Bridges and Fords

   One of the things that I tend to forget about in Effingham County is the Bridges and Fords of the early days.  Keep in mind that the county is bisected from North to South more or less by the Little Wabash River.  In a few cases if residents lived North or South of Ewington they would boat to the county seat up and down the Little Wabash.  But most of the traffic in the county was from East to West and that meant you had to use roads.   And when you factor in the tributaries that  feed the Little Wabash there is a lot of places where roads had to cross streams in Effingham County..  Many of these crossing would later develop into small communities or a place where a mill would be located.  Ewington the old county seat owes it beginnings to a bridge being made to cross the :Little Wabash River there.  Most of these early bridges were flimsy and were sooner, rather than later, washed downstream by the spring rains.  Flynnsburg in the Southern part of the county owed its existence to the river crossing and later bridge there as well.  Robinson Ford was the location of the Robinson Mill also found in the southern part of the county.  Brockett's Mill was found along the Little Wabash River and was the source of a Ford as well.  Just about where any road crosses a river or stream in the county you will find a house nearby.  Many of these were called traveler's rests or stage coach stops.  When the weather brought the spring rains the floods also followed.  This caused travelers many days of extra travel time and consequently they needed places to stay until the water levels dropped.  Many of these areas would go on to become small farms that had extra pens and barns for holding horses and livestock being driven to market.  Many of these areas also became locations of burial grounds, for people fell ill and died and the closest site for burial would have been the high ground around the crossing area.  Many of these sites make neat archaeological sites as well for here is where their equipment was put to the test.   Horse shoes pulled off by the deep clay mud, wagon wheel rims broken or lost, harness loops and tug chains, nails, bolts, many small items dumped in the bottom of the stream when the wagon was pulled apart and not able to be salvaged later.  The most telling to me is the deep ruts that their wheels cut into the hill sides leading to and from the crossing.  Many county roads have ruts that are six feet or more deeper than the surrounding land.  Horses had to literally be knee to hip deep in the mud in some of these crossings.  It is a small wonder that the early settlers wanted good bridges and roads in the county.  That is why when the railroads started going through the county that many of the villages and townships vied with each other to raise the money to entice the railroad to go through them.  Most of the county towns would be connected to one another by rail by close of the 1800's.  It would not be until the 1920's and 30's that road structure that we know would be laid.  We are able to cross our county in minutes when it used to take days, that is really no small achievement!