Was the McNeely Bridge Funded on “Drinkin’ Fines”?



Brock Zeman’s lyrics in his song Carleton Place state that “the McNeely Bridge was funded by drinkin fines–we  all chipped in!”  I Googled that statement and I came with up nothing– as I knew I would as it is was I love calling folklore. However, an old newspaper article praised the new section of Highway 15 providing a route around the south side of Carleton Place. That bridge crosses the Mississippi river near the outlet of the lake was known as Indians Landing– the location of the old Indian  campground.


In 1823 John Hays crossed the river at nightfall and met his fate by the swift Spring current that carried him over the falls. Hugh Bolton was celebrating his 10th year in business and they were still crossing the river by boat.  In the winter the crossing was on the river ice when it was secure enough. The first bridge was built by Edmond Morphy, and it was a low level timber structure. The 1829 bridge was rebuilt by Hugh Boulton whose home still stands on Mill Street. When the bridge became unsafe Albert Teskey of Appleton was the next contractor. Our Carleton Place railway bridge was built to span the Mississippi at the location of the town’s present C.P.R. Bridge. The wooden railway bridge was replaced by one of steel construction on stone piers and designed by William Willoughby of Carleton Place.


I have written about our floating bridge that connected the end of Flora Street and the Hawthorne Mill. That bridge too was pretty shaky. In 1902 Abner Nichols & Son brought their season’s log drive down the lake to their newly opened sawmill at the riverside on Flora Street; while two drives of logs, ties and telegraph poles were reaching the mill operated by Williams, Edwards & Company at the dam. Basically, the floating bridge was no more than tied logs. I don’t think I could have crossed that bridge if someone had paid me.


Each summer found the main bridge in need of repairs. When I see that William Moore was the lowest bidder at $1400 to repair the bridge, no wonder. I know $1400 was an enormous amount of money in those days, but what did it really get you when you built a bridge. Then again, if you were firing a cannon from the middle of the bridge during the Carleton Place festive celebrations–that has to add to the wearing conditions of the bridge.

The Gilles company decided to add another bridge down by the portage area by McArthur Mill, where the island bridges still exist. They built a dam and mounted it by a planked bridge..The town’s old wooden bridge at the same time received its last major repairs, only to be shaken and damaged again by Spring waters.


A superstructure was talked about to replace the old Bridge Street bridge– no doubt because Pakenham was erecting their 5 span stone bridge. It was nothing but the best this time–wrought iron on stone piers. A Carleton Place bylaw to raise $10,000 to build an iron bridge across the river was voted approval in 1887. Tenders received by A. R. G. Peden, municipal clerk, led to contracts with William Willoughby of Carleton Place for its masonry piers and with Robert Waddell of Trenton, Ontario, for the iron work.


The foundation stones had to be laid in the water when seams in the rock bed of the river were found to prevent diversion of its flow by coffer dams. The wrought iron superstructure was ordered from Glasgow. During low water levels of the fall of 1887 the bridge was erected. While the rattle of its railings and the rumble of its planked surface or lower tie rods may be remembered by those who traveled on it until its replacement in 1928. The bridge had served adequately as a community and highway bridge for over forty years. One has to remember it was mostly foot and animal traffic. In  1910 there were only seven automobiles owned in Carleton Place, including a Buick, a Packard, a Reo, Fords and a Russell-Knight. In neighbouring notes: a steel bridge replaced the wooden bridge across the Mississippi River at Innisville in 1913.

So, in answer to the title Brock Zeman was wrong. The only place I can find something that was funded by drinkin’ fines is in New Jersey. Port Authority police, charged with patrolling and enforcing the law on the bridges as well as on their entrance and exit ramps, made about 400 drunken- driving arrests through Nov. 30 in Pennsylvania. They didn’t fund a bridge- it was something else.

On the back bumper of the new patrol car is painted, “Funded By: Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund.”


Photo Above by Robert MacDonald and all others from the files of the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum.



Clipped from The Ottawa Journal,  04 Dec 1928, Tue,  Page 28


Clipped from The Ottawa Journal,  01 Mar 1958, Sat,  Page 8

Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place

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.

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