In files at the Kings County Museum is a brief history of the various bridges that spanned the Cornwallis River at Port Williams. It was this history that I looked at when putting together the August 29 column on the Avonport covered bridge.
Basically, I was hoping to learn if there had ever been a covered bridge at Port Williams. I assumed after consulting this history – and Eaton’s history of Kings County – that there had never been a covered bridge at the Port since there was no mention of it in either source. In the column I went so far as to say the covered bridge at Avonport was the only one of this type in Kings County.
This was a mistake, an error. I was guilty of not digging deep enough; for example I neglected to check the book on Port Williams where there is a detailed history of the Cornwallis River bridge. To quote from The Port Remembers: “In all, there have been four bridges at this crossing. One had a railing and one was covered. The covered bridge was sold in 1856.”
The Port Williams history doesn’t tell us how many years the bridge at the Port was covered. Was it in 1780, when according Eaton’s history of Kings County the first bridge across the Cornwallis River at Port Williams was built as early as that year? Or was it in 1835 when a new bridge was opened? About all we know for sure is the bridge was covered up until 1885. In that year a new iron bridge replaced the well-worn old one and according to the Port Williams history, the new bridge was built inside the covered one.
There is controversy over when the first bridge was built at the Port, some historians disagreeing with Eaton that it was in place at least as early as 1780. Part of the problem with this is that the bridge at Port Williams may have been privately owned at times, operating with a toll system. Government records show that legislation was passed in 1818, in 1825 and in 1834, allotting funds for the bridge. What happened before that and when the bridge was first covered is anyone’s guess.
While on the topic of covered bridges, I must mention a telephone call I received from Blain Coldwell about the Gaspereau River covered bridge. Coldwell says he has been trying for years to determine how the bridge was removed – was it burnt down according to local folklore, dynamited or taken apart manually?
To answer Coldwell’s question, the answer is that after the covering was manually removed, the remaining structure was dynamited. This took place on January 29, 1952, and apparently boats were on hand to collect the debris that was scattered over the Gaspereau River.