Red River Ferry Crossings and Fords
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Click on the community ferry name for more details
Click on the community ferry name for more details
It is our objective on this site to examine information available from various sources in regards to the ferry boat operations at Oscar, Grady, Petersburg and Courtney. Many questions remain and the information contained here is fine-tuned with each new addition. We welcome your photo and information contributions.
Ferry boat operators and their locations can be confusing. Operating along the Red River between the Chickasaw Nation/Oklahoma and Texas, the heyday of the ferry boats spanned a little more than fifty years from the mid to late 1870s to the late 1920s. The names of many of the ferry operators have been lost over time. And, for the few names that are known it is difficult to determine between one who "owned" or “operated” a ferry or held an official permit or charter versus one who may have “run” or was “employed” to run the ferry.
Ferry permits were issued by the Chickasaw Nation for boats operating on Red River and typically covered a period of ten years with stipulations on the prices that could be levied and distances between crossings. Only a few records pertaining to ferry permits survive contained in Volume 20 of the Chickasaw Nation Records. After a thorough examination of the records no permit records could be located pertaining to ferry crossing located near Keltner, Jimtown, Courtney, Petersburg, Grady, or Oscar.
Records show that toll fees on the Chickasaw Nation ferries in 1884 were fifty cents for a wagon, ten cents for other stock, two-and one-half cents for sheep, goats, and hogs, twenty-five cents for a man and a horse, and ten cents for a footman.
The Burneyville ferry located roughly twenty miles downriver from Courtney was issued a license between 1897 - 1901: “W.B.Burney authorized to establish a ferry on Red River at Burneyville Crossing, Wesley B. Burney on the Crossing of the Burneyville & Gainesville road with following rates of toll: any vehicle drawn by two horses, mules or oxen 50 cents, vehicle drawn by one animal 35 cents, man and horse 25 cents, footman 10 cents, extra stock per head 10 cents, sheep, goats, hogs per head 5 cents. Burney has the right to operate a ferry boat within three miles of said Burneyville Crossing up and down Red River and shall be responsible for any person crossing on his ferry boat for any and all damages sustained by negligence of his boatman or insufficiency of his boat. A bond is set of $500. The permit is for term of 10 years.” (Chickasaw Nation Records. Vol. 20, Pg 1040 New Section Ferries 1897 – 1901. Pg 1044).
Max Brown contributed the following information regarding ferry license issued on the Texas side of the river: In the Montague County Circuit Court November 13, 1900 term the Court declared that license to run and operate a ferry across its waterways was required with an annual tax of $10.00 payable to the County Treasurer and to secure a bond of $1000.00 payable to the County Judge.
The Court determined the schedule of fees and charges of tolls to be fixed:
Foot passengers each 15 cents
Passengers horseback each 25 cents
Vehicles or buggies with one horse each 25 cents
Buggies, carriages, or wagons with two horses or one yoke oxen 50 cents
Buggies, carriages, or wagons with more than two horses or oxen 60 cents
Any kind of livestock being led each 05 cents
Sheep, goats, or hogs each 03 cents
Trail wagons each 15 cents
Cattle & horses swimming including ??, goats, & c for each stock 01 cents
In the very next item the Court approved the application for a ferry license of Thomas Harkin to operate for a term of one year a ferry across Red River at the Chicago Rock Island & Texas Railway Company’s bridge between Ringgold, TX and Terral, I.T.
From the language in the court order creating the tax and bond to be levied it “appears” that there may not have been such a license required prior to November 1900 however more research is needed to make that determination. Ferries will operate across Red River for the next thirty years and Montague County records may shed light on the operators. While the records of the Chickasaw Nation are scant to nonexistent, Oklahoma records after statehood in 1907 may hold valuable information as well.
A valuable source of information for the Chickasaw Nation is The Indian-Pioneer Papers Collection, part of the Western History Collection at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma. The records contain a wealth of information of early pioneer life in Oklahoma gathered in personal interviews during the 1930s. References citations from the collections used here will be abbreviated IPH Interview #.
Frank Driskill’s parents settled at Courtney Flats Jan 1st 1875. He shared details of the early days in a 1937 interview with Ethel Elder: “There were several places where the Red River was forded; the Illinois Bend, Spanish Fort, Yellow Bank, Seay, [and] Chisholm. All these were along below Fleetwood on Red River; most all the cattleman drove their cattle across at these places.” (IPH Int. 4734 Frank Driskill)
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