High Water

With the continuing influences of high water, my researching attentions have turned for a time to the Bellows Falls Vermont area and the works of area Bridgewright Sanford Granger, builder of The Bartonsville. The now heavily damaged Worral, also bridging the William’s River in Rockingham, the town which includes the village of Bellows Falls, is the last standing example of his bridgewrighting.

Bellows Falls has twice been home to the most famous bridge in the nation. Most recently, just over a century ago the area became home to a new steel parabolic arch bridge, then the longest single span in the country at 540′, though these long span beginnings had their start with wooden framing and in the very first year of our newly independent nation, with Col. Enoch Hale petitioning the New Hampshire General Assembly for “The Liberty and Privilege of Building and Keeping a bridge at the Great Falls called Bellows Falls in the Town of Walpole in said State” Two years later on February 10th 1785 the newspaper The Massachusetts Spy reported :

Widely acknowledged as a first in long span timber bridges, and sometimes described as a first in cantilever type bridges, largely because of the image shown here. Thought to be the only such image accurately rendered, the 1791 ink on paper drawing by famous period artist John Trumbull.

Though in all likelihood, with the timber in this bridge being open to the weather, and requiring a regime of heavy and routine maintenance which would have seen few original pieces survive through to the end of its service, the Colonel’s bridge, in some form, survived until 1840 When Sanford Granger used it as falsework for the construction of its replacement, The Tucker Toll Bridge.

Sanford was born 12 March 1796, in Chesterfield New Hampshire, and died 17 May 1882, at Bellows Falls, Vermont. He married Abigail Stevens on 26 February 1826, she was born 16 January 1800 on the Vermont side of the Connecticut in Chester. A couple born on opposite sides of a river and a bridge, which would help shape both their lives.

Like his father Eldad before him, Sanford operated a sawmill, his on the Vermont side, on the Saxton’s River in Westminster, a town neighboring Bellows Falls. Though additionally, he maintained a brickyard, as well as a bridgewrighting carpenters yard and built many area bridges.

The Westminster Library is home to the archives of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges and is made available to those doing bridge research. I hope to make use of the archives and other local sources to find additional information about Mr. Granger and perhaps find whatever remains of his operations, while working there on the Saxton’s, as part of the crew to soon repair recent high water damage to the Hall Bridge in Saxtons River Village, which is like Bellows Falls, a borough of Rockingham.


About Will Truax

I'm a timberframer and preservation carpenter, and regularly work on Covered Bridge restoration projects. Bridgewrighting can be a tough row to hoe, for a myriad of reasons. From scheduling issues to differing opinions and philosophies on what is appropriate in methods and materials, to multiple jurisdictions still not sufficiently vetting bidders resumes - Which is to say, just because a company is on that state approved list and capable of building that seven figure overpass, this does not mean they are capable of restoring a wooden bridge... So, I have much to say about all this and more - And despite my tough row observation, I promise not to whine. View all posts by Will Truax

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