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Ingles Ferry linked to Lewis and Clark Eastern Legacy Trail



This week representatives of the Virginia Great Valley Lewis and Clark Eastern Legacy Trail Committee presented a commemorative plaque to Mary Alexander Ingles Barbour, owner of the Ingles’ Tavern cabin and the site of the Ingles’ Ferry.

Mary Alexander Ingles Barbour is a direct descendent of Mary Draper Ingles, who along with her two sons was kidnapped by the Shawnee in 1755. Mary Draper Ingles managed to escape from her captives and made her way back to her home, a journey in excess of 500 miles.

“Follow the River,” a book describing her ordeal, is required reading for anyone interested in the area’s history. Mary Draper Ingles is the great, great, great, great, great grandmother of Mary Alexander Ingles Barbour.

Mary and husband, Michael Barbour, welcomed visitors to the historic log cabin tavern for the occasion.

The reason for the presentation is that the Lewis and Clark crossed the New River using the Ingles’ Ferry on their way to explore the American west. The ferry was first established in 1762 by the Ingles family, which owned lands on each side of the river since sometime in the early 1750s.

Michael Barbour welcomed board members of the Wilderness Road Regional Museum to the historic property. The log cabin that served as both a tavern for travelers on the Wilderness Road and the sometime living quarters for the Ingles family is the first structure ever built in Pulaski County. Barbour estimates that it was built circa 1770.

Likewise, the tavern, which was located alongside of the Wilderness Road (and the ferry) was the first business to be in operation in Pulaski County.

“My wife’s family ancestors were excellent business people,” said Barbour chuckling.

He has a point. After all, who wouldn’t want to visit the tavern after having walked several miles and then crossing the turbulent New River?

In addition to serving food and drink, other sundries, which could be of use to someone traveling on the Wilderness Road, were sold at the Ingles Tavern. In addition, a blacksmith’s shop was located nearby for shoeing horses or wagon repair. A horse corral was located on the hill above.

“It was a Post-Colonial travel center,” said Barbour.

Complete with a toll road, which is said to have netted the Ingles family $1,000 a month in 1780.

In 1840 the longest covered bridge in the state of Virginia was erected near the ferry landing. The bridge stood as the primary conduit for crossing the New River until the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain in 1864. After the confederate defeat, the troops used the covered bridge to cross the New River, after which, they stuffed it full of hay and set it alight. The bridge burned and the Yankees were left to attempt to destroy the railroad bridge crossing the New River before leaving the area. The railroad bridge, perhaps somewhat repaired, still stands today.

According to Barbour, the Ingles’ Ferry continued operation until 1941 when it capsized carrying a dump truck full of a coal. When the water is low, remnants of this ferry can still be seen about 25 feet off the Pulaski County side of the shore.

The Barbours plan to place the Lewis and Clark placard, as well as other historical designations earned by both the tavern and the ferry, on a pedestal made from limestone block just inside the entrance gate to the property.

According to April Martin, Program Coordinator of the Wilderness Road Museum, the mission of the Virginia Great Valley Lewis and Clark Eastern Legacy Trail Committee is to expand the heritage, tourism and economic development in the Commonwealth by preserving the routes Lewis and Clark traveled before and after the expedition and the people and places visited during their travels.

A site in Christiansburg, as well as one in the Robinson Tract area, are also being considered for this recognition.



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