To reduce the effect of both wind and current a cable was stretched across the river. This limited drift and permitted the ferryman to concentrate on covering the shortest distance in the least amount of time. The cable was also used to take advantage of the current by angling the boat against it. This was accomplished by the use of a short cable to tether one end or the other away from the main cable. In this manner the boat would "sail" in much the same manner as a sailboat tacks into the wind.
Gasoline engines made possible powered ferries. The last engine used was a Ford, industrial type, 9N. Earlier the county had used a smaller FairbanksMorse. One or two paddle wheels were driven through a conical clutch, similar in some respects to the type popular in early automobiles. The clutch used in the ferryboats enabled the ferryman to move forward or backward by merely moving a single lever in one direction or the other. The paddle wheels were mostly made of wood to make replacement faster and easier.
The current propelled ferryboat was somewhat longer and narrower than the powered boats that followed. The greater length probably enabled the boat to used the .stream flow to greater advantage. The shorter and wider powered boats could better accommodate automobiles. Both types of boats had ramps that could be adjusted to meet the shore. Opposing cables were wound on a drum that would cause one ramp to lower as the other was raised. The large wheel so prominent in some photographs was used to control the ramp height.
Both types of ferryboats had a shelter. The enclosure on the current ferry covered the wheel used to raise and lower the ramps. The "house" on the powered ferryboats protected the engine as well as providing shelter for the ferryman. A window in each end allowed the ferryman to operate the boat from the inside.
Until the turn of the century most ferries were privately owned and operated. With the Territorial Legislature came a licensing procedure, probably to restrain some overly ambitious entrepreneur. As Kootenai County became a more effective arm of government it became the licensing authority. With the growth of traffic and the construction of better roads the public began demanding free ferries.
To provide a free ferry the county became the operator of six crossings. Ferrymen were selected through competitive bidding. The ferryman's salary was what he said he was willing to accept. He was required what must have been considered a performance bond, usually $500.00. The earliest salaries were around $60.00 per month.
To be continued