William M. Ferry, 1796 – 1867. Founding Father of Ferrysburg

Our History

A Glimpse Into The Past

Ferrysburg is not a new community. Rather it has its roots woven deeply into the fabric of the Tri-Cities area. It is hoped that you will find this chronology not only interesting but useful to focus on those events that have brought us the Ferrysburg we know today.

1800s History

1849 A new sawmill was constructed by William M. Ferry, Jr. to exploit the assorted hard and soft woods available in the area.
1852 A spring flood in the Grand River valley washed away bridges, rafts of logs, and over half of the “Sawdust Road” which connected the ferry dock with Grand Haven.
1854 William Ferry planted a garden with flowers, shrubs, and fruit trees. It was situated where Johnston Bros. is located and was called “Ferry Gardens.”
1855 The residence of William Ferry, Jr. was completed. In September, “Ferry & Chandler” finished construction of a new machine shop and foundry called the Ottawa Iron Works. They made steam engines and machines for the lumbering industry.
1857 On January 26, Col. William M. Ferry, Jr. and Thomas White Ferry platted the Village of Ferrysburg. There were four streets running east and west: 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th; and four running north and south: Pine, Oak, Elm and Maple. It is interesting to note that the first letters of these streets spell poem. The first school district was established in this area as School District No. 1.
1858 Records indicate that the school district treasury had $2.50 all of which was owed to the teacher. The following year the school district treasury was depleted to pay the same teacher.
1859 The first post office was established with U. B. Eames as postmaster. To this point, there had been three spellings of the village name: Ferrysburgh, Ferrisburg and Ferrysburg. The latter spelling was used when the post office was established and remains to this day.
1864 J. W. Johnston founded the boiler-works in a small wooden building near U.S. 31. The company was primarily engaged in making marine boilers, barges and tugs used to tow log rafts on the Grand River.
1869 The railroad was brought through Ferrysburg to serve the shops and sawmills and to provide passenger service to several northern Communities.
1881 By this time the village population had grown to 411. Ferrysburg was described as a “thriving, busy little village, with flowers, shrubs, trees, and white picket fences.” At this time there was a General Store, Meat Market and Post Office on Pine St. near the intersection with Third.
1887 Johnston Bros. moved their facilities to the abandoned buildings of the Ottawa Iron Works which had ceased operation. Approximately 30 men were employed by the company. They later moved to the former site of “Ferry’s Gardens”.

1900-1950 History

1907 The Construction Materials Corp. was established for obtaining and processing sand and gravel. Wooden scows, loaded by hand with wheelbarrows, were pushed by tug 16 miles downstream from the Bass river gravel pits. Wooden tugs were powered by steam engines built by Johnston Bros.
1928 to 1930 The aggregate plant was built on sand-filled marshland, which pioneered use of reclaimed wetland for construction sites.
1948 The name was changed to Construction Aggregates Corp. Presently, the company is the largest shipper of sand and gravel on the Great Lakes and employs 100 people. More than 2,000,000 tons are shipped by water annually.

1951-1980 History

1950 An addition of new office space was made to Johnston Bros., Inc. to accommodate more help as the boiler industry grew. Today, the company makes boilers for contractors’ equipment and also specializes in fully automatic “packaged” boilers for commercial heating, processing, and small power plants. Their boilers have been distributed and installed in almost every country in the world. Employment numbers approximately 80 today.
1963 Ferrysburg became a Fifth Class City.
1966 The firm of Architects and City Planners, Ann Arbor, was contracted by the city to develop a master plan over a two year period, to be completed in Dec., 1968.
1968 In September a significant step was taken when the City Council formally adopted a new zoning ordinance. This replaced the Spring Lake Township Ordinance which had been used as an interim zoning ordinance by the City since 1966.
1972 Smith’s Bayou Bridge was constructed at a cost of approximately $400,000. this new bridge replaced the previous bridge built in 1915 at a cost of $9,350.
1973 The U.S. Government conveys the former U.S. Coast Guard Rifle Range on North Shore Road to the City. Today it is known as Coast Guard Park.
1974 Ferrysburg purchases the former Christian Reformed church building at the corner of Fifth and Maple and converts it into a city hall. The building was purchased for $32,000.
1975 Ferrysburg organizes its own street department.
1976 The City began accepting applications to hookup to City water service.
1979 Ferrysburg residents approve city wide sewer service.


1982 City wide Sewer project completed.
1985 The State Boundary Commission extended the City’s corporate lines to the center of Spring Lake and the center of the Grand River adjacent to the City.
City builds ball diamond, soccer field, and restrooms at Coast Guard Park.
1989 A Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant allows the City of Ferrysburg to acquire the 52 acres of dunes from the nature Conservancy and to unify the property as the 112-acre Kitchel-Lindquist Dunes Preserve.
Ferrysburg and Spring Lake Village combine their police departments to form the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Department.
1991 The City’s first Recreation Plan was adopted on March 13. This plan provided an evaluation of the City’s recreational opportunities and needs.
The City widens Pine Street between Third and Ridge and installs sidewalks and decorative street lights. The City also improves William Ferry Park by adding a picnic shelter, play area, and boardwalk.
1995 The City improves Coast Guard Park by adding a picnic shelter, a play area, a paved trail, and sand volleyball courts.
1997 City starts an annual street repair program
1999 City Council adopts new Zoning Ordinance.
2001 The City improves Coast Guard Park by adding 2 tennis courts, 3 basketball courts, and more parking.
City Council adopts new Master Plan.
Tri-Cities Connector Bike Path through the US-31/M-104 interchange opens a cooperative effort of Ferrysburg, Spring Lake Village and the City of Grand Haven.
2002 City website created.
2006 City purchases former Ferrysburg Elementary School from Grand haven Public Schools.
2007 City Council adopts new Master Plan.
City of Ferrysburg Celebrates 150 Years 1857-2007
2010 City Hall moves into the former Ferrysburg Elementary School


The years ahead for Ferrysburg are bright and promising! Since incorporation as a city in 1963, work has progressed steadily to develop the community with imagination and an eye to the future. Adequate transportation, open land, industrial diversification, recreational resources and substantial residential development all serve to help underwrite and insure the Ferrysburg of tomorrow. The groundwork of organization and planning has been laid. With continued citizen support and participation, the community promises sound exciting growth for many years to come.