The Surry County, Virginia, Historical
Society and Museums, Inc.
Ferry Capt. John Smith Deckhouse
Past, Present and Future
- The 65-ft, 60-horsepower, wooden ferry
Capt. John Smith was built by the Isaiah
Hundley Marine Railway at Battery Park,
Virginia, in 1924.
- On February 25, 1925, the Capt. John
Smith entered service for Capt. Albert F.
Jester as the first modern ferry on the James
River between Jamestown and Scotland, in
Surry County. Capt. Jester's son-in-law, S.
Wallace Edwards Sr., was an early
- In 1946 Capt. Jester sold the ferry
system to the Virginia Department of
Highways. The upper deckhouse was removed in
1946 and the ferry remained in service for a
few more years until it was sold and then
scrapped in the 1950s.
- The 20 x 30 foot deckhouse was purchased
by Fred W. Beazley of Portsmouth and became a
summer cottage on pilings at his farm on the
Western Branch of the Elizabeth River in
1946. It was later apparently used as a
chicken house and, following his death in
1974, it was abandoned.
- In August 2003 the deckhouse was
recovered by businessman Scott Wheeler and
moved to his farm at Elberon in Surry County.
A month later, hurricane Isabel swept through
and caused widespread damage and destruction
in the area where the deckhouse had been.
- In 2005 Wheeler donated the deckhouse to
the Surry County Historical Society and
Museums, Inc. for restoration and use as a
museum of the ferry and the river. It was
then moved by S. Wallace Edwards & Sons for
storage on their property in Surry. In 2009
and 2013 grants from the Beazley Foundation
enabled the Society to build a support
platform, to move the deckhouse onto its
property, and to purchase outfitting items
for it. And in 2012 the Mariners Museum
gave one of the ferry's original steering
wheels to the Society for use on the
- In June 2009 VDOT awarded a $200,000
federal grant to the Society to restore the
deckhouse for use as a museum. Of this amount
$40,000 must be provided by the Society in
the form of cash, donations-in-kind, and
volunteer labor. Approximately 80% of this
amount has been raised to date. In April 2013
a contract was awarded to Black Creek
Workshop, of Courtland, VA, to do the
restoration work. Work started last June and
should complete this spring.
- Want to help? Donation checks may be made
payable to the Surry Historical Society.
Please note "Ferry Fund" on the memo line
and send to P.O. Box 262, Surry, VA 23883.
Donors who make gifts of $100.00 or more will
be considered "Honorary Plankowners" and
will receive a very special gift. To
volunteer or for more information contact
Bill Fox at 757-869-3501 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rendering of the Completed Project by Hazel
Ferry Capt. John Smith, 1925
Deckhouse at the Beazley farm, 1980s
Deckhouse undergoing restoration in the contractor's shop. January 2014.
Pages updated 25 April 2017. © Surry County, Virginia,
Historical Society and Museums, Inc. Contact