Sometimes, a photograph reminds us just how much of the past has been forgotten. This small 4¼" x 4¼" glass plate negative of a distant bridge bedeviled me.
Where, and when, was this bridge?
The first clue came from avid ‘bridge hunter’ Calvin Sneed, who immediately identified it as ‘bowstring truss bridge’, as well as a possible location in Lincoln County, TN where he had documented one of the last surviving bridges of that type – complete with a photo of the manufacturer plate of Cleveland, OH. The photos were convincing, but I could find no connection to the likely photographer and that location, over 125 miles to the west of Chattanooga.
The mystery remained.
King's Bridge (Neg. 79c)
The same type of bridge also appeared in a photo in the Chattanooga Public Library in the Arthur G. Stivers family album, acquired by a prolific Chattanooga historic photo collector – Paul A. Hiener. The photo was surrounded by other Chattanooga views, including the Lightfoot and unidentified water mills.
This further suggested that this type of bridge existed in Chattanooga’s past, and could have been on the South Chickamauga Creek near Lightfoot Mill. Many unidentified mill photos appear in the Chattanooga Glass Plate collection – as well as images of Bird's Mill, also on the South Chick.
Digitized historic newspapers provided the key clues in an 1872 opinion editorial by ‘H. N. Snyder’, who complained in great detail about recently completed bridge not being made in Chattanooga, but instead by a company in Canton, OH. The bridge in the article was referred to as the King’s Bridge.
Further research revealed the Wrought Iron Bridge Company in that city sold a ‘column and channel iron arch bridge’, which was a slight improvement over the bowstring design, adding tension rods to stiffen the span.
The bridge in the article was referred to as the King’s Bridge.
11 Dec. 1872
Shadow of Bridge (Neg. 80c)
Daydreaming (Neg. 77c)
SOURCE: Library of Congress
In an April 30th, 1886 story in the Chattanooga Commercial newspaper – it was reported that the King’s Bridge over the Chickamauga Creek was seriously damaged by the flood – and that a local judge proposed moving the location, but was opposed by the residents of Kings Point.
Another article mentioned eye-witness accounts of the bridge being covered by 5 feet of water during the 1886 flood.
The next major flood would see the end of the King’s Bridge.
The Harrison Pike Bridge, 150 ft. long, is the largest bridge washed out