The first bridge proposed between Maumee and Perrysburg appears on an August 1836 map of Maumee City (as it was then known) and indicates a proposed railroad bridge for rail lines from Cincinnati and Akron. The proposed bridge was to be sited at the foot of Conant Street and generally follow the line of subsequent wagon bridges built at that location.
The first wagon and pedestrian bridge was financed by the investors of the Maumee & Perrysburg Toll Bridge Company and constructed during the winter of 1838 – 1839 at a reported cost of $4,000.
It was built of wood trusses supported on rock-filled log cribs. Isaac Hull handled the construction and the bridge opened for passage on April 22, 1839.
No sketches of this first bridge are extant; however, it probably was a Town’s Lattice Truss design that was patented in 1820 by Ithiel Town, a New England bridge builder.
Amos Campbell (1778 – 1868), a master carpenter employed by Town, traveled throughout the country erecting Town’s Lattice Truss bridges.A royalty of $1.00 per foot was paid to Town for the privilege of using his patented bridge design. The Maumee & Perrysburg Toll Bridge Company employed the services of Mr. Campbell in the design and erection of the first bridges at Maumee, as mentioned in his obituary.
A thirty-year exclusive franchise granted by the Ohio Legislature on March 12, 1838 enabled the Maumee & Perrysburg Toll Bridge Company to collect tolls, e.g.: Pedestrians 2¢, Horse and Rider 12½¢, Sheep, Goats and Hogs 1¢ each, Four-wheeled Vehicle with Two Horses and Driver 37½¢, etc. Toll-free crossings were available to the U.S. Mail, funeral processions, students going to and from school, church attendees, and voters going to and from the polls.
Historian Henry Howe traveled throughout Ohio, documenting the settlement of the state and structures that had been erected by the early settlers. In 1846 he visited the Foot of the Rapids and sketched the bridge in existence at that time as shown above. His sketch, above, shows three piers supporting a four-span bridge structure. The wagon bridges for the next sixty years incorporated this three-pier design. The bridge appears to have three parallel Town’s Lattice Trusses, the center truss splitting the bridge into two lanes of travel.
Breakup of the ice and high water destroyed the original bridge on April 6,1843. It was rebuilt that same year and the second bridge stood until March 7, 1849 when spring floods destroyed it. The rebuilt bridge design probably duplicated the existing Town’s Lattice Truss design; however, it could have used Long’s Truss design invented ca. 1830, or even a Howe Truss design invented ca. 1840. In the 1849 flood, two-thirds of the bridge on the north side of the channel was carried away and lodged on Big Island downstream.
Rough-hewn oak logs from the 1840 and / or 1843 bridges’ wood cribbing were dredged from the river during removal of the 1929 bridge in 2003. They were red oak varying from 12 to 18 feet in length and from 12 to 16 inches square. They all had marks indicating work with primitive wood tools, several of them exhibiting dovetail and wedge connections for assembly of the cribs. They were very well preserved, having been embedded in the muck and sediment of the river for more than 160 years. The growth rings of the timbers were closely spaced, the largest log having nearly 100 rings across its width.
The book Bridges At The Foot Of The Rapids documents the history of all river crossings between Perrysburg and Maumee from prehistoric times through the construction of the 2002 Fort Meigs Memorial Bridge.
The 1843 Bridge Across the Maumee River
Between Perrysburg and Maumee.
A toll bridge token.