William Blythe Had Early Ferry


The lovely spot where the Hiwassee River flows into the Tennessee River at Jolly's Island long was a gathering spot for the Indians. At one time it was the most important river crossing between Chattanooga and Knoxville. William Blythe operated a ferry there, which remained in operation until the mid-1990s.

The road leading from this site to the mountain north of the river was known as “The Great Road” or the Kiuka War Trace. Young Sam Houston spent several years at the island home of Cherokee Chief John Jolly and was adopted into the tribe before he became governor of Tennessee and of Texas and a U.S. senator.

According to a book by Pat Hicks Brigance, the Blythes apparently trace back to William and Sarah Blythe, who came from England to the York River in Virginia in 1652. They settled at Isle of Wight County, where William Blythe died in 1663. A son, Christopher Blythe, made his way to Chowan County, N.C. William Blythe, believed to be a descendant of Christopher, pushed on to Greenville, S.C. He married Sarah Murphree in 1769, though he may have had an earlier wife. His last wife was Barbary. It is believed the Blythes who came to Rhea County shortly after 1800 were children of William Blythe of Greenville. He died about 1837. The Blythe home north of Travelers Rest was an old stagecoach stop.

Mrs. Brigance lists the children of William Blythe of Greenville as John who married Martha Chastain, Jonathan, Absalom, Daniel M., William, Thomas, Esther, Elizabeth, David, Sally, and Mary who married Labon Gravlee and then Thomas Drennen, who was killed by Indians in 1820.

Martha Chastain Blythe was the daughter of the Rev. John Chastain and Mary O'Bryan. Her great-grandparents were among the first Huguenots from France to settle at Manakintown, Va., in the 1690s.

Children of John and Martha Chastain Blythe are said to include John who married Mary Maloney in 1809 in Rhea County, Elizabeth, Elijah, the ferry operator William, Sarah, Martha who married Silas Condict Byram, Mary who married Adam Derrick, Nancy who married Samuel Fry, and Jerusha who married James Roark. Elizabeth and Sarah Blythe did not marry and later lived with the James Roarks at Birchwood.

In Rhea County in 1809, William Blythe married Nancy Fields, daughter of the prominent Cherokee Richard Fields. Blythe bought a slave woman, Nancy, and her young daughter, along with some cows and horses, from Samuel Carr in 1812. He later transferred a Negro boy Daniel, 8, to Thomas Hopkins for $250. William Blythe was among the Cherokee contingent who went along with Gen. Andrew Jackson in the campaign against the Creek Indians in 1814. He was in Capt. John Brown's Company under Col. Gideon Morgan. Blythe in 1817 was allowed a reservation of 640 acres “in right of his wife.” This was “south of the high Wassee river. . . below what is called Blythe's ferry.” Thomas Hopkins in 1820 was give rights to operate the Blythe's Ferry, then in 1825 Jesse Poe acquired a 1,500-acre tract including "Blythe's Ferry Place." The Hutchesons later operated the ferry. William Blythe is among those in Captain Roark's Company in the list of taxables for 1829. He had 352 acres listed. In 1836, William Blythe - whose property was then within the new Meigs County - sold 310 acres on both sides of Sale Creek to William Clift.

At the time of the Indian removal in 1838, William Blythe went west with his wife's people. James Browder of Meigs County bought “the occupant Right of William Blythe and the Reservation.” A report on the William Blythe family in the Indian records said it included “six quarter bloods. All read English. Thirteen slaves. One white intermarriage. A farm and one farmer. Two weavers and three spinners. They owned a mill and two ferry boats.” At the time of the 1850 census, William and Nancy Blythe were in McDonald County, Mo., living near several other Blythe families.

Children of William and Nancy Blythe are given as John R., Elizabeth who married Ira Gothard, William Jr. who married Fannie Hammontree, Martha Jennie who married Alexander Adam Clingan, Mary who married Andrew Jack-
son Tucker, Elijah who married Martha Clingan, James Chastain who married Sarah Matilda Harlan Kell and then Sarah Jemima Rogers, Absalom Ellis who married Mary Jane Millsaps, Nancy Ann who married Arch Henry and then William Ellis Bean, Joseph Riley and Sarah.

John R. Blythe married Justin Cadle, then Malinda Jane Harlan Lane, and then Polina Tucker James. The Alexander Clingans settled on a farm three miles northwest of Cleveland, and he was Bradley County's first sheriff. The William E. Beans moved to Calaveras County, Calif.

Blythe's Ferry in 1982 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. However, the ferry finally stopped operation after the opening of the Highway 60 bridge.

Many interesting Indian artifacts were found at Jolly's Island, which was made a wildlife sanctuary. Sandhill cranes make an annual migration there, attracting many birdwatchers.


Used here with permission of Chattanooga.com


Back to Meigs County Main Page


 Thanks for the visit, come again  


07 Feb 2006