Excerpts from "Buffalo National River Theme Identification Context Studies And Property Evaluations" 

Thomason and Associates

Preservation Planners

Nashville, Tennessee And Hawkins Partners Landscape Architects Nashville, Tennessee

September, 2004

Part 4

Transportation in the Buffalo River valley has historically developed along three major networks – rivers, roads, and railroads. These networks provided a connection between local villages and settlements and connected them to points outside the region as well. Roads dominated the frontier period of settlement and initial development.

Fording the Buffalo River and the region’s numerous streams was especially troublesome for overland travelers. Locals often crossed watercourses by horseback or horse-drawn wagons at shallow points. Ferries operated at a few points on the river and offered a quick, inexpensive, and usually dry alternative. Ferries were typically boats rowed or poled back and forth across the water. One of the primary ferry operations along the Buffalo was Grinder’s Ferry near where Highway 65 crosses the river today. Josh and George Grinder began to operate a ferry at this location as early as the 1870s. Initially the men poled a flatboat to transport people back and forth. They later developed a cable and pulley system to propel the ferry using the force of the river itself. The cable was fastened to a tree on one side of the river and an anchor was used on the opposite bank to hold it in place. This method allowed the river current to carry the ferry, which crossed at an angle to meet the connecting roadbed.

The Grinder family managed the ferry across the Buffalo River for over fifty years before the Passmore family took over the operation. A ferry operated at this location until a modern bridge was constructed at the site in 1929. The Arnold family also operated a ferry near their home in Arnold Bend during the late nineteenth century. The ferry landing was washed out and ceased operation in 1901. Another ferry crossed the Buffalo River near the community of Maumee. Dillard’s Ferry operated near Buffalo Point along what is now Highway 14 in the early twentieth century.

Crossing the river and area streams remained a challenge to the local community well into the twentieth century. Area residents were familiar enough with the river to know where they could cross by boat or horseback, however, heavy rains often made these passages as well as ferry crossings difficult if not impossible to ford. Some residents constructed swinging bridges across the river to enable them to reach schools, churches, and neighboring communities. Such a bridge was built across the Buffalo in the Erbie area in the late 1930s, and another spanned Calf Creek near Brown School.

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