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History of Cedar
County, Iowa, 1878.


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"Only this, and nothing more."  The bridge, for several reasons, was never built; no preparations, further than above quoted, were ever made to carry out the enterprise, and the "old ferry" boat continued in use until the present Pratt truss iron bridge was completed in January, 1877.

At the June (1865) meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Robert Gower, then, as for many years previous a member of the Board, introduced the following resolution:

Resolved, That, as there appears great anxiety by some individuals for bridging Cedar and Wapsipinicon Rivers, that we will attempt to aid in constructing one toll bridge across each within Cedar County, to the amount of one-half the necessary stock; provided, individuals shall pay or secure the other half on the following conditions, viz.:  That those citizens desirous for said bridges shall furnish complete survey and estimates of the cost thereof embracing all particulars of various sites.

Says Mr. Longley in the Advertiser, January 25, 1877:  "This was the first of the many vain efforts to build a bridge without money, price or responsibility.  The resolution was referred to a Special Committee, consisting of Bassett, Garrison and Mason, who reported in favor of appointing Messrs. W. A. Rigby, J. E. L. Carey and W. S. Chase, as a Committee to examine the Cedar, with bridging intentions, and report at the next meeting.  As to the Wapsie part of the resolution, it passes out of sight so far as the records of the Board are concerned, but we will pause here to say that Louden appointed a committee of her citizens, who reported in favor of Massillon, and a wooden bridge was erected there, one-half being paid by local subscription, the other half falling to the county being authorized by a vote of the people hereinafter referred to.  It was a toll bridge for some years, but long since was made free.  Thos. Shearer, we think, was the moving spirit in that enterprise.

At the September meeting (1865) the Cedar River Committee made along and excellent report.  They gave full statistics regarding Rochester, Gray's Ford, Gaskill's Ferry (at the proposed crossing of the Southwestern Railroad, on Section 11, Town 80, Range 4), and Gower's Ferry, concluding that Gower's Ferry offered much the best natural site for a bridge, but that, as in their opinion, the first object of a bridge was the accommodation of the greatest number of citizens, they must recommend Gray's Ford as the proper site.  As a preface to this conclusion, the Committee adverted to the disadvantage under which it had labored in a paragraph altogether too neat to be lost, as follows:

"According to the resolution your Committee did not feel authorized to employ a surveyor or engineer, and have been obliged to gather what we could from observation, and what we believe to be reliable information.  Willing to do all we could without exceeding our authority, we have waded, swam and rowed across Cedar River, innumerable times; we have climbed, examined and tumbled over her bluffs, and chained across her width with linn bark, again and again -- in short, making use of all the cheap means at our disposal."

"  *  *  *  *  The Board adopted the report and at once ordered a popular vote to decide between the two points, Gray's Ford and Gower's Ferry.  The vote took place in October and resulted:  for the Ferry, 595; for the Ford, 862: total vote, 1,457.  At the same election was submitted the proposition, for or against a bridge over the Wapsie, and the 'fors' had it by 578 to 556.

"So the first conflict between localities went in favor of Gray's Ford, and there the question of a bridge at that point seems to have rested for a good while.  Indeed, one of the 'hefty' arguments against that locality in the last contest, was the assertion, that the citizens there had always 'sat down' on their own bridge project just so soon as they had secured its triumph over that of some other point."

Defeated, but not conquered, Mr. Gower did not give up the contest.  At the January (1866) term he presented a resolution providing for an appropriation of $8,000 by the county in aid of the construction of a bridge at Gower's Ferry, provided individuals should subscribe an equal amount.  This proposition involved another vote by the people, and in October, a vote thereon was taken, with the following result:  for a bridge at Gower's Ferry, 786; against a bridge at Gower's Ferry, 1,808; total vote, 2,594.

Again defeated, but not discouraged, Mr. Gower determined to "pick the flint and try again," and at the next January (1867) term, he presented another resolution looting to another election on the same proposition.  The resolution was adopted by a vote of eight to seven, and the question was ordered to be voted on by the people at the October election.  The proposition was defeated by a majority of 1,374, out of a total vote of 2,496, as follow:  for the bridge, 561; against the bridge, 1,935.

"From October, 1867 to 1870, Mr. Gower permitted the matter to remain in abeyance, but in the year last named," continues Mr. Longley, "at Mr. Gower's personal request, another committee, consisting of Van Ness, Sharp and Downing, was sent to the Ferry, and reported to the Board that it was a site 'entirely suitable and practicable.'  Then the scheme of raising stock, in which the county should hold one-half, was again pushed forward, until the County Attorney filed an opinion that the county could not legally take stock in a toll bridge.  In 1874, the matter was again before the public, and the Board deciding this time in favor of Gray's Ford, a vote was ordered for or against a bridge at that point.  Result:  780 votes for, and 1,762 votes against the proposition."

No further action was taken in regard to the enterprise until the Spring of 1876, although it is not reasonable to suppose that one who had always been as plucky as Mr. Robert Gower, had been idle or indifferent during these two years.  On the other hand, it is fair to presume that he was wide awake and quietly working to compass his ends and secure a bridge at his ferry.

On the 4th day of April, 1876, a petition, signed by 621 voters and taxpayers, was presented to the Board of Supervisors, asking for an appropriation of $15,000, (* - When the petition asking for a appropriation of $15,000 was drawn and signed, it was generally understood and believed that this amount was the legal limit.  The Legislature that had recently adjourned, had, however, increased the limit to $25,000.) for bridge purposes at Cedar Bluff.  On motion, the consideration of the petition was deferred until the next day, the 5th.

At the appointed time, the bridge petition was called up, when C. P. Sheldon offered the following, and moved its adoption:

Resolved, By the Board of Supervisors, that we take immediate steps toward ascertaining the cost of bridging the Cedar River, at Cedar Bluff, or Gower's Ferry, by appointing a committee to examine and report, or otherwise, with a view of building a bridge at that point, provided, a good and substantial bridge can be built by an appropriation of $15,000.

The motion to adopt was seconded by E. N. Smith, when D. T. Hodge offered the following as a substitute, and moved its adoption:

Resolved, That the Auditor be authorized to correspond with bridge companies for iron bridges of different lengths, from 400 feet to 600 feet, and also with masons for building abutments and piers, for the purpose of ascertaining the cost of building a bridge across Cedar River.

The motion to adopt was seconded by E. N. Smith, the yeas and nays were called, and the substitute was lost.  The original resolution was then adopted.  O. H. Helmer, C. P. Sheldon and H. G. Coe were appointed a Committee to ascertain the width of the river, etc., at Cedar Bluff.

At the June session, a petition signed by 1,584 persons, tax-payers and voters, was presented to the Board, praying for an appropriation of money to build a bridge at or near Gray's Ford, or, in the language of the petition, "within one mile of a point where a line drawn from Tipton to the southeast corner of the county crosses Cedar River."  The petition was presented, and its request strongly advocated by D. Morrison, Elwood Macey, H. C. Gill, Thomas James, E. A. Gray and others.  Beyond the reception of the petition and listening to arguments in its favor, the Supervisors took no action in regard to it.

After the presentation of this petition, the Committee of Examination, appointed in April, submitted their report, as follows:

Your Committee, appointed under a resolution adopted at the April meeting to visit and examine the site at Gower's Ferry, with a view of bridging the Cedar River at that point, would respectfully report that we have complied with that part of the resolution, and found an excellent site for building a bridge, with a solid stone bottom extending up the bank, so that at the depth of two or three feet a solid stone foundation for abutments, with good approaches, can be obtained; and that we have further corresponded with all the reliable bridge companies in the State, and have received some estimates, but nothing definite.

The report was adopted.

Supervisor Coe then offered the following preamble and resolution:

Whereas, Believing that two bridges over Cedar River, in this county, will best subserve the interests of the citizens of the county, and also believing that a place on Cedar River, called Cedar Bluff or Gower's Ferry, is the most suitable point for the erection of said bridge; therefore

Resolved, That the Board of Supervisors, before the final adjournment of this session, take the necessary measures for the building of a bridge at the point above named; provided, that there is sufficient guaranty given to the Board of Supervisors that the west abutment and the approaches to said bridge shall be build without expense to the county, and built according to the plans and specifications approved by the Board.

The resolution was then put upon its passage, and the yeas and nays being called, the vote stood ---

Yeas -- O. H. Helmer, H. G. Coe, C. P. Sheldon -- 3;  Nays -- D. T. Hedges, E. N. Smith -- 2.

The resolution was adopted.

The Guaranty. -- At the April session, Sewall Gower, representing the interest of his father (then deceased), Robert Gower, presented the following guaranty, as required in a resolution already quoted:

The undersigned agree to pay Cedar County twelve hundred dollars, in full payment of all accounts and demands of every character, and final settlement of charges growing out of building the west abutment of the Cedar River bridge, said money to be paid on or before the first day of April, A. D. 1877.

(Signed)  Sewall Gower, S. C. Gunsolus, Ed. Seitzinger.

Below this instrument is the following:

"On motion, the foregoing was accepted when it is signed by Ed. Seitzinger."

June 8 (1876), the Auditor was directed to advertise for proposals to be received until Thursday, July 6, 1876, for bids for the erection of the bridge.  Of this determination to build a bridge, Mr. Longley, editor of the Advertiser, said:  "Whatever any of us may think as to the wisdom of the decision upon its site, all will no doubt applaud the determination of the Board to use its newly acquired authority (* - Referring to a recent act of the General Assembly by which the amount which a County Board was permitted to appropriate for a single bridge, without submitting to a popular vote, was largely increased.) and construct a bridge somewhere without longer fooling or delay."

According to advertisement, the letting of the contract occurred on the 6th of July, 1876, referring to which the Engineering News (a paper devoted to civil engineering interests), of July 22, said:

"The site selected is at a narrow gorge in the river, just below where the channel is hemmed in by perpendicular walls of magnesian limestone, forty feet high.  The channel here is about 460 wide, and has a solid rock bottom, and the water at its lowest stage is about two and a half feet deep.  The stone for the piers and abutments will be taken from the magnesian beds in the vicinity: the haulage will probably not exceed one-half a mile.  The stone used has very regular beds and stratification, so that the work of cutting is small.

"The specifications adopted by the County Board of Supervisors were as follows:

"Extreme length of bridge, 540 feet; width of roadway, 16 feet; floor plank and floor joists to be of hard pine, the plank three inches thick; the bridge, if not of iron, to be with or without iron floor beams; moving load to be 80 pounds per square foot.

"No iron to be strained over 15,000 pounds per square inch in tension, 8,000 pounds per square inch in shearing, and 9,000 pounds per square inch in compression, by Gordon's formula for strains of material.

"Substructure to be completed by October 1, 1876, and superstructure by December 1, 1876.

"At the letting, the following bids were received.  Trusses all iron. The bids by the lineal foot:
     "Howe truss, $22.85  Clinton, Smith Bridge Company.
     "Pratt truss, $20.25  Z. King,  Bridge Company.
     "Pratt truss, $21.40  Missouri Valley Bridge Company.
     "Pratt truss, $20.75  Canton, Ohio, Bridge Company.
     "Pratt truss, $23.50  Cincinnati Bridge Company.
"Combination wood and iron trusses, top chord and posts wood:
     "Pratt truss, $14.49  Raymond & Campbell.
     "Pratt truss, $14.40  Missouri Valley.
     "Pratt truss, $16.75  Z. King.
     "Howe truss, $16.28  Clinton, Smith.
     "Pratt truss, $14.75  King, of Kansas.
"Arch girders, all iron:
     "Arch. $20.00  Canton, Ohio, Bridge Company.
     "Arch. $21.00  King, Bridge Company.
     "Arch. $17.80  Missouri Valley Bridge Company.

"The second truss of the above list was awarded the contract at $20.25 per lineal foot.  The specifications are as follows:

"Extreme length of span, 135 feet;  center to center, 133 1/3 feet; rise of trusses, 21 1/2 feet; from center to center, 20 feet;  width of roadway, 16 feet; rolling load per lineal foot, 1,280 pounds; dead load per lineal foot, 520 pounds; factor of safety, 4, and strains as per specifications of the Board.

"By the strain sheet submitted, the greatest strain upon the top chords was 100,000 pounds -- section, 14 square inches; greatest strain upon the bottom chord, 92,000 pounds -- section 6 3/4 square inches; greatest strain upon posts, 64,000 pounds -- section 13 square inches.

"The substructure requires 866 cubic yards of masonry, the bids upon which were as follows:


pr. cu. yd.

pr. cu. yd.

pr. cu. yd.

O'Hanlon & O'Hara 9.00 -- --
Bealer & Co. 7.50 0.75 0.50
E. S. Gulick 7.75 1.00 --
D. Armstrong 8.70 -- --
W. Lancaster (piers) 9.25 -- --
W. Lancaster (abutments) 8.00 -- --
Z. King 8.50 0.80 --
Clinton Smith Bridge Company 7.87 -- --
Missouri Valley Bridge Company 8.00 -- --
Cincinnati Bridge Company (piers) 8.90 -- --
Cincinnati Bridge Company (abutments) 6.95 0.40 0.25

"The substructure was let to O'Hanlon & O'Harra, at $9.00 per cubic yard, they to do all excavation needed and furnish all riprap required, free of charge to the county."

The price agreed upon brought the entire cost of the bridge up to about $21,000.  At the same session of the Board at which the contract was awarded, the appropriation was increased for $15,000 to $16,500.  To this add $1,200 guaranteed by the Gower interest, and the whole amount provided was $17,700, leaving $3,300 unprovided for.  This deficiency was paid as any ordinary account against the county -- the bills for the same being audited and ordered paid from the treasury without making an appropriation for that specific purpose.  The bridge was finally examined, tested and accepted by the Board of Supervisors, on the 24th of January, 1877.  And so, "ten years later," says Mr. Longley, "than becomes a county with the prosperity and population of Cedar (and about two years after her second bridge should have been completed), we had the pleasure, last Monday, of crossing the handsome and substantial structure which now connects her East with her West beyond the caprice of an uncertain river.   *    *    *    The structure stands twenty-three feet above low water mark, and if skill and care can be depended upon, it will continue to stand there whether the water be high or low."

The Board of Supervisors, when they determined to "quit fooling" about building a bridge, and to build one, and selected the site for it at Cedar Bluff, were made the subject of pretty severe criticism.  C. P. Sheldon, especially, was singled out by some of the opposing interests, and pretty severely handled by them for his action in the premises, he being favorable to the Cedar Bluff site.  It was charged by some, that he had allowed himself to be over persuaded in favor of that site, when his convictions and better judgment were really with the Gray's Ford site, in favor of which a large number of tax-payers and voters had petitioned.  Mr. Sheldon's standing and reputation among his immediate neighbors raises him too high to justify and such charges, and after two years have passed away and the passions of the people have had time to cool off, his actions in the premises are seen in a different light.  Justice is sometimes slow, but it is always sure; and time and its developments have thoroughly vindicated him as an honorable, straight-forward, faithful public servant, and entitled to the respectful consideration of his fellow citizens.

The erection of another iron bridge across Cedar River, either at Rochester or Gray's Ferry, a few miles above Rochester, is under consideration, and there is no reason to doubt that within the next two years another bridge will be made to span Cedar River within the limits of Cedar County.

Other Bridges. -- In 1868, a bridge was built across the Wapsipinicon, at Massillon, 1,100 feet in length, costing about $4,000.  One-half the cost of this bridge was borne by the county, and the other half by citizens' subscriptions.

In 1877, four other small iron bridges were erected in different parts of the county.  Their several locations, length, cost, etc., are as follows:

Springdale, over Wapsienonoc, 40 feet, cost $1,414.
Pioneer Township, over Clear Creek, 24 feet, cost $372.
Fairfield Township, over Sugar Creek, 26 feet, cost $633.
Springfield Township, over Yankee Run, 30 feet, cost $535.

These bridges were built by the Missouri Valley (Iowa) Bridge Company.



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