Monday, June 8, 2020

Chowan River Bridge

            A map of northeastern North Carolina shows a small cluster of counties dangling from the southeastern corner of Virginia, cut off from the rest of the state by the Chowan River. Until 1927, these counties were only accessible by boat or from Virginia. The isolated counties were Gates, Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden, and Currituck. 

Six NC Counties Cut Off By Chowan River

            A bridge between Windsor (Bertie County) and Edenton (Chowan County) was approved in 1925 and the Chowan River Bridge was opened to the public on 2 July 1927. It was 1.5 miles long, the longest bridge in the state, and reduced the distance between Edenton and Windsor from 89 miles to 21 ½ miles.
            The official opening of the bridge on July 20 was a spectacular event. The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC) 21 July 1927 said: 
No Such Spectacle Seen By This Generation In State As That Yesterday at Eden House; While Bands Play, Throng Yells and Aircraft Motors Buzz, Ribbon Is Cut Removing Last Symbolic Hindrance To Union of Rich North East With The State; Admirals of The Navy, Generals of The Army and Men High In Public and Private life Present For Momentous Occasion; Edenton Distinguishes Itself Forever In Manner In Which It Handles Big Undertaking.
            Ben Dixon MacNeill, a reporter with the News & Observer, described his experience at the opening in his column, “Cellar and Garret” on 26 July 1927:
            “… most magnificent spectacle I have ever witnessed, and … the most delightful experience I have had this year. It was almost worth living a generation for. …I climbed aboard a naval torpedo airplane in Edenton Bay and after a little was wandering around in the sky above the bay and the river and the bridge. It was a big ship, and I could walk around and poke my head out first one window of the big cabin and then another.
            Scarcely had Lieutenant Commander Moloney pulled the craft gently out of the water when we began to have company in the air. Flying low over the great oaks at Hayes came the army dirigible TC-5, almost dragging its anchor-lines on the tree tops. Then its sister ship the TC-9i came over, and together we went toward the bridge where the celebration was to be presently staged. Beneath us the revenue cutter Pamlico was steaming its way slowly, and from its decks came faithfully the strains of martial music.
            At first the bridge looked like a spring stretched across the two miles of water, and as we drew nearer it widened. We came lower and swooped down, almost touching the masts of the cutter and soaring upward. The torpedo ship rode the air smoothly and easily, its great motor roaring. The slower dirigibles wee coming along in the rear, seeming scarcely to move. The bridge became a bridge, and there were automobiles crawling along its length. If you looked carefully enough the ceremonial ribbon across the Bertie end of the bridge could be seen. From out of the mists came a squadron of army observation ships, swift and magnificent, sweeping out of the haze in wild-goose formation. They wheeled and turned back, circling for their bearings. The dirigibles cruised over the scene and the navy ships zoomed and climbed up. Then the hour of the ceremony came, and the pilots of the aircraft, observing the time, moved across for the processional. The official parade arrived at the eastern end of the bridge.
            The dirigibles crossed over and turned, flying close together and low over the bridge. The squadron of army ships came over and took up position above and behind the dirigibles, and the big torpedo planes of the navy above and behind them, with their motors throttled back and drifting serenely. The parade moved across the bridge—the groundling automobiles bearing a distinguished company, and above them the silver dirigibles and above them the yellow-winged observation squadron and above them the navy’s craft.

            Never has there been such a parade anywhere. It almost made one delirious to look down upon the spectacle. I guess I behaved like a child at a Christmas tree. Anyway, I had my head poked far out of the rear cockpit, in the full stream of the exhaust from the great motor that was carrying us. I got dirty, but I had an enormous time. The procession moved on and came to the place of ceremony. The pilots gave their mounts full throttle and they soared up and broke the magic formation.
            Time may bring me to witness such another spectacle and I shall hesitate at no length of accumulating grim to be able to witness it. My white pants can get as black as Egypt and such hair as I have accumulate all the exhaust a motor can discharge and all the talkative females in Christendom can assemble to discuss my deplorable condition, but I shall give the, no mind. It was worth it.”

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