Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Previous Rock Island Bridges over Mississippi in Rock Island, IL

I knew there were several bridges built by the Rock Island over the Mississippi before the current Government Bridge was built, including the first railroad bridge to cross the Mississippi. One soon learns that Abraham Lincoln defended the Rock Island when a steamboat allided with the first bridge two weeks after its construction. David's posting has motivated me to dig into the history.

David Sebben posted five pictures with the comment:
Several postings here have shown the first railroad bridge over the Mississippi River between Rock Island, IL and Davenport, IA, but how about the rail that once carried trains from that bridge? Sticking out of the original embankment is a rail and several ties from that historically significant bridge of the Rock Island Railroad. Included are the subsequent bridges at or near that location in the Quad-Cities.
1

2:  1856 to 1866, Bridge Hunter, see below about Abraham Lincols, built a little upstream of the current bridge

3: 1866-1872, Bridge Hunter, tornado damage in 1868, used the same piers that were built for the first bridge

4:  I can't find info on this one. It must be 1872-1896 but it does not look strong enough
Reposted by Chuck Edmonson: "Under construction around 1872."

5, current bridge, built 1896 and rehabilitated in 1983 and 1997
The steamboat and ferryboat interests fought a bridge being built, but the Rock Island ran its first train over it to Davenport on April 22, 1856. However, two weeks later the steamboat Effie Afton "cleared the drawspan on an upstream journey, then suddenly veered out of control and drifted back against the span where it burst into flames. The draw portion of the bridge was destroyed. This started a historic court action. Abraham Lincoln defended the railroad's right to bridge the river. The first jury disagreed and was discharged. A second trial resulted in a court order to remove the bridge. This, however, was carried to the Supreme Court and, in an opinion handed down in 1862, the court found for the railroad establishing a railroad's right to bridge a navigable stream." [Tortoise Tattler April 22, 1856]

This account disagrees with all other accounts that I have read --- Abraham Lincoln, who was on retainer by the Rock Island, defended the railroad from the steamboat owners's suit claiming the bridge was a navigation hazard. That trail ended with a hung jury. Then the Rock Island counter sued and won.[Andy Wellman posting] The dispute did go to the Supreme Court, but Abraham was not involved with their general ruling that railroads have a right to bridge a navigable stream.

Quad-City Times: A drawing of the first Mississippi River rail crossing.

Andy Wellman shared
Jim A. Fuhrmann One account some time ago I read revealed that Lincoln defended the Rock Island in a case in which the currents around the bridge were an issue and he went to the location in question and found a twelve year old boy who lived near there and frequently visited the river. He brought up a conversation with the boy and found out in twenty minutes every thing the boy knew about the flow of the waters in the river and found that it was as the boy said. The story concludes that Lincoln was able to use evidence he acquired from the boy to catch the boat company in a lie and win the case.
I remember reading that the captain of the Effie Afton, the fastest sidewheel steamboat on the Mississippi River, claimed the currents caused by the piers in the river shoved his boat into the bridge. Both the boat and the bridge were totally destroyed by fire. (So it was made with wood instead of iron?) "Some people suspected that the collision was an intentional attempt to topple the bridge." [NIU]

Andy Wellman shared Davenport Iowa History's photo.

First Bridge to Span the Mississippi River
This drawing shows the first railroad bridge to span the Mississippi River. Davenport city founder Antoine LeClaire turned the first shovel in January of 1854 and donated the land and his home built years earlier as the first depot. The bridge crossed to Davenport from Rock Island (arsenal) and was completed in 1856.
Chuck Edmonson posted
The third bridge of the Rock Island Arsenal constructed in 1872. Differing from the two previous spans, it was 'double-decked' with rail traffic above and pedestrian and wagon traffic below. Looking towards Illinois, it was very ornate up top, complete with eagle.
Dave Gudewicz Maybe an optical illusion, but it looks like there's a bend to the right in the tracks/bridge.
Chuck Edmonson There was a slight curve heading onto the bridge through an area known as Traders Vista. This bridge lasted but two decades, replaced by the current span. The draw span adjoined the Illinois side.

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