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Bulloch History with Roger Allen: Beginning in Augusta, bridges boom in Southeast Georgia
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Roger Allen

Note: The following is the first of a series of columns exploring the importance of rivers, ferries, bridges and waterways in the early history of Georgia and Bulloch County.


By the end of the 1700s, Augusta was the one real town up-river from Savannah. It was a major trading post, with a population of more than 600 American Indian traders, merchants, residents and their slaves, and packhorse men.

Once built, the South Carolina Railroad, which ran from Hamburg and connected by boat to Augusta across the river, was carrying nearly all of the deer hides and furs being brought into both cities down to Charleston.

In December 1813, the states of South Carolina and Georgia had granted Henry Shultz and Lewis Cooper a 21-year charter for building a toll bridge across the Savannah River at Augusta.

Then, after Cooper assigned his rights to John McKinne, somewhat grudgingly, the state of Georgia granted another bridge charter, this time to Shultz and McKinne. They actually built the bridge.

Soon after, the Bank of the State of Georgia acquired the bridge and sold it to Gazaway Bugg Lamar, who then sold the rights to the Augusta City Council. None of the original charter holders now had an interest in the bridge.

Many realized that a bridge across the river would greatly facilitate this trade. Therefore, Hayne, not sure if more of Georgia's trade going to Charleston would be a good thing, looked for a means by which he could control the bridge.

Hayne recorded how the governments of Georgia and South Carolina had agreed the navigation of "the principal stream equally free to the citizens of both states and exempt from all duties, tolls, hindrance ... whatsoever."

Furthermore, Hayne announced, "The States (South Carolina and Georgia) ... have themselves established the Savannah, not only as their 'boundary' ... but ... as a 'common highway' ... equally free to the citizens of both states."

Therefore, because the original bridge charter had expired, Hayne ruled that "neither State ... can authorize the obstruction of this common highway ... (hence) the Augusta bridge is, at this time, an unauthorized obstruction of the Savannah River."

Bridges being built everywhere

Either James or Stephen Powell built the bridge over the Ogeechee near Louisville in 1796. John Raford built a bridge across the "Big Ogeechee" at Fletchers Island on the Greensborough to Savannah Road.

In 1799, Joseph Bryan built "Bryan's Cowpen" bridge across the "Great Ogeechee River." Bryan's fees were 1 cent for hogs, sheep and goats; 2 cents for cattle; 6 cents for a foot passenger; and 6¼ cents for a horse.

For bigger conveyances, he charged more: 12½ cents for a man and a horse; ¼ cents for a chair, a "sulkey" or a cart, team and driver; and 50 cents for a "phaeton ... close carriage (or) waggon, team, and driver."

Bryan County opened the Canoochee bridge south of the Bulloch County border in 1799. It soon became a toll bridge. Screven County built a bridge across the George Washington Highway.

The Flat Ford (or Flatford) bridge was built across the junction of Ironmongers Creek and the Ogeechee River. Lumberman George R. Heard built two bridges: one from his sawmill at Bellwood to the railroad station, and one that crossed Horse Creek.

Walter Allen Hagin's toll bridge crossed the Ogeechee River at the Effingham and Screven County lines. The Nelson family operated a ferry service here until Hagin bought it and built his bridge.

Several more Savannah River ridges were built: by Garrett and Hammonds near Savannah in 1809, by Rowell and Leigh in 1809, by McKinne and Schultz in Augusta in 1814 and by Beck in 1815.

In 1817, Nathaniel Bostick built a bridge over the Great Ogeechee River at the upper end of Fletcher's Island. Nathan Brewton built a bridge that crossed the Canoochie River at the mouth of Cedar Creek.

In the 1830s, Benjamin Hill built a bridge near Waulden's Ferry and not far from Fort Argyle at Proctor's Point, near where King's bridge later stood.

Documents list Jesse and/or Sherwood McCall as the operator of McCall's toll bridge located on the Ogeechee River, just north of the Bryan and Effingham County borders.

Their neighbors operated Young's bridge. Records show the bridge was still being operated in 1836. McCall's and Young's bridges may have actually been one and the same.

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at rwasr1953@gmail.com.

 

 

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