The road from Lancaster to New Holland was (and is) one of the most important of the pikes for travel within our County. So much so that travelers would pay a toll at each of the collection points along the way. That revenue would pay for maintenance of the roadway, but also a higher toll would usually be charged at the bridge over the Conestoga. Then, as now, the cost to build a bridge was much greater than the cost to build a road. So, it stands to reason that the toll would be more.
It always took individuals with substantial means to build these bridges. One such person was Christian Binkley, who in 1740 acquired a hundred acres at the Conestoga, where Perelman Park is today. His log cabin was built on ground high enough to keep him and his family of twelve children safe from the floodwaters. There in 1789, he also made a stone grist and sawmill, powered by a dam. Ten years later, at the cost of $17,000, he built a five-arch stone bridge across the Conestoga, just as Abram Witmer would do just a decade later with his nine-arch stone bridge carrying East King Street across the Conestoga.
Witmer and his bridge got quite a bit of long-lasting accolades, collecting tolls along with the celebrity. His descendants were ultimately able to sell the bridge to the County. A stone plaque to Witmer’s honor was placed in the middle of the bridge and was transferred to the middle of the concrete replacement bridge installed during the 1930s. Binkley’s legacy was quite different.
Through the ensuing years until the mid-1800s, “Binkley’s Bridge” developed into a small village, comprised of several houses, a tavern with a post office inside, and a country store. But, the real “game in town” was the mill and its dam right next to the bridge.
The mill was purchased by a group of newspaper publishers in 1855 when it came to be known as the Printers Paper Mill. The mill served its various functions until it burned down in 1882. The population of Binkley’s Bridge and Eden was counted as 300 just one year later. A new mill was built on the same site as the old one. But, soon thereafter, maps only referred to Eden as a village in the area.
Back to the stone bridge itself… Unfortunately, Binkley was not permitted to make it a toll-bridge, which caused him great financial difficulties. The bridge was eventually transferred to public ownership for a measly $1,500. But after being damaged by flooding in 1857, it was removed in 1868 and replaced with a covered bridge visible in the above photo.
A wrought iron bridge replaced the covered bridge in 1886, following a fire in 1882. Unfortunately, that bridge was destroyed by a truck in 1929. For more than two years, all traffic on New Holland Pike had to use the covered bridge on Millcross Road. That other bridge was called Umble’s, and we take that up in another post.
Next to this iron bridge was a trolley bridge for the line that used to run into Leola.
Click here to read about other members of the Conestoga Bridge Club.