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Column: Tidbits about Wateree River bridge

Posted: March 5, 2018 3:25 p.m.
Updated: March 6, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Photo by Glenn Inabinet/

An old bridge abutment from the bridge built around 1827-1828, just west of Camden near present day I-20.

In 1841, Thomas Whitaker was president and William Lang was treasurer of the Bridge Company. From 1863-70, John M. Desaussure was president and Colin McCrae treasurer of the company.

If the complete Camden Bridge Company toll records and account books were extant, just think of the amount of detail they would add to local as were as regional history. They likely would add historical facts well beyond our region.

The bridge was initially constructed in 1827-28 on the design of a Connecticut Yankee, Ithiel Town. His design had been used to build a bridge over the Yadkin River near Salisbury, N.C. Camden citizens had seen and used that bridge several years before the Camden Bridge was constructed.

The bridge was located just west of town and the road from it led directly into town just north of the Quaker Cemetery. It was located in sight of present day I-20. The Bridge Company employed Colonel William Nixon to construct their bridge.

When constructing the bridge Nixon had to consider several factors, one being local traffic on the Wateree River. The Camden Boatyard was just north of the bridge site and in one day in 1828, 33 boats arrived there. The bridge would have to accommodate the passage of steamboats and other boats underneath it.

The Wateree River was subject to flooding. This meant the bridge had to be elevated above high water or the flood stage of the River. This also meant the approach and exit to the bridge on each side of it had to be elevated above the river swamp.

This was done by building large high piers to support the road leading to the bridge over the river itself. Pictured below is one of these piers on the western side of the river swamp today. Based on the pickup truck beside it, it appears to be about 20 feet tall.

The bridge itself was covered on the sides and top to protect it from the elements and to increase its strength. The covering on the sides prevented horses and mules from seeing they were elevated in the air, a sight which might make them become “skittish” about crossing the bridge. A covered bridge presented more of a barn like entrance to animals, an entrance familiar to them.

This wooden bridge was used for about 50 years, although it had to be rebuilt after being burned during the Civil War and repaired often due to flood damage. Eventually it was replaced by another bridge about a mile to the north.


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