The Bridge Over the Cathance

1. Cathance Bridge - 1805

On March 25, 1805, an act was passed by the Massachusetts Legislature incorporating Zacheus Beals, Josiah Colby, James Fulton, Elihu Getchell, Robert, David and William Patten, Thomas Teed, Joseph Sprague, and James Sampson as "proprietors of Cathance Bridge," to erect a bridge over Cathance River at the termination of the road laid out by Topsham to the landing at Bowdoinham, said bridge to be 12 feet high above high water across the channel.

The tolls authorized were, viz:&emdash;

  • Foot passengers (each)
  • Horse and rider
  • Two-wheel carriage for pleasure
  • Four-wheel carriage with more than two horses, for each horse
  • Sleigh or sled drawn by a beast
  • Sleigh or sled drawn by 2 beasts
  • Sleigh or sled drawn by more than 2, for each beast
  • Sheep or swine, each
  • One driver and team with each drove

2 cents
6 cents
10 cents
4 cents
6 cents
8 cents
2 cents
1 cent

Bowdoinham Advertiser &endash; Vol II, No. 1 (c. 1975)
Frank Connors, Editor


2. Unique Cast-Iron Bridge - 1895 - c.1950

EDITOR'S NOTE: In October of 1934, Llewellvn N. Edwards, Senior Highway Bridge Engineer for the U. S. Bureau of Public Roads, wrote a technical paper for the University of Maine in which he outlined the history of six early and historic Maine bridges. Featured in that paper was the cast iron bridge that once spanned the Cathance at Bowdoinham.

Following is the report Edwards wrote for the University.

Frank Connors

The Iron Bridge over the Cathance River, at Bowdoinham, is located upon the site of a previously existing wooden structure known as the Kendall Mill Bridge. The superstructure of the Iron Bridge is of special interest for the reason that it is the first and only "cast-iron" bridge ever erected in this state. This unique type of metal truss was developed by a Squire Whipple, and was described as his "trapezoidal" truss. Squire Whipple is commonly referred to as "the father of metal truss bridges", because of his successful pioneer efforts in that field.

The cast-iron end posts of this span are marked as follows: J. Hutchinson, Builder, Troy, New York, 1866. This company built many bridges of the Whipple bowstring and horizontal chord types.

Bowdoinham's unique cast-iron bridge as it appeared about 1930. The 144-foot, wooden-decked span erected in 1895, and replaced about 1950. It is reported that only three cast-iron bridges were ever constructed in this country, and Bowdoinham's was the only one in Maine (Photo Courtesy of the University of Maine)

This cast-iron bridge was originally erected at some other location, probably in Massachusetts or Connecticut, where, after having served its purpose until considered inadequate*, it was disassembled without injury and replaced by a structure more adapted to local requirements.

The town of Bowdoinham at its annual town meeting March 4, 1895 authorized the replacement of the Kendall Mill Bridge and appointed a special committee to investigate alternatives. In that same year, and acting on the report of the committee, the Town purchased the cast-iron span complete from the Berlin Iron Bridge Company, Berlin, Connecticut, and it was re-erected in its present location under the direct supervision of John Towne, an engineer-salesman of that company, at a total cost to the town of $3,885.52.

The length of this span is 144 feet, 3 inches, and the widths of the roadway and one sidewalk are 20 feet and 5 feet, respectively.

In view of its historical status and excellent service record, it seems proper to suggest that when Bowdoinham's cast-iron bridge has completed its second service period and is to be again replaced by a more modern structure, it may very properly be again disassembled and re-erected to serve as a bridle path or pedestrian bridge, with a permanent marker identifying its value as an engineering relic. From an historical and scientific point of view, this is the most interesting metal bridge structure now existing in Maine.

NOTE- The old cast iron bridge was dismantled about I950 and replaced first by a temporary pontoon bridge, and finally, by the bridge which now spans the Cathance to Brooklyn. The bridge was sold for scrap.

Bowdoinham Advertiser &endash; February 1976
Frank Connors, Editor