Gloucester-Yorktown Ferry

The more recent history of ferries between Gloucester Point and Yorktown has moved to the past with the opening of the George P. Coleman Bridge.

William Henry Ashe operated Gloucester Point and Yorktown ferry was given a permit in March 1887.  Early ferry included flat skiffs to carry passengers and then larger skiffs for light carriages along with horses.  Upon William Ashe’s death the business was rented to Clifton Richardson by the widow.  The skiff capability could only carry three or four automobiles.  William Ashe’s son took over the business in 1917.   By In 1918, William T. Ashe had Willis T. Smith of Achilles build the Cornwallis, an enclosed ferry for $15,000 which could carry eight cars.  As the interest in Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown increased the ferry provided a means of thoroughfare.  The Robbins Hotel at Gloucester Point and the Monument Lodge at Yorktown provided accommodations.  The York ferry was put into service in 1925 and ran until 1952.  It could carry 22 cars and had an upper deck for passenger comfort.   The Palmetto was next in 1931 and could carry 26 cars.  The Palmetto was sold in 1939 and the Miss Washington purchased with the capacity for only 11 cars.  In 1941 the Gloucester was purchased and carried 22 cars.  At the same time the Virginia (formerly the City of Burlington) was purchased and could carry 32 cars and began service in 1942.  Shortly afterwards, the Virginia was sold.  The Ferry Corporation was sold to the Virginia Department of Highways in 1951 for $785,646.  The final run of the ferries was in 1952.  The George P. Coleman Bridge was built for $9 million to accommodate 15,000 cars a day.  There next became traffic problems and a new four-lane bridge with a capacity of 30,000 cars was opened in 1996.  The cost of reconstruction was 476.8 million.  A toll, removed in the 1970s was then reestablished.[1]

Last day of service of the York River Ferry, May 7, 1952

Gloucester-Yorktown Ferry

From the website, Life in Mathews, the following was shared by 94-year Bill Braxton, who e-mailed some information relating to the Gloucester Point ferry:[2]
“The first ferry was a 1HP put-put engine on a small flat top boat used to transport horse and buggy from Gloucester Point to Yorktown.

The first real ferry was the Cornwallis; others were the Miss Gloucester, York, Palmetto, and Miss Washington. The last was the Virginia.

The storm of August 23, 1933, caused tides that were seven feet above normal high tide, destroying the ferry dock at Gloucester Point and the steamboat dock at Yorktown. There was a side slip for the extra ferry the York. When the tide receded, it hung up on the pilings and put a hole in the bottom. The Palmetto had to ride the York River until the tide receded to normal. Capt. Willie Jordan docked the ferry at the Gloucester Point Steamboat Dock nose first by stabilizing the four corners of the ferry to the dock. A ramp was erected so the cars could drive off the ferry safely. The ferry line was owned by W, T. Ashe, Gloucester Point, Va.

In January of 1943 on the ferry York, the bumper of the last bus to board got caught on the landing ramp of dock. When the ferry pulled from the slip, the bus fell in the York River. Harry Jordan, purser, was aboard the bus collecting the fare from the passengers at the time. Fortunately there was only one casualty,

Seven days later another bus, first to board the ferry, drove up to the chain, and applied the brakes, but the brakes failed. The bus dove in the York River nose first. There were no casualties. The driver was yelling “SAVE MY WIFE! SAVE MY WIFE! GET MY BOOTS OFF I’LL SAVE MYSELF!”

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