Three Rivers
Hudson~Mohawk~Schoharie
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883

Volume I , Page 391

Bridges of Amsterdam. -- The first charter for a toll bridge at Amsterdam, was granted in 1807. It was to be located between the dwelling house of Benjamin Van O'Linda in Florida, and that of Timothy Downs in Amsterdam, but was not erected. April 2, 1813, an act was passed allowing the "Amsterdam Union Bridge Company," to build a bridge between Amsterdam and Florida, within half a mile of Deforest's ferry, to be constructed within five years: but it had not been done when March 6, 1821, the charter was amended, extending the time of building it and completing it to August 1, 1824. It came into use December 1, 1822. This bridge which had been made free, was carried off by a freshet, February 15, 1876, and the present substantial iron structure, also a free bridge, took its place.

A Serious Calamity. -- Until a new bridge was built a ferry was established. On Monday night April 24, 1876, the following accident occurred at this ferry. Johnson I. Snell and Culver Patterson, two attorneys residing at Port Jackson, who had been to Amsterdam on business, set out to return home about 12 o'clock, with Michael Turner to row them over in a skiff. Unfortunately he started above the ferry rope, and when near the middle of the stream, as supposed, the current took the craft upon the rope which upset it, and its inmates were drowned. Their bodies were all finally recovered, that of Turner, some months after. This sad event which took off three good citizens, was the cause of no little sorrow in the two villages, and will long serve as a reminder of the loss of the old bridge.

The First Bridge at Little Falls, erected by the "Fall Hill and Turnpike Bridge Company," was chartered April 9, 1804. Its charter was amended in 1806, when it was still unfinished. It was a wooden structure, and was erected by Theodore Burr, and is believed to have come into use in 1807. It was a toll bridge and occupied the same position as the present arched stone structure. In 1823, an act of the Legislature very wisely gave the supervisors of Herkimer county the privilege, at the approval of three respectable freeholders, of purchasing this bridge to be made a free bridge, believed the earliest example of a free bridge over the Mohawk, certainly as far east as Little Falls.

Bridges at Caughnawaga.-- The first bridge at this place was chartered in 1811, and was erected at the lower end of the rift opposite Caughnawaga, as supposed, at the same season. It supports were of wood, it was built too low and at the next spring freshet it was lifted from its foundation and carried away.

The second Caughnawaga bridge was chartered in 1823, and was constructed and brought into use the nest season. This was a very good covered bridge, but was taken off at a freshet March 17, 1865, when two canal boats came down the river from Canajoharie, and aided in its removal. The present uncovered bridge, an iron structure, now known as the Fultonville and Fonda bridge, was built in the summer of 1865, and would seem fitted to stand up against the icy spring floods of many years to come: this is a free bridge, but its predecessor exacted tribute.

A Remarkable Case of Bleeding.--In the summer of 1853 or 1854, two of the stockholders of the old bridge company, old gentlemen who were boys in the Revolution, Evert Yates and William A. Smith, came to the north entrance of the bridge in a one horse wagon. Seeing a slow team enter the right hand track just ahead of them, they thought to drive through the other, but had entered only a few feet, when they saw the passage darkened by a team at the other end of the bridge. Their only alternative was to back out. The descent from the abutment was rapid, and as the wagon came from the bridge it cramped short to the left, and there being no railing on the side of the abutment, the wagon its inmates and horse fell pell-mell ten or twelve feet to the ground. Mr. Yates and the horse were not much hurt, but Mr. Smith was quite seriously injured, and was carried tot he Caughnawaga House, kept by Fonda Yates. Dr. Maxwell of Johnstown was sent for, as was also Dr. Leonard Proctor, of Fultonville. The latter came first and finding the patient injured about the head and nearly suffocated, without waiting the arrival of Dr. Maxwell, he set about bleeding him. Being unable to draw blood from his arm, and knowing that the sufferer must have immediate relief or die, as a denier resort he tapped the jugular vein. The blood flowed freely and immediate relief followed. Dr. Proctor had had much experience in hospital treatment in his early life, hence he did not hesitate to do what most medical practitioners would then have denominated a desperate act. The patient was breathing freely and was out of immediate danger, when Dr. Maxwell, a good physician and a man of great experience arrived at his bedside. He asked Proctor when he had done for the patient. "I found him nearly suffocated," was the reply, "and not being able to get blood from his arm I opened the jugular vein." "What! you bled him in the jugular vein?" "Yes, I let the blood from his jugular." "Why, I never heard of such an instance," said the senior physician with emphasis, "and remember no such case laid down in the books." "Well doctor," replied Proctor coolly as he pointed to the bed, "you can see a case laid down there!" Mr. Smith recovered and lived several years after this novel blood letting, but in all probability, he would not have survived until the arrival of Maxwell, had not Proctor performed for this vicinity this remarkable feat. Dr. Proctor died at Fultonville March 7, 1856.

In 1849, the Fultonville and Johnstown Plankroad Company obtained a charter for a bridge within a mile of the Caughnawaga bridge, but it was not built as they made an arrangement to use the old bridge.

Contemplated Bridges.--March 22, 1822, an act was passed to build a toll bridge over the Mohawk between the towns of Oppenheim and Minden, immediately below the three islands and as nearly opposite the house of Peter Kneiskern as the situation would admit of. It was to be known as the "Oppenheim and Minden Bridge Company." This bridge was never built.

In 1836 the Spraker's Basin Bridge Company obtained a charter for a bridge, but no means were taken for its erection. Again, in 1836, an act was passed for the construction of a Suspension Bridge at this place. It was done in consequence of a movement for a railroad from some point on the Mohawk to Cherry Valley, it having been thought that a feasible route could be obtained from Spraker's basin up Flat Creek, and thence in a near approach to Sharon Springs, so as to secure that patronage. This project fell through, and the bridge was never built.

Auriesville Bridge Company.--In 1840 an act was passed for the erection of a bridge over the Mohawk, opposite the village of Auriesville. It was never built. The same season (1840) an act was passed to build a bridge near Tribes Hill, to be known as the Fort Hunter Bridge Company. It was to strike the Florida shore, just below the mouth of the Schoharie creek. The enterprise proved abortive.

The Fort Hunter Bridge.--In 1852 "the Fort Hunter Bridge Company" was chartered, and soon after erected a bridge on the site contemplated in the act of 1840. It was constructed on a new and novel plan, and was hardly completed when it fell of its own weight. Most of the timber was recovered in a damaged condition. The present Suspension Bridge, built after the model of that over Niagara river, took its place soon after. This is believed to be the only toll bridge on the river above Schenectada today. It is a good bridge, with a single track.

Bridges Over the Canada Creek. -- The Mohawk Turnpike and Bridge Company, which was chartered in 1800, with amendments to the charter for several years, had, in the course of three or four years, erected bridges over the East and West Canada creeks. One of them was, a possibly both of them were, built by Burr, the well known bridge builder. In 1813 an act was passed, allowing the turnpike company to erect a toll gate upon each of those bridges. When the Utica and Schenectada Railroad Company obtained its charter, it was compelled to purchase the franchise of the Mohawk Turnpike Company, which they did at a nominal price, and have since given over the road and its bridges to the towns in which they were situated, except the East Canada creek bridge lying between the towns of Oppenheim and St. Johnsville, those towns refusing to receive it. The consequence has been, the railroad company still owning it, to continue it as a toll bridge, thus to collect money to keep it in repair. The road was abandoned, because its tolls would not defray the expense of keeping it in repair. The truth is, on the completion of the railroad through the valley, travel by carriages, except that of a local character, entirely ceased.

Bridges at Fink's Ferry.--In 1828 an act was passed or a bridge at Andrew A. Fink's below the Little Falls, to be known as the "Manheim Bridge Company." As it had not been built, the charter for it was "revived and confirmed in 1834." We think this bridge, when completed, did not long remain uninjured, and after a few years was swept away. In 1862 a charter was granted to the towns of Manheim, Danube and Little Falls, to erect a bridge at Fink's, below the falls. This bridge was built, but did not long remain in place; and March 21, 1865, an act was passed allowing the three towns named "to rebuild and repair" the bridge at an expense not exceeding $5,000, and to keep it in future repair at an expense not exceeding $1,000 in any one year, the sums thus expended to be equally assessed upon each of the three towns. This bridge is still standing.

Bridge at St. Johnsville.--March 9, 1837, an act was passed for a bridge at this place. It was to be completed in two years. April 21, 1840, the charter was revived, but again forfeited, and the bridge not built. April 11, 1848, a general bridge law was passed, requiring for the enterprise the approbation of the board of supervisors. Under this general law the bridge was erected in 1852. It was never accounted the best bridge on the river, but a good bridge, nevertheless, as it has always carried its passengers safely over. April 3, 1866, a bill was passed compelling the sale of the bridge to the towns of St. Johnsville and Minden, to be made a free bridge. The bridge is still in use.

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