Licking River Bridge

Licking River Bridge

Information comes from Pieces of the Past, Volume 1, pages 227-228 by Jim Reis and used here with his permission.

Newport and Covington officials contracted Charles Ellet, a suspension bridge designer to present plans for a Covington-Cincinnati suspension bridge.  He responded with plans for a bridge costing $300,000.  Based on his plans, Ohio approved a charter in 1849.

An Act approved by the state Legislature Jan 1, 1852, incorporated the Newport and Covington Suspension Bridge Co.  While officials waited for Ellet to complete a bridge in Wheeling, they decided to try out the suspension bridge ideas by building a smaller bridge over the Licking River between Covington and Newport. 

With funds from both cities, the bridge company contracted with a J Gray of Pittsburgh.  Plans were drawn up by local engineers and the bridge started in March 1853.

There were eight cables, each 902 feet long and weighing 11 tons, made in Newport.  The first cable was drawn between the two bridge towers by an elaborate process that involved six horses, pulleys, rollers, drums and the hulls of steamboats moored in the river. The wire suspension bridge was completed December 25, 1853 at a cost of $80,000, and was opened formally by the Covington mayor and George C Tarvin, who had directed the building.  They crossed it in a buggy.

  On January 16, 1854, Taylor Keys and Henry Clinkum were riding horses across the bridge when it suddenly gave way.  At the Newport end a few men were driving 18 head of cattle onto the bridge.  The iron bars connecting the cables and anchor on the Newport side gave way during a heavy rain. The roadway and cables fell into the river 70 feet below.  So did the two horsemen and the 18 head of cattle.  Four of the cows drowned but the men driving the cattle had not stepped onto the main section.  Keys was injured but was pulled from the Licking River by Jack Harrison who witnessed the accident and jumped in to save Keys.

Clinkum, although he had dropped about 40 feet into the river, landed sitting on his horse.  Clinkum clung to the horse and it pulled him out of the river.  Clinkum later told The Covington Journal he would not sell the horse for $1000.  Snapping of iron rods connecting the cables with the anchorage caused the collapse. The bridges had just been taken off the hands of the contractors by the cities of Covington and Newport, and a toll gate established.

Examination showed the bridge masonry in perfect condition, and the bridge was rebuilt at a cost of $36,000 with heavier bars and served for some years thereafter.  In the 1870s Covington and Newport jointly purchased the bridge and started charging a toll.  In February 1926 both cities agreed to end the toll.  The bridge closed October 17, 1934.  It also ended the Crosstown streetcar line linking downtown Covington to downtown Newport.

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