December 2, 1992
The following article which is very interesting was loaned to us by Isabella (Duffus) Earl of Thamesville.
After the war of 1812, land on the north side of the river which had previously been set aside as Indian territory, was thrown open to white settlement. Among the first to settle there were the Sherman, Cornwall, Watts, Hubbell, Jackson, Sanford, Wallace and Ingall families.
Although both sides of the river were being settled, there was still no bridge across the Thames. In 1854, Robert Duffus constructed a saw mill on the south bank of the river and operated the first ferryboat service. Mr. Duffus offered his ferry free of charge for the people going on Sunday to church.
Some time later, date unknown, a covered bridge was erected on wooden spikes (perhaps around 1862); Robert Duffus was toll-keeper for some time; then he returned to Scotland around 1864 with wife Margaret Smith and children. Robert and Margaret left Thamesville due to great loss of property when the above sawmill went floating down the River Thames after the dam broke.
Many years later Eddie Martin found the whistle of the sawmill on his grandfather's brick yard. Eddie's grandfather was the next owner of the property upon which the Duffus saw mill was located.
Robert Duffus returned to the Thamesville area from Scotland around the year 1870 with his family.
The aforementioned covered bridge was in use still until about 1874 when John and James Tinline, stonemasons who had settled in Orford Township were assigned to cut stone imported from Scotland and erect two abutments suitable for a new wooden bridge. These abutments still stand and contain some fossilized small marine animals. In 1887 the wooden structure was replaced by an iron bridge which remained in use until 1937 east of the old bridge site.
September 1, 1887 Herald - After a long delay the contractor and the iron has arrived for the building of the new bridge over the river.
Work commenced on Monday and it is expected the road will be closed tomorrow morning. The committee who have the supervision of the bridge have a good crossing half a mile up the river from the bridge.
Parties coming to town will find the road to Jas. Secord's farm where a good road has been constructed. After crossing the river a good road will be found leading up to Mr. B. Featherstone's lane through which right of way has been secured to the Long Wood Road. We are requested to say that all parties crossing the river by the road will close the gates on the Long Wood Road.
In May of 1872 Robert Duffus purchased the farm of William T. Francis, on river Road East. Robert Duffus still owned part of the 1850 property "Bridge Place" was what the family called it. It is situated west of the old bridge and North of River Road west. Both properties were sold in 1983.
Many years before the 1937 bridge was erected there was an old house (frame) erected on the old property and there were apple trees surrounding the house. After the Duffus family vacated it there was a blind gentlemen who lived there for a while and he made brooms and his name was Uncle Wren Maynard. In the late 1920's the house was removed from the property and sold to Mr. John Miller of Howard Township and purchased it for his hired man.
In due time Robert Duffus acquired a saw mill near the present site in Thamesville of "Crystal Palace." It eventually burned down due to sparks from a passing train.
An incident, involving the iron bridge that preceded the present bridge, comes to mind: back in the 1930's when we had returned to the farm on River Road, and the temperature had gone down to 28 degrees below, an automobile had crashed into the bridge coming from Thamesville, thus cracking it so badly that no traffic was allowed across the bridge for well over a week. Anyone who wanted to go on in to Thamesville had to park their car or horse and wagon on the south side of the river and proceed into town on foot. It was an extremely cold ordeal.
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