Bridge Troubles

Bridge troubles in Colon area.

In December of 1942, Mr. and Mrs. George Mercia and their four children and two Haywood children were crossing the Leland bridge in the Mercia car. They were nearly across when the structure began to sag and then suddenly collapsed to the bottom of the river. The Mercia car tipped over on its side, only a few feet from the north shore, and one of the Mercia children was thrown from the car. No one was seriously injured. One of the Mercia boys bravely worked his way across the ice and twisted steel to the south side of the river to warn other cars of the danger. Mr. Mercia stood guard on the north end, while others went for help. Mr. J. L. Dunck had just driven across the bridge ahead of the Mercia car. Deputy Sheriff Paul Stewart and Highway Department employee Paul Pashby were called and barricades were soon in place. Since the war was going on, the Highway department took up the matter with the government regarding getting material for a replacement. On April 15, 1943 a notice was given that the application was turned down and it was after the war was over before it was rebuilt. In the meantime, residents of the community had to cross the river by way of the Farrand Bridge or at Sherwood. The real problem was that these bridges weren’t built for the heavier cars going at higher rates of speed, with all the associated stress on the bridge this caused. In addition, the sides were also the supports, so if you ran into the side with a vehicle, the whole thing went into the river. That happened near Colon Oct. 22, 1948, when a car driven by Ralph Persing, 51, of Sturgis, and passengers Virgil Farrand, 48, and Ferris Weinberg, 36, both of Colon struck the Bennett Road bridge. The south section of the bridge collapsed, dumping the car into the cold river. Persing was pinned under the steering wheel and under the water level. Farrand and Weinberg held Pershings head above the water level for nearly an hour until he was freed from the wreckage. Farrand Bridge was built in 1868. At the time a ferry was used to cross the river. It was large enough to carry a team and wagon load across the river. The Highway Commission in charge of contracts were William Sharer, Alvin hoyt and Phineas Farrand, the latter being the father of Grant Farrand. The next bridge to be built was the Leland which was constructed in 1869 and 1870. Bennett bridge dates unknown. When these bridges were built there was no railroad into Colon and the steel for both bridges was all hauled by team from Burr Oak, that being the nearest railroad at the time.