It was a different kind of sigh than the famous Bridge of Sighs, that covered bridge in Venice over which condemned prisoners passed to the place of execution. But, there were sighs when the Gay Street Bridge (often referred to as the High Street Bridge) closed months ago. The Phoenixville North Siders were inconvenienced, and traffic took a detour. Most people thought the bridge would never be finished at the proper time. Instead, the bridge was finished early!
News traveled over the Internet that the opening day would be Oct. 16. Mayor Leo Scoda was phoned by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to be on hand at 11 a.m. on the 16th. Channel 6 announced the event on Oct. 14.
Bridges in this area have had a dramatic history. You can view the old photo of the Mont Clare-Phoenixville covered bridge (as it burned down) at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area, Church and main Streets.
Also, it's interesting to note that, in Revolutionary War days, no bridge existed. Local Tom Robinson lived in a cottage on Starr Street (recently demolished); he would not give the enemy, British Cornwallis, information regarding where the best fording area of the Schuylkill River was located.
There was no sighing in year 2000, however, when an important document was found in an apartment located on 16 S. Main Street, Phoenixville. Excitement was the emotion!
Doug Boyer, a former Phoenixville Area High School student, found a 160-year-old letter in an eight-drawer desk with contrasting wooden board - it looked like you could cut bread atop it.
The folder letter showed faint pink blots of sealing wax. The letter was beige with age, but the writing was completely legible. The spelling was not consistent, but the handwriting was graceful. (Handwriting used to be taught long ago.)
Boyer was ecstatic about his fine, and wanted to know more.
The letter was sent from Huntsville, Madison County, Indiana. The Indiana Historical Society wanted the letter, but I felt it belonged to the HSPA.
Edwin Lemmore is the writer. The recipient of that letter was John N. Caswel who was a well known local grocer in Phoenixville.
Here are the words: "I would like you and WILLIAM Miller to come and see how you would like it [Indiana] though I believe a farmer can do better in your country [Pennsylvania] than he can here because grain is so much lower here than there, and mechanic work is higher of all kinds and a common laborer gets more for his work here per day than you can get for 9 bushels of wheat, which of course makes it hard for the poor farmer.
I suppose you would like to know what kind of land we have in the Hooiser County. As far as I can learn the land here on Fall Creek is hard to beat for wheat, corn and grass."
Lemmore wished to be remembered to an old girlfriend.
He wrote, "I would like to see Miss E. Kandwell - But if you get this letter I want you to tell her to write to me if she pleases for I would love to hear from her rite well. She is all the young lady in old Phoenix that I think much about at present."
Lemmore continues, "I expect to stay here till next fall and perhaps later. I cannot tell. I was to arrange matters so as to come over and see the old diggings if I can next winter."
One familiar Phoenixville name is mentioned: Vanderslice. Apparently he'd taken off for the Hooiser County too because Lemmore writes: "Old Tommy Vanderslice is living on White River. He is farming for a man..."
Lemmore was an eyewitness to the excitement of an election year: William Henry Harrison's campaign. He wrote, "It looks like all are the Harrison and Tyler."
The letter's final resting place is somewhere in the archives of the HSPA. They're open every Wednesday and Friday. Check it out. Peace! Phone me: 610-933-0669. Keystone Connie.