April 15th marks the 100th anniversary of the Steamer "Northern Wave" striking the Portage Lake swing bridge. The double decked wooden swing span, that was struck by the steamer, was built in 1885 and was left in place during the steel reconstruction of the Portage approach in 1895 to limit the amount of time the bridge was out of commission. After this accident there was no choice but to replace the swing span with the steel swing span that most people remember and remained until the 1950's when the current lift bridge was built. After the accident the new plans were approved on May 25, 1905 and construction began immediately. Not only was the span replaced but major re-construction of the approaches was also necessary as the swing span was lengthened from 180 feet to 284 feet. Brian Juntikka has been recently researching this period of the bridge and has uncovered many new interesting stories. Brian proved this photo and additional details that I will soon be including in the revised story of the "Three Spans over the Portage". I have also recently purchased a group of Copper Range blueprints developed during the 1905 rebuild that I will also be sharing in this story. Many thanks to Brian for his research efforts and for this photo. (Brian Juntikka Collection)
Actually, my grandfather got stuck in Hancock that afternoon. He was 23 years of age at the time and lived with his dad and stepmother on a farm in Obenhoff - went with the horse and wagon (and the family dog) to Hancock to buy some sort of farm impliment. While they were there, the Northern Wave rammed the bridge and he got stuck in Hancock for about six hours - waiting his turn to get on a barge to get back to the south side of Portage Lake. The dog was less than patient and jumped into the lake - swam across and went home. With no phones in Obenhoff back then, the rest of the family was worried about my grandfather until he got home some six hours after the family dog did.