In the first half of the eighteenth century, ferries such as Mackey’s and Street’s played an integral role in the movement of goods and people across eastern North Carolina. As the number of settlers moving into the Albemarle region increased, so did the need for proper forms of transportation, and specifically methods of crossing the numerous creeks and rivers, not to mention the sounds. The majority of these were either small flatboats that were poled across the waterways, or rope-pulled vessels that were faster and more efficient.
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In the early 1730s, a ferry was established on Kendrick’s Creek in what is today northern Washington County connecting Edenton with the southern half of the Albemarle Sound. The crossing first appears in the historical record in 1733 as Thomas Bell’s Ferry, but in 1735 the operation was purchased by William Mackey. The initial fees appear to have been 30 shillings for a man and horse, and 15 for a man on foot.
Mackey ran the ferry at least until the 1750s, when he twice petitioned, and was granted, the right to increase his fee system at the ferry. In 1758 the justices of the Chowan County court admonished local ferry keepers to “keep more boats to give better attendance for carrying over passengers.” It remains unclear if that directive was meant for Mackey. A ferry operated continually at the crossing until 1938 when a steel bridge was built crossing the sound near Kendrick’s Creek. Mackey’s rope-pulled ferry had been replaced by sail, steam, and finally diesel vessels by that time.
William S. Powell, ed., North Carolina Gazetteer (1968)
John W. Darden, Story of Washington County (1950)
Washington County Historical Society, Historic Washington County (1971)
Alan Watson, “The Ferry in Colonial North Carolina,” North Carolina Historical Review (1974): 247-261
The A. Von Nyvenheim at Mackey's Ferry c. 1920