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The tale of Gilbert Bridge over Yellow Breeches Creek

York County Bridge No. 248 (Gilbert Bridge) over Yellow Breeches Creek (Photo taken in 1954, after bridge repairs were made; Source: York County Archives)

After seeing Teresa Boeckel’s article, in the York Daily Record earlier this week, about historic but deteriorating bridges spanning the Yellow Breeches Creek, I recalled pertinent long-ago Gilbert Family History questions concerning Gilbert Bridge.

This York County Archives 1954 photo shows Gilbert Bridge after bridge repairs were made on that Pratt Truss bridge connecting Gilbert Road in York County with Bishop Road in Cumberland County; while bridging the Yellow Breeches Creek. Gilbert Bridge was built in 1899 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, however unfortunately was replaced with a concrete bridge in 2008.

The 1898 Bishop Road Bridge, a still-standing Pratt Truss bridge, is located a mere half-mile drive, due north, from Gilbert Bridge. The Bishop Road Bridge spans the Yellow Breeches Creek at an “S-bend;” creating the geographic oddity where York County is north of Cumberland County at that bridge location. Gilbert Bridge and Bishop Road Bridge are situated in rural Monaghan Township, in northern York County; less than a mile east of the Messiah College campus.

After the publication of my Family History book “Barshingers in America,” my immediate follow-up project was a Family History book on the “Descendants of Johannes Gilbert [1772-1846] of York Co., PA.” Gilbert is the maiden name of my grandmother, Iva Mae (Gilbert) Smith. Research for the Gilbert book is still underway, although a copy of 820-pages of my indexed research notes is available for review at the York County History Center.

In responding to one of my Gilbert questionnaires, James Gilbert was the first to question if there is a family connection to Gilbert Road and Gilbert Bridge in Monaghan Township. He later kept me informed when the original Pratt Truss bridge was replaced with a concrete bridge in 2008.

The Tale of Gilbert Bridge over Yellow Breeches Creek

On August 9, 1899, the Commissioners of York and Cumberland Counties contracted with the Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio, to build a metal truss bridge over the Yellow Breeches Creek at the Gilbert Ford. The bridge carried the fabrication year 1899 and final acceptance of the installed bridge was made on March 10, 1900. This was the follow-up bridge to the nearby Bishop Road Bridge, which had been contracted with the same manufacturer in 1898.

Embossed on the rolled shapes in the bridge were the words “Jones & Laughlin,” the trade name of Jones and Laughlin Ltd., a Pittsburgh producer of iron and steel in the 1890’s and a predecessor of the Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation. Jones and Laughlin Ltd. began the manufacture of steel and steel products in 1886.

The Gilbert Bridge had a span of 101-feet and a roadway width of 15-feet. The clearance over normal water level in the Yellow Breeches Creek was 10-feet, 10-inches. The bridge had a posted 10-ton weight limit.

This plaque is affixed to the south wall of the 2008 concrete bridge replacing the Gilbert Bridge; a 1899 Pratt Truss bridge that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. As noted on the plaque, the “Original Pratt Truss named for early residents—Lyman and Spencer Gilbert.” I’ll do follow-up posts on the prominent brothers: Lyman D. Gilbert [1845-1914] and Spencer C. Gilbert [1849-1924].

Plaque on South Wall of 2008 Concrete Bridge replacing the 1899 Gilbert Bridge, over Yellow Breeches Creek, connecting York and Cumberland Counties (2017 S. H. Smith Photo)

In 1872 Lyman Gilbert was the first to make the initial of many purchases of land in Monaghan Township, York County, on the downstream side of what became known as Gilbert Ford on the Yellow Breeches Creek. Lyman and Spencer Gilbert, with their families, maintained ever-expanding summer residences on the banks of the Yellow Breeches. Along with other affluent families from Harrisburg, as was customary for that period, the Gilbert families lived approximately half of the year through the summer time in those retreats and commuted to Harrisburg for business reasons by the Reading Railroad from Bowmansdale or Grantham stations; one-mile to the north and west, respectively, from the Gilbert retreats.

Newspapers of the time, usually reported when prominent families opened up their summer homes for the season. Lyman Gilbert’s retreat is reported as “Fairfield House.” Spencer Gilbert’s retreat is reported as “Summer Residence at Roaring Dam.” I’ve annotated a Google aerial view to show the relative location of features in the proximity of Gilbert Bridge.

Annotated Google Aerial View at Gilbert Bridge (S. H. Smith, 2017)

The next post, in this series, will examine the extent of repairs, made in 1954, to the original Pratt Truss bridge and examine why this historic bridge was replaced, rather than saved in 2008. For now, I’ll provide links to posts that I’ve previously written about some of my Gilbert ancestors.

John David Gilbert [1849-1933], my Great-grandfather, was involved with the burning of the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge during the Civil War; check out this link for details.  Further details on John’s grandfather John D. (Johannes) Gilbert [1772-1846] are provided at this link.  Iva Gilbert, my grandmother, and her sister Minerva Gilbert appear in an 1896 Photo of Edward J. Sitler Cigar Factory Employees in East Prospect, York County, PA, at this link.  A photo with three of my Great-aunts, is known as the “Big Hats Photo;” it is shared at this link.

Links to related Gilbert Family posts:

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