Exploring Lewis Park and the Origins of Bells Ferry Road
I walk a lot, and, by a lot, I mean my walking mileage total last year was just more than 1,800 miles, roughly the distance from my home in Cherokee County to the Grand Canyon. About half that distance I walked alone, because, well, no one else I know likes to walk that much. I can forget just how much fun it is to stroll, to amble — to relax your pace and really take in your surroundings, instead of just rushing through them.
There are, in fact, a whole lot of folks who prefer to dawdle, and there are great parks in Cherokee County that allow you to do just that, while being surrounded by the great outdoors. Whether you’re walking with little ones with short legs and even shorter attention spans, only have a half an hour to spare or just draw the line at a mile when it comes to traipsing around, you don’t have to relegate yourself to a sidewalk. There are places where even 30 paces will put you in the woods, and one of the best is Lewis Park, just north of Towne Lake off Bells Ferry Road.
At 57 acres, the park has a very nice loop trail that’s a little more than a mile long. Too much? There are cutoffs within the loop that can make it half that distance. And, there are benches along the path, so if you’re the kind of person who likes to take along a book and find a quiet place in nature to read, this is such a place. It’s easily accessible, never crowded and all wooded. You get around 200 feet of elevation change as the path wanders along the banks of a small, unnamed creek, and if you start feeling energetic, take all the cutoffs as well as the loop to get in a couple of miles.
There also are pavilions for picnics, a playground for the kids and a real restroom, not just a porta-potty. Want more? Cross the street at the park entrance, and you’ll see a small unmarked trail that leads straight to Allatoona Lake, where it meets up with a shoreline trail that allows you to stretch your legs along the junction of Little River and the lake.
If you’re lucky, you’ll spot an owl, hawk or a couple of deer. What’s truly delightful about Lewis Park is that you don’t have to walk far to experience the quiet beauty of nature. If you’re looking for the experience of a hike but are only up for a little ramble, Lewis Park just might be the place to go.
Ever Wondered … What is Bell’s Ferry?
While taking in your surroundings at Lewis Park, you might wonder: “How did Bells Ferry Road get its name?” If you’ve spent much time driving around the Atlanta metro area, you’ve noticed that there are almost as many streets named Ferry as there are named Peachtree — Paces Ferry Road, Johnson Ferry Road, Powers Ferry Road and, of course, Bells Ferry Road. Bells Ferry Road runs most of the length of Cherokee, connecting the Cobb County seat (Marietta) with that of Cherokee County (Canton). But was there actually a Bell’s Ferry, and was it anywhere near the current Bells Ferry Road? Who was Bell anyway?
In the mid-1800s, an entire fleet of privately owned and operated ferries carried loads and travelers alike across rivers too deep to simply be forded. Their operators often set up trading posts there as well, so, in addition to providing a vital service in the days before bridges became commonplace, the ferries were responsible for establishing small commercial centers.
Many people mistakenly believe that Bell’s Ferry operated along what is now Bells Ferry Road in Cherokee County, where the Ronnie Chastain Bridge crosses Little River. Indeed, there are records of a ferry in operation there in the 1830s, but it was called King’s Ferry.
Cherokee court documents in 1835 show that James H. Bell operated a ferry, but it crossed the Etowah River. Records also indicate Bell owned land on both sides of the Etowah at one location, and it’s speculated that this must have been where the ferry was located. Today, this site is just north of Sixes Road, in the vicinity of BridgeMill.
Records further show that Bell sold the land and the ferry in June 1835. The year before, Jonathon Johnson established another ferry across the Etowah, but in January 1837, a year and a half after selling his ferry, Bell purchased Johnson’s land and ferry. This site is near Victoria Landing on Allatoona Lake.
This is only speculation on my part, but the proximity of this new ferry to King’s Ferry meant that virtually the same site could connect Canton to Marietta and Cartersville, making it a much more desirable operating location. In 1855, Bell sold it to Samuel Lovinggood, who erected a toll bridge across the Etowah there. The bridge was destroyed in a flood, but Lovinggood continued to operate a ferry, just as Bell had. Both the bridge and the ferry connected Canton to Cartersville.
We forget that, until the late 1940s, the Etowah River ran unfettered through Cherokee County; the damming of the Etowah to create Allatoona Lake covered the ferry site. But old Cherokee road maps still show Lovinggood (Victoria) Landing on one side of the river and Old Lovinggood Lane on the other. So, we find that while Bells Ferry Road doesn’t exactly take you across the waterway that Bell’s Ferry did, it does bring you to the location of Bell’s Ferry. In fact, it takes you to the location of both of Bell’s ferries!
– The Wanderer has been a resident of Cherokee County for nearly 20 years, and constantly is learning about his community on daily walks, which totaled a little more than 1,800 miles in 2021. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.