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Bob Urell Remembers the Bridges of Tioga
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Dec. 21, 1932
Article from Scrapbook Chester P. Bailey gave me 2006
Photos & Postcards from Joyce's Collection and guest submissions

In the early history of Tioga what is now the borough was called “The Island.” Shortly after the arrival of Dr. William Willard in 1798 it was called “Willardsburg” and sometime after Dr. Willard’s death in 1836 it received its present name.

The first post office in the county was established at Tioga, January 1,1805, with Uriah Spencer as postmaster.

Tioga is an Iroquois Indian name, which translated, means “Gateway,”
“Forks of the Stream” or “Where Two Waters Meet.” The Six Nations Indians followed their trails or paths for centuries along Tioga River and Crooked Creek and doubtless their council fires and smoke from their wigwams arose here on “The Island.”

The pioneer or primitive period we may say commenced with the coming of the first white man, Samuel Baker, to Lawrenceville in 1787, and closing about 1820. In 1792 Robert and Benjamin Patterson cut through the Williamson road, 100 miles partly over Indian paths, from “Blockhouse” way, through Mansfield, Tioga, Lawrenceville to the terminus at Bath, N.Y.

The early settlers used temporary bridges or fords mostly. It is said there 15 fords used in going to the first grist mill at Painted Post, Corning or to Newtown, now Elmira. Gradually good bridges were built and at the present time there are 18 leading to Tioga.

The first borough officials were very liberal and allowed Tioga township to build and maintain all bridges. Of these township bridges there are five over the Tioga River, five over Crooked Creek, one over Mill Creek, three over the “Cove”, two over Elk Horn, two over Bear Creek, and one over Mitchell’s Creek. Of these, five were covered bridges.

The Berry Bridge, double built in 1832, was 165 feet long, single arch and span. For this type of “Burr” bridges, a grandson of Aaron Burr obtained a patent and became quite wealthy from it.

The Mill Creek bridge was put up about 1845. The long lower river bridge was erected in 1850 and the lower Crooked Creek bridge in 1851. The upper or “Dead Waters” bridge was built by the Plank Road Company of which B.G. Wickham was president in 1851-52. The road, to Wellsboro was 17 miles.

I remember riding with Uncle Hiram Caulking to Wellsboro about 70 years ago. He paid 32 cents in tolls each way. Not long afterwards the plank road was converted into a turnpike road. I drew freight for our grocery store when 12 years of age through the Berry Bridge from the Erie station, built in 1852. This I did until the new bridge was built across the river at the foot of New Street to the new Erie station, in 1871.

It would always seem rather fearsome and “spooky” to a person to pass through this bridge alone on a dark night and the very long bridge over the river Mitchell Creek way was even more spooky.

When I was six we lived for two years in one of the fine twin houses, still standing, built by Seth Daggett more than 80 years ago. This was a stone’s throw from the Dead Waters’ bridge. James G. Merserean at the time, and for a number of years afterwards, ran a large sawmill. We would gather pitch from the giant pine logs cut in the Elk Horn original forest and make chewing gum. This was of the finest woody flavor, much better, I think, than any of the brands of gum now advertised.

The last bridge to mention, the most interesting to me, spans Crooked Creek, leading to Brooklyn and the New York Central station. This is one of the oldest bridges and adjoins Rath-Na-Leen, the homestead for more than 78 years of William T. Urell and family of seven. Father was an admirer of Napoleon and called it the “Bridge of Lodi”, and by this name it was generally known.

 Briefly, I have a postcard dated Oct. 23, 1908 from Mary URELL Baldwin  postmarked Tioga. It is addressed to my Great Uncle who was a cousin  of Mary. There is a picture of a home which might be Rath-Na-Leen as  mentioned by Robert Urell when writing about the bridges of Tioga.
I will forward the postcard to you in the way you prescribed on your  website.
               Very Truly Yours,
                     Michael Urell [ February 2009]

With the cutting of the trees and groves and consequent lessening of the water in the streams much of the once natural beauty of Tioga has departed, although much remains.

I remember, as yesterday, the frequent trips in woods or along the streams. In the deep waters beneath the covered bridges we caught handsome large pickerel, white fish, bluegill, chubs, suckers, bullheads, and eels. On the DePui and Daggett coves the mallard and beautiful wood ducks made their summer home, and I remember the cove extending from the tannery to John Berry’s Grove.

“Old cove, thy waters lieth still
Along thy green and shady banks.”

The Berry bridge was taken down last year and the Dead Waters two months ago. Only one covered bridge remains in the county, the one at Gaines, near Watrous.

Going up the quiet stream above “Still Waters” or sometimes Mersereau’s bridge, we reach still another bridge crossing to the one-time William B. Keiss sawmills. Then farther along and opposite the Daggett and Goodrich farms a wide stretch of grass bordered still waters equally beautiful with these below. I would not turn back the clock of time—but—in memory, both here and for the future ages, the recollection of early days will remain, these halcyon days of “Auld Lang Syne.”
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA

Published On Tri-Counties Site On 09 JUL 2006
By Joyce M. Tice
Email: Joyce M. Tice

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