The Great Dayton Bridge Affair

iron bridge at Dayton 1886

The new iron bridge at Dayton, opened in 1887

In 1885 a new bridge was needed at Dayton. It was estimated to cost $10,000 and the county would pay half the cost. As the bridge connected Dayton and Rutland townships, the share for each was $2500. Rutland balked at paying this, so Dayton agreed to pay $3500, but even this offer met with resistance, as shown in the newspaper extracts below. The bridge was built eventually and it was noted that one of the first to make use of the new bridge was one who had most vehemently opposed spending the money for it.

Dayton Bridge. –
The people of the town of Rutland vote next Monday, Aug. 31st, on the question of taxing themselves $1,500 towards building a good bridge at Dayton. The bridge is to cost $10,000, Dayton agreeing to pay $3,500 towards it, the county paying the other half. Considering that the bridge will be really a convenience to a larger proportion of the people of Rutland than of the town of Dayton, the offer of Dayton to bear so large a share of the expense is a very liberal one and ought to be met by Rutland in a spirit of like liberality. There is no point on the Fox River in this county where a bridge is so pressingly needed as at Dayton. The ford there is so precarious and unavailable most of the time that not only are Rutland people cut off from the advantages of the mills at Dayton, but to many of them the distance to Ottawa, Wallace, Utica, &c., is increased from two to half a dozen of miles. It does look as if Rutland could not afford to let this chance go by of getting a permanent bridge at Dayton at so small a cost.1

Dayton, Sept. Sept. 16. – At last it is settled that we are to have the bridge! The Board of Supervisors yesterday by a vote of twenty-seven to nine granted county aid to the amount of $5,000, and appointed Supervisors Anderson and Bubeck to look after the county’s interest. The bids will be opened next Monday and the contract let so that work may commence at once. The citizens are greatly rejoiced at the result and hope nothing serious may interfere with the completion of the work.2

Dayton, Sept. 23. – Our town was full of bridge men last Monday, and every bridge company in the west and a few eastern companies were represented. Nineteen bids were handed in. The board of commissioners, consisting of Messrs. Nichols and Grove, of Rutland, and Messrs. Dunavan, Brown and Green, of Dayton and the county represented by Supervisor Anderson, of Adams, met in the afternoon at the office of A. F. Dunavan & Son, and examined the numerous bids, but were unable to reach any conclusion by evening, so adjourned. The contract for the stone work was then let to John Joslyn, of Batavia, for $7.20 per cubic yard, and the superstructure to the Chicago Bridge and Iron Co. for $5,490. The superstructure will consist of three spans of 121 feet each, and the whole bridge when completed will cost about $10,000. The time for the completion of the work is Dec. 21st.
Bridge Notes
The Batavia man who has secured the contract for the stone work says he has plenty of stone on hand and will commence work on the piers immediately.
There was quite a lively competition between the Joliet and Batavia stone men, but the latter took the “persimmons” this time.
Landlord Timmons says he furnished forty-seven meals for bridge men Monday.
The river is low now and in good shape for laying the foundations for the piers.
The Bridge Co. says we will have the prettiest and most substantial iron bridge on the river.3

Dayton, Nov. 11. – The piers of the new bridge are progressing slowly, one being about one-third up and the other about two-thirds. The weather has been fine for putting up stonework and it is to be regretted that the work could not be done more rapidly.4

Dayton, Feb 3. – Our bridge is having rather bad luck. One span was swung just in time to avoid all danger from the thaw of Jan. 22d, but the trestle work of two spans was carried out by the ice and two iron floor beams were dropped into the river. The water has been so high and do much slush ice floating that work on the bridge has been practically stopped. It is hoped that the present cold weather will continue, so that work may be resumed and the bridge completed.5

Dayton, Ill, April 1st, 1887. – Our bridge is finished at last and open for public travel. It is a very fine three span iron bridge, the neatest one on the river, and is a fine addition to our village. Of course every one will use it now that it is constructed, and it was noticed that about one of the first to use it was one who had fought the hardest.6


1. The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, August 29, 1885, p. 4, col. 4
2. Free Trader, September 18, 1886, p. 5, col. 3
3. Free Trader, September 25, 1886, p. 8, col. 3
4. Free Trader, November 13, 1886, p. 8, col. 1
5. Free Trader, February 5, 1887, p. 8, col. 2
6. Free Trader, April 2, 1887, p. 4, col. 6

2 thoughts on “The Great Dayton Bridge Affair

  1. In the above photo of the iron bridge, our homes (there were two new homes built my family, plus we owned two additional homes next door) were built just this side of that building in the background in this photo, right next to that building!! That stone with the plaque on it that was dedicated in the 1920s was right there in that spot also!! The stone is still there today, but the plaque is long gone, has been gone since I was a kid (1947-1962) and living there!!

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  2. If memory serves, the bridge that followed this one–one that is also gone now–was built on the same piers as the iron bridge!! When I was growing up in Dayton (1947-1962), I remember those piers with that little ledge around them right at the water level!!

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