It Happened Here
by Larry S. Chowning
There is a chapter in the book “The Garretts of Essex and Caroline Counties,” written by Harry Lee Garrett, titled “Garrett’s Ferry,” which was an automobile and passenger ferry that operated on the lower Rappahannock River.
A charter was granted to H.L. Garrett by Middlesex and Lancaster counties in 1924 giving him permission to run a ferry from Irvington in Lancaster to Locklies on the Middlesex side of the Rappahannock.
The Irvington ferry landing was adjacent to the Irvington Beach Hotel grounds. This landing was secured from Palmer and Moore who operated a Buick automobile dealership and marine engines and accessories business. A.E. Segar provided the landing site on Locklies Creek in Middlesex.
“In the beginning of this idea,” wrote Garrett, “I was employed by the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey and lived in Kilmarnock and had visited Standard Oil Stations at Tappahannock, Urbanna, Mathews and Gloucester Point. The closest means of crossing the river was Ware’s Ferry, just below Warsaw.
“I could stand at the Standard Oil station in Urbanna and look across at Irvington, a distance of about 7 miles, and with bad roads and poor ferry service it was at times an 8 to 10 hour trip. This was what induced me to try to get a ferry somewhere in the vicinity of lower Middlesex and Lancaster counties.”
Garrett’s brother, John Q. Garrett of White Stone, built the ferry boat “Frances B. Garrett,” named after Harry Lee Garrett’s wife, and on May 15, 1924, made her maiden voyage from Irvington to Locklies with “a few passengers and two cars.”
After seeing the potential of this endeavor, Garrett went to Howard Rock, president of Irvington Bank, and W.R. Rowe, vice president, and tried to secure a loan to expand the ferry business. It was immediately turned down. However, when Garrett made a hefty deposit after a couple weeks of ferry running, the bankers informed him he was eligible for “any financial assistance needed.”
The ferry service flourished and, after a period of two years, he secured another franchise to operate between Irvington and Urbanna. Trouble started, however, about one year after the ferry service was inaugurated when the General Assembly secured funds to build the Downing Bridge at Tappahannock in 1927. Garrett’s ferry would have to compete with a free bridge.
The ferry business, however, survived and was incorporated as Garrett’s Ferry Inc. in 1929. The stockholders were W.R. Rowe, A.E. Segar, Mrs. W.R. Rowe, H.L. Garrett and Frances B. Garrett.
In 1936, Harry Lee Garrett sold his interest to Captain John Q. Adams. Soon after, the ferry landings were moved from Locklies to Grey’s Point and from Irvington to Cherry Point, about where the Robert O. Norris Bridge is located today. Captain Adams sold the ferry boat and rights to the state.
Garrett wrote in his book, “I crossed on the ferry this last summer (1956) and the state was busy at that time building a bridge. I think it would be a wonderful gesture if the state should name the new bridge Garrett’s Bridge at Grey’s Point.”
The new bridge, named the Robert O. Norris Jr. Bridge, was completed in 1957.
It happened Right Here in Rivah Country!
Special thanks to Carleton H. Garrett of Colonial Beach for sharing his family history from “The Garretts of Essex and Caroline Counties Virginia.”