top of page

The Old Ferry Boat by A. F. Shirts -1824 - 1905 (transcribed as it appears in Primitive History Of Hamilton County, Ind - 1901)

**Note:  The history recorded by Mr. Shirts was done so in a time before political correctness.  We transcribed portions of his work so that the reader may experience it as it was described from 1st and 2nd hand accounts, in authenticity of mood and reflections of its time in history.   We honor all those who wove the fabric of this nation's greatness and hope you will celebrate with us by respecting all groups and their contributions to bring us to who we are today through their sacrifice and endurance.

In March, 1846, the Board of County Commissioners granted William Carlin a license to erect and maintain a ferry across White River at Noblesville.  Under this authority Mr. Carlin constructed a flat boat sufficiently large to hold a wagon and four horses.  He then procured a large rope which he fastened to a tree on the west bank of the river, and the other end to the a windlass on the east bank.  By means of a windlass the rope could be tightened or loosened as was required.  Two smaller ropes with pulleys connected the boat with the larger rope.  These small ropes were so arranged that when the boat was crossing the west bank the rope at the east end would allow that end to drift down stream further than the front.  The pulleys ran along on the large rope so that when the boat was pushed from the shore the force of the current would send the pulleys forward on the rope.  By this means the boat was sent across the stream. On the return trip the rope on the west end of the boat was lengthened and the one on the east taken up.  On arriving at either bank an apron attached to the boat was through forward which made the passageway to the shore.  For foot passengers an old canoe was used.  The toll for foot passengers was 5 cents each, a man and one horse ten cents , for a wagon, driver and two horses twenty cents, for a one horse vehicle fifteen cents, for wagon and three horses twenty five cents, for wagon and four horses thirty five cents, for each head of cattle two and one half cents, for each hog or sheep one cent.  Public messengers were ferried free.  The writer was keeper of the ferry during the January flood of 1847 (A. F. Shirts) and had some thrilling experiences.  At one time a man drove a two-horse wagon onto the boat, leaving the horses attached to the wagon.  He had with him a woman and two children.  The ropes were adjusted and the boat pushed from the shore.  The river was very high and the current strong.  The center of the stream had been passed going west when the rope at the east end of the boat broke letting it drive down stream, throwing the weight on the rope at the west end.  It was a question Whether that would hold the boat.  If it should break all would be lost.  The woman began to scream and the children to cry.   A long pole was used to relieve the weight on the short rope and the opposite shore was reached in safety.  This ferry was used in time of high water until the bridge was built; then it was discontinued

bottom of page