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As It Was: County Commissioner Blows Up Illinois River Bridge

A well-used bridge across the Illinois River south of Cave Junction near Takilma, Ore., was blown up around the turn of the 20th century by a Josephine county commissioner who unilaterally declared it unsafe.

In a letter to the editor in the Rogue River Courier in 1910, M.H. Kohler said the bridge demolition had upset people in the area.

The letter said a Chinese pack-train owner called Gassy Bow had paid $320 to have the bridge built for running supplies to miners in Happy Camp.  The county spent $40 to expand the bridge wide enough for two-horse wagons.

Kohler said wagons, one hauling a mowing machine, were crossing the bridge when it exploded, reducing it to scattered timbers and wreckage.  Especially upset was Oscar Beers, who had to get his mower back using a block and tackle.  Beers then rebuilt the bridge from the debris.  No one really knew why County Commissioner James Logan, owner of the Waldo Mine, had the bridge dynamited even though the county maintained it and had not declared it unsafe.

Kohler suggested that voters keep the incident in mind at the ballot box.   

Source: Kohler, M. H. "That Illinois Bridge." Rogue River Courier, 16 Sept. 1910 [Grants Pass OR] , p. 4. Historic Oregon Newspapers, oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn96088281/1910-09-16/ed-1/seq-4/#date1=1846&index=0&date2=2017&words=Bridge+bridge&searchType=advanced&sequence=0&lccn=sn96088281&proxdistance=5&rows=20&ortext=&pro. Accessed 23 July 2017.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.