3 votes

First Bridge (1856)


Photo courtesy of the Rock Island District, U. S. Corps of Engineers

BH Photo #317661

Street View 


First railroad bridge across the Mississippi River. Was considered a navigational hazard. Two weeks after the bridge opened, the steamboat Effie Afton rammed part of the bridge, catching it on fire. Bridge only lasted a decade before is was needing to be reinforced due to heavier railroad loads.


Lost Howe through truss bridge over Mississippi River
Rock Island, Rock Island County, Illinois, and Scott County, Iowa
Built 1856, Replaced 1866.
- James B. Locke of Binghampton, New York
- John Warner of Rock Island, Illinois (Masonry)
- Stone, Boomer & Bouton of Chicago, Illinois & Davenport, Iowa (Superstructure)
- Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad (CRIP (1866-1920); RI (1920-1975) ROCK (1975-1980))
Length of largest span: 286.0 ft.
Total length: 1,536.0 ft.
Also called
First Railroad Bridge Across The Mississippi River
Approximate latitude, longitude
+41.52060, -90.55897   (decimal degrees)
41°31'14" N, 90°33'32" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/703678/4599427 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Davenport East
Inventory numbers
WGCB IA-15-82-U01#1x (World Guide to Covered Bridges number)
WGCB IL-81-U01#1x (World Guide to Covered Bridges number)
BH 49189 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • March 22, 2022: New photo from Luke
  • September 25, 2018: New photo from Douglas Butler
  • April 26, 2015: New photo from Paul Hamby
  • March 1, 2015: New photo from Luke
  • February 2, 2014: New Street View added by Luke Harden
  • July 22, 2013: Updated by Luke Harden: Added category "First of its kind"
  • July 7, 2013: New photo from Luke Harden
  • February 20, 2013: Photo imported by Luke Harden
  • May 29, 2012: Photo imported by Luke Harden
  • January 18, 2012: Updated by Luke Harden: Added link to an image.
  • September 9, 2011: Updated by Luke Harden: edited overview
  • July 26, 2011: Updated by Luke Harden: added First Railroad Bridge Across The Mississippi River as an alternate name
  • July 25, 2011: Updated by Luke Harden: added builders and a photograph

Related Bridges 


First Bridge
Posted October 29, 2020, by Mike Kerkau (mjkerkau [at] gmail [dot] com)

Interesting story - the Effie Afton's owners would sue the Rock Island Bridge Company over the collision, in Hurd v. Rock Island Bridge Company. The company would hire Abraham Lincoln to defend them.

Short version: Hung jury, 9 to 3 in favor of the company. For those interested in the long version, I'll add a link.

First Bridge
Posted April 25, 2015, by James Baughn (webmaster [at] bridgehunter [dot] com)

A Kickstarter campaign has been launched to build a replica of one span of this bridge sitting on an original abutment:


First Bridge
Posted February 2, 2014, by Luke Harden (lukemh9 [at] gmail [dot] com)

A modern pedestrian bridge designed as an homage to this historic bridge is being proposed: