A New Home for Batteau Dan River
Last fall Reidsville Restoration completed a shelter on the museum green that will permanently house the batteau replica Dan River. Constructed in 2002 in Virginia, the full-sized replica is forty feet long and eight feet wide. Purchased by Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) the following year, the batteau was then sold to Three Rivers Outfitters of Eden who operated it commercially for charters, excursions, and river festivals. In September 2005 DRBA members enjoyed a ride from Danville to Milton.
The vessel was swamped and sunk by the volatile river’s high water several times. After two years underwater, in 2010 DRBA coordinated a recovery team spearheaded by the NC Underwater Archaeology Branch. Three Rivers Outfitters loaned it to MARC for the museum’s 2012 opening and is generously donating it to MARC.
Throughout the nineteenth century, batteaux were poled up and down Virginia and North Carolina Piedmont rivers, largely by African-American crews. The river commerce connected the isolated backcountry to global markets and sparked an economic boom on the Dan River. Five towns in our region, including Leaksville and Madison, were born as river ports for batteau commerce.
In retirement, Dan River’s new purpose is to educate our citizens and youth about the importance of the batteau to Rockingham County’s development.