San Mateo County History

Tales of the San Francisco Peninsula
Theron G. Cady
A series of articles first published in 'Peninsula Life Magazine'
Published by C-T Publishers, San Carlos, California, 1948

The Amazing Story of Thatcher's Ferry

        Almost a century ago when Redwood City was struggling desperately to become a town, a man by the name of William Shaw built and operated a general merchandise store near the intersection of Broadway and Main Street.  The building, a crude affair of rough boards, was about sixteen by twenty-four feet in size and was to serve the two or three hundred settlers who had previously "squatted" on the 35,000-acre Rancho de las Pulgas, then the property of the Arguello family.  Shaw did a flourishing business but at the end of four months he sold out to George Thatcher and Company so he could devote more time to his favorite occupation of card playing.
        As time went on the town of Redwood City grew, building going up on each side of the creek.  Business was brisk on both sides but when a customer wished to make a purchase from a merchant on the other side he had the problem of the creek to contend with.  There was no bridge and in order for him to gain the other side he was compelled to either walk around the creek, cross it by boat, or wade through the slime and mud.  The division of the town by the creek, which was a mere trickle most of the time caused little hardships on the citizenry but at times of low-tide it presented a serious problem.  Boats could not navigate the mud so it was either walk around or wade.  For some time Mr. Thatcher watched the people of Redwood City negotiate the creek by various means.  He saw many skirts soiled and many youngsters flat on their faces in the mud before he was struck with a brilliant idea.
        From his supply house he ordered a huge pair of boots rivaling in size those of the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk.  When the "seven-league" boots arrived Mr. Thatcher was in a position to offer his customers and friends a real service.  The boots were hung on a convenient nail inside the store to await their first wearer.  Soon they were in great demand and every man, woman and child in town knew where the boots were to be found and of the valuable service they rendered.
        The high-top boots of fabulous size belonged to the entire village and most any time during low-tide they were in use "ferrying" all comers across the creek in safety.  So great was the service rendered by these boots that long after the creek was bridged and the use of the "ferry" had passed, the villagers related to their children many tall yarns of the wonderful strength possessed by those who wore them.  Today, the high boots have long vanished but the colorful tales spun about "Thatcher's Ferry" will live forever.

© 1948 Theron G. Cady. All rights reserved.
Posted here with permission of his granddaughter, Andrea Van Norman.
Return to Tales of the San Francisco Peninsula
Return to San Mateo County History
© Copyright 2003-2005 Ron Filion and Pamela Storm. All rights reserved.