Dover Ferries & Bridges

First Dover Ferry (1760-circa 1780s); second Dover Ferry (1780s-ca. 1810)

A ferry operated across the Choptank River from Barker’s Landing (also called the “causeway”; see also Barkers Landing) on the west or Talbot County side of the river to Hog Island on the east or Caroline County side of the river and the road to Easton. The ferry crossing was located below the current Dover Bridge site. Though called Hog Island, the landing was probably actually located on the river shore, not on the nearby island. John Barker established the ferry but Deborah Nichols was the ferry operator in 1760. Peter Hern was the ferryman before 1775 and was paid 4,000 pounds of tobacco. A wharf was apparently built at Barkers Landing . When Easton became the county seat in 1786 the ferry was moved upriver to where the Dover Bridge (Md. Rte. 331) is today.

Footner reported the “ferry-house” was still standing but “disintegrating” in the 1940s. He described it as follows: “From the front of the steep roof projects an upper chamber built out over a porch below. A kitchen wing behind balances this structure, so that the house is really built in the form of a cross. It has another amusing feature. Though the kitchen is attached to the main building, there is no door between! ” All the food had to be carried out into the yard and back into the dinning room, until in recent years it occurred to somebody to build a little penthouse, linking the two rooms. The ferry house was reputed to be the only example surviving on the Shore. 66 The ferry is identified on the Samuel Lewis map of Maryland dated 1799. This landing is identified on the 1875 Caroline County map found in The 1877 Atlases and Other Early Maps of the Eastern Shore, Maryland.

The Dover Bridge replaced the Dover Ferry (see below) circa 1810 when the citizens of Talbot and Caroline counties petitioned the Maryland Assembly “for the convenience of the public” to incorporate a company to erect a bridge at the ferry landing site. However, a bridge was not built for another half century. The bridge was located approximately one mile above the old ferry landing. Captain William H. Smith, a civil engineer, built the first bridge. Dover Bridge was the only bridge across the Choptank River between Denton and Chesapeake Bay at the turn of the 19th century. This site served as a steamboat landing at least from 1898 to 1911. Hog Island, the eastern terminus of the Dover Ferry, was a separate steamboat landing located slightly further down the river. It was in use in 1898.

(Choptank River Cultural Resources Inventory, 1999-2002)

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