Old Hillman Ferry

Included in large batch of photos I ordered from The National Archives last year (which due to COVID-19, took many months to receive) were a couple of Hillman Ferry from 1938-1940.

The ferry was located a mile north of the old town of Birmingham, Ky. on the Tennessee River.  In my limited research, I haven’t been able to pinpoint an exact time when the ferry opened, but I am taking an educated guess with sometime in the 1870s. 

The old Civil War maps of the Tennessee River do not mention it with other ferries, but it makes an appearance on our 1885 map of the Jackson Purchase.  Archived online newspaper searches do not turn up much information, either.

The ferry operated until Kentucky Lake was impounded in 1944.  The last operator was Julian Bohanon, who took the helm in 1929.  Ironically, the ferry likely had its best years right up to its foretold demise.  Several logs note that TVA used the ferry extensively, sending workers and vehicles from Marshall Co. to the Star Lime Quarry.  The quarry was used to mine limestone for the creation of Kentucky Dam.

Mysteriously, this ferry operated a mile from the Birmingham Ferry.  It’s unusual for two ferries to be close to each other in a rural setting.  Surely there was competition between the two. 

In the early 1930s up to the lake’s creation, the Birmingham Ferry had to have an advantage being on the state highway (Kentucky 58) between Benton and Eddyville.  Not sure how these two ferries survived during those years.

The image with the wrinkles is dated February 9, 1938, with the other April 25, 1940.

Today, folks associate the name Hillman Ferry with the popular Hillman Ferry Campground in Land Between The Lakes.  The old landing site on the LBL side isn’t accessible, but the old road from Hillman Ferry to Star Lime Works is a part of the Hillman Heritage Trails.

TVA photo showing Hillman Ferry dated February 9, 1938.
Hillman Ferry after work began creating Kentucky Dam, dated April 25, 1940.

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