Dates Of Building The Cornish-Windsor And West River Bridges In 1796

An examination of the files of the “Rising Sun,” one of the earliest newspapers published in Keene, N. H., between 1795 and 1798, shows definite information of the dates of opening both the Cornish-Windsor Bridge, and the bridge over the West River in Brattleboro, as well as much interesting information regarding those primitive structures.

In the issue of that paper of November 8, 1796, is the following:

“Windsor, Nov. 4.

“The bridge between Cornish and Windsor was completed on Monday, the last day of October, and the dedication was on Tuesday. The bridge is 521 feet long from the beginning of one abutment to the end of the other, and 34 feet wide. It embraces the Connecticut River with two most beautiful arches, each 184 feet 4 inches long, with a pier in the center, 46 feet one way by 41 the other. With the addition of a triangular front, extending up the stream about 70 feet at the bottom, and gradually diminishing until it comes sufficiently above high water mark so as to defend and break off the ice. It was built under the direction of Spofford and Boynton, who have built several on the Merrimack River. The bridge is believed to be the best of the kind yet built in America and the first of the kind over the Connecticut.”

In the same periodical is the following: -“Keene, N. H., Dec. 20, 1796.

“On Tuesday last, the bridge over West River at Brattleboro was completed and by the best judges it is considered to be as well calculated both for strength and convenience as any bridge of the same dimensions within the New England States. Its construction is entirely novel, the whole of which was planned and executed under the direction of Messrs. Mack & Wilder. The Bridge is 26 feet in width and 30 feet in height, with 2 arches, each of 127 feet, supported in the center by a pier 30 x 26 defended by a dam connected to the pier, the original project of said Mack, which appears well calculated to protect it against every violence of the current and ice. The abutments on each side are timber placed on solid rock, to which bolts unite them, and are, as is, also the pier and dam, filled with stone, upwards of 4,000 tons being used. The bridge contains 30,000 ft. of timber, averaging 16 inches square, all of which was growing in the forest a little more than 4 months ago. Numerous were the adjacent gentlemen who attended at the dedication who were made fully sensible of the generosity of its owners. The toasts were numerous and expressive of their wishes for its durability, as well as several truly Federal. By this bridge, chiefly owned by John W. Blake, Esq., the inhabitants of the county of Windham, but more especially those in the vicinity of Brattleboro, must be greatly accommodated.”

Again, among the communications to the paper: “Keene, N. H., Nov. 15, 1796.

“Last week, as the workmen at West River Bridge, Brattleboro were leveling the land adjoining the southward abutment, they dug up the bones of an Indian with some Indian implements. From the figures cut on the adjacent rocks, it appears that the place has been no mean rendezvous of the savages.”

The next year, the following item relating to Westminster is of interest:

“Keene, N. H, April 4, 1797.

“On the 8th ultimo, 17 trees were set on fire by lightning in the north part of Westminster, Vermont, and what is more remarkable, only two claps of thunder were heard during the shower.”


Based on: The Connecticut River Valley in southern Vermont and New Hampshire: historical sketches, Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle Co., Marble City Press, 1929.

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