The Yadkin Ford and Ferry

the Yadkin Ford

The Yadkin Ford and Ferry crossed the Yadkin River at the upriver (western) end of the Big Island, above the Island and Trading Fords. These crossings were significant to transportation and settlement history, and played a role in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

The Yadkin Ford was visited by Hugh McAden, an itinerant preacher, in 1755.  Its beginning as a European settlement crossing has probably been lost in Anson and Bladen county records, which have been destroyed. There are numerous mentions of the ford in old Rowan county records. The Rowan county court ordered a road from Bethabara (the Moravian Old Town in present Winston-Salem) to the Yadkin Ford in 1763. On the river's south side, John Long Sr. had been appointed Commissioner of the road from Salisbury to the Yadkin Ford in 1758. A ferry at the location was mentioned in 1780, and John Long's (Jr.) Ferry is found on an 1814 map. "John Long's Road" became the foundation for our present Long Street through Salisbury and Spencer and was referred to in a 1780 deed as "the Great Road Leading from Salisbury to the Yadkin."  Thomas Cowan and then John Hedrick later ran this ferry.

1830 plat of Yadkin Ford and Ferry

Retreating in the face of Cornwallis' occupation of Charlotte, General Jethro Sumner took post at the Yadkin Ford from September 28, 1780 until October 17, 1780, when he pursued the retreating Cornwallis. The camps, Yadkin Ford on the north side of the river and McGoon's Creek on the south, were active military outposts, and swelled with General William Smallwood's and Daniel Morgan's troops. Southern Commander General Horatio Gates ordered Gen. Sumner "you must on no account abandon the defense of that ford."

During the War between the States, the Confederate Camp Yadkin was fortified on the hill north and west of the Yadkin Ford, primarily to guard the new railroad bridge just above the Yadkin Ford. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard also ordered fortifications to guard all the nearby river crossings. Two possible outworks have been identified near the Yadkin Ford: one on the bank of the river beside the railroad bridge, the other beside the Yadkin Ford road trace, running parallel to the railroad tracks. One of the last staged battles of the Civil War in North Carolina occurred here on April 12, 1865. Confederate troops under Gen. Zebulon York held off a five and a half hour artillery barrage by Col. John K. Miller's 3rd Brigade of Union soldiers under Gen. George Stoneman. Stoneman's troops returned to Salisbury without damaging the bridge. 

By the end of the eighteenth and throughout the nineteenth century, the Yadkin Ford logically was used more than the two adjacent fords, as it was most directly aligned between Salisbury and Lexington, Guilford Courthouse/Greensboro, and the Moravian towns/Winston-Salem. Despite the fact that the Beard bridge (in use 1818 - c. 1868) upriver and the later Piedmont Toll Bridge (c. 1899-c. 1922) reduced use of nearby fords and ferries, the Yadkin Ford and ferry continued as a vital transportation route until the first free bridge (the Wil-Cox Bridge) was built in the 1920s. There are indications a later variant route of the Great [Wagon] Road passed over it. While some deeds refer to "the Great Road from Salisbury to the Trading Ford of the Yadkin River," others refer simply to the "Great Road" or the "Great Road Leading from Salisbury to the Yadkin." This may have reflected the road having become a main road from Salisbury leading to both the Yadkin and Trading Fords. Surely, thousands of our ancestors traversed the Yadkin and Trading Fords, as they traveled south from Pennsylvania to settle in Piedmont North Carolina and points farther south and west.

Roads leading to the Yadkin Ford and Ferry on both sides of the river remain, their locations almost exactly matching historic maps.  Sadly, these will be destroyed by NCDOT's realignment of I-85.

Road to the Yadkin Ferry  (Rowan)

Yadkin Ford sandbar

Sandbars on the Rowan side of the Yadkin Ford are frequently visible

Davidson side of Yadkin Ford

Davidson side of Yadkin Ford was visible in 2002

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