When the Brown’s Ferry Vessel was discovered on the bottom of Black River in 1976 it was considered the most important nautical discovery in the United States.
Built in the 1700s, the wooden merchant boat is the oldest American-built vessel, about 50 years older than the Revolutionary War gundalow Philadelphia.
The 50 foot vessel was flat bottomed, had no keel and could carry a freight load of up to 30 tons.
Hull damage from teredo worms suggests the river vessel also operated along the Carolina coast.
The small cargo boat carried commodities produced on local plantations on all the rivers in Georgetown County, and to Charleston, at the time the richest city in the colonies. When she sank in the Black River the boat was carrying a load of bricks…
The museum features a model of the Brown’s Ferry Vessel built by J. Richard Steffy of the Institute of Nautical Archeology at Texas A&M to assist with the reconstruction of the original hull. The model is scaled 1:10 and is complete even to the axe marks.
The boat traveled back to Georgetown County to its new home, the Kaminski Hardware Building located inside the Rice Museum.
Once the rood was removed from the building, the boat was lowered onto the 3rd floor with a crane.
Experts used 3,000 stainless steel pins to reattach portions of the boat that have dismantled during recovery.
The most important artifact recovered from Brown’s Ferry Vessel is the Davis Quadrant, the first example of its kind found in the United States. The Quadrant is in remarkable condition with visible calibration marks despite spending almost 250 years in the Black River!
Designed by John Davis of England in 1595, the instrument measured angles for surveying, astronomy and navigation.
Sailors could determine their latitude by finding the angle of the sun above the horizon without having to stare directly into it.
The device consisted of a rod with two circular arcs. The top arc measured angles from 0 to 60 degrees, while the bottom one did 0 to 30 degrees. Both arcs have the same center, and each has a movable sight. Since it could measure an arc of only 90 degrees it was replaced by the sextant, which could measure 180 degrees.
Archaeologists found it usual to discover a Davis Quadrant on this small freighter. Only seafaring vessels required such navigational tools. This may be further evidence that Brown’s Ferry Vessel ventured all the way to Charleston.
Here is the Brown’s Ferry Vessel anchor…only 300 years old…
Other recovered artifacts include bottles, ropes, weights, pins, tobacco pipes, spoons, plates, buckles, and pins. They all paint a lively picture of early colonial life along the South Carolina coast.
Visit the Rice Museum downtown Georgetown to admire this American maritime treasure, learn about the 18th century “Carolina Gold”, the world’s largest rice industry and about legendary African-American figures, Ms. Ruby and Joseph Hayne Rainey.
The Rice Museum is located at the Town Clock and is open Monday to Saturday 10AM to 4:30PM. Admission is $7 adults, $5 seniors, $3 students (6-21) and free for kids under 6.
Step back in time in beautiful Georgetown, the 3rd oldest city in South Carolina!
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Filed Under: Boating and Fishing, Carolina Beaches, Georgetown, Historic Carolina Sites, Huntington State Park, Museums, Myrtle Beach, Sunset Beach NC
Tags: 1700 nautical devices, 18th century American freight vessels, 18th century colonial artifacts, 18th century navigational tools, Brown's Ferry merchant vessel, Brown's Ferry vessel hull pictures, colonial periauger flat bottom river boat, Georgetown historic attractions, Georgetown kids activities, Georgetown rice museum artifacts, Huntington State Park attractions, Murrells Inlet things to do with kids, Oldest American wooden boat, original Davis Quadrant photo, South Carolina colonial shipyards