Of course you know the story of Washington Crossing the Delaware River, which took place on Christmas Day in 1776. The Hessians, who were across the river, were quite surprised. No one really expects a lot of work to be done on Christmas, especially battles.

While this was a turning point, emotionally, for the colonists--they needed a win--I'm not much a military expert. But, Washington and his troops left from Pensylvania, where I lived for 9 years, from a little Inn called McConkey's Ferry. You can visit it today, but don't expect to get a room to sleep in or something to eat--it's a historical site.

My maiden name is McConkie, and despite the spelling difference, we are related to the original proprietor--although as a cousin, not a direct line. But, if you go visit on a quiet day and you tell the guide you're a McConkie, you just might get to go places the general tour doesn't get to see. (It's really my only opportunity to name drop these days.)

Normally, people reenact the River Crossing every year, but this year the river is too high so there will just be a celebration and speeches. And we celebrate the bravery of George Washington and his soldiers who were literally willing to sacrifice everything to break away from Great Britain.

But, we should also learn about William McConkey, the owner of McConkey's Ferry. The Schenectady (NY) Gazette, Sept. 9, 1932 (transcribed by Cindi Schmerber) described some of McConkey's life as follows:

William McConkey was born in County Tyrone, Ireland, on January 22, 1774 (note: this is a typo in the original article; it should be 1744), the 15th generation from Donnachaide Reimhar MacAonghus of Scotland.With a thousand others he despaired of living conditions there and listened longingly to the tales of America and her opportunities.Finally, he embarked, arrived in New York and journeyed to New Jersey to settle nine miles north of Trenton on the banks of the Delaware river.

In time, a road was built to the spot and William McConkey, grasper of opportunities, built a ferry and docks.A comfortable living came to him, through the farthings and half crowns from those who journeyed between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.The ferryman married, built a large stone house and settled down to family life.

The ferry became not only his source of income but a main interest in life.He took to the work as a student - a deliberate, slow Scotch-Irish student studying each mood of the river; learning the shifts in currents and whirlpools between the high waters and the low until he had satisfied himself that he could outguess the Delaware under any condition.

In other words, here was someone who came from far away, and built a business. That business turned out to help Washington with somewhere to stay, something to eat, and a place to plan. Without him, the historic crossing of the Delaware wouldn't have happened--or at least not in the same way.

You may say, I'm just a small business owner; nothing I do is important. But,prior to the War, McConkey was just a small business owner. He saw a hole in the market and he worked to fill it, and as a result, changed the destination of a nation.

Don't underestimate the impact your small business can have on the future either.

Published on: Dec 25, 2018
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