Trenton in Mercer County, New Jersey — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Ferries across the Delaware
On the Pennsylvania side of the river, the rights to the Trenton Ferry passed between the Chorley, Biles and Kirkbridge families before being purchased by Patrick Colvin in 1772. In New Jersey, during the colonial period, the ferry was controlled by the owners of the property known today as the William Trent House. The patent of 1726 guaranteed James Trent, William’s son, exclusive ferry rights along the New Jersey riverbank
In the 1770s, as Lamberton was expanding from a fishing village into a river town and Trenton’s port, a second trans-Delaware ferry was added. Set up in 1773 by Elijah Bond in New Jersey and John Thornton in Pennsylvania, this ferry was known as the Lamberton or Lower Ferry. For several years it competed successfully with the Trenton Ferry, serving between 1776 and 1781 as the “Continental Ferry” where Americans in active military service could cross the river at reduced rates. In May 1781 the Continental Ferry designation was shifted upstream to the Trenton Ferry where, later that year, French military topographers, compiling an itinerary for Rochambeau’s army, noted: “You reach the ferry, where there are several houses …. There are generally 2 ferryboats and some sailboats available for crossing.”
A third ferry, the Upper Ferry, also started up
Crossing the Delaware at Trenton
Crossing the river between Trenton and Morrisville has always been a challenge. The so-called “falls of the Delaware,” a ragged spread of schist in the riverbed between the Trenton Makes and Calhoun Street bridges, are barely passable on foot and horseback at low water. Yet, this ford was important as the furthest upstream point where the river could be crossed without resorting to boats. As a result, prehistoric and early historic land routes converged on this point in the landscape, providing much of the stimulus for the local settlement growth. With this confluence of roads, it was not long before ferries were established in the area to handle traffic too awkward or cumbersome for the ford. The boom ferry years extended from the late 17th through into the early 19th century. With the completion of the first Trenton to Morrisville bridge over the
Most ferryboats were either of raft-like pontoon construction or long, narrow, flat-bottomed vessels with low sides and hinged flaps at each end to facilitate loading and unloading. Poles, oars and sometimes sails were used to assist in navigating the river currents and various other items, such as hooks, chains and ropes, were part of the ferryman’s standard equipment. The ferry terminus often emerged as the hub of a larger settlement complete with a ferry house, a tavern and other residences. Trenton Ferry, for example, was a small but lively riverside enclave in the mid-18th century, a place where George Burns saw fit to open and advertise a “house of entertainment” in 1754.
Erected 2004 by New Jersey Department of Transportation.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Waterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the The Washington-Rochambeau Route series list.
Location. 40° 11.818′ N, 74° 45.479′ W. Marker is in Trenton, New Jersey, in Mercer County. Marker can be reached from New Jersey Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Trenton NJ 08611, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Shipping on the Delaware (within shouting distance of this marker); South Riverwalk Park (within shouting distance of this marker); Ice, Brewing and Bottles (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Pre-17th Century Trenton Timeline (about 400 feet away); Europeans at the Falls of the Delaware (about 400 feet away); Quakers Lead the Settlement of West Jersey (about 400 feet away); The West Jersey Proprietors Rule (about 400 feet away); William Trent of Trent’s Town (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Trenton.
More about this marker. The marker is in the southern half of the park closest to the main entrance at Lalor Street. It overlooks the Delaware River.
Also see . . . Yardley Ferry Chronology. (Submitted on January 13, 2008.)
1. Yardley Ferry Chronology
In reference to Ferries across the Delaware, please see the Yardley Ferry Chronology ("Also see" link above). My ancestor, Andrew Heath, operated the ferry ca. 1700, then known as Heath's Ferry, across the Delaware from Lower Ferry Road. Heath's Creek (now Gould's Run) still runs parallel to Lower Ferry Road through the property of New Jersey Manufacturers' Insurance.
Credits. This page was last revised on February 3, 2021. It was originally submitted on December 26, 2007, by Gary Nigh of Trenton, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 3,435 times since then and 21 times this year. Last updated on February 2, 2021, by Carl Gordon Moore Jr. of North East, Maryland. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on December 26, 2007, by Gary Nigh of Trenton, New Jersey. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.