Monadnock Moments No. 51: The First Connecticut River Bridge

Prior to the 1780s there were no bridges spanning the Connecticut River.  Colonel Enoch Hale was determined to build such a bridge despite the scornful laughter of the many people who said that it could not be done.

Colonel Hale, a well known and prosperous citizen of Rindge, petitioned the New Hampshire legislature for the right to build and operate a toll bridge between Walpole and Bellows Falls.  He was granted a charter for construction in December of 1783.  Hale soon moved to Walpole and began construction.  The process was long and difficult as one young worker died when he fell from the bridge to the rocks below.

Hale’s Connecticut River Bridge was completed in 1785.  This was the very first bridge to span the Connecticut River and remained the only bridge on the river until 1796.  The Legislature set the rate of tolls at 3¢ for each person on foot, 6¢ for a horse and rider, and 12½¢ for a horse and wagon.
The bridge was acclaimed to “exceed any ever built in America in strength, elegance, and public utility.”  It is still considered one of America’s most outstanding bridge constructions of the eighteenth century.
The Connecticut River Bridge carried passengers for many years.  It was eventually found to be weakened from decay and a new bridge was built upriver.  When the new bridge was completed, Colonel Hale’s great engineering landmark, the first bridge over the Connecticut, was cut down and carried away by the waters of the river.