Received a Cross of Honor from Atlanta UDC Chapter 18 14 Dec 1818 22 Jun 1904 [11]

McGinnis Ferry[edit]

McGinnis Ferry Road crosses the Chattahoochee River at Suwanee. It connects Gwinnett County on one side with Fulton and Forsyth County on the other. It serves as the border between Fulton and Forsyth.

Montgomery Ferry[edit]

Montgomery Ferry was located on the Chattahoochee River near Fort Peachtree, where the Western & Atlantic Railroad crosses the Chattahoochee, and was built by Major James McConnell Montgomery.[12]

In 1853 it was taken over by Martin DeFoor and became known as DeFoor's Ferry.

Nelson Ferry[edit]

John B. Nelson (father of Allison Nelson) operated this ferry where Sandy Creek flowed into the Chattahoochee River (now the up-river part of Fulton County Airport). He operated it from 1820 until his murder in 1825.[13]

Currently (2015) there exists a short road in Decatur labelled "Nelson Ferry Rd." It runs a few blocks from W. Ponce De Leon Ave in Decatur, in the direction of Sandy Creek, to Scott Blvd.

Nesbit Ferry[edit]

This ferry was located on the Chattahoochee River between Sandy Springs and Roswell. It is approximately 2 miles west of Holcomb Bridge. There are currently two Nesbit Ferry Roads, one in Sandy Springs and the other in Johns Creek. The Sandy Springs one, located in the Dunwoody Panhandle district, is an exclusive residential area with million dollar homes, some of which have views of the river.

Pace's Ferry[edit]

Main article: Pace's Ferry

Pace's Ferry belonged to Hardy Pace, one of Atlanta's founders.[14] Paces Ferry Rd. connects historic Vinings in the west, on the Chattahoochee River in Cobb County, to the western edge of Atlanta's Buckhead area in the east. From this end, West Paces Ferry Road, one of Atlanta's best-known streets, traverses east through some of Atlanta's oldest and wealthiest Buckhead neighborhoods, and serves as the address for the Georgia Governor's Mansion. Continuing east, West Paces Ferry Road becomes East Paces Ferry Road after intersecting Peachtree Road in Buckhead's entertainment and nightlife district. East Paces Ferry Road runs as far east as Lenox Square mall, after being severed by SR 400.

Paces Mill Road is a small spur route off of Paces Ferry Road connecting Vinings east to Cobb Parkway (US 41/SR 3).

There was also a Battle of Pace's Ferry during the Atlanta Campaign of the American Civil War.

Powers Ferry[edit]

The Powers Ferry (originally Power's Ferry) was another route northwest from Atlanta, upstream from Pace's Ferry. It is named for James Power (1790-1870),[15] a plantation owner, who established this Chattahoochee River ferry in 1835, before Atlanta was founded.[16] The ferry remained in service until a bridge was built in 1903, or nearly 70 years; Union Army soldiers utilized the crossing in 1864, during the Atlanta Campaign of the Civil War.

The exact location of the ferry is now the northeastern-most crossing of Interstate 285 over the river; and it is the Fulton-Cobb county line (now the Sandy Springs city limit), with the interstate carrying several lanes of traffic in each direction (just two each way when it opened in 1969). There is a Powers Island in the river at this point, now a hiking area associated with the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Presumably, James Power's ferry was located in the vicinity of this island.

The perimeter highway (I-285) is flanked on its north side by Interstate North Parkway (west) / Riveredge Parkway (east), and on its south side by the ferry's namesake road, each carrying two lanes (one in each direction). Powers Ferry Road runs through Cobb and Fulton counties, terminating at both ends at two different streets named Roswell Road (SR 120 and SR 9, respectively).

The business district just east of the crossing is called Powers Ferry Landing, located where Northside Drive crosses the road, just east of the former landing. This provides freeway access at Northside Drive (west ramps) and New Northside Drive (east ramps, road and ramps built in a 1990s reconstruction). Signage on the freeway indicates Powers Ferry Road, Northside Drive, and New Northside Drive.

Shallow Ford[edit]

The Shallow Ford was indeed a shallow ford across the Chattahoochee River. It was established by Jacob Brooks in 1824. Shallowford Road now takes this route.

Vann's Ferry[edit]

Vann's Ferry was the first ferry across the Chattahoochee, starting in 1804. It was named for Cherokee leader James Vann (builder of the Vann House, and crossed the river between Hall and Forsyth counties (both formed later on), at a point now under Lake Lanier. There is no longer a road by this name, and the area is now becoming an exurb of metro Atlanta.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Michael Kahn. Crossing the 'Hooch: Fulton's Ferries, Bridges and Fords, August 31, 2015
  2. ^ Cherokee County Court Records, 1835; Georgia Archives, Morrow, GA
  3. ^ Larry Vogt. Hidden History of Lake Allatoona: The Sixes, Cherokee Mills, Little River Area. Dautzenlein Publications, 2013
  4. ^ Georgia Records and Cherokee Co. Deed Book B, #251
  5. ^ Georgia Records and Cherokee Co. Deed Book C, #110, p.64-65
  6. ^ Georgia Records and Cherokee Co. Deed Book O, p.442
  7. ^ Larry Vogt. Hidden History of Lake Allatoona: The Sixes, Cherokee Mills, Little River Area. Dautzenlein Publications, 2013
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ JUDGE JOHN HEARD DIES AT AGE OF 96: Pioneer Citizen Was Leading ... The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945); Dec 20, 1931; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Atlanta Constitution (1868-1945) pg. 1A
  10. ^ http://www.cviog.uga.edu/Projects/gainfo/gahistmarkers/isomsferryhistmarker.htm
  11. ^ Fold3 military Records
  12. ^ http://ngeorgia.com/feature/ferriesofcobbcounty.html
  13. ^ http://www.cviog.uga.edu/Projects/gainfo/gahistmarkers/allisonnelsonhistmarker.htm historical marker
  14. ^ Historic Markers Across Georgia: Old Pace's Ferry Road
  15. ^ James Power's Cobb County grave on Find A Grave. Accessed 27 March 2015.
  16. ^ Power’s Ferry, The Georgia Historical Society

Selected publications[edit]

External links[edit]