Feb. 13th, 2012

The Quinebaug Bridge between Killingly & Brooklyn

The other day we were talking about how there is nothing new under the sun, and a good example of that is the problem with the Quinebaug Bridge over the Quinebaug river between Danielsonville and Brooklyn back in1852.
The paper put in a small article: 22 July 1852:  “The Bridge across the Quinebaug is a dangerous nuisance. This threeyears it has been shaking under us every time we have crossed it, and now it shakes worse than ever before. We should really fear to cross it with a heavily laden four-horse team, so loose is it in the joints. A few new plank stuck down here and there, much as they are needed, will not remedy the fault; the only cure is, in the dialect of the physician,the radical one, its removal.”

Then on the 11 Nov. 1852: “Of all the shamefully penurious affairs which convince us that our residence is in Connecticut, none in our our immediate vicinity is more disgraceful than the condition to which the Quinebaug Bridge has been suffered to attain by the penny wise policy of patching and piecing where a new and substantial structure is imperatively required. Lying on the boundary line of two towns and
jointly owned by both, neither will take responsibility of the first move for its removal, and the shakey old frame stands there, a terror to every stranger passenger who adventures its crossing, and not a little feared by its more accustomed traveler. At our last crossing, we noticed that the floor boards had been split into ruts by the passing teams, so that the wheels now travel on the under flooring while the old
frame daily shakes more dangerously in response to the weight of the passing load. We have learned that the town of Brooklyn, one of the joint owners, proposes performing a new job of tinkering upon it in a few days. Will not the selectmen of that town attempt some arrangement between themselves and the town officers of Killingly, by which a replacement of the rattle-trap with something of a more substantial nature?”

Seems that the same things go on today by someone passing the buck or putting off doing something till it gets so bad that it costs 100 times more than if it had been fixed right away. I guess it is just the way government works, but seems to be a waste to me.

On the 14 Apr. 1853 there is a small article about the unsafe bridge, nothing has been done and rut holes, nearly large enough to let a wheel through to the hub..
But then the editor decides to put a story in the paper 28 Apr. 1853 about the sad accident to a teamster crossing the bridge with a heavy wagon drawn by four horses, and the wheels break through letting the wagon fall completely breaking the bridge and the team and wagon plunging into the river. “All efforts to save the driver and his team was use-less and they have perished.”

But the next week 5 May 1853 they “fessed” up and said they made it up, and in conclusion said “we don’t expect this article to do a bit of good. In fact, we don’t expect any thing to do any good in this matter short of “a visitation from God.”

They were frustrated but did have a good sense of humor. Then there was a real accident on the bridge in June 1853 when a team drawing stone broke through. They got them out with no great damage done. Then someone in one of the towns just covered the hole with a loose plank and left it. The next day someone who uses the bridge brought spikes and secured the old patch-work once again.

The next week 23 June 1853 there had been three new accidents.  (These were real and not made up.) A man from Pomfret crossing on his horse, one of the horses’ hind feet went into a trap hole, and he lost his shoe. The hole is now plugged with a stone! The next accident was when the off wheels of the stage with 9 passengers, fell into a rut. They got it out and someone threw a loose plank over that hole. Then another wagon was seriously damaged. The town finally called a town meeting to see what the inhabitants will do with regard to the bridge.

So the meeting was held and they put together a building committee to confer with any similar committee in Brooklyn. The people in town were in favor of building a wooden bridge, having two carriage tracks, and two side walks.

Brooklyn held their meeting on the 4th of July and they voted not to rebuild the Bridge but to repair it. The editor says in the 7th July 1853 paper: “We understand that the committees have met and have agreed to recommend to their respective towns a repair much after the fashion of the Indian’s gun which had a new lock, stock and barrel, but kept the old trigger.”

They finally agreed to repair it and Harris Kies would run a Ferry Boat across the Quinebaug River at Danielsonville during the time the bridge is repairing. The boat will run night and day to accommodate the public.

In the 15 Sept. 1853 paper: “We availed ourselves of the drawing off of the water a few days since to make an examination of the supports of this famous bridge, which is now being repaired. The signs seen more than warranted all the mean things that we have said about it. Posts originally 8 inches square, have rotted down, and washed by the action of the water, so that a 3 inch square post could scarcely be worked out
of their present rotten heart. From other posts pin holes have rotted away, and the pins have washed out. In still others the weight of travel has “shot down” the post into itself after the fashion of a wedge into a cleft. A whole tier of supports is held in place only by the casing which covers them. Taking it all in all, we only regret that we
did not “give Jesse” to the rotten old concern a long time ago.”

So, you can see that not much has changed over the 150+ years since then. Towns still put off fixing things and when it finally gets so bad that something has to be done, they sometimes patch it, and sometimes build a new one at a much higher cost than it would have been had they done it at the time. I guess that it is the way government
works but it just seems like things could be a lot better. Although we have to remember, that just like now, voters did not want to pay more taxes. So they kept voting things down. And we have not changed one bit.
Anyone have the answer to this age old problem?

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