BRIDGES: Clark's Ferry Bridge Across the Susquehanna

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I know I’ve crossed this bridge many times when I was with my maternal grandparents. My grandfather would want to go “up country” to where he was born and raised. My ancestors go back hundreds of years in Perry County, Pennsylvania and over 100 in Dauphin County. So this bridge would have been one we crossed when heading to a church pot luck my grandfather was fond of. I still have relatives living on the other side of this bridge, but I fear I will never make another trip back to Pennsylvania. I do miss it.

This bridge was replaced in 1986. I've crossed it a few times.

Originally, from what I’m able to find, there was a ferry here established around 1788 by a man named Clark.

There was a bridge which preceded this bridge.
One of the oldest crossings over the Susquehanna River is at Clark's Ferry at the southern tip of Duncan Island in Reed Twp., Dauphin County. This location where the Juniata River empties into the Susquehanna River, east of Duncannon, was called  Queenashawakee" by the American Indians, according to "The History and Topography of Dauphin, Cumberland, Franklin, Bedford, Adams, and Perry Counties" written by I. Daniel Rupp and published in 1846.
The site became a fording place on the Huntingdon and Pittsburgh paths for the earliest traders and settlers on their trek westward. The first ferry was established by Daniel Clark in 1788, passed onto his son, John Clark, and then to his son, Robert Clark. In 1808, the ferry became part of the stage coach line to Huntingdon.
In May 1818, a commission was organized to build a bridge across the Susquehanna. Bridge building in those days was an arduous task, and it was not until 1828-29 that the first permanent span was opened.
The bridge belonged to the commonwealth, which built a dam just south of the structure. The dam created a pool of water which was used as part of the state's early canal system. A mule towing-path was attached to the bridge. The covered bridge incurred the ravages of fire and flood but was repaired each time. Most of the bridge was destroyed by fire May 14, 1846, but it was rebuilt.
In 1857, the state sold the entire canal system to the Pennsylvania Railroad, which in 1867, transferred the canal system to a newly organized subsidiary, the Pennsylvania Canal Co.
After the abandonment of the canal system in the early part of the 20th century, the canal company sold the bridge to the Clarks Ferry Bridge Co. in 1915. (In some references Clarks is spelled Clark's.)
The president of the Clarks Ferry Bridge Co. was Harrisburg entrepreneur William Jennings, president of Commonwealth Trust Co. His longtime business associate, Christian W. Lynch, was vice president.
William Wills and P.F. Duncan were secretary and treasurer, respectively. Wills and Duncan were principals in Standard Novelty Co. in Duncannon, which was founded in 1904 and manufactured the famous Lightning Glider sled. The bridge was 2.088 feet long, divided into 10 spans, nine of which were 212 feet long and one 180 feet long. In 1888, it had the reputation of being the longest covered wooden bridge in the world.
Experts estimate that more than 1 million board feet of choice white pine lumber was used in the bridge. The lumber was cut from logs rafted down the river from the great white pine country along the West Branch of the Susquehanna.
The covered bridge served well in its time, but on Feb. 2, 1924, Jennings announced that it would be replaced. He said that span was barely wide enough to permit the crossing of one vehicle at a time.
(SOURCE: Harrisburg Patriot-News)

At one point the bridge shown above was a toll bridge. I live in an area where there are a lot of toll bridges. It’s sometimes fun to think about which route to take around the San Francisco Bay and not have to pay a toll. It’s always a good way to start an argument.

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With so many credit references on the back of this post card I'll just settle with it being ultimately a Curt Teich card since his logo appears on it.


  1. I,ve come over all maudlin after reading this. It made me think of a footbridge over a river next to a ford that I used to play on when a child. It was demolished years ago but I remember taking a sieve down there and a metal detector. I panned, not for gold, but coins that had been dropped or thrown in for good luck. I found a goold deal of small change and a beautiful Edwardian Florin.

    1. Isn't it strange and wonderful how we keep images of the past so close to the surface? One of my stranger ones is from Waikiki. Whenever I watch something that shows a particular street I used to walk along to school I remember what it used to look like and the sounds of the birds in the trees. It becomes almost painful knowing I can't go back and see it anymore because it's been so drastically changed.

      Your footbridge sounds like a wonderful memory.

  2. So true! I can understand the pain. I remember a TV cameraman (of some note) I spent some time with and he always warned me 'Never go back'. He was convinced it ruined one's memories if they saw what had become of somewhere!