River and Creek
The Wanigan's were barge boats that the River Drivers used as they transported logs down the Mississippi River. One of the Wanigan's would be their bunk house and a second Wanigan would be their cook shack.
THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER; THE SWINGING BRIDGE
by Marcella Zinda Dingmann
Before 1855 there were no public bridges across the Mississippi River. The residents on the west side of the River had to use their own boats, ferries, and toll bridges. In 1855 a bridge under construction was near completion when a high wind lifted the superstructure from its supports and causing it to collapse into the river.
In 1900 the Sartell Brothers ran a ferry near the site of the old bridge. In 1903 Joseph B. Sartell gave flowage rites to the Watab Paper company to organize, construct and operate a dam across the river. In 1914 the old girdered truss bridge was started to be built by the Northwestern Bridge Company, J.B. Sartell principal.
After the paper mill construction was completed, a “Swinging Bridge”, a suspension bridge was built to accommodate workers access from the west side of the river. Suspension bridges were used as bridges for chasms where there was no footing. The “Swinging Bridge” floated above the dam. It’s length was that of the dam. From the west bank to the sluiceways. Each side of the bridge had many vertical cables fastened above the two dam length cables which were anchored at each side of the dam. Except for its steel cables and wire fencing on the sides, it was made of wood planks, allowing replacement of damaged floorboards and other bridge pieces.
Our bridge was unique because of it’s long span and narrow structure. When the wind would blow, it whipped the bridge and occasionally damaged it.
People came from miles around to see it and to walk across it. In cold weather the employees and residents of the north end of town made a path diagonally over the river ice from a block above the dam’s west end to the platform above the power house.
As young children, my sister and I carried my Dad’s lunch across this bridge. He worked a lot of overtime and weekends. My Mother could pack two meals in a basket and we would carry it over the bridge to the paper mill.
He would lead us through the mill. My sister and I would each take long streamers of paper out of the bins and carry them with us. Sometimes we would watch the men spear logs and put them in the big crushers. We also watched the beaters, where the pulp was mixed with water. Sometimes the alarms would go off and the machines were shut down for a torn felt. They also had to cut and take the large layer of pulp off the felt. They used wooden sticks to cut the pulp, then they folded it and put it on skids. We didn’t go upstairs to the machine room very often. We just saw the huge rolls of paper.
When we were done sight seeing, my Dad, Roman Zinda, would take us through the mill to the west end. He would always check the weather before we were allowed to go on the “Swinging Bridge” to return home.
It was both fun and scary, walking across the wooden planks. The bridge would make a loud noise, and swing more when we ran across it on the wooden planks.
I can remember seeing the large fountain in front of the paper mill office building, and really looking at the deer in the deer park on the east side of the road into the paper mill. My sister and I always enjoyed the walk.
This excerpt is taken from the book “History of Sartell, Minnesota Lumber, Paper, Valves And Progress A Century of Progress, Welcoming a Century of Promise” page 134
The swinging bridge that crossed the Mississippi River in Sartell
A person walking across the swinging bridge in Sartell
By Thomas Sartell
This photo shows the men boarding up the river to hold it back with wooden planks called "needles". This photo is around 1937
THE WATAB CREEK BRIDGES
By Thomas Sartell
The "Little White Bridge" at the Watab and Mississippi River until 1980.
Lower Dam on the Watab
Upper Dam at the Grist Mill on Watab. The hill in the background is where 1st Street North is currently.
A Log Jam on the Mississippi
Sauk Rapids Sentinel, June 16,1885
"Probably the largest log jam in the history of lumbering on the Upper Mississippi River, formed above the dam at this place, last Saturday. the jam extended from bank to bank, and up the river to the Stowell place. Logs and telegraph poles were piled up solidly and apparently inextricably and formed a solid bridge across the river as far as the jam extended. The aspect was grand, and at the same time threatened danger to the dam, bridge and other property below, and the water in the river backed up and raised from four to five feet.
Early Sunday morning, a small crew of lumbermen arrived and commenced work at the head of the dam, but for the greater part of the day their labors did not show to be of much avail.
Hundreds of people thronged the river banks and also crossed over on the logs. About 8 o'clock p.m. on Sunday; however, the labors of the lumbermen, aided by the accumulated volume of water, were awarded, and the immense body of logs started. In a few moments they commenced running over the dam and down the rapids below, afforded one of the grandest spectacular scenes that could well be imagined.
Surging, bounding and grinding in their irresistible onward course, the scene was truly awe-inspiring. Fortunately, no damage was done to either dam or other property. It is estimated that there were 40 million feet of logs in this jam"
Where Rivers Merge, Stories from the History of Sartell, MN. William Towner Morgan page 22