Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pratt Stories-Henry Bartram's Bridge II

Continuing with Eric Sloane's book: 
"Like most masonry of early American times, the bridge abutments were built in 'dry wall' fashion, which merely meant that no cement was used. The old-timers had a knack of fitting stone together so cleverly that no binding at all was necessary. The art of 'dry-masonry' used to be so well known that you could just look at a wall or foundation and recognize it as the work of a particular builder."
"All the stones for the Blake bridge were fitted together by Izaak, but the actual moving of the heaviest stones was accomplished with a lever pole-fulcrum (see the drawing) which was operated by Daniel the ox. You might wonder how the pioneers moved some of the great stones that you see in old walls and foundations, the secret was simply in their ability to slide things. A two-ton slab of rock that could not be lifted or carted by wagon, could be slid to the location with ease just by waiting for winter and sliding the stone over ice. Almost no heavy farm loads were hauled on wheels, that was put off till winter when the loads could be slid across the countryside on sled runners. For each wagon the old time farmer had, he had about four sleds. Even smaller stones were thrown on a flat  wooden slab known as a 'stone-boat' and slid across the grass during the summer, with much less effort than it would take to lift the onto a wagon and cart them on wheels."
MY NOTE: We had a stone-boat at the Bowe Farm orchard that would be pulled across the fields or through the orchard, usually by one horse. Stones plowed up or heaved up to the surface by frost would would be loaded on and hauled over to the lane by the road and piled out-of-the- way fence-like like by the black walnut trees. Stones of a certain size were called "(racial ephithet) heads" with complete casualness and no negative intent. One year in those days Watervliet High School's annual musical was a black-face Minstrel Show with one of the performers playing the sole white role, "Mr. Interlocutor". I was one of the "End Men".
Continuing from the book: "Mr. Adams and his son came by to help with the final stonework, but found that they were more in the way than anything else.
'The way Noah handles the lever for you,' said Adams, 'I guess you'll not be needing us. But when it's time to raise the bridge timbers we'll be on hand.'
      15: Father used Daniel this morning to set the bridge beams in place for homing the joints. I tried my hand at spring plowing in the afternoon, with Daniel.
      16: More plowing. Father still setting up the trusses. He says the joints have swollen with the rains and need new chiseling.
      17: do. Weather fine.
      18: do
      19: Finished plowing. Father has the bridge trusses ready for raising. Tomorrow I will go to the Adams and ask them to come upon Saturday the next.
      20: Spent the day at the Adams. They shall certainly assist with the bridge next Saturday. Sarah Trowbridge did the cooking and she is most excellent.
      21: First Sunday past Easter. The meeting house was very cold. I visited with Sarah after the service.
NEXT: The pieces are assembled.

Emailed Nov. 11

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