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Various Veins - A sentimental journey through Vienna's creek crossings

The eloquent plea by Elaine Wood to save the Edison Drive Bridge sent me on a review of history of bridges in the book Vienna: Historical Highlights from 1853 to 2003.

Carol A. Judd and I spent many happy hours selecting archival records to include in the book. If you look at the cover picture you can see what the location of the bridge looked like in the early 1900s. You will see why it was called the Mill Street bridge.

What doesn't show in the picture is the location of Mill Street which continued the path of Creek Road from the west. The road on the south end of the bridge was Main Street, and not because it was the principal street of Vienna. It was named for the Main family, the same as Main Street in Straffordville.

The original bridge is long gone. Likely it was built of wood, because the one built in its place was called the new steel bridge in the council minutes of the day. In fact, Mr. B. Edison attended a meeting to request payment for saving part of the old Mill bridge. The minutes mention "the timbers."

Shortly after the new bridge was set on its abutments a flood used an ice jam to shove it into the creek. So much for surviving floods.

It's possible the timber forerunner survived floods because there was no dam just downstream from it to provide the hydraulics. This is mere surmise, not recorded history as far as I know.

The wooden structure in the cover photo must be an early dam. The spring flood of 1937 removed a concrete dam in Vienna as it did all up the Otter to Rock's Mill.

The cost to preserve historic structures, bridges in particular is hair-raising for tax payers. By the time environmental studies, engineering studies, etc., etc., are completed and before one shovelful of dirt is moved, its enough to bankrupt a municipality. Dreams are not realized for free.

It's possible we could spend a fortune to preserve the bridge only to have a flash flood erase our work.

You may examine maps of Bayham in historical atlases and find a network of roads and culverts or bridges that have vanished. Automobiles drove ox team and horse traffic into extinction because drivers could take the longer way in less time than pioneers needed to use the short routes. It was foolish to spend money to maintain them.

About a mile west of the Mill Street bridge once a steel bridge crossed the Otter. The Berger Bridge was a flimsy structure of steel beams and braces with no roadbed when it fell into the stream. I took pictures of it many years ago. Bayham picked up the tab for clearing the debris which could have caused an ice jam. That was done 54 years ago.

Removing the Mill Street bridge will cut off road access to farms along the one-time Creek Road. Before Mill Street bridge provided access, Mill Street ran eastward to Plank Road. That route can be restored to provide fire access and so forth.

Elaine Wood shows a sense of compromise in her plea. A foot bridge would provide a pedestrian memory lane at much less expense than an all-traffic bridge. Tillsonburg has two such bridges, one across the Otter at Van Street and one across Lake Lisgar.

There have been swing bridges at different places along the creek. An ancient one was located to let kids get to Maple Grove School from west of the creek. In my lifetime it was nothing but two rusted cables.

A snowmobile club built a swing bridge just west of the farm where I lived for nearly 20 years. It had woven wire fencing laid flat on cables. Wooden planks formed the road bed, and rather shaky looking rails guarded the sides.

I crossed the creek on ice and felt more secure than I did on that spiderweb. I never had a snowmobile to test it.

Don't abandon mentally exploring Vienna and environs. Before Europeans arrived aboriginals inhabited the sandy plain we live on. I have collected flint objects they left to mark their passing, and I have touched some of their bones exposed by winds and agricultural activity.


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