“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Millersburg in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

Millersburg Ferry: A Journey Through Time

Millersburg Ferry: A Journey Through Time Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William Fischer, Jr., October 12, 2019
1. Millersburg Ferry: A Journey Through Time Marker

Early History

Maps from the 1760s show the existence of early ferries in the Millersburg area. Daniel Miller reserved ferry rights for himself when he founded the town in 1807. Then, in 1817 documents show that George Carson of Upper Paxton Township and Michael Crow from Cumberland County (now Perry County) negotiated for the use of Crow's land as a ferry landing.

19th Century

In the early 1800s the ferry boats were man powered. The ferrymen either rowed or poled skiffs transporting passengers or flat boats hauling freight across the mile-wide river. Then in 1826, a sheriff's sale transferred Daniel Miller's proprietary reserve and ferry rights to David Kramer.

From there, the ferry passed to his sons, George and Joseph. In the 1870s Joseph Johnson purchased it and resold it to John Freck, who in turn sold it to Ramsey Moyer in the 1880s.

In 1873 the first steam powered boat entered service. The "Enterprise" at 12 feet wide and 60 feet long was a side-wheeler, similar in design to the "Pointy Boat." Due to the larger and heavier boat designs and the accompanying

Millersburg Ferry and Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William Fischer, Jr., October 12, 2019
2. Millersburg Ferry and Marker
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deeper boat drafts, the ferry wall was constructed to provide for deeper water in the ferry channel. The wall consists of piled rocks and dirt retrieved from the river bottom.

In 1890, Levi McConnell bought the ferry. Levi and his brother Richard had been operating another ferry in competition so this purchase combined the operations. The McConnells made improvements to Crow's landing on the west bank of the river by adding picnic tables, bathhouses, and a concession stand. Since the east side of the river contained raw sewage and coal mine drainage, the improved west side became a popular swimming and recreational area for local residents.

Richard McConnell's interest was sold to H. M. Hain in 1896 and then to Annie Miller and Pierce McConnell in 1898. Annie sold her share to Pierce in 1900 who sold it to John Travitz in 1904. In 1902 Levi McConnell sold his interest to George Seiler until 1906 when Warren Hunter purchased it. John Travitz sold his interest to Thomas Radel in 1907.

20th Century

In 1905, the first gasoline powered boat, the "Dinky Boat." entered into service.

As legend has it, in 1919 there was a race between a stern wheeled coal dredge and a side wheeled ferry boat. The coal dredge won and the ferry was converted to stern wheel propulsion.

Under Hunter's and Radel's guidance, the western shore recreation area became

Millersburg Ferry image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William Fischer, Jr., October 12, 2019
3. Millersburg Ferry
Maple Grove Park. They constructed a bandstand for concerts and installed a water slide complete with water pumped to the top, so swimmers could surf down the slide using a board and land in the river.

In the 1920s the first editions of the current boats, the "Roaring Bull" and the "Falcon", were launched. These stern wheel boats had a pilot house, a roof over the passenger deck, and a barge alongside to carry vehicles.

The 1920s and 1930s was a golden era of the ferry system and as many as four boats were required to keep up with demand for service. The closest bridge is either 15 miles south or 30 miles to the north.

The ferry stayed in the families of Hunter and Radel until 1968 when it was sold to Bud and Robert Wallis and Jim Zeiders. In 1972 Robert Wallis became the sole owner of the Millersburg Ferry.

Modern Day

In 1990, Community Banks, N.A. of Millersburg purchased the ferry from Robert Wallis and give it to the Millersburg Community, which then formed the Millersburg Ferry Boat Association, a board of nine members from various community organizations, who oversee the seasonal operation of the boats while preserving the historical value for future generations.

In 1998 "Roaring Bull" was rebuilt for the fifth time and its gasoline engine was replaced with a diesel engine and the paddle wheel was upgraded to a hydraulic drive.


Riverfront Park image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William Fischer, Jr., October 12, 2019
4. Riverfront Park
Ferry Landing is in the park
35 years of work, the Ferry system finally achieved National Historic Register status in 2006 just prior to [the] Millersburg Bicentennial.

The Ferry Boat Association is under the purview of the United States Coast Guard and as such, the pilots and boats must be Coast Guard certified.

The Ferry transports nearly 20,000 passengers per year including bicyclists and Amish buggies. Local lore has it that celebrity passengers have included Thomas Jefferson, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison.

[Photo captions, left to right, read]
• A group of well-dressed citizens prepares to cross the Susquehanna River in an early 22 foot pole boat.

• Ramsey Moyer and family enjoying a Sunday afternoon on the good ship "Enterprise" during the 1890s.

• Passengers disembark from the "Pointy Boat" on October 10th, 1905. The side-wheel boats were steam-powered.
Erected by City of Millersburg, Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, PA DCNR, and the Millerburg Ferry Boat.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Man-Made FeaturesSettlements & SettlersWaterways & Vessels. A significant historical year for this entry is 1807.
Location. 40° 32.438′ N, 76° 57.882′ W. Marker is in Millersburg, Pennsylvania, in Dauphin

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County. Marker is at the intersection of River Street and North Street, on the left when traveling north on River Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Millersburg PA 17061, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Millersburg Ferry (about 800 feet away, measured in a direct line); Civil War Soldiers Monument (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Music Pavilion / Gazebo (approx. 0.2 miles away); Daniel Miller Memorial Fountain (approx. Ό mile away); Millersburg Hotel (approx. Ό mile away); World War II Memorial (approx. 0.3 miles away); a different marker also named Millersburg Ferry (approx. 1.2 miles away); Dr. Reifsnyder (approx. 2.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Millersburg.
Also see . . .
1. History of the Millersburg Ferry. (Submitted on October 14, 2019, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. Millersburg's History. (Submitted on October 14, 2019, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Credits. This page was last revised on October 14, 2019. It was originally submitted on October 14, 2019, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 120 times since then and 6 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on October 14, 2019, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

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Jan. 27, 2023