You will find references to this river crossing in many local community streets and roads, including Raleigh. While attending NC State the name of one of the major roads around campus intrigued me, but it wasn't until I moved into the Sanford/Lee County area that I discovered the actual location of the namesake.
The following are excerpts from the Avent Family website at . Copyright 2008
Between 1755 and 1765, a part of the Avent family, John, Joseph, Sarah and Sarah's husband William Ragland (and their families) moved as a group from Northampton Co. to Chatham Co., NC (located SW of Raleigh). Sister Rebecca and husband Seth Cotten followed after 1777.
John and Joseph purchased substantial tracts of land on both sides of the Cape Fear River - John on the north side and Joseph on the south (John eventually purchased the site of the ferry landing on the south side, as well.). No deeds have surfaced for the earliest purchases, but the earliest known land purchase of John Avent was from Drury Mims and his wife Lydia in 1772:
Ferries already existed at this site. Mann's ferry was on one side of the Cape Fear and Braswell's ferry was on the other, and between 1775 and 1779 John Avent was granted the right to operate the ferry from both banks of the river.
In 1775 his rates were set as follows: for a wagon and team: $2.00, for a cart: $1.00, a man and a horse: 2 shillings, and a foot passenger: 1 shilling. In 1781 they increased those rates to $4.00 for a loaded wagon and team of horses, $2.00 for a loaded cart and horse and .50 for a man and a horse.
What did it look like? Here is a model of 1770-era ferry used in the area:
Ferries at this time were just flat rafts with 2 low sides, made of lumber, usually loblolly pine. They couldn’t carry two vehicles side by side but several could often line up and be carried across at the same time. Smooth poles were used to pole the flat across the river, which required two men in good conditions and more when the water was high. Avent's Ferry became an important and heavily-used crossing of the river and was a part of the well-known Pee Dee Trail, and operated until it was replaced by a bridge in 1926. Members of the Avent family (as well as other local people) were involved in running the ferry right up until the bridge was built. The site of the ferry can easily be found today - look on a map of Chatham County where Rt. 42 crosses the Cape Fear River.
In 2001 the National Society of the Colonial Dames, Sir Walter Raleigh Chapter, installed a historical marker at the site:
Here is a picture of the ferry site on the north bank of the river; taken from the south side (the ferry landing was located about where you see the white pole in the water, on the right side of the picture, to the right of and below the white car):
The posted coordinates are for a historical marker. Take data from that marker to find the final location. Use the following to guide you.
N 35 33.0AAA
W 079 1.BBBB
AAA = John Avent’s death year - 931
BBBB = The year the first bridge was built + 3798