Look Back: The opening of the railroad bridge

Historical newspaper excerpts from the Wood County Historical Society

Photo Provided

Photo notes: Saturday last [Jan. 7, 1871] was quite a gala day in Parkersburg. Besides the deep interest that was centered in the local election, our citizens were on the qui vive to witness the passage of the first engine over the mammoth bridge. It was given out that she would start from the head of Washington St. [Sixth Street] at 3 o’clock p.m.; and long before that hour the street and sidewalks were lined with men, women, and children, all eager to witness the trial trip. Promptly at 3, engine No. 220, Mr. Geo. Bailey engineer, was manned and accoutered ready for the trip. This engine was selected on account of its lightness and easy management. We could not but note the manly pride that sat upon the countenance of “George” as he stood with his little “beauty” waiting for the word to start. Grant could not have been prouder when he submitted his terms to Lee at Appomattox; nor King William when he received the sword of Napoleon at the Sedan. After a goodly number of our citizens had crowded into the tender and a platform car that had been attached for the occasion, word was given, and away she flew amid the huzzas and cheers of those assembled to witness the scene. The passage and return was made without accident. Next, engine No. 91, the heaviest one on the road, John Harrigan engineer, was hitched to a heavy freight train and passed safely over. This day will long be remembered by our citizens. We understand that a formal “opening” will be made in a few days, when an excursion train, accompanied by officer’s cars, will be made up for the occasion. It was our pleasure to pass over the bridge on Tuesday last in response to an invitation from Mr. M.W. Porter, local engineer and General Superintendent of the bridge, and we must confess that that beat everything within the limits of our experiences. Ed.


Fatal accident

It affords us great pain to announce the accidental death of David Guthrie, twelve years of age, the eldest son of Dr. C.J. Gutherie, of Belpre, which occurred on Saturday last, on the occasion of the first crossing of the R.R. bridge by engine. The lad was standing on the shore pier — the Ohio side — in company with quite a crowd of men and boys, waiting for the engine to pass back to the West Va. side. As the engine passed them, the crowd was jostled considerably in their efforts to keep clear of the track, when young Gutherie was accidently crowded off the pier and struck on his head and shoulders on the rocks and frozen ground below. His shoulder blades were broken in two or three places and his skull was fractured. Medical attention was immediately had, but he lived only a few hours. David was a bright lad and one of more than ordinary promise. We know that we express the sentiments of the large circle of friends and acquaintances of the family, both in this and Wirt County where the Doctor formerly resided.

The Parkersburg State Journal

Jan. 12, 1871


Bob Enoch is the president of the Wood County Historical Society. The group meets at 7p.m. on the last Monday of each month in the Summers Auditorium at the Wood County Public Library on Emerson Avenue. They do not meet in December. For more information, contact P.O. Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102