Friday, December 19, 2014

Bridges over the Wabash and the Embarass Rivers in the 1860's

Prior to 1863 there was no bridge over the Wabash into Vincennes from Illinois.  The Editor of the Weekly Vincennes Gazette encouraged the citizens of Vincennes to assist the Lawrence County Supervisors in their endeavor to build one.  

Date: March 21, 1863

"The movement on the part of the people of Allison prairie for the erection of a Bridge across the Wabash river at this point, is one which should be encouraged by our citizens, and for every dollar subscribed for the accomplishment of the object, by citizens of Illinois, three should be contributed by those of Vincennes. The bridge would be a matter of convenience to our Illinois neighbors, but it is one of prime interest to those of this city. The trade of party of Lawrence, Jasper, Crawford, Wabash and other counties in Illinois, has for some years, sought a market at Vincennes, because it was nearest and best, but that trade would be largely increased, yes, quadrupled if there were the facilities of a bridge for crossing the river. The inconveniences, as well as the cost of crossing by means of the old ferryboats, deter many from bringing the surplus products of their farms to our city for a market, and only those who are forced to do so think of seeking a market here. Our citizens have not hitherto pursued a policy to invite trade, but with the experience of the past season before them— the long trains of wagons, loaded with wheat and other surplus products, from the rich prairies of Illinois, which crowded our streets, and gave life and activity to the business of our town, they must be convinced of the importance of providing such conveniences as will of themselves be an inducement to farmer to bring their surplus produce to our city for a market. No single thing that can be done, will so effectually accomplish it as the creation of a bridge, over which a safe and cheap crossing can be had— one over which the farmer can pass at any hour of the day or night and not be compelled to remain all night, as is frequently the case now, after the transaction of his business, because the ferry boats won’t cross him after night. As a paying investment for money, none better can be had, for even with the receipt would pay 30 per cent on cost. A mistaken notion exists as to the cost of building such a bridge as would accommodate the wants of all. $30,000 is the utmost extent of the amount necessary to build one with first class stone masonry and double track super-structure— one, the masonry of which would last forever, and the wood work, with but trifling repairs, for a quarter of a century. This amount of money ought to be raised readily, and if our citizens are alive to their own interest, they will cordially unite with those of Illinois, and raise the necessary funds so as to have the work done in time for the trade of next fall. Let our business men attend the meeting in Allison prairie on the 7th of April, and consult with the farmers of Illinois, who have set the ball in motion; and by a vigorous effort, the work will be so speedily done that they will be astonished that they slept so long without it."

The editor tired again two years later when an iron bridge was proposed, this time over the Embarrass.  Both bridges would help trade with Vincennes.  

Date: August 5, 1865

WORTHY OF CONSIDERATION.—The Supervisors of Lawrence county, Illinois, have made an appropriation of a sum of money out of the swamp land fund to build a good substantial bridge across the Embarrass river at the site of the old plank road bridge. The rock for the abutments and piers are now being delivered, and the work will progress as soon as the water subsides. The superstructure will be of iron, thus making it permanent— the whole to be completed by the 15th of September next. This will be an improvement that has been long needed by the citizens of Lawrence county and the public generally who travel over the old road between this place and Lawrenceville. The Supervisors also propose to make a liberal appropriation to repair the road across Allison prairie, if the business men and others in Vincennes will likewise contribute with a liberal spirit to the same object. It is a proposition worthy of consideration. The roads out of Vincennes, West, have long been a reproach to the enterprise and liberality of our citizens. It is true that they have expended a great deal of money in times past to build and maintain a good road over the prairie. The plank road in which they invested largely proved a failure, as have all plank roads. But their disappointment in that scheme is no apology for their utter neglect of a road which if kept in good repair, would not only redound to the credit of the city, but very greatly promote its interests. We hope the citizens of Vincennes will take the necessary measures to meet the supervisors in the spirit of liberality which they tender to them, when they are so deeply interested.