University of Vermont

South Hero

South Hero, Vermont

Transportation


"Sand Bar Bridge." ca. 1906. Photo courtesy University of Vermont Special Collections.

Settlers in South Hero originally utilized Native American footpaths as early transportation routes until the first roads were constructed, which were the result of a tax paid in physical labor, passed in 1779.[1] Resulting roads were wide enough for oxen carrying a yolk, but by 1791 the community voted to hire a work crew to build and repair roads funded by a one-cent per acre tax levied upon all landowners.[2]

Another obstacle in early transportation was the sand-bar, the only connection between South Hero and the Vermont mainland. From the start, the project chartered to O.G. Wheeler, Melvin Barnes and 33 others came together forming a company to connect the island with Milton.[3] Upon the arrival of the first settlers on the island, the sand-bar, a narrow strip of land exposed in low waters, was the only connection between South Hero and the mainland. When the lake was frozen the settlers could cross quite readily on the ice, but a good portion of the year they were completely isolated by the lake waters. The eastern end of the Sand-bar (from the present Sand-bar State Park) to Milton was a vast marsh with as much as eleven feet of quagmire, crossed only with great perseverance.[4]

The Sand Bar Bridge Company was founded, on November 11, 1847, in order to establish year round communication between South Hero and Milton, with a capital stock of $25,000 sold in $10.00 shares. The company was established to greatly benefit the people of South Hero and Grand Isle, for it furnished them direct and ready access to Milton. The island citizens, eager for the bridge, contributed liberally to its construction, by taking stock in the company. Several men took significantly large shares of stock, including Wallis Mott ($1,000), Lewis Mott ($1,000), Abner B. Landon ($1,000), Jesse Landon ($800), John Landon ($500) and James Mott ($500); many others took between $100 to $500, according to their means. The distance from South Hero to Milton across the lake is 1¼ miles in length. This part of the bridge was built by Samuel Boardman for $18,000.

 

Sandbar bridge, unknown date. Image from South Hero In the Garden Spot of Vermont. Courtesy University of Vermont Special Collections.

The road through the marsh, a distance of 2 miles, was built by A.G. Whittemore for $5,500. The entire cost of the structure, including toll-house, gate, fixtures and equipment was $24,016.62. While the people of South Hero purchased the stock of the company liberally, the enterprise had not proven to be a lucrative investment by way of cash returns, but as a public convenience, the bridge was the greatest advantage to the islanders, as it eased the burden of shipping produce to Milton for marketing.[5]

Although the earnings from the bridge were adequate, no dividend was ever paid to the stockholders, who paid the same toll as the others traveling the Sand-Bar. So much damage was done every spring by the ice and water, that all of the earnings were required to keep the bridge in repair. Hundreds of dollars were spent in labor by the stockholders and citizens just to maintain the bridge and make it passable in the spring when the ice had dissipated from the lake. The bridge was opened for public crossing, December 5, 1850.

Damage to sandbar bridge from ice, Spring 1907. Images from History of the South Hero Island, volume 1. Courtesy University of Vermont Special Collections.

The South Hero Landons contributed significantly to the Sand-Bar Bridge effort. Buel Landon (1821-1882), grandson of Thaddeus Landon, was director of "The Sand-Bar Bridge Company" and contributed much time and thought to the maintenance of the Sand-Bar crossing. Like other Landons, Buel was a successful farmer and fruit grower and was active in many town affairs and offices, such as assistant judge for Grand Isle County Court (1851-1861), Senator, for the Vermont Legislature from Grand Isle County (1876-1877) and served an unusually long term of service as South Hero Town Clerk from 1852 until his death in 1882, when his widow Miriam Phelps Landon was elected to succeed him and served until 1918, a total of 65 years.

John Landon oversaw the work on the Sand-Bar Bridge for many years. It was his double team that did most of the work, there being no machinery of any kind. For a considerable number of years he served as First director of "The Sand-Bar Bridge Company." Not one man in South Hero devoted more time, interest and effort, and with very little compensation, to the arduous challenge of maintaining the fragile Sand-Bar crossing.

Transportation was pivotal to the growth of South Hero in the early half of the 19th century. The introduction of the railroad significantly opened up the South Hero to the rest of the Northeast. Work began on the Rutland Railroad in the winter of 1889 and began service to the Islands in 1901. In the winter of 1889, over 200 men were working at Allen's Point, South Hero and by the spring of that same year, another 300 men were working at Tromp's Point on Grand Isle.[6] Due to the high number of men arriving in South Hero to work on the railroad, the population of the town peaked far above its consistent norm. The crossing from Colchester Point to Allen's Point was constructed of three and a quarter miles of rock rubble stone embankments, which was the longest embankment of this type in the world at that time.

Rutland Railroad causeway at Allen's Point, unknown date. Image from South Hero In the Garden Spot of Vermont. Courtesy University of Vermont Special Collections.

The Rutland Railroad linked Boston and Montreal via Vermont, and traveled westward to Ogdensburgh, NY, on the Hudson River. For residents of Grande Isle and South Hero, this expansion of the railroad represented an opportunity to sell produce outside of the community and also allowed for improvements in the canning, drying and packaging of apples. The Islands also became an available destination for middle-class vacationers. The railroad was used until 1961, when it fell into financial difficulties.

Image from History of the South Hero Island, volume 1. Courtesy University of Vermont Special Collections.

Railroad station, unknown date. Image from South Hero In the Garden Spot of Vermont. Courtesy University of Vermont Special Collections.

[1] Allen L. Stratton, History of the South Hero Island being the Towns of South Hero and Grand Isle Vermont, Volume I, (Burlington: Queen City Printers, 1980), 70.
[2] Stratton, 72.
[3] Stratton, 92.
[4] Stratton, 98.
[5] Abby Hemenway, The Vermont Historical Gazetteer, Volume II, (Burlington: Abby M. Hemenway, 1871), 573.
[6] Stratton, 156.

Last modified May 17 2005 04:54 PM

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