The City Of Chester.
kept in repair; that the draw or engine to raise and lower the same is of no public utility and is attended with extraordinary expense and inconvenience to the public." In view of these facts the act declares "that the commissioners and assessors, with the concurrence of the magistrates of the county of Chester, shall, as soon as may be, cause a new bridge to be built at the place where the old bridge formerly stood, leaving at least twenty feet clear between the timber or stonework, and not less than eighteen feet in breadth, and eight feet headway at high water, for the easy passage for rafts, floats, shallops, and other crafts, and the said bridge be made fast and close continued from one side of the creek to the other, without any draw or opening for a mast."
The bridge erected in obedience to this act was a wooden structure, which was supported by heavy wrought-iron chains passing over iron columns located on either abutment. Each link of the chain, Martin says, was about two feet in length, and at either side of the bridge was a large plank cut to resemble an arch. Over each arch was a sign, the body color white, and bearing the following notification in black letters:
"Walk your horses and drive not more than fifteen head of cattle over this bridge, under a penalty of no less than $30."1
|1 History of Chester, p. 58.|
This structure was carried off its abutments by the water during the noted flood of Aug. 5, 1843, and swept by the torrent against Eyre's wharf, where it remained, held fast by one of the chains which did not part, on the eastward side of the creek. Isaiah H. Mirkil and Jerry Stevenson for more than two months ferried horses, cattle, wagons, carriages, and pedestrians across the creek in a scow. The county commissioners raised the old superstructure to its former position, in the fall of 1843, at a cost of two thousand one hundred and fifty dollars. One of the links or staples to which the chain was attached is still to be seen standing in the roadway, at the northeast side of the present bridge, in front of the store now occupied by F. C. Torpey, in Ladomus' block.
In 1850 Chester began rapid strides in material improvements. The old bridge being deemed insufficient to meet the public demand, early in 1853 John Edward Clyde prepared a petition for a new structure, and Isaiah H. Mirkil circulated the paper for signatures. The petition was met with a remonstrance by several citizens of the town, who desired that the structure should be a draw-bridge, if a new one was built, and so energetically was the matter pushed on each side that the good people of Chester were soon divided into new bridge and anti-new bridge advocates. It was a contest which in that day agitated the newly-awakened borough from centre to circumference. The struggle eventuated in the erection of the present iron structure in 1853. On the southeast end of the bridge, on the main stanchion (cast in the iron), is a shield, which informs the reader that the superstructure was built by F. Quickley, of Wilmington, Del., in the year above stated, and that the county commissioners during whose term in office the work was completed were A. Newlin, J. Barton, and W. H. Grubb. The bridge originally was without sidewalks, which were added, in 1868, to accommodate the public, who up to that time had been compelled to walk in the present roadway of the bridge in passing from one ward to another. In 1872 the county commissioners made some repairs to the bridge, - relaid the planking, which was worn and decayed in many places, - but so enormous is the demand now made on this bridge by the public that no repairs can for any length of time keep it in good condition.
The Seventh Street bridge, over Chester Creek, was built in 1870, being opened for public travel December 27th of that year. The superstructure is of iron, but the traveling public have ever regarded this bridge with doubts as to its stability, hence it is seldom used by vehicles carrying heavy freight.
The Ninth Street bridge, over Ridley Creek, is a substantial structure, which was erected in 1880-81, being opened to public use on June 27, 1881.
At the December court, 1880, a lengthy petition, signed by almost all the manufacturers and owners of industrial works in the South and Middle Wards, was presented to court asking for the appointment of a jury of view for a bridge at Second Street, which was done, and almost a year subsequently to that date (Dec. 12, 1881) the Court of Quarter Sessions confirmed the action of the jury of view, which previously had been approved of by two grand juries. The bridge which was built across Second Street during the year 1883 is the most substantial structure erected by the public in the county of Delaware.
The untiring perseverance of Isaiah H. Mirkil, after many years, culminated in securing a patient hearing, and resulted in the erection of the Second Street bridge. In recognition of his public service, on the eastern abutment, on the southerly side of the bridge, William B. Broomall had the words, "Isaiah H. Mirkil, Pontifex Maximus," in large letters, cut deep in the solid granite coping.
Ship-Building. - During the colonial days a number of small coasting vessels were built at Chester, and after the English army evacuated Philadelphia, in 1778, a regular station for building gunboats for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania was established at that place. Samuel Lyttle, whose descendants are still residents of the neighborhood, was employed by the State authorities in sawing planks for vessels, and received his pay in Continental money, which depreciated greatly before he could dispose of it.
In 1844, Archibald McArthur was a shipwright in Chester, and built in that year the schooner "Richard Powell," which, - framed of Delaware County oak, - when inspected thirty years afterwards, was found to be as solid and sound as when launched. In