The Floating Bridges of Lanark County

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Over 135 years ago on a Spring evening in 1823 an Irish immigrant named John Hays was crossing the river after nightfall in a canoe at the Carleton Place settlement, then known only as Morphy’s Falls. There was no bridge, and the river was at spring flood levels. Hays was carried over the falls to his death by the swift current. For several more years,  the crossings of the river continued according to the seasons to be by boat, by fording the shallows, or at points where the winter’s ice was secure. The site of the first bridge here was that of the town’s present central bridge, last reconstructed in 1928.

I can imagine that floating bridge on Flora Street had countless horses wagons and farm machinery cross it. It would have been made out of seasoned oak with pins fastening it all together. When it was Spring and high water, the logs would pile up making it difficult to get over. But when warmer weather hit,  the bridge would hang over the lower water making it easier to get the stock across.

Some pontoon float bridges constructed in the early 1900’s were equipped with a small overhead gantry with a manually operated winch. In most cases, this gantry was removed in later years and the float bridge jack mentioned above would be installed on the outer edge of the float bridge.

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John McRostie’s original stone home, still stands near the river bank at Flora Street and was built in about the 1830’s. At that time the north side of the river was still new farmland and forest. This was the location where the Carleton Place floating bridge once existed made out of rough planks and timbers.

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There is another floating bridge at the narrows between Clayton and Taylor Lakes, It was actually constructed on the water adapting to the lake’s water levels.Some books tell us this bridge was first built to get people from Halls Mills and Galbraith to Ferguson Falls. This is quite true, as it did separate Taylor’s Lake from Clayton Lake at the narrows, and is one mile west of Ramsay Township.  It was used by many farmers as a short cut for hauling cord wood and grain to Almonte. Bill McIntosh of RR 6 Perth remembers crossing the bridge in a car when the water would squirt up through the flooring. Advanced transportation caused the demise of the bridge, which was also a popular fishing spot. The bridge before it was destroyed was almost 300 yards long..

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Another “floating road” from Clayton to Carleton Place going across a sink hole in Ramsay township.

Leann Thompson added these photos today:  This one was taken before the snow storm. It’s from Floating Bridge Rd looking across at the 12th Concession.

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Leann Thompson —We took this on the way home today. On the lake from the 12th concession heading towards Floating Bridge Rd.

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Do you know of any others?

 

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February 19, 2016 update

I see pictures of the Floating Bridge in several places bearing a date of 1890.

While it is a good picture of the bridge, the date is absolutely wrong.

First it shows the telephone line. We didn’t have telephones in these parts in 1890. I think 1910 is closer to the correct date.

Also as to the railing on the bridge. My neighbours and myself, helped build the railing shown, and it could be the last one before the bridge was closed in 1944. It could be in the (thirties) with wages at 25 cents or 30 cents an hour/

Thank You. Eldon Ireton. Almonte Gazette – date unknown

Lila James (nee Leach) added this:

The two men shown fishing off the Floating Bridge is on the right Mr. William James Leach from the area and on the left, is his niece’s husband, Wilfred McNeil from Westboro…His niece, Marjorie, nee Saunders (related to the Sadlers from Almonte) took the picture….I believe picture was taken in 1922…but have exact date at home…

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

2 responses »

  1. The two men shown fishing off the Floating Bridge is on the right Mr. William James Leach from the area and on the left, is his niece’s husband, Wilfred McNeil from Westboro…His niece, Marjorie, nee Saunders (related to the Sadlers from Almonte) took the picture….I believe picture was taken in 1922…but have exact date at home…..

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