FREDERICKTOWN – Fans and vehicles on Wednesday clambered aboard a historic ferry that is making its final passes this week across the Monongahela River.
The captain of ferryboat Frederick at one point had to scream at a slightly aggressive driver when he tried to drive onto the vessel before it dropped off its passengers in Fredericktown.
“As you know this started out as a small group thing and it spiraled into something bigger,” said Evan T. Williams II of Carmichaels, a member of a Facebook group that organized Wednesday’s send-off for the ferry before it is permanently dry-docked Friday.
“You hate to be trite, but it’s the end of something significant,” Williams said.
Nearly 100 people turned out about noon to take their final rides as pedestrians on the ferry, a service that has existed here for nearly two centuries.
Meanwhile, a post about the event on the Friends of the Fredericktown Ferry Facebook page was shared 28,000 times this week, said Jennifer Holleran of Clarksville, an administrator of the group.
Operated by Fayette County, the commissioners there voted in May to close this ferry built in 1948 because of increased costs and dwindling ridership. The loss of traffic has been accredited to last year’s opening of a new Mon-Fayette Expressway bridge over the Mon a short distance away between Centerville and Redstone Township.
Holleran said Fayette and Washington counties ignored recommendations for ways to promote ferry tourism that were cited in a study that found the red-and-white vessel was still “a significant route of transportation.”
“They’re not interested in funding the history,” she said. “It should be here for future generations and not in a museum.”
Melda Lutes of Low Hill showed up to say so long to Frederick, reminiscing that the ferry service had been used by her parents, grandparents and likely even her great-grandparents.
“We’re losing one of our local landmarks,” Lutes said.
“It’s just a sad ending to a good thing,” added Marie Frye of Clarksville.
Marianna Mayor Jeremy Berardinelli said Frederick is among just seven or eight ferries that are pulled along an underwater cable that exist east of the Mississippi River.
“It’s a historic treasure,” Berardinelli said. “I remember my mom taking me here when I was 4 years old and it’s something I’ve never forgotten.”