A Hallowell Bridge Long Gone


Originally published in the Kennebec Journal on May 19, 2012.

By DON WATSON

There is a fascination we have with bridges. Movies in War, ‘A Bridge Too Far’, Over River Kwai, and romance, The Bridges of Madison County.

Who has not seen the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco?

Bridges to drive over, to leap from, to cross with fear as the lurch and heave under the traffic. The spans today are not just utilitarian, they are designed as works of art, like the Boston Bridge and the structure in Maine at the Verona Island Narrows.

But, in another time, bridges were of wood and of necessity to move people and commerce in a growing nation.

Covered bridges are spanning rivers all through New England. Some one-lane dinosaurs, are still in use, especially on the Connecticut River which divides New Hampshire and Vermont.

Hallowell build such a bridge in 1860. In a strong economy, with Water Street offering an assortment of needs from food to medicine, from clothing to beer at the local tavern.

The City Fathers decided to erect the bridge to attract people from farmland Chelsea and especially from Togus.

All went well until an October storm in October 1869 damaged some of the pillars that supported the bridge. This halted commerce during the winter, but unfortunately the Kennebec River was going to assail the bridge again. In the early spring of 1870 the river hit a final blow and the Hallowell Bridge was washed away by charging ice.

The economy of Hallowell still prevailed and there was no movement to build another bridge.

We cross now by kayak, or canoe, or power boat in a clean river, at times unpredictable, but sometimes quiet and still with eagles and osprey above and unseen sturgeon lingering below.