Jefferson Davis Trail Stop #3
Jefferson Davis crosses the Catawba River at Nations Ford….
“With some truth it is said that the bridge over the Catawba river is burnt.” The Newberry The Tri-Weekly Herald, Saturday, April 15, 1865, Vol. 1 Number 12
After the Confederate Cabinet meeting in Fort Mill broke up, the Confederate party continued towards Yorkville. A problem was encountered, however, when the group came to the Catawba River as the bridge spanning the river had been burned just a little over a week earlier. Confederate cavalry set to work constructing a pontoon bridge across the River and awaited President Davis’s arrival. What a sight to see Jeff Davis and Breckinridge and the Cabinet standing on the pontoon. Dickinson and I thought of the Bruce and his retreat to the mountains surrounded by a few of his faithful followers, recorded Tench Tilghman, who was in charge of the Confederate baggage train. After the bridge was finished the cavalry joined in with the fleeing party as they moved toward Yorkville. Tilghman was said to have later exclaimed as he viewed the fleeing column; The cause has gone up. God only knows what will be the end of all this. Davis was (later that day), amazed at the reception his party received in Yorkville.
Jefferson Davis in S.C. – Sam Thomas, 1998 the Palmetto Conservation Foundation (See book in PDF form this page.)
Proceeding down the old Nation Ford Road they came shortly to the banks of the
Catawba River, and here, towering above the ancient fording place, they saw the blackened ruins of the railroad bridge recently burned by Stoneman. Here the leaders crossed on a ferry made of “a portion of a pontoon bridge used as a float.” The wagons and the cavalry went through the waters of the ford. “What a sight to see Jeff Davis and Breckinridge and the Cabinet standing on the pontoon,” wrote Tench F. Tilghman, a Marylander in charge of part of the baggage train. “Dickinson and I thought of the Bruce and his retreat to the mountains surrounded by a few of his faithful followers.” Then he exclaimed, “The cause has gone up. God only knows what will be the end of all this.” Of the natives who witnessed the river-crossing we have only one·who left a written account, a mere passing reference. Henry Massey wrote, “I was there at the ford in 1865 the day President Jefferson Davis crossed the River on a pontoon bridge. I didn’t see him but my brother, Dr. J. E. Massey saw him.” Dr. J. E. Massey, later of Rock Hill was only sixteen years of age at the time of this incident.
The City Without Cobwebs – Douglas S. Brown, 1953
After crossing the river, Davis would pass numerous sites on his trip from Nations Ford to York, S.C., including these sites and more.
Frederick Nims – Builder of the Catawba River Trestle / Heron’s Ferry History
City Directories and History: Elizabeth White, was born in York Dist., S.C., on Nov. 13, 1835. Died on Jan. 29, 1908. She was twice
married. First on Nov. 13, 1855, to Frederick Nims, son of James Nims. He was born in Conway, Massachusetts, on May 29, 1810, and died on Aug. 26, 1867, in York Co., S.C. Mr. Nims was an energetic, enterprising man of great personal wealth. He was a civil engineer and planter. He came South originally to construct the railroad bridge over the Catawba River between Rock Hill and Fort Mill.
Elizabeth White married second on Feb. 12, 1874, Wade D. Rankin, son of John C. Rankin. He was born in Gaston Co., N.C., on Oct. 5, 1842, and died on Jan. 23, 1906. He was in the Confederate Army during the entire war, 1861-1865. After hostilities ceased, he returned to his plantation and farmed during the remainder of his life. Issue by first husband:
(1) Luther Nims. Born Sept.7, 1856. Married on June 24, 1891, Eunice Davenport, daughter of A.W. and Mary E.
Davenport. He was a planter and
cotton manufacturer at Mount Holly, N.C. Issue:
(a) Dorothy Davenport Nims. Born Apr. 13, 1892.
(b) Frederick Boyden Nims. Born Dec. 11, 1895.
© Horace Nims. Born Dec. 22, 1897.
(d) Elizabeth Nims. Born Jan. 31, 1900. Died Mar. 31, 1900.
(e) David Nims. Born Nov. 19, 1907.
(2) Franklin White Nims. Born Feb. 13, 1858. Died Oct. 1, 1876.
(3) Susan Spratt Nims. Born May 19, 1860. Died Apr. 26, 1887. Married on Dec. 17, 1879, to Kenneth S. Finch. No issue.
(4) Frederick Nims, Jr. Born Jan. 24, 1862. Married on Dec. 9, 1884, to Elizabeth Floride Harrison, daughter of the Rev. Douglas and Aurelia (Patterson) Harrison. He was a planter near Fort Mill, S.C. Issue:
(a) Kenneth Nims. Born Dec.7, 1886.
(b) Frank Nims. Born 1883. Died 1889.
(c) Mary Nims. Born Oct. 5, 1889.
(d) Frederick Nims. Born Jan. 15, 1891.
(e) Elizabeth Nims. Born Feb. 26, 1893.
(f) William Nims. Born Sept. 3, 1895.
(g) Joseph Nims. Born Aug. 27, 1897.
(h) Douglas Nims. Born Dec. 22, 1901.
(i) Floride Nims. Born 1906.
(5) Annie Bishop Nims. Born Jan. 23, 1864. Died in Sept., 1864.
(6) Edward Bishop Nims. Born Aug. 13, 1865. Died Aug. 17, 1867.
(7) Boyden Nims. Born Mar. 5, 1867. Married on Aug. 25, 1904, to May Jackson, daughter of Noah W. and Alice M. Jackson, of Montague, Michigan. Born Mar. 24, 1879, in West Meath, Ontario. Issue:
(a) Elizabeth Nims. Born Dec. 2, 1905.
(b) Luther Nims. Born Feb. 10, 1907.
(c) Jackson Nims.
(d) Boyden McDonald Nims.
(e) Frederick Nims.
Issue of Elizabeth (White) Nims by her second husband:
(8) Eleanor Wade Rankin. Born Jan. 18, 1875. Married on Mar. 7, 1904, to Royden Spratt (born Nov. 19, 1876), son of Barnett McRee and Frances Marion (Killian) Spratt, of Chester, S.C. Issue:
(a) Wade Rankin Spratt. Born Oct. 15, 1904.
(b) Frances Marion Spratt. Born June 13, 1906.
(c) Elizabeth Spratt.
(d) Eleanor Spratt.
(e) Caldwell Spratt.
(9) Elizabeth Rankin. Born July 2, 1877. (Slave Rental in York County)
Other connection to see on R&R: Garrison’s Mill – Trestle
“In 1813, the Sturgis Ferry was reestablished and vested in Andrew Herron and James Spratt. The name was changed to Herron’s Ferry. Later, William Moore and James Spratt operated at the same location.” – Louise Pettus
HERON’S FERRY: Daniel Sturgis operated a ferry across the Catawba River, the beginning date unknown. In his will written October 22, 1787 Sturgis included the following: “My fourth son Joshua shall have the one-half of the profits arising from my Boat as she now stands together with one acre of land on the south end of Punch’s Land with timber and fire-wood to support the same during the running of sd. Boat and no longer and if Joshua Sturgis should dispose of sd. Boat out of the family it shall immediately descend to Daniel Sturgis.” In 1799 the South Carolina General Assembly passed an act stating that “a ferry commonly known by the name of Sturges’s ferry, near the Old Nation Ford, on Catawba river, shall be continued and established as a public ferry for the term of fourteen years; and be vested in Daniel Sturges and Thomas Spratt, the younger, and their heirs and assigns. ” At the same location above the Nation Ford the records show that later operators of the ferry were franchised by the state as:
1813 – Andrew Herron And James Spratt
1824 – William Moore and Thomas Spratt
1835 – William Moore 1846 – Dr. William
Moore 1871 – L. M. Dinkins
Courtesy of the YCGHS, March 1994
The Rock Hill Record reported on Sept. 9, 1907 – “Mr. J. M. Cherry has purchased all the land between his plantation and the river. And he has surveyed a road from his elegant farm to the river. This is a straight road and will pave it and will be convenient for that area as well as Fort Mill. The road will strike the river at Jones Ferry.”
RAILROAD RIGHT OF WAY: Going back a little, we take note of a land transaction that doubtless took place at some time during the years 1848-1850. What amounts to a quit-claim deed was recorded at Yorkville on February 7, 1856. William E. White of Fort Mill, S.C. deeded 15 acres to the Charlotte and South Carolina Rail Road Company, Edward Gendron Palmer, president, for the right of way of the railroad across his property at and near the Nation Ford. (The right of way 65‘ on either side of the center line of the rails amounted to a strip of land one hundred thirty feet in width across the White property.) He included this explanation in his deed: ―…and also the right of way to the ford of the Catawba River, wherein and whereon said Road is constructed.‖ This spells out in helpful detail the present location of the railroad bridge over the Catawba River. (Courtesy of Along the Lands Ford Road, Vol. I, Wm. B. White, Jr.)
MY EXPERIENCES AS A SOLDIER IN THE CONFEDERATE ARMY WRITTEN AT THE REQUEST OF BARNETTE, MY ONLY LIVING DAUGHTER
William Joseph Miller
…..”So we got in with the others and rode to Charlotte, running the train backwards. So we three got to Charlotte first and stayed there all night. The next morning when we got to the railroad bridge over the Catawba River, it was burned and all the flats at the ferries had been concealed. A company of Yankee soldiers were there putting in a pontoon bridge. We crossed on it about the middle of the evening; then eight of the company who lived in the Neely’s Creek community, left us and went down the river. A. M. Black, J. G. Noland, Jas. Ferguson and myself came together near Rock Hill. Then I left them, coming up through Ebenezer to the dear old home. Mother was looking for me. ” (Information courtesy of and from: YCGHS – The Quarterly Magazine)
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