Lawrenceville: Washington Crossing Bridge
Bridge to Commemorate Place Where Washington Crossed River
From Pittsburgh Sun, 12 July 1923.
Island Where Young Officer Spent Night in Middle of Stream
An accident, seemingly trivial at the time, has often changed the fate of a nation.
Just 170 years ago, such an incident befell George Washington, who was then on his first diplomatic mission from Governor Dinwiddie of the British Crown colony of Virginia to Legardeur de St. Pierre, the commandant of the French at Fort Le Boeuf.
Washington was returning to Virginia, having completed his mission, accompanied by Christopher Gist. On their return journey they had abandoned their company of Indians, their horses, near Venango, as the animals grew weak, snow had fallen, all day, and the creeks were frozen. Gist was unwilling that Major Washington should undertake such a journey.
Washington insisted, however, and they set out with their packs, like Indians, and traveled 18 miles. That night they lodged in an Indian cabin. Washington was greatly fatigued. It was very cold; all the small runs were frozen; they could hardly get water to drink.
The next day they proceeded, starting out about 2 o'clock in the morning, and got to Murtheringtown, on the southeast fork of Beaver creek, that day. They traveled all the next day, and the next, arriving at the Allegheny river. It was here that they constructed a raft. Gist's fingers were frostbitten.
In crossing the Allegheny on the raft Washington was thrown into the water when the pole with which he was guiding the raft was hit by a mass of ice. Unable to reach either shore, the pair abandoned their raft and landed on an island near mid-stream. This island, variously known as Wainwright's, McCollough's or "Good Liquor" island, has long since disappeared, having been washed away but it served a purpose on this twenty-ninth day of December, 1753.
This bit of island lay in the stream between what is now Thirty-sixth street and Thirty-eight street, Lawrenceville.
The next morning Washington and Gist crossed from the island to the opposite mainland on the ice, and, continuing their return trip, arrived in Williamsburg, Va., capital of the colony, February 16, 1754. Washington waited upon Governor Dinwiddie with the letter from the French commandant, and with it offered his personal journal. His journal was published widely, and sent to England, to show the English the position taken by the French.
After Washington's return from his expedition to the French commander at Fort Le Boeuf, and his report to Governor Dinwiddie, the House of Burgesses of Virginia made a grant of 10,000 pounds for the protection of the frontier. Washington, who had been stationed at Alexandria, to enlist recruits, received a commission as lieutenant-colonel and orders from Governor Dinwiddie, "with 150 men to take command at the forks of the Ohio, to finish the fort already begun there by the Ohio company and to make prisoners, kill or destroy, all who interrupted the English settlements." Officers and men were promised 200,000 acres of land on the Ohio, as a special inducement.
Just above the place where Wainwright's island lay in the river, at Fortieth street, a new bridge is being constructed. It was at this point, according to the most authentic information available, that Washington with Gist set out to cross the river, on his return journey to Virginia.
Bridge Being Built.
The bridge at this site is still in the preliminary stage of construction.
"Washington Crossing" is the name which was selected for this bridge. This name was submitted with many others to the county commissioners. William H. Stevenson, chairman of the Pennsylvania Historical Commission, is the author of the title.
Pittsburgh is generally proud of its connection with the early career of Washington, who later commanded the armies of the colonies in the successful struggle for independence, becoming the first President of the United States.