Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ferry Licenses

Kentucky is blessed with many streams and rivers and where you have streams and rivers, there must be a way to cross them. From the earliest days of the Commonwealth, the need for ferries was recognized and, in order to make the ferries operate efficiently, there had to be regulations.

Laws of Kentucky of 1799 [1] outlines the rules for a successful ferry system.

The county courts were empowered to establish ferries across the rivers or creeks within their boundaries. In order to establish the ferry, the land owners on both sides of the watercourse must have a month's notice that the application was to be made for the ferry.

The rates of the ferries were fixed by the courts at the time the ferry was established. The rates covered the following: every coach, waggon, chariot and the driver, every two- and four-wheeled chaise, carriage, phaeton and driver, every hogshead of tobacco and all livestock.

If the county court thought it beneficial that a tavern be kept at the ferry, they could license the ferry keeper to keep a tavern without a fee for the license. The ferry keeper had to post bond with security, but did not have to pay a fee for the license.

All ferries were to furnish the necessary boats and ferry-men within six months after the establishment of the ferry. If they did not, the ferry was discontinued.

The following has been abstracted from loose bundles marked "Ferry Bonds" in the Caldwell County Clerk's Office, Princeton, Kentucky. Ferry licenses are recorded in the county court order books also.

Bond:  17 May 1841. A ferry hath been established from the lands of Milton Dudley in Caldwell County on the Tennessee River to the opposite shore at the place where Morse's old ferry was. If M. Dudley shall at all times keep good & sufficient boats for the transportation of passengers and carriages and other personal property across the river at that place, giving immediate passage ... when required, this obligation to be void. [signed] A.H. Dudley & David W. McGoodwin, his securities.

[1]  Laws of Kentucky. (Lexington, KY: Printed by John Bradford) 1799, Chapter XC, pp 245-247.

Published 13 November 2014, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

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