“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Franklin, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

The Age of Steam

(Franklin, Virginia)

The Age of Steam Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), January 30, 2021
1. The Age of Steam Marker
The conjunction of the Portsmouth & Roanoke Railroad and the Blackwater River in 1835 made this site, then a swampy wilderness, a natural link between the towns of the Chowan and Albemarle Sound and points to the northeast. The railroad, later known as the Seaboard & Roanoke and the Seaboard Line, transported people and goods between Norfolk and Blackwater Depot, then on the east bank of the River. Beginning in 1836, steamboats, including the Bravo, the Fox, the Stag, and the Curlew, carried them between Blackwater Depot and Edenton on the Blackwater and Chowan rivers.This commerce encouraged the growth of a village, known by 1838 as Franklin Depot, on the Southampton side of the Blackwater. By the early 1860s Franklin had a depot, a warehouse, a steamboat landing, steamboat lines, a sawmill, a general store, churches and a popular hotel owned by Richard and Mary Rebecca Murfee Barrett.

"On approaching ... [the Blackwater] station ... one looks in vain for the promised steamboat that is to convey him to Edenton. ... Anon, a blowing and fizzing draws his attention
Franklin Historical Marker Display image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), January 30, 2021
2. Franklin Historical Marker Display
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to... a white column of steam rising from the midst of the forest, and [he] follows a narrow path... [to] a very promising steamboat. Then, looking over her stern, he sees the Blackwater River, a narrow, black ditch, embarked with tangled bushes and cypress knees, and over-arched completely with trees clothed in vines and hanging moss. The stream being barely wide enough to float the boat, she is obliged to crab her way ... [backwards] for a considerable distance, her ... sides butting the cypress knees, and her wheel-houses raked by the overhanging boughs."
David H. Strother ("Porte Crayon"), 1856

(Included Time Line: 1835 - 1861)
1835 - The Portsmouth & Roanoke Railroad Crosses the Blackwater
1836 - Steamboats begin making regular trips on the Blackwater
1847 - Richard & Mary Murfee Barrett complete their home and open it to boarders.
1848 - William Murfee builds "River Lawn," the first large house in the village.
1850 - The Clyde Line, a steamboat company, is established.
1856 - John Frisbee Starts a sawmill across the river.
1857 - The Portsmouth & Roanoke Railroad moves the depot to Franklin. The Barretts open a larger hotel.
1858 - The Masonic Lodge - often referred to as "the Academy" and used as community hall, school, and church - is built
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1860 - The Albemarle Steam Packet Company is chartered.
1861 - Virginia secedes from the Union as the War Between the States begins.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceSettlements & SettlersWaterways & Vessels. A significant historical year for this entry is 1835.
Location. 36° 40.467′ N, 76° 55.173′ W. Marker is in Franklin, Virginia. Marker is on S Main Street (U.S. 258) near South Street, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Franklin VA 23851, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Barretts: A Franklin Pioneer Family (here, next to this marker); War Comes to the Blackwater (here, next to this marker); "Can't Is Not in the Camp's Vocabulary" (here, next to this marker); The Age of Gasoline (here, next to this marker); Recovery and Progress (here, next to this marker); Confederate Commissary Center (a few steps from this marker); Battle of Franklin (a few steps from this marker); The Blackwater Line (a few steps from this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Franklin.
Also see . . .  Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad, from Wikipedia. In the early 19th century, competition was fierce among Virginia's port cities to be the point where export products such as tobacco could be transferred
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to ocean-going and coast-wise shipping. Canals, turnpikes and railroads became important conduits in the antebellum period in Virginia. ... (Submitted on January 2, 2012, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina.) 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 31, 2021. It was originally submitted on January 1, 2012, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina. This page has been viewed 726 times since then and 11 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on January 31, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.

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Feb. 3, 2023