The Old Swinging Bridge
Painting by Christine Patterson
An old swinging bridge spanned Kinniconick Creek when I was a boy. It was there when I last floated a canoe on Pine Eddy in 1977. If it survived the relic is at least one hundred years old.
Some settler and his family discovered a tract of land along Kinney, back in the mid-eighteen hundreds. They made their way along Pine Branch and came to a wide riffle, waded across those rapids and ascended a low hill, and beyond the hill was a good piece of bottom-land. On the hill overlooking Pine Eddy they built a house.
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In those days folks were self-sufficient. If the creek came up, if it was in flood, they waited until the water receded. But when the horse was replaced by the Model T, everything changed. Those folks could not be cut off from their neighbors, and they had to get into town on a Saturday and to church on Sunday. They parked the horseless carriage on the far bank and walked across a swinging bridge.
So my guess is that the bridge on Pine Eddy was built sometime before the First World War. When my Dad and his family first ventured into Kinniconick country, in the early 1920’s, the swinging bridge was there. He told me about the bridge and the house and the people who were living there, back in those days of his youth, and I remember most of the story. It goes like this…….
The Lobitz clan was befriended by a man named Bathiany. He had a cabin on Pine Branch, about one hundred yards from the riffle on Pine Eddy, and shared it with his friends. His only nearby neighbor was a retired couple from Lexington or thereabouts. The couple had purchased the farm across the creek and stayed in that house on the hill every spring, summer and fall. The old man was tall and distinguished and had been a college professor (but his name is lost and forgotten I’m sad to say).
The road that passed Bathiany’s cabin meandered to the creek, and if the creek was in pool (not up or rising) one could follow the road, over the rocky riffle and up a gentle slope. A line of giant beech trees stood near the house, on the low summit. Beyond the house, on a gentle slope, were wooden arbors that shaded the professor’s ginseng plantation.
My guess is that wild ginseng had been mostly eradicated from Kinniconick woods and the professor became one of the first proponents of its cultivation. No record of his success or failure in the venture exists, and his plants and arbors are gone, so my memory of Dad’s story will be the last word (unless a reader of this blog has some connection to that wonderful house on the hill).
The old professor may have had the swinging bridge constructed. It spanned almost one hundred feet and was fifteen or twenty feet above the water. No photo has survived but this view of a similar bridge is very much like the one on Kinney.
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All good tales at last must come to an end. The old professor and his wife no longer visited their Shangri-La on Kinniconick after 1930 or 1931. I wish Dad were here to fill in the details, because I don’t recall the circumstances that led up to this event. I do know that my father subsequently rented the old house on the hill a number of times and that it was furnished and comfortable. Of course, it lacked the conveniences of electricity and plumbing. According to Dad, on my first visit there when I was about two years old, I complained about the toilet facilities in the out-house: “Me wish I stay home”.
Regrettably, no photos of the old house survive, but this picture of the giant beeches was taken by Dad in the 1930’s while on a fishing trip with some of his best friends. The house was off to the right and the ginseng arbors were on the slope behind the trees and the hammock.
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Circa 1936. I’m five or six years old. Dad has rented the old house for a long weekend and along with my Mom and sister Betty, our family makes the journey to Kinniconick with Doc Harshbarger, his wife Lena and their six year old son, Billy. We arrive at the old house on the hill in the afternoon, and after dinner Dad and Doc go fishing. Then its bedtime for the kids, and I’m asleep in a bunk upstairs when Dad enters the room. I can almost see his catch now, a big fish gleaming silver and gold in the lamp light, a magnificent Kinniconick muskie.
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That night it began to rain and it rained all of the next day. The creek began to rise. Kinney was in flood on the day of our scheduled departure and we were marooned up on the hill for several days. When our food ran low, Dad and Doc walked out, over the swinging bridge, and somehow got to Camp Dix and a general store. The bridge looked something like the one pictured below, but it lacked some floorboards and the cables were slack and it swayed and bucked as you crossed. It was a little bit scary for a five year old. Somehow the old swinging bridge symbolized the rustic nature of Kinniconick and its promise of adventure.