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  • 7202. Ferry Hill Stop 2

    “Location, location, location,”-have you ever really considered what that means? Location influences economic value, transportation, and even safety. Near this spot to the left, about a half mile down the Potomac River, was a ford that had previously been the only crossing point in this area between Maryland and then Virginia. Native Americans and early settlers had followed the old road from Pennsylvania and crossed the river here at Packhorse Ford. By the mid 1700s, traffic was increasing and the need for a ferry arose. Although Thomas Shepherd made a bid for the ferry from the Virginia side of the Potomac, Thomas Van Swearingen created the ferry business from his Maryland side of the river in 1765. The ferry business would operate until 1850 when a bridge was finally installed. When John Blackford purchased this land that the mansion now sits on, he began acquiring adjoining properties to complete his 700 acre plantation and eventually acquired the ferry business. Because Blackford maintained daily journal entries, we know that Ned and Jupe, two of Blackford’s slaves operated the ferry below. They collected tolls and used that money to hire additional help and to purchase additional provisions. Ned and Jupe sometimes remained at the Ferry for days and did not always report directly to Blackford. By 1838, business was declining as noted in Blackford’s journal from Monday, January 28th, “Ned and Jupe in the Boat very small receipts from the ferry –". Directly below this high bluff you are now on, is the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Blackford had been a businessman who saw the value in a canal that could transport goods from the east to the west. He became an advocate and a stockholder of the C&O Canal at its inception. As you turn now, to glance at the mansion, you can feel the grandness of this home that was placed so high upon this hill. The home commanded sweeping views to all below and gave those who lived here an opportunity to see the many visitors approaching from far away. The large pseudo- Greek portico that you see now was added in the 1950’s and until that time, a much smaller porch, just over the front door reaching to the first windows on either side was where family would sit to relax and to watch. Anne Royall, a visitor to the Blackfords in the 1820’s, made the steep climb up the hill you see below you to visit the plantation. She wrote: "Seeing a beautiful mansion perched on the summit of a lofty eminence, on the opposite shore, I was told it was [Ferry Hill Place], and wishing to take a near view of the site, I left my baggage to come with the stage, and crossed the river. After a pretty fatiguing walk up a moderate mount, I found myself on a level plain . . . the view from it [Ferry Hill Place] is equally grand. But the house appears to more advantage when viewed from the Virginia shore. . . . [John Blackford] was sitting in his cool portico, which overlooks the whole country, and was watching me, he said, from the time I left Shepherdstown." Please walk now to the porch, sit down and relax, and witness for yourself as you listen to stop #3.