Blaine Bridge Community Preservation Project  
 

 

Blaine Bridge stirs memories

By BETTY J. POKAS, Times Leader Area Editor

DID you ever ride a sled over a historic bridge or back a Model T up a hill to get gasoline into the fuel line?

Such happenings are among the memories and stories recalled by area residents in connection with the recent reopening the 1828 Blaine Bridge.

Sandy Henning Butch, past president of the Blaine Bridge Community Preservation Project Inc., recalls riding a sled down the hill onto the old bridge.

Then, there were the businesses in Blaine that profited because of the steep, winding hill which led to the bridge when traveling eastward.

Operating a garage and service station at the bottom of the hill were Tom Ayers Sr. and Ed McGonigal, and, according to Ayers' son, Tom, who resides at the edge of Martins Ferry, the two men "had a good business there."

The Martins Ferry area man, who described his late father as "a super mechanic and a super person," said that cars would burn their brakes out on the hill and then would be repaired at the service station. Ayers said the original National Road on Blaine Hill reportedly had 13 turns on it.

Travelers from Columbus and farther points west thought Blaine Hill was a mountain, according to Belmont County Commissioner Gordie Longshaw, who is Ayers' cousin.

"They'd burn their brakes up before they got to the bridge," he commented.

Longshaw said his father's brother, Bill, opened a restaurant and bar at the bottom of the hill, and persons having their vehicles repaired at Ayers' and McGonigal's garage would stop there.

Model T Fords often had to back up the hill to get gasoline into the line, because they didn't have fuel pumps, according to Longshaw and Bob Howell of Flushing.

Army convoys during World War I sometimes encountered problems on Blaine Hill on the old National Road.

"It was horrible, it was death-defying," said Howell when describing the road on the hill before the Blaine Viaduct was constructed in 1932-33. He also said there were several watering troughs on the hill to water horses and sometimes to fill car radiators.

He said the brakes failed on a truck loaded with doughboys in a convoy, and the driver told the soldiers to jump and they survived. The driver, however, was killed in the accident and is buried in Blaine Cemetery, according to Howell.

Sue Douglass, founder and chief officer of the Blaine Bridge organization, also related a story about a convoy, and the driver reportedly lost control on a curve. Three soldiers reportedly were killed in that accident, and three white crosses were erected on the right side of the old National Road, she said.

There also are happier times associated with the hill and the historic bridge. Douglass recalls it was a great place to throw stones in the creek.

Just as generations of residents attended the reopening, participants represented different age groups and, as Douglass said, all those present were standing "in the footsteps of history."

The Ebenezer Zane Chapter of the Ohio State Society of the American Revolution had a color guard at the program, and also participating were teenagers from the Junior ROTC of Martins Ferry High School.

Douglass spoke at the event, and distributing programs were her nieces, Ellen and Isabella Slavik, of New Albany, Ohio, and Ellen represented Douglass in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Her nephew, Louie Griffith, distributed scissors at the ceremony.

In addition, indications are that youngsters (and adults, too) continue to enjoy and appreciate the tranquility of the creek and the durable bridge.

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