Ratchford River

Much history surrounds Ratchford River bridge

Three generations crossed over the bridge,
By horse, by hand sled and car.
So many are gone, while others live on,
To dwell in new homes afar.

By Hilton McCully

One of the pictures, accompanying this article, is of the 1901, Welch-built Ratchford River Bridge. Schoolboys used to walk across the frame of this bridge. This was a dangerous practice, a long way down to the river below. Be that as it may, the bridge is an introduction point to some local history.

Off to the right, at the down shore end of the bridge, the MacDonald home site was located. In later years the site was built on by Trueman McCully. Some of the original buildings had been earlier moved to the Rich Ayer site, seen in the Time Frame photo.
Here I must mention that one of my fondest memories is of the hot, well buttered brown bread, that Teddy Ayer and I got from his mother, before our family moved, in 1928, from the Red House.

Just past the MacDonald site, on the same side of the road, the road curves sharply to the right, leading to North Greville, known locally as “Back the River”.
The Time Frame photo also shows the road to the Ward’s Brook Frog Pond, the road showing just behind the shed on the Ayer property.

A bit farther along the highway, a white post is noted. This may be the Ward’s Brook sign. That sign showed the place name, lettered from the top to the bottom of the post, which seemed to be a heavy plank, set into the ground.

Between the Rich Ayer place and Emmerson McCulley’s place, was the location of the Elderkin stables. Here the horses were kept, to be used in the movement of materials connected with a milling and shipbuilding operation. (Site of MacDonald buildings and the stables-courtesy of Emmerson.)

Some years ago The Citizen published a picture showing some local boys beside the Red House. The picture seemed to be about 1906.

The barn, which has been on the upper side of the road, for as long as I can remember, was beside the river in the picture.

It was pointed out, again some years ago, by Dick Merriam, that there was a mill in the river. Later the mill was sited on the area between the Red House and the bridge.
Now going back to the Mill Hill end of the bridge, the Gypsy Road cut in along the river, to a wharf situated roughly down over the hill from the Gerv Parsons’ place. The wharf would be well within reach of high tide on the river. Some of the piling that were driven in the constructing of the wharf, were visible a few years ago, from the main road, across the river. These piling have been given eternal life in a painting by Dick McClelland.
At the foot of the Shipyard Hill there was a dug well, across from the Red House. The well could be reached by crossing some planks, over a small pond. Just a bit farther along, on the same side of the road was the watering trough, a necessary installation when transport operated on hay, oats and water as opposed to gasoline or diesel fuel. (See the watering trough, just off the top end of Cap’n Andy’s axe handle.)

Before leaving the bridge area, I must mention that salmon could be speared from the bridge, as they came up river to spawn. This spearing was done with a long handled barbed spear, somewhat resembling a potato fork. The spearing was slightly illegal, a view likely shared by the salmon.

Now my words have dried up. Hopefully, various photos, articles and an expanding local museum, will ensure that this area around the bridge, will go down in history, as I once did.

(Source: The Citizen, Saturday, February 15, 1997, Page 30 – Bridging History – Much history surrounds Ratchford River bridge)