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Fires and Floods - A History of Sheldon Bridges

The Missisquoi River "enters the town about a mile south of the N.E corner, and about the same distance below Enosburg Falls.  At the end of another mile, running a westerly course, it is joined by one of its principal tributaries – Tyler’s Branch.  Continuing along, in graceful curves, gradually bending southward, it received another of its largest tributaries – Black Creek.  Here there is a great angle in its course and it bends to the N.W and after flowing a distance of 4 or 5 miles makes numerous curves and affording several fine mill privileges, it enters the town of Highgate, coursing in its whole distance through the town, nearly or quite 11 miles.  To assert that it has as wild and picturesque scenery – or foaming rapids and dashing cascades – as some of our mountain streams would be incorrect; but in placidity of surface, green, sloping banks, gentle windings and flowing, graceful scenery, it is unsurpassed. 
Several fine bridges span the Missisquoi at different points; but the immense amount of teaming that passes over them, especially during the rains of fall and spring, cut them up badly.  Probably there is not valley in Vermont – I might say in New England – where there is hauled, up and down, so much freight, produce, goods, etc, as in Missisquoi valley.  To obviate or alleviate this in a measure, a few years since a plank road was built from ST Albans to North Sheldon, a distance of about 12 miles, costing $50,000. The bridge across the Missisquoi alone cost $15,000.  It has 4 arches, 5 piers, and is 640 feet long"

Whitney, Tolman, and Bailey “The History of Sheldon VT.” 1872

 

The Main Street Bridge at Sheldon Jct.

 

The first charter of the town in the name of "Hungerford" in 1790 resulted in little development or industry. Following the purchase by the Sheldon family in 1792 with a accompanying name change to the "Town of Sheldon" a saw mill was built with additional advancements along the Missisquoi River and Black Creek resulting in communities in Sheldon Creek, Sheldon Springs - also known as Olmsteadville, Sheldon Junction, North Sheldon, and East Sheldon. Settlers lived on both sides of these bodies of water necessitating crossing to the other side. Fording points established at several shallow poinst gave people, carts, and oxen ample opportunity to cross except during high water times. Temporary bridges of tall pines with plank roads lasting less than a year, until the spring floods took them out, spanned the rivers and streams at various locations. Not until the 1830s, some 40 years into the settlement of the town, did the settlers choose to challenge the power of the water proving them with energy and a livelihood.

 

Beginning around 1835 covered bridges spanned the Missisquoi River and Black Creek at various locations. Eventually some seven covered bridges stood in Sheldon until 1932 when the last one succumbed to fire. The bridges stood at the mentioned locations.

1835 or 1836

The Bridge Street Two Span Covered Bridge over Black Creek in Sheldon Village
  The Bancroft Covered Bridge over the Missisquoi at Olmstead Falls (Sheldon Springs)

1860s

North Sheldon Covered Bridge over the Missisquoi

1870 or 1871

Missisquoi Railroad Covered Bridge over the Missisquoi

1871

East Sheldon Covered Bridge of 3 spans lost in 1888 or 1889 - no drawings, pictures, or history recorded
  Covered railroad bridge at Sheldon Junction on the then St. Johnsbury and Lamoille Railroad

1887

Main Street Covered Bridge from Sheldon Jct. to Main Street Sheldon village.
"Suspension Bridge" built at Sheldon Springs.

1884

Bouchard Road Bridge built. (Not a covered bridge)

On April 4, 1932 a fire began in one of the mercantile establishments along Bridge Stree in the "Creek" It quickly following the wooden rail along the east side of the bridge and into the bridge. Within a short period of the last covered bridge in Sheldon lay in ruins in the Black Creek ending the era of Covered Bridges in the town.