The Ferry

The Ferry Five

In 1630, the Massachusetts Court of Assistants, the Colony's Legislature, sought to improve access to the mainland by offering a charter to anyone who would run a ferry between Boston and Charlestown. A year later, Thomas Williams began what was probably the first chartered transportation service on the continent; a ferry from Chelsea to Charlestown and on to Boston. For almost the next two hundred years, sail and row boats carried freight and passengers on the three-mile run across Boston Harbor, from the foot of Hanover Street to Winnisimet Street, Chelsea. Except when economic depression demanded government subsidy, and for brief periods when City of Boston-appointed trustees stepped in to supervise, the ferry was family owned and operated.

The establishment of independent colonies after the revolution, though, saw increases in population and expansion of the city. People were no longer able to traverse the city by foot. While the old ferry service continued, new bridges connected Boston to communities across the harbor and the Charles River. But these were not sufficient. People needed land transportation to get to Roxbury, East Cambridge, and nearby communities.

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