A Bridge in Barnegat??
We all know there is only one way in and one way out of Marblehead. Could it be that all those times when a tourist stopped and asked me how to get to Gloucester and I told them to go to Fort Sewall and take the bridge, it really wasn’t that big of a lie – there really was a bridge in town once. This story was printed in the Marblehead Messenger December, 1929 and was told by Joseph Stanley Robinson. I take no credit for this story, I just thought it was interesting and I love the way they wrote before text messaging language took over.
“Once upon a time there was a bridge in Barnegat. There had been a railroad bridge on Village Street so you could cross the tracks but we know that wasn’t in Barnegat. The Barnegat Bridge was unknown to most Marbleheaders. It was the dividing line between Marblehead and the tiny bit of shore and rocky hillside known as Barnegat. ‘Just over the bridge,’ they used to say, and nothing more need be said. Just over the bridge — that was Barnegat.”
“This bridge crossed the old road leading from town to this little village, this cluster of houses along the shore, where fisherman lived when the town was founded; the oldest part of town. Before paved roads and covered drains there were many brooks that used to flow across the slopes of the town heading towards the ocean. One of these brooks, large and powerful by the time it reached Barnegat, rushed down the side of the steep hill rising from Orne Street, swept across the street and splashed and swished over the stony beach to join the waters of Little Harbor”. (This was High Street going onto what is now Doak’s Lane.) “On occasions the brook became a raging torrent and tore great gullies out of the road. A bridge was needed if communication was to be maintained between Barnegat and the village. Not a very large bridge for the road was but a lane wide enough for the two-wheel carts to pass along. The bridge was made of great rough-sawn planks supported on heavy timbers. The bridge never wore out even though it saw hard use as the fish carts with their heavy loads taxed the strength of the timbers and planking. It never wore out – it was washed away. In the spring, when the snow on the hillside began to melt into the brook they swelled into streams and the waters rushed madly along their course to the sea. Each spring the bridge at Barnegat was the victim of this torrent. If it was not washed away it was in dire need of repair. Often times it was found washed off its foundation and sometimes found on the beach.”
“Modern drains and modern streets were built to withstand the surging waters, but the road to Barnegat remains – Orne Street, one of the ancient roads of the town. On one side was Marblehead on the other was Barnegat.”
Mr. Robinson also told us the history of Barnegat in an article in the Marblehead Messenger, March 7, 1930, just for those of you who do not know what “Barnegat” is. According to legend “Fisherman, one and all, were the founders of Barnegat, and a more uncouth assemblage of ruffians probably could not be found anywhere in the colony. It is said you could tell a Barnegater half a mile away, when he said anything he said it for all to hear and the well – known “Marblehead language” was founded. Residents of the more respectable part of the town began to poke fun at the noisy tribe of outlaws. If something was lost in town people would say ‘Oh, you will find it down among those pirates in Barnegat.’” The name Barnegat is still used today as the distinguishing title of a tiny rugged bit of seacoast in Marblehead. I am proud to be a Barnegater!!!
Joseph Stanley Robinson and his twin Charles Hidden Robinson were born March 17, 1903 in Marblehead to Fred and Emeline L. Caswell Robinson. Charles remained in Marblehead marrying Mildred L. Holloway. He died April 13, 1976. Joseph married Elizabeth Childs on June 21, 1929 residing in Marblehead for a while, summering in Meredith, NH before moving there permanently. They had one daughter Sylvia L. Robinson. Joseph died on April 29, 1985 in Meredith and is buried in Waterside Cemetery. His occupation was that of a writer and reporter. In 1936 he published his book “The Story of Marblehead.” He wrote other stories like the ones I quoted that were published in the Marblehead Messenger from time to time.
“Barnegat Bridge” first told by J.S. Robinson and reprinted in the December, 1929 issue of the Marblehead Messenger.
“Barnegat” by J. S. Robinson printed in the Marblehead Messenger March 7, 1930.