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Historical photo show 100 years ago header

100 Years Ago

Black History
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Bridges Needed to Cross Canal

With the building of the canal and the canal feeder through the county and Sidney, Ohio, came a need to construct bridges. Hitchcock’s "History of Shelby County" relates the story of the building of an old stone bridge in Sidney that involved the expertise of an immigrant. "The old stone bridge of the canal on which many have stood at midnight is doomed and before long will be but a recollection. No structure in this county has served its purpose so well. It was built in the latter part of the forties (1840s) on honor when that commodity was fashionable, before the age of graft, at a cost of $2,800.

This amount was deemed so extravagant by the people of the county that Samuel Marshall (born in Ireland 1775), then serving his first term as commissioner (county), was not re-elected on that account for he put the matter through. He builded (sic) better than the people knew or he himself, for there it has stood for over sixty years never crying to be done over again, nor to be repaired, nor clamored for a coat of paint. In spite of the fuss it made it was the best and cheapest structure the people ever paid for public use in this county.

The contractors were two brothers by the name of Chamberlain of New York, and James H. Fletcher, whose memory embraces a period of over seventy years, furnishes this incident. Among those trundling a wheelbarrow with stone and mortar, was an Irishman, but a stranger here, who had applied and got a job at $1 a day. In constructing the arch over the canal it had twice fallen and the contractors were getting discouraged when this Irishman ventured the remark that according to mathematical principles they were not building it right to stand.

At first he was scoffed at but finally they told him to superintend the work if he thought he knew enough. He did so and the bridge stands a monument to his skill though his name is forgotten, if it ever was known here. Mr. Fletcher, at that time, was going to the private school of Mr. McGookin, where the Grand Hotel stands, and one day this Irishman, in his blue coveralls, came to visit the school and took a seat beside Mr. Fletcher, whose geometry was open on the desk. He took it up and began to ask questions showing familiarity with geometry and a trained and educated mind. It was subsequently learned that he was a graduate of Dublin University but had become stranded."

'Immigration' segment written in November, 1997 by David Lodge


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