The Destruction of the Last Covered Bridge

The winter of 1903-1904 was one of massive snow depth and cold. Due to the extremely cold temperatures, the North branch of the Susquehanna River was covered with a thick coating of ice; all the way to it’s joining of the West branch at Northumberland.

Early in March there came a prolonged downfall of rain, followed by a warm spell which caused a quick melting of the snow. Together the rain and melting snow caused a sudden rise of the water in both branches of the river. The warm sun and the swollen waters caused the ice to heave and break, thus, move along with the high water.

The result, on Wednesday, March 9, 1909, the Danville River Bridge was lifted by the water and floating ice and carried gently from the stone piers, down stream. At the same time, the water backed up Mahoning Creek and quickly filled the cellars of Mill Street stores, extending onto Lower Mulberry St. and into cellars of homes in 2nd ward. 200 families in the town were temporarily removed from their homes. Boats were the only way to navigate around town.

At 3pm, the water works sounded its shrill whistle telling the Danvillians that ice in the river was moving. Scores of people lined the shore to watch the site. Spectators were warned to stay off the bridge; warnings were posted of the danger. About 3:30pm the plank sheeting of the second span for the Riverside end was ripped from its mooring by the relentless ice pounding the pier.  At exactly 4pm the span fell into the river with two other spans following almost instantly. Soon, the fourth and fifth went. The two remaining spans, both on the Danville end, held on. The William Howe Truss covered bridge, built by Smith Bridge Company out of Toledo, Ohio served the residents of Danville and Riverside for twenty nine years.

Construction of a new bridge was planned but until completion people had to find a way to cross the river. This created a great hardship on people on both sides of the river, residents either had to use the ferry in good weather or ford the ice during winter. On June 15, 1905, a new iron bridge opened to the delight of all. This was the fourth bridge in this location crossing the river between Danville and Riverside. This new iron bridge stood against floods and ice flows unlike the past covered bridges until a new concrete bridge was dedicated and opened to the public on July 21, 2000.