The Warren County Historical Society Logo newly adopted January 2015. Copyright 2015 Warren County Historical Society, Queensbury, NY. Design by www.orangeolive.com
Warren County Historical Society Presents …
The Digital Version “REWIND”
June 1, 2015
Calamity at the Bridge
The original bridge connecting Saratoga County and Warren County dates back to about 1803 when a wooden toll bridge was erected there. A tollhouse sat in the middle of the bridge, built on the large, flat rock jutting up from the riverbed. The toll bridge lasted until 1833, when the free bridge replaced it.
The Toll Bridge (1803-1833) was built on the massive rocks in the middle of the river. History tells us that Glens Falls philanthropist Charles Reed Bishop was born in the toll house. Bishop later married an Hawaiian princess. Photo courtesy of the Chapman Museum.
The free bridge was replaced by a covered bridge in 1842 when repairing the free bridge was determined to be impractical. A sturdy bridge was required for the heavy traffic as Glens Falls became the lumber capital of the nation.
Photo from Bridging the Years, courtesy of the Chapman Museum.
The Town of Moreau built an arch on the south end of the bridge. It became a favorite spot for early photographers and internationally known when the Glens Falls Insurance Company used the arch as its trademark. By 1903 the heavy traffic, and especially the trolley cars had weakened the arch and it was replaced with an iron structure.
The Arch on the Moreau side of the Covered Bridge was a favorite spot for early photographers. The Arch became internationally known when the Glens Falls Insurance Company used it as their trademark. It was condemned in 1903 and taken down.
In 1890, iron bridge was established which lasted until 1913. In building the iron bridge, calamity struck. As reported in the Glens Falls Messenger, on March 21, 1890, there was a terrible calamity at the Queensbury-Moreau bridge. Eight men working on the construction of the bridge were “hurled upon the rocks and into the torrent below.”
The Covered Bridge (1842-1890) was being replaced when the ‘calamity’ struck in 1890. Photo courtesy of the Chapman Museum.
Work on the new bridge was begun in 1890. A central pier was built from the rocks and the ironwork for the new bridge was begun from the Moreau side to the central pier. With the stringers and framework in place, workers began taking the lattice work down from the old wooden bridge on the Glens Falls side so that the laying of the ironwork could continue to the Glens Falls side.
The Iron Bridge (1890-1913) was being constructed when fast water and moving debris took the wooden bridge that was being dismantled into the river and caused the death of several men. Photo courtesy of the Chapman Historical Museum.
The floor of the wooden structure was left in place for a time, and it was trussed up for extra support. Unfortunately, the support was inadequate and the structure gave way. The workers had nearly finished the process of cutting away the old latticework and were about to push it over the side into the raging torrent below. The old bridge suddenly began to topple, taking the temporary trusses and the eight men on the structure with it into the rushing water below.
The eight men included Thomas Farley, Edward Byington, Jason Ward, John Rhodes, and Eugene Bennett, all employees of the Berlin Bridge Company; Charles Carr and Thomas Holleran of South Glens Falls; and Nelson Sansouci of Glens Falls.
Of the eight men who fell into the river, Bennett, Rhodes, Ward, and Byington fell into the midst of the wreckage and were able to climb up onto pieces of the latticework. They rode it like a raft down the river.
Holleran, too, fell near these men and was clinging to the end of the ‘raft’ when, with much difficulty; they were able to pull him up out of the water. The paper reported that, “the pain of his injuries together with the intense excitement had deranged his mind.” Holleran’s skull had been fractured and it was believed his injuries would prove fatal.
In the fall, Thomas Farley struck the rocks below, and, “but for timely assistance, he too would have rolled into the river. His right arm was broken and his back was injured in several places.”
Nelson “Nellie” Sansouci was “working near the center pier and fell upon the flat rock beneath, striking upon his back. He groaned audibly several times, his limbs worked convulsively, and finally rolling over as if in terrible agony he fell into the river.” Sansouci was carried down the river and at the time of the newspaper article, his body had not been recovered. Nellie was a firefighter and praised highly for his bravery, fearlessness and his many narrow escapes while performing his duties as a firefighter.
Charles Carr was a letter carrier and was carrying mail to the Glens Falls post office from South Glens Falls. He was nearly across the bridge when the accident occurred. His body was recovered down river. He was seventy years old.
The newspaper article asks the question, “Who is to blame?” They go on to say,
“The above question is agitating the public mind. It seems from all the facts in the case that the accident was due to gross carelessness in the management of the work under the direction of the Berlin Bridge Company.”
The iron bridge that was eventually completed stood for the next 23 years carrying traffic, including trolleys across the river. Intense flooding in March of 1913 took it down. Early in the morning of March 23, 1913, trolley traffic was suspended when a curve in the track was noticed. Police were stationed at both ends of the bridge warning pedestrian traffic that they “were crossing at their own risk.” With the continual water and logs and debris pounding into the bridge, it eventually fell into to he river. No lives were lost.
The Iron Bridge (1890-1913) on the evening of March 23, 1913 just before it collapsed into the river. Photo courtesy of the Chapman Historical Society.
Article prepared by Stan Cianfarano for the Warren County Historical Society. Information came from The Glens Falls Messenger, March 21, 1890. Photographs from Bridging the Years: Glens Falls, New York 1763-1978 and used with permission from the Chapman Historical Museum.
© June 1 2015, Warren County Historical Society.
Rewind maintained by Gary Evans 1 June 2015