Monadnock Moments No. 59: Village Bridge in Walpole

Walpole Bridge over the Connecticut River

The Village Bridge in Walpole was a covered bridge that spanned the Connecticut River and connected Walpole with Westminster, Vermont.  The bridge was opened to the public in the fall of 1870 with a grand celebration.  The structure was built by the two towns and was a free bridge, as opposed to the common toll bridges of that period.  A toll bridge had preceded the Village Bridge.  Two floods, however, which had caused serious damage persuaded the bridge owners to turn the structure over to the towns.
The bridge served travelers for forty years after the opening celebration in 1870.  On April 1, 1910 a fire on the bridge was reported at 8:15 in the evening.  The volunteer fire fighters responded immediately, but the structure was fully engulfed in flames when they arrived.  The spectacular blaze completely destroyed the bridge.

Arson was suspected and an investigation was begun. George Tiffany reported that he had seen Arthur Norrington on the bridge just before the blaze broke out.  Shortly thereafter Norrington, a resident of Westminster, confessed to the crime.  His wife had a job with the Holland family in Walpole and it seems that Norrington’s motive in setting the fire was to prevent her from crossing the bridge to go to work.  He did not want his wife to work in Walpole and felt that she would have to stay in Westminster if the bridge was gone.  Norrington accomplished his purpose for a while at least, but the authorities did not care for his methods.  He was sent to the state prison.  Westminster and Walpole were soon linked again as a new bridge was built within a year or two to replace Walpole’s old Village Bridge.