In operation from the early 19th century to the present, the Millersburg Ferry connects Millersville, Pennsylvania to Buffalo Township on opposite sides of the Susquehanna River. It is the last operating ferry on the Susquehanna and its double-stern paddle boat is thought to be the last operating in the United States. It is owned by the Millersburg Chamber of Commerce and operated by the Millersburg Ferryboat Association and still ferries both people and vehicles across the river. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.
Backstory and Context
The Millersburg Ferry is thought to have been in operation prior to the establishment of the town of Millersburg in 1807. The town’s founder, Daniel Miller, reserved shad fishing and ferry rights for himself when the town was established. This is the first mention of the ferry’s existence. The first boats used at by the ferry were flat-bottomed, pole-driven boats known as bateaus, due to the shallow depths of the Susquehanna. They would continue to be used until they were replaced by steam-powered ferries in 1873. The use of the heavier, deeper draft steam ferries entailed the construction of a ferry wall or dam to deepen the waters of the river where the ferry crossed.
From 1817 through 1820, the ferry was operated by George Carson and/or Michael Crow and it was Crow who petitioned the state government to build a road to the landing from the “Great Road,” now U.S. Route 11/15. It is known Crow was involved with the ferry as he was assessed for a farm, sawmill and ferry in 1820 and, as a result, the western shore landing came to be known as Crow’s Landing. In an 1826 sheriff’s sale, the proprietary rights for the Millersburg landing was transferred from Daniel Miller to David Kramer for $60.00. Ownership of the ferry was greatly contested from the 1820s through 1866 when the Pennsylvania state legislature licensed it to David Kramer’s son, Joseph, who was granted the right to operate it at his own expense on both shores.
The ferry was sold at least ten times between the 1870s and 1910 and was then operated by the Radel and Hunter families from 1907 to 1968 when it was sold to Robert and Bud Wallis and Jim Zeiders. Robert Wallis became the sole owner in 1972. Wallis, in 1990, sold the ferry to Community Banks N.A. which then donated it to the Millersburg Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber then quickly created the Millersburg Ferryboat Association to continue operation of the ferry and that arrangement still is in place today.
With the continued construction of bridges across the Susquehanna, most ferries were put out of business, but the Millersburg Ferry has endured. While it was initially used to ferry people, wagons, livestock, produce, and building supplies across the river, today it is more of a tourist attraction. Although, it is the only crossing for forty miles between Duncannon and Sunbury. It currently operates two ferries, the Roaring Bull V and the Falcon III which make the mile crossing in about twenty minutes. The ferry can be accessed on the east side at North and River Streets in Millersburg and, on the west side, just off U.S. Route 15/11 at Ferry Lane which takes one through the Ferryboat Campsites. The ferry is in operation Friday through Monday from June 1st through Labor Day.
Gunyuzlu, Annette. "National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form." United States Department of the Interior/National Park Service. April 3, 2006. Accessed November 29, 2017. http://www.dot7.state.pa.us/CRGIS_Attachments/SiteResource/H086655_01H.pdf
"History of the Millersburg Ferry." Millersburg Ferryboat Association. Accessed November 29, 2017. http://www.millersburgferry.org/2136/2178.html
Pickel, Janet. "Millersburg Ferry receives $90k state grant." Penn Live. July 20, 2008. Accessed November 29, 2017. http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2008/07/millersburg_ferry_receives_90k.html
Kaplaniak, Sara. "Millersburg ferry boats mark 200 years of service." Bay Journal. April 6, 2017. Accessed November 29, 2017. http://www.bayjournal.com/article/millersburg_ferry_boats_mark_200_years_of_service