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Squire Borden, Tender of first Bridge Across the Mississippi River

Squire Borden, Tender of first Bridge Across the Mississippi River

by Susan Hunter Weir Squire Borden was born on the Atlantic Ocean on August 25, 1823. Perhaps that explains his life-long attraction to water. For many years, he worked as the bridge-tender on the first two suspension bridges that spanned the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, and since everyone who crossed the bridge encountered him, his was one of the most familiar faces in the city. In 1854, local entrepreneurs paid for the first bridge in the country to span the Mississippi River. The bridge was made of wood, and the cost of operating it was initially covered by tolls (two cents for a pedestrian and 25 cents for a wagon). Twenty years after it was built, the bridge was in poor condition and too narrow to accommodate the number of wagons that needed to cross it. The City contracted with Thomas M. Griffith, a nationally-known engineer, to build a replacement. The second bridge, 675 feet long and 32 feet wide, was constructed of steel and concrete rather than wood. It was thought to be an engineering marvel and crowds gathered along the riverbanks every day to watch construction workers string the cables from one side of the river to the other. Local boosters claimed that this new wonder would last for at least half-a-century, but it lasted only 24 years. (more…)

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