In the early days of Bruce’s history its waters were the lifeline of the County, bringing settlers when the land opened as well as the supplies they needed. As communities grew rivers were still part of that lifeline but getting from one side to the other was key for the movement of people and commercial goods as well as a sense of communal connectivity. Having developed alongside the waterways, communities understood their usual behavior, and this was taken in account during the construction of bridges. Unfortunately, there are times when rivers don’t follow their usual behavior.
The spring thaw can be one of those times. The rivers naturally swell during spring thaw, and this is expected. Over flooding the usual boundaries happens when the thaw is added to by heavy spring rains or if there is more than usual snowfall/accumulation present at the time of spring melt. In 1912, the flooding Saugeen River took out the Denny’s Bridge and the Victoria St. Bridge in Southampton, the former on April 5th and the latter on April 7th. On the back of a postcard found in the Archives is a message to Miss H. G. Tolmie from her sister Agnes, “How do you like our new Bridge? Agnes”. First constructed in 1889, the Victoria St. Bridge had just been rebuilt and completed in 1910. Being resilient and adapting to having both bridges out, citizens and goods were ferried back and forth across the river; the same way they had been prior to bridge construction. Denny’s Bridge was rebuilt and opened later in 1912, and the Victoria St. Bridge was completed later 1913.
Though neither Denny’s Bridge nor the Victoria St. Bridge still exist, through their times they were rebuilt more than once, each time the design improved with new engineering knowledge, such as using piers versus cribbing and facings to shore up the embankment. The amount of money and time spent rebuilding these bridges is testament to how important they were to the community in connecting people and goods as well as to the resiliency of Southampton’s citizens.