A Tale of Three Bridges - Spences Bridge, BC
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member T0SHEA
N 50° 25.308 W 121° 20.606
10U E 617675 N 5586841
This story should actually be "A Tale of Three Bridges and a Ferry", as before the first of the the three bridges there was a ferry.
Waymark Code: WM1150T
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Date Posted: 08/16/2019
Published By:Groundspeak Regular Member Dunbar Loop
Views: 2

It should go without saying that the community of Spences Bridge came by its name for the fact that the only bridge for miles and miles was built at the spot, replacing the ferry that had served the gold seekers pouring into the area.

A new bridge has been built about 900 meters (2,950 ft) downstream of the site of the first three bridges, carrying the Trans Canada Highway across the Fraser River. In 2015 the final, 1931, bridge was removed and a viewing area constructed at what was its north end, complete with viewing binoculars. A large four part storyboard has been erected at the viewing area, along with a "Little Free Library" style free book exchange.

Text from the storyboard follows.
Where the mighty Thompson River met the smaller Nicola River, an indigenous community thrived...they called this meeting of the rivers "Little Forks".

The Gold Rush of the 1880s was the beginning of change for Little Forks. The Nlaka'pamux Nation (formerly called the Thompson) would become a hub for Gold rush seekers.

The 1850s quest for gold changed the landscape in dramatic fashion and the Thompson River was a major impediment to fortune hunters who came in droves as part of the Cariboo Gold Rush. One of these prospectors was Mortimer Cook.

Mortimer realized a greater fortune could be achieved by facilitating a crossing of the Thompson River, more so than searching for gold. "Cooks Ferry" was born. A cable ferry able to transport a team of eight oxen or mules, supplies and a gold seeker or three. Mortimer Cook's profitable enterprise didn't last long however, in 18?? The river flooded and destroyed the ferry. Though the territory had come to be known by the name of Cooks Ferry, Mortimer was no longer needed as the colonial government granted Thomas Spence permission to build a bridge.

YEAR ONE (1863...)
Work began in the fall of 1863 with piles being rafted downstream from Shuswap Lake to the bridge site. The last timber was placed on Spences Bridge on the spring of 1864.

However, Thomas Spence and crew barely had time to admire their work before the bridge was taken down by an extremely high spring freshet. All the hard work floated down the river.
The government immediately commissioned Spence to build another bridge with virtually the same crew. And that is just what Spence did in the autumn of 1864.

The second bridge was finished in March of 1865. Mortimer Cook was out of business. The community soon changed its name to "Spences Bridge". However, the local First Nations still carry the Cooks Ferry name to this day.

A toll was established on the bridge by Captain William Irving who had financed the project with hopes to eventually turn a profit. The local First Nations crossed the bridge for free but foot passengers and horses were 25 cents. Buggies and light rigs were charged a dollar, stages $1.50 and freight wagons 2 dollars. All freight was billed at a rate of 16 cents per 100 pounds. The Gold Rush provided plenty of customers.

18 years later, in 1882, ownership of the bridge passed from Captain Irving to the provincial government and tolls were abolished. This second "Spences Bridge"'s life came to an end in 1931 when the Province deemed a new bridge was needed.

In 1931 the one lane bridge opened for traffic. The steel and cement structure remained open and in use for 84 years! The community rallied to save the bridge to use as a walkway, but the structure was deemed unsound.

It was closed to traffic in January 2014 and the bridge was dismantled in the spring of 2015. The cement piers that remain conjure many memories for community members and visitors.

Remains of the bridge are still evident around town as the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure offered the railings and core pieces to the community. Local government supported the creation of historic mementos (out of the bridge deck core) which generated significant funding for the community through local donations.

The community, the Province and local government have partnered on many other improvements for Spences Bridge, including this spectacular viewing area.
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Type of Marker: Geographical / Natural History

Type of Sign: Historic Site or Building Marker

Describe the parking that is available nearby: Park at the south end of Bridgeway Street, just north of this viewing area.

What Agency placed the marker?: The community of Spences Bridge

Visit Instructions:
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