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JIM: The new Green River bridge at Tebbs Bend, 1907

And now comes the answer to the second part, the name of the contractor for the Tebbs Bend bridge now being removed, and Mr. Robert Cumming's query: Wonders when the Tebbs Bend Bridge was built? Contractor?, and a whole lot more." There are are countless tidbits of information in this artickle worthy of rote memory for an eighth grade history class, including the name of the first person, a Rominian, to cross the bridge, comments by News editors about the new toll, and a deserved gig at the toll for a canoe ferry across the river when that was the only way of getting across. The canoe ferry was charging a 25 cent canoeage for the crossing. Compare that to the 10 cent toll Ralph Shearer, et al, charged almost 50 years later for a similar flat boat crossing when the Russell Creek Bridge collapsed on Campbellsville Street, an almost charitable fee even if that token fee sometimes had to be enforced with threats to toss the passengers in the deep waters if they refused to pay, which was their policy. With no further digression, you are encouraged to stop everything and read this. --EW


The year 1907 got off to a fiery start in the northern part Adair with the burning of the Green River bridge. On Tuesday, January 1st, reported the Adair County News, Mr. John Stone, driver for J.B. Barbee's mail wagon, approached the bridge about 4:30 a.m. only to discover the Columbia end engulfed in flames. Mr. Stone immediately perceived he could get the wagon across, which he did in great haste. "After crossing he drove rapidly to the stage barn and informed the hostler and Mr. Henry Sublett of the fire, but when these gentlemen reached the scene the conflagration had gained such headway that the structure was doomed." The fire was believed to have originated at the hand of an incendiary.

Owner's of the bridge, the Campbellsville, Muldraugh's Hill & Columbia Turnpike Co., immediately announced plans to transport "mail, passengers and express" across the river via canoe, "the hacks meeting the traffic on either bank" until such time as a ferry could be built. At press time on Tuesday afternoon, January 2nd, the News has been unable to find out any longer range plans "but the supposition is that the Turnpike Co. will immediately perfect plans for a new structure."

Next week the paper carried an announcement from George Gowdy, the president of the Turnpike Co., that gentleman indirectly quoted as saying "his company would very probably replace the bridge across Green River, but it would be five or six months before the work could be done."

The January 7th edition of the paper also noted that Columbia-Campbellsville stage fare had reverted upward to "the old price of $1.50," and went on the state that wasn't excessive "for good accommodations for that distance, but 25 cents canoeage across Green River does not strike the average person as philanthropic..." In mid-January, the Hatcher correspondent stated "people are beginning to feel the need of a bridge at Green River...the sooner the bridge is rebuilt the better condition business will be."

Out of a meeting of the Turnpike Co. directorate held on Saturday, January 12th, came the decision to erect a "modern up-to-date steel structure." The as-yet unnamed contractors promised completion in sixty days but the Turnpike Co. gave them ninety. Remarked the News, "When the bridge is completed Adair county will again be in touch with the outside world, and all the petty annoyances and additional expense of both passenger traffic and freight will be forgotten in the enjoyment of this much missed necessity."

Barely a month after the old wooden bridge turned to ash, the Turnpike Co. let a contract for a new one to the Vincennes Bridge Co. of Vincennes, Indiana. The Turnpike offered a inducement of an extra one hundred dollars if the bridge were completed by the last day of March. In the same edition in which this was laid before the public, the News reported that "shipping of rough lumber from Columbia has practically been abandoned since the burning of the Green River bridge. Nothing could have been done to injure the business of Columbia and vicinity...[more] than the destruction of the above bridge."

A week later, the Cave Valley correspondent opined, "We are truly glad to know that Green River will be spanned at an early day with a new bridge, for our town and community with others, suffer no little inconvenience since the old one burned."

Shortly after mid-February, 1907, men from Vincennes were hard at work putting up the false work of the bridge and part of the iron works had been shipped. At month's end, a representative of the News visited the construction site and observed that work was progressing as quickly as the weather would permit. "The abutment on the Campbellsville side has been completed and work begun on our bank." Components for the bridge itself had not yet reached Campbellsville "but representatives of the Company claim that it will be in readiness for traffic by the time agreed upon, provided the rainfall doesn't interfere." (A blurb in the March 13th News informed readers, "Metal for the Green River bridge will weigh over 36 tons.")

True to its word, the Vincennes Bridge Co. completed work on the span by the end of March, but just bareley, the job being completed on Sunday night, March 31st. The expectation was that the bridge would "probably be accepted by the Turnpike Company in a few days."

Remarked the News, "This announcement will be good news to this section of the country, as business has been greatly hindered by the loss of the bridge. Several hundred thousand feet of lumber around Columbia will be started to market immediately, and for some time the wagoners will have all they can do."

Although the newspsper didn't give the exact date of the bridge opening, the April 10th edition reported that "Mrs. James E. Rice, of Romine, enjoys the distinction of being the first person to cross the new bridge over Green River on [the] Columbia and Campbellsville pike."

A bit about the Vincennes Bridge Company:

"In the list of great modern enterprises should be named the Vincennes Bridge Company. Conceived only ten years ago [in 1898]and starting only as a little factory with a small financial foundation but great expectations, the Vincennes Bridge Company has gained a name which is known all over the world and is today one of the largest manufactories of highway bridges in existence. Its output of twelve hundred bridges yearly fails to meet the constantly increasing demand and extensive plans are made for large additions. The plant is thoroughly modern and is supplied with all the machinery and devices for fabricating the iron and steel into shape and reducing the material to sizes convenient for transportation and handling, at the place of consignment." (From a biographical sketch of Frank L. Oliphant in "History Old Vincennes And Knox County Indiana," George E. Greene, 1911, Vol 2 pg 5. Mr. Oliphant was one of the Company's founders.)

Compiled by JIM

This story was posted on 2015-01-04 10:33:42
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