(With apologizes to the Ford Motor Company for swiping their 1984 slogan)
Visitors to our city have probably noticed the abundance of roads with with “Ford” or “Ferry” in the name and may have wondered how the road got their name. Places such as Beatties Ford Road, Nations Ford Road and Rozzells Ferry Road are well known here in Charlotte and named for places on the Catawba River that early settlers used to cross the river going west. Most of these names have been lost to history, but several still survive in the roads that were given their names.
Beatties Ford Road, which starts just north of Uptown at Johnson C. Smith University and runs north to what is now Lake Norman was named for John Beatty, who according to historians, was the first white man to cross the Catawba River while following the a trading path used by the Native American tribes of the area. He is recorded as buying 944 acres on the west bank of the Catawba River on July 17, 1749 and establishing a ferry to take passengers across the river and became the main route between Salisbury and Morganton, North Carolina.
Rozzells Ferry, which is south of Beatties Ford on the Catawba River was named for John Rozzell, who operated the only ferry between Mecklenburg and Gaston Counties before the Civil War. A descendant, Edward Rozzell built a house near the river that was the scene of the only skirmish in Mecklenburg County during the Civil War. The road starts at the “Five Points” intersection which comprises of Beatties Ford Road, 5th Street, State Street, West Trade Street and Rozzells Ferry, the road parallels NC 16, locally known as Brookshire Boulevard. The road changes names just to Bellhaven Boulevard in the 1980’s but a small spur of the original road retains the Rozzells Ferry name. The road ends just before reaching the Rozzells Ferry Bridge on NC 16.
Nations Ford Road in the southern part of the County, was on the main trading route from Charlotte to Columbia, South Carolina. Like other roads in this part of the state, it was established along an Native American trading path. The modern version of Nations Ford starts at the Billy Graham Parkway (named for the famous evangelist) and winds southeast through the Charlotte suburbs until ending at NC 51, known locally as Pineville Matthews Road at the South Carolina state line. While it does not go into South Carolina, Nations Ford is remembered as a major trading path and Nations Ford High School in Fort Mill carries the name.
I will be going into more depth about these roads in future articles and I hope that you will enjoy them. If you want to know more about the old roads and ferries that helped shape Mecklenburg County, please check out the Carolina Room at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library on-line at http://www.cmstory.org. If you are visiting Uptown Charlotte, please visit the main library at 310 North Tryon Street, the Carolina Room is located on the third floor.
A special thanks to Ms. Jean Johnson and Dr. Thomas Cole at the Carolina Room for their help and assistance in getting this article written.