Anyone who lives west of the Ashley River, or has spent time traveling through that area is familiar with the name of Bee’s Ferry, and the related Bees Ferry Road. If you’re a curious sort of person, perhaps you’ve wondered how this historic name came to be. Was it named after a person or an insect? And what about the ferry? Bees Ferry Road doesn’t cross any significant body of water, nor does it lead to the water’s edge. If there was a ferry, where was it, and when did it disappear?
These questions came to mind recently when Charleston County Council announced its official name selection for a new library branch to be built next to West Ashley High School, just off Glenn McConnell Parkway. The new library building will be called the “Bees Ferry West Ashley Library,” and you can read more about that project on the library’s website. I’m sure most folks will soon get in the habit of calling this new building “the Bees Ferry branch,” and I’ll wager that more than a few people might scratch their heads and wonder about the origin of this familiar, yet obscure place name. Before any unnecessary confusion sets in, let’s take a few minutes to travel back in Lowcountry history and explore the rise and fall of the landmark called Bees Ferry.
Bees Ferry is a historic place name in modern Charleston County, but the historic site that gave rise to the name no longer exists. Bees Ferry was a crossing point over a narrow bend in the Ashley River, at a site located approximately two miles upstream from the current I-526 bridge over the river. The former site of Bee’s Ferry is now host to a railroad bridge that spans the Ashley River, following a similar path as the old ferry crossing. Bee’s Ferry Road is a public thoroughfare on the southwest side of the Ashley River that once led directly to the ferry landing at the river’s edge, but today the northeast end of Bees Ferry road terminates at its junction with Ashley River Road, approximately one half of a mile distant from the river. In fact, the easternmost end of today’s Bees Ferry Road diverges from its original path. About a mile west of the Ashley River, the road curves slightly to the northeast before intersecting with Ashley River Road, while the current CSX railroad line follows a straight line that crosses the original path of the road near the river. This diversion was made in the twentieth century when a raised berm was created to elevate Ashley River Road over the railroad line.