Crossing the River -- The Iron Wagon Bridge
The need to cross the Maumee River barrier between Waterville and the near-by communities on the Wood County side has been with us from the beginning. The earlier methods of fording the river or crossing on the ferry barge were less than ideal and as the population increased totally inadequate. A bridge was needed. One or more wooden bridges were tried in the 1880s. These were fairly successful in Maumee City but the ice jams in late winter were more severe in this section of the river and the wooden bridges didn't last long. Even as today, technology came to the rescue. Better methods for making large iron structures led to replacing wooden trusses with iron. An iron truss bridge was built over the river in 1888 ushering in an era of unimpeded travel between the river communities. Because the mode of travel at that time was by foot or horse-drawn conveyances, this bridge is usually referred to as the “Wagon Bridge” by historians. Even through this bridge was stronger than wooden structures the, ice jams took out one or more spans on several occasions, but the bridge had become so important it was always repaired. The old wagon bridge carried the traffic between Waterville and Wood County for over fifty years, but the mode of transportation changed in that time. Automobiles and trucks were using a bridge designed for horse and wagon. In addition to that, this bridge had become part of the state highway system. By 1941 the old bridge had been condemned for many years but the state refused to replace it even though Waterville residents had petitioned for a replacement several times. Motorists ignored the signs for years, but finally in July 24, 1941 a truck carrying a load of milk broke down several spans of the bridge. Residents thought that finally the state would have to replace the bridge. But on Dec. 7, 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and World War II was on. The bridge was not replaced until 1948.