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Landing No. III

Hodge Ferry

The Hodge Ferry was located on a tract of the John Kerr, Sr., plantation on the French Broad River. The land on the south bank was surveyed 15 July 1807 and Tennessee Land Grant No. 360 for 138 acres was issued 30 Sept. 1808.[23]  An additional 346 acres on the north bank of the river was surveyed 23 Feb. 1831, and a Tennessee Land Grant was issued 3 Aug. 1832.[24]

In his will dated 17 Feb. 1836 John Kerr, Sr., divided his estate among his wife Martha and his sons John and Daniel and daughters Polly and Fatha who married (2) G.W. Petty.[25]

The ferry site was inherited by Mary E. Petty, the wife of Alfred A. Hodge. Mary E. Petty was the daughter of Fatha Kerr Petty.

Fatha Petty, age 84, was living with the Alfred Hodge family in the 1880 census.

The Sevier County Court Minutes do not record the date that Alfred A. Hodge (1843-1910) was given permission to operate a ferry on the French Broad River.

A map entitled "Geologic Atlas of the United States, Knoxville, Folio 16, 1895" only shows the Underdown, Brabson, and Ellis ferries.[26]  On Jan. 3, 1899, the County Court Minutes list the Al Hodge and Ellis ferries as potential free ferries.

In 1977, Mr. Fred Rawlings recalled a trip he took with his father in the year 1904 or 1905. Hauling in a buggy a Woodmen of the World monument to be placed in the Beech Springs Baptist Church cemetery, they turned right off of Old Sevierville Pike near the Bob Catlett place. The distance from there to the French Broad River was about one-half mile. On reaching the ferry, they found buggies lined up waiting to cross. After a long wait, the horse finally was led on to the ferry boat. Some people unhitched their horses and held their reins as horses sometimes were frightened by the creaking cable and churning of the water against the boat.

On the return trip they found the same situation on the north bank -- buggies lined up waiting to cross. At the time Mr. Bruce Hodge (1867-1953), son of Alfred Hodge, was the ferryman.

Mr. Otha Hodge, son of Rev. Bruce Hodge, was the last operator of the Hodge Ferry.[27]

Mrs. Glen (Dorothy Hodge) Hicks of Union Valley Road, a daughter of Mr. Otha Hodge, recalls many interesting facts about the Hodge Ferry:

"Before the ferry the Alfred Hodge family owned flat boats that were used to carry grain and livestock to Knoxville and to transport farm produce from the island nearby.

My Dad, Otha B., was born May 3, 1897. In the early twenties he began operating the ferry for my grandfather, Bruce Hodge. A 0.15 fee was charged for crossing the river one way. In the early thirties the county changed the amount to 0.15 one way; 0.25 round trip Inclement weather played a big part in running the ferry. Winds, floods, and ice hampered the operation at times. My dad was faced with the river freezing in the winter. I heard him tell that when the ice thawed and broke into pieces the current would take everything in its path. He said that once ice demolished the ferry boat leaving only splinters for the floor. I can remember the last time the ice froze in 1939. When the "mush" ice began to form my dad moved the boat to the south side of the river where the current was not as strong. When the ice began to move out the boat had survived without damage.

When severe rains would cause flooding he would tie the boat to large trees along the bank. He would have to watch while the water was receding in order to keep the boat gradually pushed into the water. The mud would be so bad cars would get stuck trying to board the ferry.

High wind also would shut down the ferry because it was impossible to steer the boat in such conditions.

My dad was innovative and looked for ways to better serve the people. In the late twenties or early thirties he built a new boat that continued to be in operation until the closing of the ferry. It was very modern for the time. It carried six cars in comparison to the former boat which carried three. He installed an object called an "Apron" made of wood which had hinges and was chained to the boat deck. The "Apron" was lifted when cars were aboard and served as a safety device.

The Apron did not prevent one tragic accident.

One foggy morning before daylight a car carrying five men who were working at the Douglas Dam project apparently missed the road leading to the dam taking the ferry road instead. They ran onto the ferry boat breaking the apron chains and into the river drowning all five men. My dad heard the crash and finding the apron broken notified the authorities. The car was found submerged at the end of the boat but no bodies. They did find five lunch boxes. They kept dragging the river and by late afternoon all five bodies had been found.

My dad also had a strong wire anchored on each side of the river that was attached to the boat on the gown stream banister. When the current was low he would turn the reel a certain degree (the reel was what held the cable). He took a piece of wood, made a notch on one side and wrapped it around the wire so he could pull the boat making it cross the river much faster. My dad had several of these sticks made. At times customers would help so the boat would move even faster.

Once he built a tug type boat with an attached outboard motor. He used it sometimes to push the boat across the river.

After Douglas Dam was completed and the gates were closed the river was so low it was impossible for the boat to move from the landing.

When the lake was filled and the gates were lifted the depth of the river would fluctuate and it was impossible to know where to anchor the boat. My dad at times would find the boat out in the river. Other times when the water level would fall the boat would be caught on the bank with one end under water. This caused my dad to become very discouraged. He continued to operate the ferry until 1944 when the bridge was completed.

My dad sold the ferry to a sand and gravel company in Knoxville. He then moved his family to Knoxville where he found work".

Mr. Otha Hodge died January 19, 1967.

Beulah Linn recalls crossing the river on the Hodge Ferry sometime in the late 1920's.

"My father had purchased our first auto and we were on our way to visit my grandparents on Upper Middle Creek. Our car was the first car on the ferry boat. The ferryman advised us to stand on the deck beside the car for the crossing.

It was a new experience. The river seemed so wide. After the boat began to move we children were frightened by the creaking of the cable and the churning of the water against the side of the boat, with some of the water splashing onto the deck. My father held the hand of two children and my mother the other two. We were glad to reach the south bank".

Mrs. Reba Caughron Hood recalls riding the Hodge Ferry:

"During the 1942-43 school year my job was teacher-principal at the Underwood School. Although only a few actual miles from my home on Middle Creek road near Pigeon Forge, the land being divided by the river made the Underwood Community seem very far from home.

Our country was experiencing gas rationing since we were in a wartime economy, therefore, I needed to board away from home. Fortunately, my home away from home was with a pleasant couple, Mr. and Mrs. Bill and Ella Keener.

There were challenges when considering going home for the weekend. Weather conditions controlled the French Broad River and whether or not one could cross on any given weekend. If the river was out-of-banks, winds too strong, or ice on the river weekend plans quickly changed.

The road leading down to the river was blocked with heavy chains in front of and back of the ferry when the vehicles were stationed. After the fees were collected it was time to start across.

Mr. Otha Hodge was the owner, manager, and operator. He controlled the cable attached to the ferry boat. Mr. Hodge enjoyed talking to his clients during the crossing most of whom were the same people day in and day gut. It was rare to see a stranger on board.

Looking back over time, these half-hour trips across the river that once seemed commonplace are now seen as memorable and representing a significant period in our local Sevier County, Tennessee, history."


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