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Strong, a Mussul Unsquit village

A Legacy of Woods and Waters

The Bridge That Changed The Map

Text By: Carl W. Stinchfield

Maps are often changed when bridges are built which alter the flow of traffic. However, it is not often that building a bridge changes the area and boundaries of a town. But that was the case in Strong.

Map of Strong as incorporated, c. 1801
Map of Strong as incorporated, c. 1801

Item Contributed by
Strong Historical Society

Strong was incorporated in 1801 as a tract of land rectangular in shape, seven miles, 94 rods long, by four miles, 256 rods wide. The Sandy River flows into Strong from the west, tracks easterly to a point south of where the village was settled, then sweeps around a large bend to a southerly track toward Farmington. Settlement had begun in 1784 from the south, first along the west side of the river, then the east.

Fording was the only way to cross the river until 1827, when the first bridge was built by Ezekiel Porter for $750. A rampaging ice breakup destroyed it about ten years later. The next bridge was built by Jeremiah Ellsworth, with the help of Col. Lancaster, a noted bridge builder from New Sharon, for $1,000 and lasted nearly 20 years. But on Saturday October 13, 1855, during the Strong Agricultural Fair, a torrential rain caused the fair-goers to flee to the safety of their homes. They did not realize that they had crossed that bridge for the last time. It was demolished and washed away by the deluge that followed.

Suspension bridge, Strong
Suspension bridge, Strong

Item Contributed by
Strong Historical Society

Mr. Beedy, a successful bridge builder, designed a newfangled wire suspension bridge to withstand the Sandy River’s seasonal tantrums, and proposed a construction cost of $5,000. This bridge would be built on high ground at the river bend below the village. The citizens were appalled at the high cost, but most knew they needed a dependable bridge across the river.

However, the citizens of the area then known as East Strong foresaw no benefit from a bridge. They lived on the east side of the river and saw no need to cross the river. Their taxes would increase and they would never use the bridge. The dissent continued and a legislative petition was circulated requesting the area of East Strong be annexed to New Vineyard. The petition made no mention of the bridge. Instead it referred to being inconveniently located to conduct their town business. The petition with 36 signatures was submitted to the state legislature in 1856, at about the same time Mr. Beedy was contracted to build the bridge. East Strong waited for legislative action as the new bridge began to take shape.

South support tower and cable anchorages
South support tower and cable anchorages

Item Contributed by
Strong Historical Society

Support towers were framed and braced to evenly distribute the load on mortared rubble piers extending from the roadbed grade down to the foundation set in the riverbanks. The cable anchorages, consisting of long wrought iron eye-bars, were sunken and anchored into holes drilled down to bedrock. These holes were so deep, and the eye-bars so stable, that folks suggested Mr. Beedy had employed a “Chinaman” on the other side of the world to put a large flat washer on the end and screw on a large nut.

The cables, drawn and wound from 400 strands of wire to a diameter of 3½”, were strung across the towers and connected to the anchorages. Flat iron straps wrapped around the cables every 30” secured the upper ends of ½” iron suspension rods attached at the lower end to 8” thick cedar floor beams hanging from cable to cable. Decking of 2½” thick linear planking was laid over the floor beams. For stability, 8”x 8” timbers were attached beneath the floor beams in a linear fashion for the entire span of 254’ between the towers. Bolts ran through the decking, the floor beam and the linear timber.

Cargo truck accident, Strong, ca. 1915
Cargo truck accident, Strong, ca. 1915

Item Contributed by
Strong Historical Society

This bridge was completed in 1857 and served Strong for nearly 65 years. But an accident, and resulting claims, signaled the beginning of the end for the bridge. On October 2, 1915, a cargo truck from F. E. Merrill Lumber, of Turner, loaded with empty shipping boxes for Forster’s Toothpick Mill, crashed through the deck of the bridge to the riverbank below. Luckily it came to rest upright and the occupants escaped serious injury. But that accident clearly showed that the bridge was fast becoming unsuitable to meet the needs of the new cargo trucking industry. Bridge repairs were made and weight restrictions kept it open for a time, but by 1922 the wire suspension bridge was replaced.

The map was changed
The map was changed

But the map had already been changed. In 1861 the legislature had approved the petition of the residents of East Strong. The eastern boundary of Strong changed, eliminating Lots 1-12 in the 3rd Range and Lots 1-14 in the 4th Range. An area of more than 4,200 acres, which included 55 families, of East Strong was annexed to the town of New Vineyard. That boundary change is delineated here with the blue line.