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WATCH NOW: Hatton Ferry returned to river amid revival efforts for historic barge

SCOTTSVILLE — One of the last poled ferries in the country soon will be under renewed management, as Buckingham County, Historic Buckingham Inc., the town of Scottsville and the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society work to reconstitute an organization to take control.

The Hatton Ferry on the James River near Scottsville began operation in 1870, and the ferry assets recently were gifted from Hatton Ferry Inc. to Buckingham.

“My hope is that we can put together a grassroots community effort to support this, and that’s what it’s going to need,” said Tom Chapman, executive director of the ACHS. “It’s one thing for the historical society to say, this is the only poled ferry in the United States, this is cool … But in terms of what’s cool versus [if] we can find funding and support to actually continue operations, that’s a whole other thing that requires the community to get involved.”

On Saturday, a crane on the Buckingham side of the river lifted the ferry back into the water from the bank it has rested on since it was beached late last year during high water. Uprooted trees became entangled under the barge, breaking the chain holding it to the Albemarle County side of the river, and the ferry floated to the Buckingham side, where it later became stuck.

Chapman said Martha Louis, with Historic Buckingham, has been instrumental in gathering donations from private individuals to kick things off and help get the ferry back in the river. But it didn’t run the last two seasons, he said, after insurance was not purchased, and there’s a lot of work to get it fully operational again.

“Then inspections and other things that we need to do to make sure that the cables and the barge itself are safe before you put anything on it,” Chapman said. “So we’re looking at a sizable chunk of funds there that need to be put together.”

After years of private ownership, the Virginia Department of Transportation took control from 1940 until around 2010, when Hatton Ferry Inc. took over.

Hatton Ferry Inc. is a nonstock corporation, and Chapman said the organizations involved want to now change it to a nonprofit.

“What we’re looking at is to take Hatton Ferry the corporation, get it to a transparent, sustainable level, with the board of directors, bylaws, all those things that need to be in place, and then go to the IRS and say we’re applying for 501©3 status to make it its own nonprofit,” he said.

The historical society will continue to be involved, but the ultimate goal is to have a fully independent entity, Chapman said.

The ACHS is looking for volunteers and donations to support saving Hatton Ferry.

Donations can be made at or mailed to ACHS – Save Hatton Ferry, 200 Second St. NE, Charlottesville, VA 22902. For more information, email or call (540) 222-9956.


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