The Delaware River separates Pennsylvania from New York and New Jersey so early settlers on each side frequently found it necessary to cross the river in the course of conducting their daily lives.
Even George Washington had to venture across to tend to matters in Trenton, N.J. The inhabitants of the area along the river did not give much thought to the fact that they were traveling from one state to another. For them, the river was not a boundary line but simply just one more obstacle to overcome to get where they wanted to go.
For residents of Wayne County and the New York counties of Sullivan and Delaware, small boats, ferries or scows were the earliest means of transporting men and goods across the river. Tolls were charged to travel by ferry.
Prior to the Revolutionary War the franchise to operate a ferry was a royal grant awarded to private individuals. This franchise was often given to reward loyalty or service to the crown and protected the ferry from competition.
A toll for crossing the river carried over to bridges which needed the approval of the state legislature to be built but were privately owned and in most cases owned by a local corporation. In addition to making a profit, the toll was necessary to maintain and repair the bridges.
The Narrowsburg Bridge, connecting New York to Wayne County, was the first to be constructed. A charter was granted to the Narrowsburg Bridge Company by the New York State Legislature in 1810.
The bridge was 25 feet wide and the tolls were $1 for a four horse carriage; 75 cents for a two horse carriage and 37-1/2 cents for a one horse carriage. Foot passengers and cattle were six cents each.
It was destroyed in an ice storm and replaced in 1846. Another replacement bridge built in 1848 stood until 1899 when the iron bridge was built by the Oswego Bridge Company. This bridge was replaced in 1970.
The Cochecton Bridge was built in 1819 and connected the Newburgh-Cochecton Turnpike in New York with the Cochecton-Great Bend Turnpike in Damascus Township. It was a substantial covered bridge built by a Major Wheat and locally known as the Wheat Bridge. In 1846 the bridge was damaged by high water and was replaced by a ferry. This was a scow ferry operated with a cable and the first ferryman was Albert Smith.
Page 2 of 3 - An exciting incident took place in December of 1846 not long after the ferry service was established.
Dr. William L. Appley, a Damascus physician, Joseph Coit, a U.S. Mail coach driver, and a stranger were anxious to cross the river despite the high water and ice. Dr. Appley had his horse and sleigh aboard the scow. As the scow started across the river it became surrounded by drifting ice. The ropes connecting the scow to the ferry cable broke, sending the scow rapidly downstream.
Recognizing the danger, Dr. Appley leaped into a small boat attached to the scow and tried to row himself across to shore. Once he realized he was as close to the shore as possible he plunged into the icy water and attempted to reach the river bank. Fortunately, several men had witnessed the accident and were able to rescue him. In the meantime the scow, carrying the two men, the horse and sleigh passed through the Cochecton Falls and, with the aid of Mr. Coit, safely landed on shore.
Before the construction of the Lordville-Equinunk Bridge in 1870, crossing the river between Lordville, N.Y., and Equinunk was quite an experience. A passenger was placed in a large basket attached to a cable and then pulled across the river. If the individual had a horse and wagon they were placed in a scow and poled across to the other side.
George Lord received a license to operate this ferry in 1850. When the Erie Railroad began operation in that area it became a regular stop so the train passengers could utilize the ferry service.
Several years later local residents, among them John Lord and his son Alva, formed an organization to replace the ferry with a bridge. Alva Lord, the principal stockholder of the Lordville-Equinunk Bridge Company, and several other members were admirers of John A. Roebling. Roebling was the builder of the aqueducts on the Delaware and Hudson Canal and later built the Brooklyn Bridge. After his death, the Roebling firm was in the hands of his son Washington who was working on a major bridge project on the Niagara River to connect Canada with the United States.
Roebling did manage to find the time to provide the engineering for the Lordville-Equinunk Bridge and sent his chief engineer, E. F. Harrington to supervise the operation.
Page 3 of 3 - The bridge was a wire suspension bridge with wooden towers and its grand opening took place on New Year's Day of 1870. It was destroyed in a flood in 1903 and replaced by another suspension bridge which began to show signs of wear in 1986 and the present bridge was officially opened in 1992.
In 1860 William T. Kellam was granted the right to operate a ferry between Stalker and Hankins. Kellam's Ferry operated for 28 years until it was replaced by the Little Equinunk Bridge in 1889.
The Little Equinunk Bridge Corporation was formed with Joel G. Hill, Civil War veteran and owner of the now historic Hill's Sawmill, as president. The structure was a one-span, wooden, wire-rope suspension bridge which was painted red. The sturdy little red bridge weathered many floods and storms throughout the years and, after some major repairs and with the wooden deck replaced by steel grillwork, still spans the Delaware River.
All of the above mentioned bridges were toll bridges. It was not until the 1920s that the states along the Delaware River established a Joint Commission for the Elimination of Toll Bridges. Their goal was to purchase bridges from the private owners and eventually make each bridge a toll free bridge.
The Dingman's Ferry Bridge connecting Dingman's Ferry in Pike County, Pennsylvania with Layton, N.J., is the only remaining toll bridge across the Delaware.