MILLERSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The Millersburg Ferry has been a centerpiece of the small town of Millersburg in Dauphin County since around the 1750s.
The ferry is the last (known) operating wooden double stern-wheel paddle boats in the United States.
The two boats, “The Roaring Bull V” and “Falcon III” carry pedestrians and vehicles across the Susquehanna River to the Ferry Boat Campgrounds near Liverpool in Perry County.
Millersburg wasn’t founded until 1807 by Daniel Miller so how could the ferry have been in operation in the 1750s?
According to the Millersburg Ferry website, there is scant evidence but there is written evidence in 1817.
In 1817, the owner of the ferry was Michael Crow.
The written evidence was a lease that was unsigned by Michael Crow and George Carson in July 1817.
According to the lease which was in possession of Robert Wallis who owned the west shore landing from 1972 to 1990, the agreement between the two men was that Carson was to construct a road that would take those from “The Great Road” (current day Route 11/15) to the Ferry and in exchange, Carson would be allowed to rent the ferry.
The lease was supposed to be for five years, but because it was unsigned the Millersburg Ferry website states that it’s unknown if Carson ever used the ferry.
The road that was supposed to be built by Carson wasn’t built until 1819.
Daniel Miller’s proprietary reserve and the ferry right were sold in 1816 to David Kramer.
According to Lykens Valley, the first steam-powered boat called the “Enterprise” was first serviced in 1873.
The growing size of the boats and the low river forced the ferry owners to create and build the ferry wall that is still in use to this day.
The ferries were all man-powered until 1905.
The “Dinky Boat” became the first gasoline-powered boat to be used.
The ferries needed to be updated, so in the 1920s the “Roaring Bull” and “Falcon” were created and used to carry both passengers and vehicles over the river.
The ferry found its stride in the 1920s and 1930s due to the fact that the closest bridge was 15 miles south or 30 miles north.
From the 1930s to 1972 the ferry went through an array of owners until in 1972 Robert Wallis bought it and became the sole owner.
Wallis would own the ferry until 1990 when Community Banks, N.A. of Millersburg would buy the ferry from Wallis.
According to Lykens Valley, the bank gave the ferry to Millersburg who created the Millersburg Ferry Boat Association.
The ferry continued to face changes as in 1998 the “Roaring Bull” would be updated with a diesel engine and the paddle wheel would be upgraded to a hydraulic drive, this would be the fifth time the ferry would be updated.
In 2006, Millersburg would hold a Bicentennial and the ferry would be added to the National Historic Register.
The Lykens Valley website states celebrity passengers such as Thomas Jefferson, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison are said to have road the ferry which is according to local lore.
The list of owners/people who had interests in the ferry, according to Lykens Valley is:
- Daniel Miller
- David Kramer
- George Kramer
- Joseph Kramer
- Joseph Johnson
- John Freck
- Levi McGonnell
- M. Hain
- Annie Miller
- Pierce McConnell
- John Travitz
- George Seller
- Warren Hunter
- Thomas Radel
- Bud Wallis
- Robert Wallis
- Jim Zeiders
- Community Banks, N. A. of Millersburg
- Millersburg Community
The Millersburg Ferry operates to this day and those who want to ride it can find these rates:
- $15 — Car, Pickup, Van, SUV (includes driver)
- $10 — Motorcycle (includes driver)
- $10 — Golf Cart (includes driver)
- $20 — Horse & Buggy (includes driver)
- $5 — Vehicle & Motorcycle Passengers, one way
- $10 — Walk-on Passengers (no vehicle) age 4 & older, round trip
- $5 — Walk-on Passengers (no vehicle) age 4 & older, one way
The ferry runs from Spring until Fall and those looking for hours and schedule updates are asked to check the Millersburg Ferry Facebook page or call 717-692-2443.