Tag Archives: Sanford Granger

Rivers of Time

With the distractions of distant travel and the teaching of a scribe layout timber framing workshop aside. And in celebration of work in earnest beginning on the Saxtons River and the Hall Bridge, and the town of Rockingham officially opting to replicate the Bartonsville, I thought we should take a moment, to again glance back at the life of its Bridgewright, Sanford Granger.

The following information, and the mans portrait were found in – The History of the town of Rockingham Vermont, Including the Villages of Bellows Falls, Saxtons River, Cambridgeport and Bartonsville by Lyman Simpson Hayes, published in 1907.

In addition to his bridge building, sawmill and brick manufacturing endeavors, Sanford seems to have been heavily involved in the establishment, support for, and and activities of his church. He is also known to have been devoted to several social movements of the day. These still seen as those defining and shaping his time – Temperance and abolition.

His work towards abolition is said to have extended to support for Canadian border bound escaped slaves. And this beyond the, there is an indian in every woodshed explanation for every dead space cubby under every stairwell, having somehow been a secret hiding place for the Underground Railroad. Sanford’s son Albert often recalled how his father provided a spot to sleep and a morning meal to those fleeing north.

The temperance side of things could not have always been welcome among all those working for Mr. Granger. This was a time when skilled tradesman were still often paid in part, with a daily Rum allowance. Contractual documents related to bridge building sometimes specifying how many drams per day each framer was to receive…

Mr. Granger shares a personal experience with current residents of the area, and was himself no stranger to flood damage, and the loss of personal property to high water. His sawmill on the Saxtons River was lost to a freshet on March 25th 1826. This report from the Bellows Falls Intelligencer of 3 April 1826 curiously lists the value of his “joiners tools” lost to the flood. Clearly suggesting the Mill also served as his carpenters shop. Sixty five 1826 Dollars would have a current value approaching $1500, a staggering loss when measured in hand tooling. When coupled with the loss of the almost personal relationships one develops with favored hand tools, this loss might approach something akin to immeasurable.


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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.


The Mans Name is Nichols

Some attempt to shine light on the fact that the builder of The Blenheim Bridge is misidentified more often than not, has been a quiet crusade of mine for some while. I’m not entirely sure why, except that it is just plain wrong to call someone by a name not their own. It is innocent enough to add an a to the mans name in the mistaken belief, that an error is thereby being corrected. (this seems to be how this whole silly business began) But as it far more often happens, a long ago error is just repeated, and re-repeated, and then repeated yet again.

Even bronze plaques at Blenheim, and recent flood related mentions in newspapers, even in the mans towns of birth and residence misidentify him as Nicholas.

I’ve been intrigued by this bridgewright and his life’s work since the late Nineties when I was involved with the restoration of the Ashuelot Bridge. Though still unconfirmed, it is thought to be his work. The high level of workmanship, and details common to his other bridges, such as double Lateral Braces, strongly suggest to me that he was its builder. ( Sanford Granger builder of the Bartonsville, lived closer and also used double laterals, but tended to omit the third Chord ) It was that its builder “family’ed” the 3 X 11 Lattice plank in both the Chords and the Truss Webs, using the thicker plank just where time now tells us is most appropriate, which told me the Ashuelot’s Bridgewright was both practiced, and at building Town’s in particular. And a cut far above, simply capable.

I stopped by the mans grave a year ago or so on my way back from some distant work related travel, because it had occurred to me that his name etched in stone might bring it home.

The mans name is Nichols.